The Kanji 将奨状壮荘装床 – “table” (3) 爿   


This is the third post on kanji that originated from “a table.” We are going to explore a table with two legs that were placed vertically – 爿.  The kanji in this post are 将奨状壮荘装 and 床.

  1. The kanji 将 “military leader; immediate future”

History of Kanji 将For the kanji 将, in bronze ware style, in green, it had爿”a vertically placed two-legged table,” 月 “a piece of meat,” and 刀 “a knife.” Together they signified placing the offering of sacrificial animal meat on an altar table right before a battle. The person who conducted the rite was a military leader – thus it meant “military leader; general.” It was conducted right before embarking on a battle – thus it meant “immediate future.” In seal style, in red, and the kyuji 將, in blue, the bottom became 寸 “hand.” In shinji 将, the legs of the table were simplified to a ハ shape, vertically placed, and the piece of meat was replaced by “a hand with fingers showing from above.” The kanji 将 means “a military leader; general; immediate future.”  <the composition of the kanji 将: the reduced shape of 爿, a small ノ, a truncated ツ and 寸>

The kun-yomi /ma’sa/ is in 将に (“just; precisely” /ma’sa-ni/), not included in Joyo kanji kun-reading. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 将軍 (“general; shogunate in Japanese history” /shogun/), 大将 (“admiral; general; chief” /ta’ishoo/), 将校 (“commissioned officer” /sho’okoo/), 主将 (“captain” /shushoo/) and 将来 (“near future” /sho’orai/).

  1. The kanji 奨 “to urge; commend; encourage”

History of Kanji 奨For the kanji 奨 the seal style writing had a vertically placed  table (爿), “ a piece of meat” (月), which was used phonetically for 將 /shoo/, and “dog” (犬) at the bottom right. Together they meant “to recommend; encourage.” The role of a dog is not clear, but some scholars view it that “setting a dog on” gave the meaning “to instigate; encourage.” (Personally I do not feel this explanation sits well.) In the kyuji 奬 the bottom was replaced by 大 “person.” (In many of the kanji that contained 犬 “a dog” in ancient writing, it lost the short stroke, and became 大 “person” or “big.”) The kanji 奨 means “to urge; commend; encourage.” <the composition of the kanji 奨: 将 and 大>

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 奨励する (“to give encouragement to; promote” /suishoo-suru/), 推奨する (“to recommend; endorse”) and 奨学金 (“scholarship; stipend” /shoogakukin/).

  1. The kanji 状 “state; condition; letter”

History of Kanji 状For the kanji 状 the seal style writing comprised “a vertically placed table” (爿), which was used phonetically for /joo/, and “a dog” (犬). For this kanji Setsumon explained it as “the shape of a dog.” It meant “shapes; conditions.” One reported the condition of a matter by a letter, thus it also meant “letter; a piece of paper.” The kanji 状 means “state; condition; letter.”  <the composition of the kanji 状: the reduced shape of 爿 and 犬>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 状態 (“condition” /jootai/), 状況 (“situation” /jookyoo/), 白状する (“to confess” /ha’kujoo-suru/), 状差し (“letter holder” /joosa’shi/), 紹介状 (“letter of introduction” /shookaijoo/), 令状 (“warrant” /reejoo/) and 礼状 (“thank you letter” /reejoo/).

  1. The kanji 壮 “grand; manly; strong”

History of Kanji 壮For the kanji 壮 the seal style writing comprised 爿 “a table with legs that was placed vertically” and was used phonetically for /shoo; soo/.  The right side 士, “man; warrior,” came from an ceremonial axe to signify that a man belongs to the “warrior class.” Together they meant “grand; manly; strong.”  <the composition of the kanji 壮: a reduced shape of 爿 and 士>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 壮大な (“grand; magnificent /soodai-na/). 勇壮な (“brave; heroic; valiant; gallant” /yuusoo-na/), 壮観 (“thrilling sight; spectacle view” /sookan/), 壮行会 (“farewell party; a rousing send-off” /sooko’okai/) and 悲壮な (“in the midst of grief; tragic but courageous” /hisoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 荘 “villa; manor; solemn; grand”

History of Kanji 荘For the kanji 荘, (a) in bronze ware style had爿“a vertically placed table,” 由 and 口, together having the meaning “grandness in religious ceremony, and meant “grand; solemn.” (b) in Old style, in purple, had a table (爿), deceased bones (歹) on a table (几). (For the Old style (b) I have not been able to find an analysis in references.) (c) in seal style had 艸 “grass” and 壮, which was /soo/ phonetically. Together a place where many trees and plants vigorously grew gave the meaning “villa; manor.” The kanji 荘 means “villa; manor; solemn; grand.”  <the composition of the kanji 荘: 艹 and 壮>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ (in kan-on) is in 別荘 (“villa; vacation home; country place” /be’ssoo/), 荘重な (“solemn; imposing” /soochoo-na/) and 荘厳な (“solemn; majestic” /soogon-na/).’’ Another on-yomi /shoo/ (in go-on) is in 荘園 (“a private estate owned by a noble, temple or shrine” /shooen/).

  1. The kanji 装 “to wear clothes; equip; pretend”

History of Kanji 装For the kanji 装 in seal style the top 壮 was used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “grand; manly,” and the bottom 衣 meant “clothes” from “collar.” From putting on a good outfit to look grand it meant “to put on good clothes; equip with gear.” It also meant “to pretend.” The kanji 装 means “to wear clothes; equip; pretend.”  <the composition of the kanji 装: 壮 and 衣>

The kun-yomi 装う /yosooo/ means “to dress oneself; be attired; feign; pretend.” The on-yomi /soo/ (in kan-on) is in 偽装する (“to camouflage something as” /gisoo-suru/), 装備する (“to equip” /so’bi-suru/), 装飾 (“decoration” /sooshoku/), and 正装 (“formal attire” /seesoo/). Another on-yomi /shoo/ (in go-on) is in 衣装 (“clothing; attire” /i’shoo/) and 装束 (“costume; attire” /sho’ozoku/), as in 白装束 (“white shroud” /shirosho’ozoku/).

  1. The kanji 床 “floor; bed”

History of Kanji 床There is one more kanji that I would like to bring in – the kanji 床, even though 爿 does not appear on the surface. The kanji 床 had the Correct writing style 牀, in green, on the left. The kanji 牀 comprised 爿 “table; wooden plank,” which was used phonetically for /shoo/, and 木 “wood.” Together they meant “wooden floor; wooden bed.” The kanji 床 became a popular writing for 牀 in much later times. The kanji 床 means “floor; bed.”  <the composition of the kanji 床: 广 and 木>

The kun-yomi 床 /yuka/ means “floor.” Another kun-yomi 床 /toko/ means “sleeping futon laid out,” 床を取る (“to lay futon” /toko-o to’ru/), perhaps a slightly old expression, and is also in 床の間 (“alcove; the recess in a Japanese room in which a scroll may be hung” /tokonoma/) and 床屋 (“barber shop” /tokoya/). /-Doko/ is in 寝床 (“sleeping bed; berth” /nedoko/). The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 温床 (“hotbed” /onshoo/),  起床時間 (“the hour of rising; the time one gets up” /kishooji’kan/), 病床 (“sick bed” /byooshoo/) and 臨床試験 (“clinical trial” /rinshoo-shi’ken/).

It seems that we need one more posting before finishing this topic. In the next posting we shall look at kanji that originated from 疒 “illness” from “a person lying on a bed.”  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko  [July 29, 2017]

The Kanji 丙柄商更梗硬便 – “a table” (2)丙


In this post we are going to explore another table shape – 丙. The seven kanji 丙柄商更梗硬便 have either 丙 in kanji 丙柄 or in earlier writings of the kanji 商更梗硬便.

  1. The kanji 丙 “poor grade”

History of Kanji 丙The kanji 丙 has quite limited use in the current writing system, but it had a longer history than some other kanji. (a) in oracle bone style and (b), (c) and (d) in bronze ware style was a pictograph of a table or a pedestal to place something on. Unlike 几, the legs were fortified with diagonal supports. It was used phonetically for /hee/ and was borrowed to mean a certain time in the Chinese calendar. In (e) another line was added to indicate that this table was a place to put something on or a pedestal.  In Japanese 丙 was also used to indicate a lowest grade  in 甲乙丙 /ko’o o’tsu he’e/ “Top, Medium and Low.” The kanji 丙 means “the third-class; poor grade.”   <the composition of the kanji 丙: 一 and 内>

The kun-yomi /hinoe/ is a name of the calendar time. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 丙種 (“C-grade; third grade” /he’eshu/).

  1. The kanji 柄 “handle; power; demeanor; pattern”

History of Kanji 柄(a) in oracle bone style had a tree on top of a base, whereas in (b) in seal style the two components were placed side by side.  Together they signified a ladle with a long wooden stick. A long wooden stick or handle could be a tool to manipulate something or even a person. From that it also meant “power; to handle power; manner in which a matter is handled.” In Japanese it also means “pattern.” The kanji 柄 means “a handle; power; to manipulate; demeanor; pattern.”  < the composition of the kanji 柄: 木 and 丙>

The kun-yomi 柄 /e/ means “handle.” Another kun-yomi /gara/ means “pattern,” and is in 大柄な (“a person with a large build; large pattern,” /oogara-na/), 人柄 (“a person’s character; disposition” /hitogara/), 家柄 (“social standing of a family; good family” /iegara/), 柄の悪い (“vulgar” /gara-no-waru’i/) and 間柄 (“relationship” /aidagara/). The on-yomi /hee/ is in 横柄な(“arrogant; disdainful” /o’ohee-na/). It is also used in 柄杓(“ladle with a long handle” /hishaku/).

  1. The kanji 商 “commerce; trade; business”

History of Kanji 商(a) and (b) in oracle bone style comprised “a tattooing needle” at the top and “a table” at the bottom. In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style, 口 “mouth or a box of benedictions” was added. There have been various views on the origin of 商. One view is that a person who had the power to tattoo criminals also talked or prayed to a god to ask the will of a god. The meaning of god was dropped but the meaning of asking someone if he is interested in trading business. It meant “commerce.” Another view, which is often cited, is that 商 /sho’o/ (Shang in Chinese) was the capital of the ancient dynasty 殷, Yin (Shang).  When the Shang dynasty fell they became merchants travelling around the country. From that the kanji 商 meant “trade; commerce.”  <the composition of the kanji 商: 立 without the last stroke, 冂, 八 and 口>

The kun-yomi 商い /aki’nai/ means “sale.”  The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 商品 (“merchandize” /sho’ohin/), 商売 (“business; trade; transaction” /sho’obai/), 商談 (“business negotiation” /shoodan/), 商才 (“business acumen” /shoosai/) and 年商 (“annual turnover; annual business volume” /nenshoo/).

