For the last category of kanji origin in our exploration, we are going to look at components that originated from a shape. In this post, we are going to see 彡 which signified “pretty shape; needle shapeslining up neatly” in the kanji 参杉診珍惨. The second shape is 乚, which signified “an act of flattening or straightening”– the kanji 乙乱札孔乳.
The kanji 参 “to mingle; come; come/go in humble style”
For the kanji 参 in bronze ware style, in green, (a) was “a kneeling woman with three shining hair-accessories while (b) had three lines which signified “bright reflections of light mingled each other” added. The mingling shines gave the meaning “to mingle; come.” The top of (c) in seal style, in red, had “three bright things” (日), and 彡 used phonetically for /san/. (d) in the kyuji 參, in blue,the three 日 became three ム shapes, which was further reduced to one ム in shinji. In Japan it is used for a humble style verb in 参 “to come; go,” and for a visit to a shrine, temple or cemetery. The kanji 参 means “to mingle; come; come/go in humble style.” [The composition of the kanji 参: ム, 一, 𠆢 and 彡]
The kun-yomi /ma’iru/ means “to come (in a humble style); pay a visit”and is in 墓参り(“visit to a grave” /hakama’iri/). The on-yomi /san/ was in 参加する (“to participate in” /sanka-suru/), 参考書 (“reference book” /sankoosho/), 参詣 (“a visit to a temple; worship” /sankee/), 参列する (“to attend a ceremony” /sanretsu-suru/) and 持参する (“to bring something with oneself; bear; carry” /jisan-suru/). /-Zan/ is in 新参者 (“a newcomer; novice” /shinzanmono/) and 人参 (“carrot” /ninjin/).
The kanji 杉 “cedar”
There is no ancient writing for the kanji 杉. The kanji 杉 comprises 木 “tree; wood” and 彡used phonetically for /san/ to mean “needle-likethin shapes lining up neatly.” The needle leaves of a cedar tree neatly lined up and were beautiful. The kanji 杉 means “cedar.” [The composition of the kanji 杉: 木 and 彡]
The kun-yomi 杉 /sugi/ means “cedar” and is in 秋田杉 (“Akita cedar” /akita’sugi/) and 杉綾(“herringbone pattern” /sugiaya/). There is no on-yomi in Joyo kanji.
The kanji 診 “medical diagnose; examine”
The seal style writing of the kanji 診 had 言 “word; language” on the left. The right side had “a person” with 彡 “rash” used phonetically for /shin/ to mean “to check thoroughly.” The kanji 診 means “medical diagnose; examine.” [The composition of the kanji:言, 𠆢 and 彡]
The kun-yomi 診る /mi’ru/ means “to examine medically.” The on-yomi /shin/ is in 診察(“medical examination” /shinsatsu/), 往診 (“visit to a patient; house call” /ooshin/), 診療所 (“clinic” /shinryoojo/) and 検診 (“health screening” /kenshin/).
The kanji 珍 “rare; uncommon”
The seal style writing of the kanji 珍 comprised 王 “jewel” and “a person encircling something beautiful (彡)” used phonetically for /chin/. Together they meant “beautiful things such as jewels not being common.” The kanji 珍measn “rare; uncommon.” [The composition of the kanji : 王, 𠆢 and 彡]
The kun-yomi 珍しい /mezurashi’i/ means “rare; uncommon” and is in 物珍しい (“curious; novel” /monomezurashi’i/). The on-yomi /chin/ is in 珍品 (“rarity; curiosity” /chinpin/), 珍味 (“a delicacy” /chi’nmi/) and 珍事件 (“rare event; funny case” /chinji’ken/).
The kanji 惨 “to feel miserable; cruel”
For the kanji 惨 the seal style writing had “a heart,” which became a bushu risshinbenin (忄) in the kyuji 慘. On the right side the shine 參 was used phonetically for /san/ to mean “to be impressed in one’s heart deeply.” Together they meant “one experiencing a deeply-felt emotion such as misery and cruelty.” The kanji 惨 means “to feel miserable; cruel.” [The composition of the kanji : 忄and 参]
The kun-yomi 惨めな /mi’jime-na/ means “miserable.” The on-yomi /san/ is in 悲惨な (“cruel” /hisan-na/), 惨事 (“terrible disaster; tragedy” /sa’nji/), 陰惨な (“grisly; gloomy” /insan-na/) and 凄惨な (“ghastly; gruesome” /seisan-na/).
There are several more kanji that contain the shape 彡, including 影形彩修彰彫.