  1. The kanji 更 “again; further; to change”

History of Kanji 更In oracle bone style (a) had “a table” at the top and “a hand with a stick” signifying “to hit; cause something.” In bronze ware style in (b) and (c) another table was added, signifying “repeat” or “replacing.” (d) in seal style became 丙 at the top and 攴 at the bottom. In kanji, the two components were coalesced into one, in which an elongated shape of a hand (又) may be recognized in the last two strokes.  The kanji 更 means “again; further; to change.”

The kun-yomi 更に (“in addition to; furthermore” /sa’ra-ni/), 今更 (“at this late time; afresh”  /imasara/). Another kun-yomi 更ける /huke’ru/ means “to grow late; (time) advance,” and is in 夜更け (“deep in the night; late at night” /yohuke’/). The on-yomi /koo/ is in 更衣室 (“a clothes changing room; locker room” /kooishitu/), 更新する (to renew”  /kooshin-suru/) and 更生 (“rehabilitation; regeneration” /koosee/).

  1. The kanji 梗 “hard”

History of Kanji 梗The seal style writing was comprised of 木 on the left, and 丙 and攴 (which became 更 in kanji), which was used phonetically for /koo/. It is used for a mountain elm tree, which was thorny and hard. The kanji 梗 means “hard.”  <the composition of the kanji梗: 木 and 更>

There is no kun-yomi. This kanji is rarely used, except in medical terms such as 脳梗塞 (“cerebral infarction” /nooko’osoku/) and 心筋梗塞 (“cardiac infarction; heart infarction”/shinkinko’osoku/), and a flower called 桔梗 /kikyoo/ “balloon flower; platycodon,” an elegant dark blue-purple flower that appears in Japanese design. (I have never seen any in the U. S., except on a nursery catalogue.)

  1. The kanji 硬 “hard; stiff”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 硬. The kanji is comprised of 石 “rock; stone” and 更, which was used phonetically for /koo/ to mean “hard.” Together they meant something solid and hard like a rock.   The kanji 硬 means “hard; rigid.”  <the composition of the kanji硬: 石 and 更>

The kun-yumi 硬い /katai/ means “hard; rigid.” The on-yomi /koo/ is強硬な (“strong; firm; aggressive” /kyookoo-na/), 生硬な (“raw; crude; unrefined” /seekoo-na/), 硬貨 (“coin; metallic money” /ko’oka/), 硬直した (“rigid; stiff” /koochokushita/) and 態度を硬化させる (“to stiffen one’s attitude” /ta’ido o ko’oka-saseru/).

  1. The kanji 便 “convenient; service; bowel movement”

History of Kanji 便The seal style writing comprised イ“person” and 更 “to renew.” From the meaning of “a person changed something to make it better,” it meant “convenient; service.” It is also used for something that happened regularly such as “service; bowel movement.” The kanji 便 means “convenient; service; bowel movement.”  <the composition of the kanji便: イ and 更>

The kun-yomi /ta’yori/ means “letter.” The on-yomi /ben/ is in 便利な (“convenient; handy” /be’nri-na/), 不便な (“inconvenient” /hu’ben-na/), 便宜を図る (“to accommodate” /be’ngi-o haka’ru/), バスの便がいい (“to have good bus service” /ba’su-no-bn-ga i’i/), 小便 (“urin” /shoobe’n/) and 大便 (“excrement” /daiben/). Another on-yomi /bin/ is in 全日空001便 (“the All Nippon Airways flight number 1” /zenni’kkuu ichibin/), 航空便 (“airmail” /kookuubin/), 便乗する (“yo avail oneself of; jump on the bandwagon; take a ride” /binjoo-suru/) and 穏便な (“amicable; peaceful” /onbin-na/).

There are a couple of more “table shapes” that developed into kanji components (爿 and 疒). We shall continue with these shapes in the next post. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko  [July 23, 2017]

The Kanji 机処拠飢其基期棋碁欺-“table; base”(1)几其


There are different components of kanji that originated from “a table.” In this posting two types of tables, 几 and the bottom of 其, are discussed: the kanji 机処拠飢 and 其基期棋碁欺.

  1. The kanji 机 “desk”

History of Kanji 机For the kanji 机, in seal style (a) was a low table with a leg on each side. It was used as a low table, a chair to sit on or an armrest. In (2) “wood” (木) was added on the left side. A wooden low table (机) meant “desk; writing table.”

The kun-yomi 机 /tsukue/ means “desk,” and is in 文机 (“low writing table” /huzu’kue/) and 学習机 (“a desk with shelves, a lamp and other features  that are designed for a grade school pupil” /gakushuuzu’kue/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 机上の空論 (“impractical theory” /kijoo-jo-kuuron/).  <The composition of the kanji 机: 木 and 几>

  1. The kanji 処 “place”

History of Kanji 処For the kanji 処, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, had a person wearing a tiger headdress for a votive play sitting on a chair, with his legs stretched in front. The foot was facing sideways, which might have signified “not moving forward.” Together they meant “to stay; be at a place; do something so that it goes better.” From that it meant “to handle; deal with.” In seal style, in red, in (c) a tiger (虎) was dropped, leaving a backward/backward foot (夂) and a chair (几), whereas in (d) a tiger became the top that enclosed 夂 and几. The kyuji 處, in blue, reflected 4, whereas the shinji 処 reflected 3. The kanji 処 means “place; situation; to handle; deal with.”   <The composition of the  kanji 処: 夂 and 几>

The kun-yomi 処 /tokoro/ means “place.” The on-yomi /sho/ is in 処理 (“to process; handle” /sho’ri/), 処分 (“to dispose; punish” /sho’bun/), 対処する (to deal with; handle” /ta’isho-suru/), 処世 (“conduct of life” /shosee/), 処刑 (“to execute; put to death” /shokee/) and 処する (“to deal; manage; punish” /shoru’ru/).

  1. The kanji 拠 “to be based on”

History of Kanji 拠The seal style writing had “hand” on the left side. The right side had “a tiger” and “a boar; pig,” but was used phonetically for /kyo/. Together they meant “to be based on a (particular) place.” The right side of the kyuji 據 was different from the kyuji 處 for 処, as in (e) in 2 above, but in kanji (拠) it became 処.   <The composition of the kanji 拠: 扌, 夂 and 几>

The kun-yomi 拠る /yoru/ means “to be caused by; based on” and 拠り所とする (“to rely on; make it as its base” /yoridokoro-to-suru/). The on-yomi /kyo/ is in 拠点とする (“to be based in ~” /kyoten-to suru/), 拠点 (“base; strong foothold” /kyoten/), 拠出する (“to contribute; donate” /kyoshutu-suru/) and 典拠 (“authority; reliable source” /te’nkyo/).

History of Kanji - Bottom of 其The next shape for a table or base appears as a component only. (There is no font on MS Word for Mac that we can use in text. It is shown on the right in a graphics file. (It is like 六 without the top.) It meant “a place to put something on; base.” This shape is seen in 其基期棋碁欺.

  1. The kanji 飢 “to starve; hunger”

History of Kanji 飢For the kanji 飢 in seal style, (a) comprised covered food on a raised bowl (食)  and 几, which was used phonetically for /ki/. It meant “hunger; to starve.” (b) had 幾 on the right, which was used phonetically for /ki/ to mean “little.” The kanji 飢 reflected (a).  <The composition of the kanji 飢: a bushu shokuhen (one fewer stroke than 食) and 几>

The kun-yomi 飢える /ue’ru/ means “to be starved; famished.” The on-yomi /ki/ is in 飢饉 (“famine” /ki’kin/), 水飢饉 (“water shortage; drought” and 飢餓 (“starvation” /ki’ga/).

  1. The kanji 其 “that; the”

History of Kanji 其The kanji 其 is not a Joyo kanji. (a) in oracle bone style and (b) in bronze ware style was a winnowing basket for removing chaff from grain, and was /ki/ phonetically. In (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style the basket was placed on a base. The writing was borrowed to mean “the; that.”

The kun-yomi /so/ is in 其の他 (“other than it” /sono’ta/) and 其の件 (“the matter” /sonoke’n/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 基 “base; foundation”

History of Kanji 基For the kanji 基, the bronze ware style writing comprised a winnowing apparatus with its base (其), which was used phonetically for /ki/, and “soil; ground” (土). Together they meant the ground on which a building was built — “foundation; base.” In seal style, the same components were kept. The kanji 基 means “basis; base; foundation.”  <The composition of the kanji 基: 其 and 土>

The kun-yomi 基 /moto/ means “base; foundation.” The on-yomi /ki/ is in 基本 “base; foundation; basis” /kihon/), 基盤 (“base; foundation” /kiban/), 基準 (“criterion; standard; reference” /kijun/), 基金 (“fund; monetary fund” /ki’kin/), 基地 (“base; military base” /ki’chi/) and 基礎 (“base; pedestal; groundwork” /ki’so/).

  1. The kanji 期 “specific time; period­; to expect”

For the kanji 期 the bronze ware style writing had “the sun” at the top, and 其, which was used phonetically for /ki/ at the bottom. Together they meant “a specific time or period.” In Old style, in purple, the sun was inside the base. In seal style, on the right side the sun was replaced by a moon (月).  A moon had a cycle of waxing and waning — “thus, a cycle of time.” The kanji 期 means “specific time; period­; cycle of time; to expect.”  <The composition of the kanji 期: 其 and 月>

There is no kun-yomi. There are two on-yomi. The kan-on /ki/ is in 期日 (“term; due date” /ki’jitsu/), 期間 (“duration; period” /ki’kan/), 任期 (term of service; term of office” /ni’nki/), 期待する (“to hope for” /kitai-suru/) and 予期する (“to anticipate; expect” /yo’ki-suru/). The go-on /go/ is in 末期 (“the hour of death; the end of one’s life” /ma’tsugo/). (末期 in kan-on /ma’kki/ means “end stage; advanced stage,” not necessarily connoting one’s death.)

The next two kanji 棋 and 碁 have rather specialized use– a checkerboard or a game that was played on a square board. It came from a square shape of a winnowing apparatus.

  1. The kanji 棋 “checkerboard”

History of Kanji 棋The seal style writing comprised 其, which was used phonetically for /ki/ to mean “square shape,” and “wood” (木) below. Together they meant a square checkerboard. The kanji 棋 is only used for the words that are related to Japanese shogi play 将棋 /shoogi/, in which the kanji 将 /sho’o/ means “commander; general.”  <The composition of the kanji 棋: 木 and 其>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gi/ is in 将棋 (“Japanese chess” /shoogi/).

  1. The kanji 碁 “go play”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 碁. The kanji comprised 其 “square” and 石 “stone.” A game that uses a square board and small stones is a game of go. The kanji 碁 means “play of go; game of go.”  <The composition of the kanji 碁: 其 and 石>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /go/ means “a play of go/, and is in 囲碁 (“game of go” /i’go/), a more formal name than just /go/, 碁盤 (“go board; checkerboard” /goban/) and 碁石 (“small round stones in black or white used for go play” /goishi/).

  1. The kanji 欺 “to deceive”

History of Kanji 欺The seal style writing comprised 其, which was used phonetically for /gi/, and a person with his mouth open wide (欠).  Setsumon stated that the kanji 欺 meant “to deceive.” (I feel this is not exactly an explanation, but I do not have any better one for now.)  <The composition of the kanji 欺: 其 and 欠>

The kun-yomi /azamu’ku/ means “to deceive; cheat.” The on-yomi /gi/ is in 詐欺 (“fraud; swindle” /sa’gi/) and 欺瞞 (“deception” /giman/).

In this posting I experimented with a new feature as a study guide – <the composition of the kanji …>. I thought it might give our exploration in ancient writing a better “landing” on the shape we want to learn. That is the goal of our exploration after all.  Because we cannot embed graphics in the middle of a WordPress sentence, I do not know if we can do this with all kanji in the future or not. We shall see how far we can do. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [July 15, 2017]

The Kanji 則側測賊 and 墳噴憤 – 貝(4) 


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain the shape 貝. In the first two postings, we explored the shape 貝 related to a “cowrie” that signified “money; value.” In the third posting we explored the shape 貝 related to a “three-legged bronze vessel.” In this posting we are continuing with a three-legged bronze vessel – the kanji 則側測賊. I have realized this week that there is another shape, 賁, that contains 貝 and can be explained as a cowrie. The 墳噴憤 are added to conclude our exploration of the shape 貝.

  1. The kanji 則 “rule; law”

History of Kanji 則For the kanji 則, we have three writing samples in bronze ware style, in green, here. (a) had two three-legged bronze ware vessels whereas (b) and (c) has just one vessel. The right side was a knife. The knife next to the vessel has been given different accounts — It was a knife used as a utensil for eating food that was cooked in the vessel. Sacrificial animal meat and other food that was offered to a deity was also shared by participants in a religious rite. Something that always accompanied the vessel signified “the rules always to be abided by.” Another account is that a knife signified inscription on the vessel [Shirakawa]. What was inscribed on a bronze ware stayed for a long time and was to be abided by — thus “rules; laws.” The double vessels in (a), and (d) in Old style, in purple, are explained by Shirakawa as signifying the fact that important contracts were inscribed in two vessels for each party to keep as proof. In kanji the knife became刂, a bushu rittoo “a knife placed vertically.”

In the last post in discussing the kanji 敗 we touched upon ambiguity of interpreting 貝 as a cowrie or a three- or four-legged bronze vessel. We can see that the kanji 則 is another example. Kyoshin (許慎 Xu Shen), the compiler of Setsumon Kaiji at the turn of the second century A.D., took them (in (d) in 則, I believe) as cowries.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 規則 (“rules; bylaw; statutory instrument” /ki’soku/), 法則 (“law; principle; rule” /hoosoku/), 鉄則 (“ironclad rule; inviolable rule” /tessoku/) and 変則的な (“irregular” /hensokuteki-na/).

  1. The kanji 側 “close by; side; aspect”

History of Kanji 側For the kanji 側, the bronze ware style writing, and the seal style writing, in red, had a “person” (イ), a “three-legged bronze ware vessel” (貝) and a “knife” (刀).  則 was used phonetically for /soku/. A person standing next to the vessel meant “by the side.” The kanji 側 means “close by; side.”

The kun-yomi /-kawa; -gawa/ is in 向こう側 (“opposite side; the other side” /mukoogawa/), 裏側 (“behind; the back side” /uragawa/) and 片側 (“one side” /katagawa/). The on-yomi /soku/ is in 側面 (“aspect; side view; profile; flank” /sokumen/) and 側近 (“close adviser; member of one’s entourage”).

  1. The kanji 測 “to measure”

History of Kanji 測The seal style writing of the kanji 測 comprised “water” and 則, which was used phonetically for /soku/ to mean “standard.” Together they signified measuring the depth of water or in a more general sense of “to measure.” The kanji 測 means “to measure.”

The kun-yomi 測る /haka’ru/ means “to measure. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 測量 (“location survey” /sokuryoo/), 推測する (“to guess; presume; speculate” /suisoku-suru/) and 目測 (“eye-estimation; measurement with the eye” /mokusoku/).

  1. The kanji 賊 “damage due to a robbery; thief”

History of Kanji 賊In the bronze ware style of the kanji 賊. we see a halberd (戈) on the top right and a three-legged vessel (貝) underneath. But what was the small piece on the left side of the vessel?  Was it a “knife” or a “person”?  As I mentioned in earlier posts, a knife and a person looked so alike in bronze ware style that they caused some confusion. History of Kanji 戎(frame)Then when I looked up the ancient writing for 戎 (“soldier; weapon” /e’bisu; kai/), which was the right side of the kanji 賊, it became clear that it was a shield or armor (The history is shown on the right). The kanji 戎 had a halberd (戈) and a shield, making up the meaning “weapons.” So, the kanji 賊 comprises 貝 “three-legged vessel” and 戎 “weapons; soldier.” Together they meant scraping an inscription of an oath out of bronze ware to revoke it. It was also used to mean injuring a person. The kanji 賊 means “to damage; damage due to a robbery; robber.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zoku/ is in 賊が押し入る (“a robber breaks into it” /zoku-ga-oshiiru/), 海賊 (“pirate” /kaizoku/), 海賊版 (“pirated edition” /kaizokuban/), 盗賊 (“robber; thief” /toozoku/), 盗賊の一味 (“a pack of thieves” /toozoku-no ichi’mi/) and 賊軍 (“rebels; rebel army” /zokugun/).

History of Kanji 賁(frame)We leave the exploration of the kanji that originated from a legged bronze ware vessel here. The last shape we are exploring in this group of four posts is the shape 賁. The kanji 賁 /hi; hun/ is not a Joyo kanji but we have the history shown on the right side. The bronze ware style was richly decorated ornament. In seal style a cowrie was added to indicate decoration with cowries. The kanji 賁 means “to decorate colorfully,” and when it is used as a component it meant “to burst out.”

  1. The kanji 墳 “burial mound”

History of Kanji 墳The seal style writing of the kanji 墳 comprised 土 “soil; dirt” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “causing something to swell; rise.” Together they meant a burial mound of ancient times. In kanji 土 became a bushu tsuchihen “ground; dirt.” The kanji 墳 means “burial mound.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hun/ is in 古墳 (“ancient burial mound; ancient tomb” /kohun/), 古墳時代 (“tumulus period; Kofun period” /kohunji’dai/) and 墳墓 (“tomb; grave” /hu’nbo/).

  1. The kanji 噴 “to spout out; erupt; blow out”

History of Kanji 噴The seal style writing of the kanji 噴 comprised 口 “mouth; opening” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “to burst out; gush out.” Together they meant “to gush out.”

The kun-yomi 噴き出す /hukida’su/ means “to spout out; erupt; blow out.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 噴出 (“to gush out; eject” /hunshutu/), 噴水 (“fountain” /hunsui/) and 火山の噴火 (“volcanic eruption” /kazan-no hunka/).

  1. The kanji 憤 “to anger; outrage; indignation”

History of Kanji 憤The seal style writing of the kanji 憤 comprised “heart” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/to mean “to burst out.” Together a heart gushing out with emotions meant “to anger; rancor ; outrage; indignation” In kanji, a heart became 忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 憤 means “anger; rancor; outrage; indignation.”

The kun-yomi 憤る /ikidoo’ru/ means “to be furious about; seethe with anger.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 憤慨する (“to get very angry; feel indignant” /hungai-suru/), 義憤 (“righteous indignation” /gihun/) and 憤激する (“to flare up; explode with anger” /hungai-suru/).

We shall move to another topic in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [July 8, 2017]

The Kanji 貝貨貯貢賃得負貿貴遺潰- cowrie (1)


The shape 貝 in kanji is used in two unrelated meanings. One is from a cowrie, and it carried the meaning “monetary value,” and another is from a bronze ware tripod (鼎), which carried the meaning of “tripod; pod.” We start our exploration with those that originated from a cowrie. The post this week is on the kanji 貝貨貯貢賃得負貿貴遺潰.

  1. The kanji 貝 “shell”

History of Kanji 貝For the kanji 貝, (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, in green, was a cowrie, a spiral shell that has an opening in the back. A cowrie was found in the southern sea of China, a long way from the inland where the civilization was situation. It was treasured and valued and was used for an exchange of goods and as money. A majority of kanji that means “value; money” contain a component 貝 “cowry,” as we shall see in a few posts now.  By itself the kanji 貝 means “shell; shellfish,” inclusive of all shapes of shells.

In Japanese a cowrie is called 子安貝 /koyasu’gai/. In the early Heian period story called Taketori Monogatari 竹取物語, one of the impossible riddles that the beautiful young lady, called Kaguya-hime, gave to her five noble suitors was to bring to her a koyasugai that a swallow mothered. In the end none of the riddles for the five suitors was answered successfully including the one involving a koyasugai, and Kaguya-hime returned to the Moon where she came from.

The kun-yomi 貝 /kai/ means seashell,” and is in 二枚貝 “bivalve” /buna’igai/), 子安貝 (“cowrie” /koyasu’gai/), 貝殻 (“shell” /kaiga’ra/) and 貝塚 (“shell mound; Kaizuka” /ka’izuka/). There is no on-yomi in Joyo kanji.

  1. The kanji 貨 “goods”

History of Kanji 貨For the kanji 貨, the left side of the seal style writing, in red, was a standing person (イ), and the right side had ヒ as a phonetic feature /ka/ to mean “change” and 貝 “cowrie; valuable.” Together they meant something that could be exchanged as money or for goods. In kanji the top became 化 (“to change” and phonetically /ka/). The kanji 貸 means “goods; money.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 貨物 (“freight; cargo” /ka’motsu/), 貨幣 (“money” /ka’hee/), 金貨 (“gold coin” /kinnka/), 雑貨 (“sundries; miscellaneous goods” /zakka/), 百貨店 (“department store” /hyakka’ten/) and 硬貨 (“coin” /ko’oka/).