The second shape 乚 means “an act of flattening or straightening,” and appears in the kanji 乱札孔乳礼 on this post. (For the kanji 礼, we discussed a year ago in connection with a bushu shimesuhen).
The kanji 乙 “second; not the first”
For the kanji 乙 the writings in three anceint style were a bent shape on both ends. The shape was borrowed to mean “second; not the first” in combination of the kanji 甲 /ko’o/, which means “the first; good” and 丙 /he’e/ “third-rate: not good; poor.” [The composition of the kanji: a single stroke of 乙]
The kun-yomi /oto/ is in 乙女 (“maiden” /oto’me//), a phonetical substitute. The on-yomi 乙 /otsu/ is in 甲乙を付ける (“to mark grades” /ko’ootsu-o tsuke’ru/) and 甲乙付け難い (“there is little difference between the two” /ko’ootsu tsukegata’i/).
The kanji 乱 “to be out of order; rebellion; battle”
For the kanji 乱 (a) and (b) in bronze ware style may be better explained by the left side of (c) in seal style. It was a hand at the top and another hand at the bottom was straightening tangles threads on a spool in the middle. The right side was a bent shape that signified “to straighten.” Together they meant “hands trying to untangle threads to make them into a good order.” The kyuji 亂, (d), was replaced by drastically simpler 舌 in the shinji 乱. The kanji 乱 means “to be out of order; rebellion; battle.” [The composition of the kanji: 千, 口 and 乚]
The kun-yomi 乱れる /midare’ru/ means “to be out of order,” and is in 入り乱れる (“to be mixed and confused” /irimidare’u/) and 取り乱す (“to go to pieces; become upset” /torimida’su/). The on-yomi /ran/ is in 乱 (“battle” /ran/), 混乱 (“chaos; confusion” /ko’nran/), 乱雑な (“random” /ranzatsu-na/), 散乱する (“to be scattered about” /sanran-suru/), 内乱 (“civil war” /nairan/), 乱世 (“troubled time” /ra’nse/) and 一心不乱 (“absorbed; engrossed” /isshi’nhuran/).
The kanji 札 “a tag; name place; paper money”
The seal style writing of the kanji 札 comprised 木 “wood” and 乚 “a bent shape that signified an act of flattening or straightening.” The writing meant “a thin flat piece of wood” such as a tag, a posted announcement and also paper money. The kanji 札means “a tag; name place; bank note.” [The composition of the kanji 札: 木 and 乚]
The kun-yomi 札 /huda/ means “tag; name place” and is in 荷札 (“luggage tag” /nihuda/) and 切り札 (“a trump card” /kiri’huda/), The on-yomi /satsu/ is in お札 (“bill; note” /osatsu/), 札束 (“wad of bills” /satsuta’ba/), 改札口 (“wicket” /kaisatsu’guchi/), 一万円札 (“ten thousand yen note” /ichimanen’satsu/) and 入札制 (“bidding system” /nyuusatsusee/).
孔 “a hole; cavity”
For the kanji 孔 (a) and (b) had “a child” on the left side. What the right side attached to the child’s head signified is clear, but many scholars view that it signified some sort of a hole. The kanji 孔 means “a hole; cavity.” [The composition of the kanji 孔: 子 and 乚]
The kun-yomi 孔 /ana’/ means “opening; perforation; hole.” The on-yomi /koo/ is in 換気孔(“ventilation hole” /kankikoo/), 鼻孔 (”nostril” /bikoo/) and 孔子 (“Confucius” /kooshi/).
乳 “milk; milking; breast”
For the kanji 乳 in oracle bone style a woman on her knees was nursing or holding a child in her arms. It meant “to nurse; breast; milk.” In seal style it had “a hand from above” and “a child” on the left. For the right side (乚) there are different interpretations, including “a hand to care for a baby,” “a swallow,” which was believed to bring a baby, like a stork in Western folk tales, and “supporting an infant.” The kanji 乳 means “milk; milking; breast.” [The composition of the kanji 乳: 孚 and 乚]
The kun-yomi /chi’chi/ 乳 means “milk; breast,” and is in 乳飲み子 (“infant” /chinomi’go/). The on-yomi /nyuu/ is in 牛乳 (“cow’s milk“ /gyuunyuu/), 母乳 (“mother’s milk” /bonyuu/), 乳歯 (“baby tooth” /nyu’ushi/ and 豆乳 (“soy bean milk” /toonyuu/).
I expect that we shall have three more posts before we wrap up our long exploration. Thank you very much for your interest. – Noriko [May 27, 2018]