  1. The kanji 貯 “to save; store”

History of Kanji 貯For the kanji 貯 (a) in oracle bone style was a container, the inside of which showed a cowrie. It meant “to store valuable things.” In (b) and (c) in bronze ware style the container and the cowrie became two separate components top and bottom, which were later placed side by side in seal style, (d). Cowries were so important that they were kept in an elaborate bronze ware container called 貯貝器 /choba’iki/. In kanji the right side 丁 seems to be out of place but in fact one of the origins of the kanji 丁 was a square shape.  The kanji 貯 means “to save up; lay up; make cash of.”

The kun-yomi 貯める /tameru/. The on-yomi /cho/ is in 貯金 (“saving; deposit (in a bank)” /chokin/), 貯蓄 (”saving up; putting aside” /chochiku/), 貯蔵庫 (“storage; depository” /chozo’oko/) and 貯水池 (“water reservoir” /chosu’ichi/).

  1. The kanji 貢 “tribute”

History of Kanji 貢The top of the seal style writing for the kanji 貢, 工, was used phonetically for /koo/ to mean “product; skilled work,” and the bottom 貝 was “cowrie; money.” Many kinds of products of value were paid as a tribute.  The kanji 貢 means “tribute; contribution.”

The kun-yomi 貢ぐ /mitsu’gu/ means “to pay a tribute; support financially,” and is in 貢物 (“present” /mitsugimono/). The on-yomi /koo/ means 貢献 (“contribution” /kooken/). Another on-yomi /gu/ was in 年貢 (“land tax; tribute” /nengu/).

  1. The kanji 賃 “wage”

History of Kanji 賃For the kanji 賃, in (a) and (b) in bronze ware style and (c) in seal style the left side and the top of the right side made up 任, which was used phonetically for /jin/ to mean “work.” The bottom right was 貝 “cowrie.” Together they meant paying money to hire a person to do work for wages. The kanji 賃 means “wages.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chin/ is in 賃金 (“wage; pay; salary” /chi’ngin/), 家賃 (“house-rent” /ya’chin/), 運賃 (“fair; tariff” /u’nchin/) and 賃貸住宅 (“rental housing” /chintaiju’utaku/).

  1. The kanji 得 “gain; profit; benefit”

History of Kanji 得For the kanji 得, (a) in oracle bone style and (c) in bronze ware style had a cowrie and a hand, whereas (b) and (d) in bronze ware style had a crossroad added. Together they mean one going “to obtain something valuable.”  In seal style, on the left side a crossroad was added to a cowrie, and a hand was on the right side. From “going out to gain something valuable” it meant “to gain; make a profit.” In kanji the cowrie became a 旦 “sunrise” and a hand became 寸.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /toku/ is in 得をする- 得する (“to profit; benefit; gain” /toku-osuru; toku-suru), 得意になる(“to preen; become proud” /toku’i-ni naru/), お買い得 (“great deal; bargain” /okaidoku/), 納得する (“to understand” /nattoku-suru/) and 得心する (“to consent to; realize” /tokushin-suru/).

  1. The kanji 負 “to carry on one’s back; be defeated; negative”

History of Kanji 負The seal style writing of the kanji 負 had a person with his back bent at the top, and “cowrie,” signifying “money” at the bottom. Together they meant a man carrying something on his back, or a debt, on his bent back. The kanji 負 means “debt; to lose; owe; carry on one’s back.”

The kun-yomi 負ける /makeru/ means “to be defeated; lose,” and is in 勝ち負け (“victory and defeat” /ka’chimake/) and 負けず嫌い (“hating to lose; unyielding; competitive.”)  Another kun-yomi 負う/ou/ means “to carry on the back; have a debt,” and is in 背負う “to carry on one’s back.”  The on-yomi word 負 /hu/ means “negative (number); minus,” and is in 負債 (“debt; liabilities” /husai/). /-Bu/ is in 勝負 (“match; contest; game” /sho’obu/).

  1. The kanji 貿 “trade”

History of Kanji 貿For the kanji 貿 in bronze ware style and seal style, the top was used phonetically for /boo/ to mean “to divide in two,” and the bottom was “cowrie.” Together they signified “to trade goods” The kanji 貿means “to trade.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /boo/ is used only in the word 貿易 (“foreign trade; commerce” /booeki/), such as 貿易風 (“trade wind” /booekihuu/), 貿易収支 (“balance of trade” /booeki-shu’ushi/), 貿易自由化 (“liberalization of trade; deregulation of trade” /booeki-jiyuuka/) and 貿易摩擦 (“trade friction; trade dispute” /booeki-ma’satsu/).

  1. The kanji 貴 “noble; precious”

History of Kanji 貴In seal style writing, the kanji 貴 had two hands holding something reverently. The bottom was a cowrie. Together they signified “to handle something valuable carefully.” It means “precious; valuable; of high value.” It is also used for people to mean “noble; august.” The kanji 貴 means “precious; valuable; noble; venerable.”

The kun-yomi 貴い /tooto’i/ means “august; venerable; noble.” Another kun-yomi 貴ぶ /tatto’bu/ means “to appreciate; treasure.” The on-yomi /ki/ is in 貴重な (“precious; valuable” /kichoo-na/), 高貴な (“noble” /ko’oki-na/) and 貴族 (“aristocracy” /ki’zoku/).

  1. The kanji 遺 “to leave behind; give”

History of Kanji 遺In bronze ware style, (a) had “two hands holding something carefully” (top), “crossroad” (left) and a cowrie (bottom right).  In (b) a hand was at the bottom, and a footprint was added at the bottom left. Together they meant someone leaving something precious behind. In (c), underneath two hands holding a thing carefully, were a crossroad and footprint, which in (d) in seal style became 辵 “to go forward,” a precursor of a bushu shinnyoo.  The kanji 遺 means “to leave behind; bequest.”

The kun-yomi 遺す /noko’su/ means “to leave behind.” The on-yomi /i/ is in 遺品 (“article left behind (after one’s death); memento” /ihin/), 遺失物 (“lost-and-found article” /ishitsu’butsu/), 遺跡 (“remains; historical spot; ruins” /iseki/) and 遺書 (“a will; a note left by a dead person” /i’sho/).

  1. The kanji 潰 “to crush; collapse”

History of Kanji 潰The seal style writing of the kanji 潰 had “water” and 貴, which was used phonetically for /kai/ to mean “to collapse.” Together their ogirinal meaning was  “a breach of water; bursting a bank.” It described a forceful destruction such as one made by a collapse of a bank –“collapse; crush; smash.” The kanji 潰 means “a breach of water; collapse; crush.”

The kun-yomi 潰す /tsubusu/ means “to crush; break down; squash,” and its intransitive verb counterpart 潰れる (“to tumble; crumble; collapse” /tsubureru/). The expression シラミ潰しに・しらみつぶしに means “(to check) thoroughly; one by one” /shirami-tsu’bushi-ni/). (シラミ /shirami/ means “lice.”) The on-yomi /kai/ is in 決潰 (“collapse; rip” /kekkai/), 潰滅 (“annihilation; total demolition” /kaimetsu/) and 潰瘍 (“ulcer” /kaiyoo/).  The kanji 潰 was not in the previous Joyo kanji, and the kanji 壊 was substituted until the revision.

There are many more kanji with a cowrie. I expect we shall need a couple of more posts on this topic. Thank you very much for your reading. — Noriko [June 17, 2017]

The kanji 掃婦帰寝浸侵 – Religious matters (5)   


In this fifth post on kanji that originated from something pertaining to religious matters, we are going to explore six kanji that contain the full or partial shape of 帚 “broom; brush” — the kanji 婦掃帰・寝浸侵. The component 帚 is not a Joyo kanji but we have the history as shown on the right.

History of Kanji 帚The component 帚 — (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (3) and (4) in bronze ware style, in green, was a broom for sweeping an altar table in an ancestral mausoleum. It has also been interpreted as something that sprinkles rice wine to sanctify offerings. 帚 meant “broom; to sweep; to cleanse.”

  1. The kanji 婦 “woman; lady; female”

History of Kanji 婦For the kanji 婦, in oracle bone style (a) and (b) were the same as 帚 above, which was a broom for sweeping or cleansing an altar. In bronze ware style, (c) and (d) had a broom on the left and a woman (女) on the right. Together they signified the mistress of a household, who was responsible for keeping an ancestral mausoleum in good order. It originally meant the wife of one’s son. The kanji 婦 means “lady; woman; female.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 婦人 (“woman; lady” /hujin/), 主婦 (“housewife” /shu’hu/), 夫婦 (“husband and wife” /hu’uhu/) and 産婦人科 (“obstetrics and gynecology” /sanhujinka/).

  1. The kanji 掃 “to sweep; brush on”

History of Kanji 掃For the kanji 掃, in oracle bone style (a) had a broom and a hand holding it whereas (b) was the same as 帚 “broom; brush” and (a) and (b) in 1. 婦 “woman” above.  It meant “a hand sweeping with a broom.” In (d) in seal style, in red, 帚 was used for a secular mundane purpose, and 土 “soil; ground” was added to mean “to sweep the ground; clean.” In kanji, 扌, a bushu tehen –“hand; an act that one does using a hand” — was restored. The kanji 掃 means “to sweep; brush on; broom.”

The kun-yomi 掃く /ha‘ku/ means “to sweep; brush on,” and is in 掃き掃除 (“sweeping and cleaning; cleaning up” /hakiso’oji/). The on-yomi /soo/ is in 掃除 (“cleaning; dusting; wiping; scrubbing” /sooji/), 掃除機 (“vacuum cleaner; sweeper” /sooji’ki/), 清掃車 (“garbage truck; refuse truck” /seeso’osha/) and 一掃する (“to sweep away; get rid of” /issoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 帰 “to return; go home”

History of Kanji 侵For the kanji 帰, In (a) and (b) in oracle bone style and (c) in bronze ware style, the left side was a sacrificial meat offering to a deity before a military force went out for a battle. The right was a broom, signifying a purified family altar. Together they originally meant a military force returning to the family mausoleum to give a battle report on a safe return. (e) in bronze ware style and (f) in seal style had a footprint at the bottom left to signify a return. From that it meant “to return home.” The kyuji 歸, (g) in blue, reflected (f) closely. In shinji the left side became two slightly curved lines, perhaps signifying the original two pieces of sacrificial meat offerings. The kanji 帰 means “to return; come/go home; belong to.”

The kun-yomi 帰る /ka’eru/ means “to return home,” and is in 日帰り (“returning on the same day” /higaeri/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 帰宅する (“to go home; head home” /kitaku-suru/), 帰化 (“naturalization” /ki’ka/), 帰省 (“homecoming” /kisee/), 帰路 (“return way; return circuit” /ki’ro/), 帰京する (“to return to Tokyo” /kikyoo-suru/) and 帰依する (“to become a devout believer” /ki’e-suru/).

  1. The kanji 寝 “to sleep”

History of Kanji 寝For the kanji 寝, (a) in oracle bone style and (c) in bronze ware style had a house or family mausoleum, inside of which was a broom or brush. Together they originally meant a mausoleum that was purified. On the other hand, (b) in oracle bone style had a sick bed with a few droplets signifying perspiration on the left, and the right side was a hand holding a broom, which signified a cleansed mausoleum. Together they meant a sick person waking up from in bed with a nightmare. (d) in seal style was very different but had a similar story – inside a mausoleum (a house and a broom) the left side was a bed, and the top right was a medium who was believed to cause a nightmare/dream. An illness was considered something that an evil spirit caused, and purification was necessary. In kyuji 寢, (e), the dream component was dropped, and a hand (又) was added at the bottom. The kanji 寝 means “to sleep.”

The kun-yomi /neru/ means “to lie down; sleep,” and is in 朝寝坊する (“to rise late in the morning” /asane’boo-suru/), 寝言を言う (“to talk in one’s sleep” /negoto-o iu/) and 寝ぼける (“to be still only half asleep” /neboke’ru/). The on-yomi /shin/ is in 寝室 (“bedroom” /shinshitsu/), 寝具 (“the bedding” /shi’ngu/) and 就寝時間 (“sleeping time” /shuushinji’kan/).

  1. The kanji 浸 “to soak; immerse”

History of Kanji 浸For the kanji 浸, in oracle bone style inside a family mausoleum was a broom shaking drops of sanctifying aromatic liquor. From the aroma of liquor permeating the room strongly, it meant “to soak; immerse.” The kanji 浸 means “to immerse; soak.”

The kun-yomi 浸す /hitasu/ means “to soak; immerse” and is in its intransitive verb counterpart 浸る (“to be soaked in; be drowne in” /hitaru/) and 酒浸り (“being steeped in alcohol” /sakebitari/). The on-yomi /shin/ is in 浸水 (“flood; inundation” /shinsui/), 浸透する (“to permiate” /shintoo-suru/) and 浸食作用 (“erosion; corrosive action” /shinshoku/).

  1. The kanji 侵 “to invade; infiltrate”

History of Kanji 侵For the kanji 侵, in oracle bone style (a) had an ox with sanctifying liquor droplets on the left and a hand holding a broom on the right. (b) had an ox ­and a broom only.  [Incidentally, (a) and (b) were copied from Akai (2010), but were not included Shirakawa (2004). I suspect that it is possible that Shirakawa treated (a) and (b) belonging to other kanji.]  (c) in bronze ware style had a sitting person on the top right and a broom in hand at the bottom. The meaning of 浸 “to permeate; immerse” was adopted for an act people do (signified by イ, a bushu ninben “person; an act that a person does”) in a military sense, and it meant “to invade.”

The kun-yomi 侵す /oka’su/ means “to invade; violate.” The on-yomi /shin/ is in 侵略 (“invasion; aggression” /shinryaku/), 侵入 (“infiltration; incursion” /shinnyuu/), 人権侵害 (“violation/infringement of human rights” /jinken-shingai/) and 領土侵犯 (“violation of territorial sovereignty; intrusion into territory” /ryo’odo-shinpan/).

With this post we leave the topic of the origins that pertained to religious matters. For our next exploration I am thinking about the component shape 貝, which came from two totally different origins — a cowry (貝) and a bronze ware tripod (鼎).  Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko [June 10, 2017]

The Kanji 社礼福祉禅祝禍祖 — しめすへん (ネ)


In the last post (The Kanji 示宗禁祭際察擦崇奈–“altar table”) we looked at kanji that contain a component 示 “an altar table with offerings,” where the will of a god was viewed to appear — thus signified “pertaining to religious matter.” In this post we are going to explore kanji in which the original altar table changed to ネ, a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter” in shinji — the kanji 社礼福祉禅祝禍祖.

  1. The kanji 社 “shrine; company of people; corporation”

History of Kanji 社

sThe oracle bone style writing for the kanji 社, in brown, was a pack of dirt placed on the ground with sprinkles of rice wine that was sanctifying the ground. It meant the god of the earth or a place of worship or a shrine. In bronze ware style, in green, it was the same as 土  “soil; earth; ground” (the bulge indicated a pack of dirt). In seal style, in red, an altar table was added to the left. The kyuji, in blue, reflected seal style. In shinji 社, 示 on the left side changed to ネ, a bushu shimesuhen. A place of worship was where many people congregated, and 社 also meant “company of people,” and, in Japanese, “corporation.” The kanji 社 means “shrine; company of people; corporation.”

The kun-yomi 社 /ya’shiro/ means “shrine.” The on-yomi /sha/ is in 社会 (“society” /sha’kai/), 会社 (“corporation” /kaisha/), 結社 (“establishment; organization” /kessha/), 社交的 (“sociable; gregarious” /shakooteki/) and 社会人 (“member of society; working adult” /shaka’ijin/).

  1. The kanji 礼 “propriety; a bow”

History of Kanji 礼For the kanji 礼 in (a) in bronze ware style, the top was two strings of cowries strung together or jewelries, and the bottom was a tall container. Together they meant abundant offering to a deity. The two Old style writings, in purple, came from an entirely different origin– (b) was an altar table with the offering on top, and (c) had a person kneeling to worship added on the right side. It meant “propriety (of ceremony).” (d) in seal style was comprised of 示 and 豊, which came from (a). The kyuji 禮, (e), reflected seal style (d), and is still used in formal occasions. The shinji uses 礼, in line with Old style (b) and (c).  The kanji 礼 means “propriety; a bow.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 礼 /re’e/ means “salute; bow,” and is in 一礼する (“to make a light bow to” /ichiree-suru/), 敬礼 (“salute” /keeree/), 失礼 (“discourtesy; impoliteness /shitsu’ree/), 礼儀正しい (“gracious; civilized; well-mannered” /reegitadashi’i/) and 儀礼的な (“ceremonious” /gireetekina/).

  1. The kanji 福 “blessing; good luck”

History of Kanji 福For the kanji 福, (a) in oracle bone style was comprised of an altar table at the top left and a rice wine cask that was raised by two hands. Placing a full wine cask on the altar, one prayed for blessing from the god. (b) ddid not have two hands. In bronze ware style, (c) and (d) had an altar table and a wine cask that was filled with wine (the cross at the bottom indicated that it was not empty.)  In seal style (e) reflected (c), in line with the general arrangement of a semantic-phonetic formation of kanji (keisei-moji) –a left component for meaning and a right component for sound. The kanji 福 meant “blessing; good luck.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 福 /huku/ means “blessing; good fortune,” and is in 祝福 (“benediction; blessing” /shukuhuku/), 幸福な (“happy” /koohukuna/), 福音 (“the Christian gospel; good tidings” /hukuin/) and 福袋 (“grab bag; mystery shopping bag” /hukubu’kuro/).

  1. The kanji 祉 “blessing”

History of Kanji 祉The oracle bone style writing of the kanji 祉 had an altar table for “deity,” and 止 was used phonetically for /shi/ to mean “to remain.” Together they meant “the god’s blessing remained.”  The kanji 祉 means “blessing; happiness given by a god,” but in the current Japanese the use is limited to the word 福祉.  There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shi/ is in 福祉 (“welfare; well-being” /huku’shi/).

  1. The kanji 禅 “Zen sect; to pass on a throne peacefully”

History of Kanji 禅The seal style writing of the kanji 禅 was comprised of an altar table, signifying “worshipping,” and 單, which was used phonetically for /tan; zen/. Together they originally meant a platform or a raised area where a deity was worshipped. Following a god’s will one passed on a throne to someone else peacefully, and it meant “to pass on power peacefully.”  Later on it also came to be used to mean a Buddhist sect. In shinji the left side 示 became ネ a bushu shimesuhen. The kanji 禅 means “Zen sect; to vacate a throne (peacefully).”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zen/ is in 禅宗 (“Zen sect of Buddhism” /zenshuu/) and 座禅を組む (“to sit in Zen meditation” /zazen-o ku’mu/).  The word 禅譲 (“peaceful evacuation of a throne” /zenjoo/) is a highly specialized word.

  1. The kanji 祝 “to celebrate”

History of Kanji 祝For the kanji 祝 the writing in oracle bone style, bronze were style and seal style all was comprised of 示 “altar table” and 兄 “elder brother;  elder person.” Together from an elder person worshipping and celebrating the god, the kanji 祝 meant “to celebrate.”

The kun-yomi 祝い /iwai/ means “celebration,” and is in 祝い酒 (“celebration drink” /iwai’zake/). The on-yomi /shuku/ is in 祝賀会 (“celebratory party” /shukuga’kai/). Another on-yomi /shuu/ is in 祝言 (“marriage ceremony” /shu’ugen/) and 祝儀 (“tip on celebratory occasion” /shu’ugi/).

  1. The kanji 禍 “misfortune; calamity”

History of Kanji 禍For the kanji 禍 what the shape in oracle bone style was about is not clear. The source from which I have taken this writing (Shirakawa) does not appear to be addressing it. The bronze ware style writing was comprised of an altar table and bones of a deceased (咼). Together they meant “affliction; catastrophe.” The kanji 禍 meant “misfortune; calamity.”

The kun-yomi 禍 /wazawai/ means “calamity.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 戦禍 (“the turmoil of war; wartime chaos” /se’nka/) and 舌禍 (“unfortunate slip of the tongue” /ze’kka/).

  1. The kanji 祖 “ancestor”

History of Kanji 祖In oracle bone style (a) was an altar table and a stack of similar things. They could be ancestral tombstones or representations of many ancestors to be worshipped at an altar. In (b) and in bronze ware style (c) an altar table disappeared, but in (d) in seal style it reappeared. The kanji 祖 means “ancestor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /so/ is in 先祖 (“forefather; ancestor” /so’sen/), 祖先 (“ancestor; ascendant” /so’sen/), 祖国 (“mother country” /so’koku/), 祖父 (“grandfather” /so’hu/), 祖母 (“grandmother” /so’bo/) and 元祖 (“originator; founder” /ga’nso/).

All the kanji that contain a bushu shimesuhen that we looked had 示 in most of the ancient writing through as recent as kyuji. It is only in shinji that, when 示 was placed on the left side of kanji, it became a bushu shimesuhen. Other kanji such as 神, 視 and 祈 have been previously discussed. We will continue to explore more kanji that pertained or still pertain to religious matters.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [May 20, 2917]

The Kanji 巾布怖希飾帥・帯滞・幣弊蔽


This is the 8th posting on kanji that originated from “a skein of silk thread” (糸), “a collar,” which became 衣 and 衤, and something that pertained to “fabric.” In this post we are going to look at the kanji 巾布怖希飾帥・帯滞・幣弊蔽.

  1. The kanji 巾 “cloth”

History of Kanji 巾For the kanji 巾 in all the three ancient writing styles (oracle bone, in brown; bronze ware, in green; and seal, in red) and the kanji, it basically remained the same shape. It was a piece of ceremonial scarf that was worn around the waist by a man. From that it meant “a piece of cloth.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji, even though 巾 has been used informally for the word  /haba/ “width” (幅).  The on-yomi /kin/ is in 布巾 (“kitchen cloth” /huki’n/), 頭巾 (“hood; headscarf” /zu’kin/) and 三角巾 (“triangular bandage” /sanka’kkin/).

  1. The kanji 布 “cloth; to lay flat; spread”

History of Kanji 布For the kanji 布, in bronze ware style it had a hand holding an axe or a rock at the top, which was used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “to pound.” Our reader may recognize this shape as the bronze ware style writing of the kanji 父 “father.” (A person holding an important axe or a rock in his hand was a father or paternal head.) Underneath was 巾 “cloth or scarf that a man wore around the waist.” In ancient times before cotton was introduced cloth was made of fibrous stems and stalks of a plant such as hemp by pounding it flat with a stone. The kanji 布 meant “cloth.” A piece of cloth covered a wide area, and it also meant “to spread.”  The kanji 布 means “cloth; to lay flat; spread.”

The kun-yomi 布 /nuno/ means “cloth.” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 毛布 (“blanket; woolen blanket” /mo’ohu/), 布教 (“missionary work; propagation of religion” /hukyoo/) and 布団 (“futon; padded mattress; bedding” /huton/). /-Pu/ is in 散布する(“to spray; scatter” /sanpu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 怖 “fear; scary”

History of Kanji 怖For the kanji 怖 in seal style, (a) was comprised of 心 “heart” and 甫, which was used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “fear,” whereas (b) was comprised of 心 “heart” and 布, which was also used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “fear.”  (a) became the kanji 怖 in which “heart” became a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 怖 means “afraid; frightening; terrifying; fear.”

The kun-yomi /kowa’i/ means “frightening; petrifying; scary.” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 恐怖 (“terror” /kyo’ohu/) and 畏怖の念 (“sense of the awe” /ihu-no-ne’n/).

  1. The kanji 希 “rare; wish”

History of Kanji 希History of Kanji 爻In seal style the top meant “to mix.” The history of the shape 爻 is shown on the right. Many  threads crossing made woven cloth. Fine thin woven cloth would have a light coming through between threads, and thinness signified “rare.” The bottom, 巾, was a piece of cloth. Together they meant something that was “rare.” One makes a “wish” for something that is not commonly around. The kanji 希 means “wish; to beseech; rare.”

There is another kanji that uses 希, with , a bushu nogihen — the kanji 稀 “rare; thin,” in words such as 稀な (“rare” /mare-na/), 稀薄 (“thin” /kihaku/) and 稀少価値 (“rarity value” /kishooka’chi/). Another on-yomi /ke/ is in 稀有な (“rare” /ke’u-na/). Because the kanji 稀 is not Joyo kanji, 希 may be substituted in some words.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 希望 (“hope; wish” /kiboo/), 希薄な (“thin” /kihaku-na/) and 希少価値 (“scarcity value” /kishooka’chi/).

  1. The kanji 飾 “to decorate; embellish”

History of Kanji 飾In the seal style writing of the kanji 飾, 食 “eat; food” and 人 “person” together were used phonetically for /shoku/ and meant someone at a banquet table. With 巾 “cloth” below added, they originally meant “to wipe” (dishes).  Wiping something with a piece of cloth meant to make it clean or pretty. Thee kanji 飾 meant “to decorate; embellish.”

The kun-yomi 飾 /kazaru/ means “to embellish; decorate.” The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 装飾品 (“ornament; decorative thing” /shooshokuhin/) and 修飾語 (“modifier; qualifier” in grammar  /shuushokugo/).

  1. The kanji 帥 “general; commander”

History of Kanji 帥For the kanji 帥 in bronze ware style writings, (a), (b) and (c) was “a door or panel to open a family altar,” and the right side 巾 was “cloth.” Together wiping one’s family altar signified one following a god, and an exemplar. The flipside of following someone was “to lead; to take command.” [Shirakawa] The kanji 帥 means “general; commander.” In seal style (d) was a piece of cloth for a woman. In (e) the left side became simplified. Another view [Kadokawa dictionary] takes the left side of 帥 as signifying “band of people,” and together with 巾 “flag,” they meant commanding a troop with a flag.

The use of the kanji 帥 is limited. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sui/ is in 元帥 (“general; commander” /ge’nsui/).

  1. The kanji 帯 “belt; sash; long, narrow stretch of area”

History of Kanji 帯For the kanji 帯 the top of the seal style writing was a belt with accessory, and the bottom was a cloth in front, such as an apron. A rope that helped to keep clothes on was a “sash.” A sash is something you put on yourself. From that it also meant “to have on oneself.” The top of the kyuji 帶 was slightly simplified. The kanji 帯 also meant a “long, narrow stretch of area; strip; sash.”

The kun-yomi 帯 /o’bi/ meant “sash; band.” The on-yomi /tai/ is in 一帯 (“whole area” /ittai/), 温帯 (“temperate zone” /ontai/) and 携帯 (“portable type; carrying” /keetai/), which is now used as an abbreviated word for 携帯電話 (“cell phone; portable phone” /keetaide’nwa/).

  1. The kanji 滞 “to stagnate; be delayed”

History of Kanji 滞For the kanji 滞 the seal style writing was comprised of “water” and 帯, which was used phonetically for /tai/ to mean “belt; strip.” Together “water in an area” gave the meaning “to stagnate,” which further meant “to be delayed; be behindhand with.”

The kun-yomi /todokoo’ru/ means “to stagnate; fall behind (in payment).” The on-yomi /tai/ is in 滞納 (“failure to pay” /tainoo/), 停滞する (“to stop moving; stagnate” /teetai-suru/) and 沈滞ムード (“depressed mood; slum” /chintaimu’udo/).

History of Kanji 敝The shape 敝— The next three kanji 幣弊蔽 share the shape 敝. The history of 敝 is shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top left 巾 had two short lines inside, signifying that cloth is worn and torn. The bottom right was a hand holding a stick, signifying an action. In seal style they became 㡀 and攴. The kanji 敝 meant “cloth becomes rag; torn; to break; tire.”

  1. The kanji 幣 “money; sacred strips of paper”

History of Kanji 幣For the kanji 幣 the top 敝 was used phonetically for /hee/. The bottom was 巾 “cloth.” Together they meant “sacred piece of cloth for offering to a god.” An offering was sometimes money. From that the kanji 幣 meant “money.” It is also used to mean strips of hanging paper to mark a sacred area in Shinto to ward off evils.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hee/ is in 貨幣 (“money” /ka’hee/) and 紙幣 (“paper currency; note” /shi’hee/) an 御幣 (“paper strips” in Shinto. /gohee/).

  1. The kanji 弊 “to collapse; perish; our (humble)”

History of Kanji 弊For the kanji 弊 in seal style (a) and (b), the top was 敝, which was used phonetically for /hee/. The bottom of (a) was “dog” (犬), and (b) had “death” (死). A dog was said to have been used for poison testing. Together they meant “to collapse; perish; die; harmful.” The Correct writing (c) reflected (a) with 犬 at the bottom. The kanji 弊 was also used to mean “our (company)” in humble style. The kanji 弊 means “to collapse; to become exhausted; harmful; our (humble),” and is in 疲弊 (”impoverishment; exhaustion” /hihee/), 弊害 (“bad practice; harmful influence” /heegai/) and 語弊がある (“to be misleading” /gohee-ga-a’ru/).

  1. The kanji 蔽 “to conceal”

History of Kanji 蔽The seal style writing of the kanji 蔽 had 艸 “plant; grass” on top of 敝, which was used phonetically for /hee/. They meant that grass grew rampantly and covered or hid things. The kanji 蔽 means “to hide; cover; conceal.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /-pee/ is in 隠蔽する(“to conceal; hide” /inpee-suru/).

With this post we end our exploration on kanji that originate from thread, a collar and clothes.  We will start another topic next topic. Thank you very much for your reading. — Noriko [May 7, 2017]

The Kanji 初袖襟裾裕・卒・経径軽茎


This is the third post on kanji that originated from a collar and mean “clothing” – 衣. We have seen in the last two posts that when used as a component in ancient writing a collar may appear as it was (衣) or split in two parts with another component in the middle. In kanji another shape was created –a bushu衤, which is called koromohen. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 初袖襟裾裕 with a koromohen, and 卒, which also came from a collar. Then we are going to look at kanji that had 巠 in kyuji that originated with a warp (straight threads placed vertically) set on a loom in weaving –経径軽茎.

The first two kanji 初 and 袖 have been discussed before, but here we look at them again from the standpoint of the development of a collar into different component shapes.

  1. The kanji 初 “first time; beginning”

History of Kanji 初All the ancient styles (oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red) had the full shape of a collar (衣) on the left side and a knife (刀) on the right side. In order to make clothes, fabric first had to be cut. From that it meant “first time; beginning.” When 衣 appeared on the left side in kanji, it became 衤, a bushu koromohen “clothing.” /Koromo/ is the kun-yomi of the kanji 衣, as we saw last week. The shape 衤 is not to be confused with ネ, a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter,” which is related to the kanji 示 /shimesu/.  It is interesting to me to see how the two very different kanji 衣and 示 could end up with such similar shapes as bushu.



The stroke order of a bushu koromohen is shown on the right.  (For word samples, please refer to the earlier post.)

  1. The kanji 袖 “sleeve”

Thistory-of-kanji-%e8%a2%96he three writings for the kanji 袖 on the left demonstrate that there have been three different shapes for a collar and all meant the same thing – In one, (a), a collar was split into two, the top being the back of the neck and the bottom a front in which two sides meet; another one, (b), kept the original shape; and the third one as bushu had an abbreviated to衤(katakana ネ with an extra stroke as a fourth stroke added). The right side of (b) as well as that of  the kanji 袖 was 由 “coming out of” (a ripe gourd). When you put on clothes arms would come out of sleeves, and it meant “sleeve.”

  1. The kanji 襟 “collar”

History of Kanji 襟In the bronze ware style of the kanji 襟, inside the wide-open collar was 金, which was used phonetically for /kin/. It meant “collar.” In seal style the same two components 衣 and 金 were placed side by side.  In kanji the left side became a bushu koromohen and the right side was replaced by 禁, which was used phonetically for /kin/ to mean “to close.” The kanji 襟 means “collar.”

The kun-yomi 襟 /eri’/ means “collar,” and is in 襟巻き (“muffler; neck scarf” /eri’maki/). The on-yomi /kin/ is in 開襟シャツ (“open-necked shirt” /kaikinsha’tsu/) and the expression 胸襟を開く (“to open one’s heart; have a heart-to-heart talk with someone” /kyookin-o hira’ku/).

  1. The kanji 裾 “hem; foothills of mountain”

History of Kanji 裾The seal style writing of the kanji 裾 was comprised of koromohen and 居, which was used phonetically for /kyo/. It appears that the meaning was originally inclusive of parts of clothing, such as the hem, the bottom of clothes, the collar, the sleeve and the edge of the front panel of clothes. But now the kanji 裾 is used only for “the bottom of clothes; hem; skirts”

The kun-yomi 裾 /suso/ means “bottom of clothes; hem” and is in 山裾 (“foothills of mountain” /yamasuso/) and in 裾模様 (“kimono with design on the skirt” /susomo’yoo/). There is no practical word using the on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 裕 “leeway; plentiful; room”

History of Kanji 裕For the kanji 裕 in bronze ware style a collar that was opened wide had 谷.  Several kanji that contain谷 are difficult to explain from the origins, because their ancient writings do not appear to have come from the same source. Rather than going into unsolved issues in my mind, I am going to leave it as being used phonetically for “roomy; ample.” Together the original meaning of “roomy; loose clothes” came to be used more generally to mean “leeway; plentiful; room.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /yuu/ is in 余裕 (“additional coverage; room” /yoyuu/) and 裕福な (“rich; wealthy well-to-do” /yu’uhukuna/).

  1. The kanji 卒 “soldier; sudden; rash; to end”

History of Kanji 卒The kanji 卒 has seemingly different meanings, and that may have affected the interpretations of its origin. In both bronze ware style and seal style, it was a collar that had a slanted line. One view is that the slanted line across the right and left front panels of clothes that were closed signified that soldiers wore the same clothes that were given to them. From that the kanji 卒 meant “low-ranking soldiers.” Another view is that a deceased person’s collar was tied so that the spirit would not stray out – thus the slanted line signified “tied tightly.” The kanji 卒meant “sudden death,” and this sudden happening gave the meaning “rash; hasty.” It also meant “to end after one does everything to be done.”  The kanji became 亠, two 人 and 十. The kanji 卒 means “low-ranking solder; sudden; to end.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sotu/ is in 兵卒 (“private (soldier); enlisted man” /heesotsu/), 卒業 (“graduation” /sotsugyoo/), 軽率な (“careless; hasty,without serious thought” /keesotsu-na/). /Sot/- is in 卒中 (“stroke; apoplectic seizure” /socchuu/) and 卒倒する (“to faint; fall unconscious” /sottoo-suru/).

Now we move on to other shapes that are related to fabric or clothes. We begin with the shape 巠 in kyuji (I do not have the kanji for the shinji, which is 又 and 土.)

  1. The kanji 経 “to pass through; experience; sutra”

History of Kanji 経The first kanji is 経. In bronze ware style, (a), a loom that had threads (warps) was placed vertically to the wooden frame. In weaving, warp has to be placed straight so that other threads (the weft) can pass through to make a cloth. So it signified “straight; to go through.” In (b) a skein of threads was added. In (c) in seal style the threads were three wavy lines and the wooden frame became 工 ”craft” at the bottom. The kyuji 經, in blue, reflected seal style. Experience is something one goes through, so it means “experience.” A Buddhist sutra is a long continuous chanting, and the kanji also is used to mean “sutra.”  In shinjitai, the right became the kanji 又 and 土. The kanji 経 means “to go through; (time) passes; Buddhist sutra.”

The kun-yomi 経る means “(time) passes; to experience; go through.” The on-yomi /kee/ is in 経験 (“experience” /keeken/), 経済 (“economy” /ke’ezai/), 経緯 (“detail of history; longitude and latitude” /ke’ei/), 経歴 (“personal history” /keereki/), 経理 (“accounting” /ke’eri/). Another on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 経典 (“sacred scripture” /kyooten/) and お経 (“Buddhist sutra” /okyoo/).

  1. The kanji径 “pathway; straight line connecting two points”

For the kanji 径 in seal style the left side was a “crossroad.” The right side 巠 signified “lines that go strait.” The shortest way to get somewhere is a straight line, which would involve narrow path, not a major road. It meant “narrow path; pathway.” 径 is a line that connects two points, and a straight line that goes through circle is also 径. The kyuji 徑 reflected seal style. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji 又 and 土.

The kun-yomi /michi’/ is in 小径 (“pathway” /komichi/), 直径 (“diameter” /chokkee/) and 半径 (“semidiameter; radius” /ha’nkee/).

  1. The kanji 軽 “light; frivolous”

History of Kanji 軽For the kanji 軽 in seal style the left side was a “wheel; military vehicle.” The right side 巠 was used phonetically for /kee/ to mean “light.”  It meant a military vehicle that was not transporting heavy equipment. From that it meant “light.” The kyuji 輕 reflected seal style.

The kun-yomi /karui/ means “light.” /-Garu/ is in 身軽に (“lightly; with agility” /migaru-ni/), 手軽な (“easy; offhand; convenient” /tegaru-na/), 軽々しい (“thoughtlessly; frivolous; imprudent” /karugarushi’i/). The on-yomi /kee/ is in 軽量 (“light-weight” /keeryoo/), 軽視する (“to make light of” /ke’eshi-suru/) and 軽蔑する (“to scorn; contempt” /keebetsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 茎 “stem; stalk”

History of Kanji 茎For the kanji 茎 the seal style writing was comprised of 艸 “plant; grass” and 巠 “something straight across.” The part of a plant that was straight was a stem. It meant “stem.” The kanji 茎 means “stem; stalk.”

The kun-yomi /kuki/ means “stem; stalk.” The on-yomi /kee/ is in 地下茎 (“subterranean stem” /chika’kee/), a rather specialized word for a gardener and vegetable grower.

In the next post, we are probably going to look at kanji that contain 巾, and perhaps a few more if we finish with the topic of threads and cloth.  For people who reside in Japan, please enjoy ゴールデンウィーク (“Golden Week” /goorudenwi’iku/) — consecutive holidays from April 29 (originally Showa Emperor’s old birthday, eventually renamed as Showa Day) through May 5 (Children’s day).  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [April 30, 2017]

The Kanji 懐壊・遠園・還環・醸壌譲嬢-衣 (2)


In exploring kanji that came from 衣, which originally was “collar,” we are going to look at kanji that contain something complex inside 衣 that was split top and bottom. The etymology of 懐壊・遠園・還環・醸壌譲嬢 is incredibly complex. I wish I could just skip them in our exploration, but I cannot avoid going into the murky intrigue in ancient writing history to cover all Joyo kanji. So, let us explore them, with the help of our trusted old ancient writings.

  1. The kanji 懐 “heart; chest; inside jacket; to hold sentiment”

History of Kanji 懐For the kanji 懐 in (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, the top was “back collar.” In the bottom the center was an “eye” and “drops of water coming down,” signifying “tears pouring out,” and the outside was the right and left sides of a front collar. Under a collar there is one’s heart, so together they appear to signify hiding one’s tears or feelings inside. Shirakawa explains that the right side of the kanji 懐 alone, which was phonetically /kai/, meant “grieving for a deceased person at a funeral,” and that the kanji 懐 with a “heart” meant “sentiments and thoughts cherished in one’s mind,” rather than lamenting someone’s death. (c) in seal style, in red, had a heart. On the right side the two sides of a front collar became overlapping. In kyuji (4) 懷, in blue, the tears were still there, and by the shinji 懐 the tears were gone. The kanji 懐 meant “chest; heart; inside jacket; to hold sentiment.”

The kun-yomi 懐 /hutokoro/ means “heart; chest,” and is in 懐具合 “one’s financial standing; state of one’s purse” /hutokorogu’ai/ and (“dagger; one’s right-hand man” /hutokoroga’tana/). The on-yomi /kai/ is in 懐古的 (“nostalgic” /kaikoteki/), 懐疑的 (“skeptic; incredulous” /kaigiteki/) and 懐中電灯 (“torch; flash light” /kaichuude’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 壊 “to break; destroy; tear”

History of Kanji 壊The earliest writing that we have for the kanji 壊 was Old style, (a) in purple on the left, which predated (small) seal style. The left side of (a) had an eye with tears pouring down, which was used phonetically for /kai/, and the right side was a mound of soil (土) that signified celebrating the god of earth. It is difficult to get the meaning of the kanji 壊 “to break; destroy” from (a). However, in seal style, in red, in (b) the right side was the same as (c) for 懐, but in (c) the right side had 攴 “to hit by hand using a stick.”  This would be in line with the current meaning. However, the kyuji (d) took after (b). The kanji 壊 means “to break; destroy; tear.”

The kun-yomi 壊す /kowa’su/ and 壊れる /koware’ru/ means “to break” in a transitive verb and “to be broken” in an intransitive verb. The on-yomi /on/ is in 破壊 (“destruction; demolition” /hakai/), 崩壊 (“collapse; cave-in” /hookai/) and 倒壊家屋 (“collapsed house” /tookaika’oku/).

  1. The kanji 遠 “distant; far”

Usually the kanji 遠 is explained as:  辶 “to go” and 袁 “a long road” or “spacious,” together meaning walking a long road–thus “far; distant.” This suffices for the kanji shape, but our interest is to find an explanation of the origin from the earliest shape. Here Shirakawa’s account comes in.

History of Kanji 遠Shirakawa proposed a unique explanation. In bronze ware style in (a) “crossroad” on the left and “footprint” at the bottom together signified “to move forward” (This became辵 in (c), and eventually辶, a bushu shinnyoo in kanji.) In both (a) and (b) the top right was a “footprint” and below that was a collar with a circle, signifying “jewel.” Together, Shirakawa explained, the bottom right (which became 袁) was jewel inside a deceased person’s clothes. The top footprint (止) signified the departure of a deceased person for a long journey. From a long journey of a deceased person it meant “far; distant.”

The kun-yomi 遠い /tooi/ means “far; distant,” and is in 遠出 (“an outing; trip” /toode/). The on-yomi /en/ is in 遠路 (“long distance” /e’nro/), 遠方 (“distant place; faraway land” /enpoo/), 遠慮する (“to keep someone at a respectful distance; avoid” /enryo-suru/) and 敬遠 (“reserve; discretion” /keeen/). Another on-yomi /on/ is in 久遠 (“eternity” /kuon/).

  1. The kanji 園 “park; garden”

History of Kanji 園For the kanji 園, the inside (袁) was used phonetically for /en/ to mean “spacious; roomy.” The outside (囗) was an enclosure. An enclosure that had a lot of roomy space was a garden or park. The kanji 園 means “park; garden.”

The kun-yomi 園 /sono/ means “garden” in literary style. The on-yomi /en/ is in 公園 (“park” /kooen/), 庭園 (“garden” /teen/), 園芸 (“gardening; horticulture” /engee/) and 幼稚園 (“kindergarten” /yoochi’en/).

  1.  The kanji 還 “to return; circular”

History of Kanji 還Usually the origin of the kanji 還 is explained as being comprised of “to go” (辶) and that /kan/ was used phonetically to mean “to go around; round.” Together they meant “to go around and return to the beginning.” The kanji 還 means “to return; circle back to the original point.”

Shirakawa’s account was closer to the ancient writing. (a) in oracle bone style had a “crossroad” on the left. The right side was used phonetically for /kan/, and it had an “eye,” signifying “awake,” and “collar.” In bronze ware style in (b) a “jewel; ring” was added inside the collar. (c) was (b) flipped sideways, with a footprint added at the bottom. Together, Shirakawa explained, a deceased person, when departing, was given an eye as a symbol of becoming live again and returning. From that the kanji 還 meant “to return; circle back to the original point”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 生還 (“returning alive” /seekan/), 返還 (“restoration; restitution” /henkan/), 還元 (“return; reconstitution; resolution” /kangen/), and 還暦 (one’s sixtieth birthday” /kanreki/).

  1. The kanji 環 “ring; circular”

History of Kanji 環The kanji 環 is usually explained as 王 “jewel” and the right side, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “a ring.” The eye signified to look around. Later on it came to be used for “something round” or “to circle.”

Shirakawa explained that 王 “jewel” symbolized what the right side signified – wishing a departing deceased person be returning. In archeological sites a ring of jewels was often found in a burial place.  Returning gave the kanji 環 the meaning of “circular; round; surrounding.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 環境 (“environment” /kankyoo/), 環状線 (“circular road” /kanjoosen/) and 循環 (“circulation” /junkan/).

The component 襄 that appears in the kyuji of the next four kanji –壌醸譲嬢– is also a puzzling one. None of these four kanji has ancient writing earlier than seal style. Fortunately 襄 existed earlier. So, we look at the history of 襄.

History of Kanji 襄For 襄, (a) in bronze ware style had many things inside a collar. We can see “soil” (土) on the left and a hand on the right, which coincided with (b) – more precisely speaking, (b) had 攴 “action.” What the center was in (a) and (b) is hard to interpret. (b) did not have a collar. In (c) in Old style two hands holding something at the top, and the bottom is not clear other than having a “backward foot.” In (d) in seal style, inside the collar were two 口 “mouths” or “prayer boxes” at the top, and below was a lightning-like shape and 爻 “to mix.” Again no clue for me. The kanji 襄, which is not Joyo kanji, is said to have assorted unrelated meanings — “rich; soft; to squeeze in; face forward; wave off; help; to rise.” Well, a little excursion to the history of 襄 did not produce much, but at least we covered the ground. In fact in all of the four kanji the right side was used phonetically for /joo/ whose meanings may or may not have contributed to the kanji.

  1. The kanji 壌 “soil; earth”

History of Kanji 壌The left side of the seal style of 壌 had “soil” on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /joo/.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 土壌 (“earth; soil” /do’joo/).

  1. The kanji 醸 “to ferment”

History of Kanji 醸The kanji 醸 had 酉 “rice wine vessel.” The right side 襄 was used phonetically for /joo/ to mean “to put things in,” — together putting rice and yeast in a vessel and brewing or fermenting the contents. The kanji 醸 means “to ferment; brew.”

The kun-yomi 醸し出す /kamoshida’su/ means “to bring about.” The on-yomi /joo/ is in 醸造 (“fermented food production; brewing” /joozoo/) and 醸成する (“to bring about; arouse; ferment (unrest).”

  1. The kanji 譲 “to grant; give way; pass on”

History of Kanji 譲The kanji 譲 had 言 “language; word.”  The right side was used phonetically for /joo/ to mean “to blame; condemn.” It was borrowed to mean “to grant; give way; pass on.”

The kun-yomi 譲る /yuzuru/ means “to give way; pass on.” The on-yomi /joo/ is in 譲渡する (“to assign and transfer” /jo’oto-suru/), 譲与する (to hand over; cede” /jo’oyo-suru/) and 譲位 (“abdication (of the throne)” /jo’oi/).

  1. The kanji 嬢 “daughter; girl”

History of Kanji 嬢The kanji 嬢 had 女 “female.” The right side was used phonetically for /joo/ to mean “plentiful; abundant.” Together they meant “daughter; young lady.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /joo/ is in お嬢さん (“daughter; young lady” /ojo’osan/) and 令嬢 (“young lady of good family” in honorific style /reejoo/).

Well, it has taken me some time to arrive at this about those problematic kanji.  What I have is not complete, but those ancient writings give us something to think about. We will have another post on kanji that came from 衣 next time.  Thank you very much for your reading.  Happy Easter!  — Noriko [April 15, 2017]

P.S. Due to my small trip the next post will be in two week’s time.  Thank you for your interest and patience.  -N

The Kanji 衣依褒表俵裏哀衷衰-衣 “clothes” (1)


In this and next two posts we are going to look at kanji that contain a component that originated from a collar. We begin with kanji 衣依褒表俵裏哀衷衰.

  1. The kanji 衣 “clothes”

History of Kanji 衣For the kanji 衣, in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, it was a single image of a collar — the top was the back of a collar that would be behind one’s neck and the bottom was the front part of a collar where two front sections of clothes were folded in a V-shape. In kanji a back collar became 亠 and a front collar became rather complex. (Please see the stroke order at the bottom of this post.) The kanji 衣 meant “clothes.”

The kun-yomi /koromo/ means “clothes,” and is in 衣更え (“change clothes for the season” /koromogae/). Another kun-yomi /ki’nu/ is in the expression 歯に衣を着せぬ (“not mince matters” /ha’-ni ki’nu-o-kisenu/). The on-yomi /i/ is in 衣服 (“clothes” /i’huku/), 衣類 (“clothes” /i’rui/), 衣食住 (“food, clothing and shelter”– three primary conditions to secure a basic living /ishoku’juu/), 更衣室 (“dressing room” /kooi’shitsu/), 衣装 (“costume” /i’shoo/) and 白衣 (“white garment; white uniform worn by medical or lab staff” /ha’kui/).

  1. The kanji 依 “to depend; follow”

History of Kanji 依For the kanji 依 in oracle bone style the two writing samples had a standing person inside a collar. A person was protected by clothes, and being inside someone’s protection meant “to depend.” In seal style the person was taken out of the collar and was placed to the left side, which became イ, a bush ninben. The kanji 依 means “to depend; follow.”

The kun-yomi 依る /yoru/ means (“to depend; follow” /yoru/). The on-yomi /i/ is in 依頼する (“to make a request; commission to do” /irai-suru/), 依然として (“still; as it was before” /izentoshite/), 旧態依然 (“remaining unchanged; none the better for the change” /kyuuta iizen/) and 依願退職 (“request resignation” /i’gan taishoku/).

  1. The kanji 褒 “to praise; commend”

History of Kanji 褒The oracle bone style writing of the kanji 褒 had a collar split to the top and the bottom, and a middle. In the middle was a hand holding a baby wrapped in diapers, used phonetically for /hu/ (孚) and /hoo/ to mean “to wrap loosely.” Together they meant “robe.” In the kyuji 襃 the collar 衣 was split into two parts, a back collar () and a frontal collar, and the middle changed to 保. Later it was borrowed to mean “to praise; commend.” The kanji 褒 means “to praise; commend.”

The kun-yomi 褒める /home’ru/ means “to praise; commend.” The on-yomi /hoo/ is in 褒美 (“reward; compensation” /hoobi/).

  1. The kanji 表 “outside; surface; public; front; table”

History of Kanji 表The seal style writing had a collar inside which had animal fur. Fur clothes were worn with the fur side out. From that the kanji 表 meant “outside.” Something that is outside becomes “public.” What is shown is “in front” of something. What is seen is the “surface” of something. Something that is shown to be understood at first sight is a “table.” The kanji 表 means “outside; surface; public; front; table.”

The kun-yomi 表 /omote’/ means “outside; surface; front.” Another kun-yomi 表れる /araware’ru/ means “to show up; appear.” The on-yomi /hyoo/ is in 表現 (“expression” /hyooge’n/), 表情 (“facial expression” /hyoojo’o/), 表札 (“nameplate on a outside door” /hyoosatsu/) and 表にする (“to tabulate” /hyoo-ni-suru/. /Pyoo/ is in 発表 (“presentation; making it public” /happyoo/) and 年表 (“time line table” /nenpyoo.).

  1. The kanji 俵 “straw bag”

There is no ancient writing. The kanji is comprised of イ, a bushu ninben “person,” and 表, which is used phonetically for /hyoo/. Together the kanji 俵 originally meant “share the profits equaly.”  But in Japan it is used to mean “straw bag.”

The kun-yomi 俵 /tawara/ means “straw bag” and 米俵 (“rice bag” /komeda’wara/), which has been replaced by a paper or plastic bag nowadays. The on-yomi /hyoo/ is in 土俵 (“sumo wrestling ring” /dohyoo/), which was originally made with a straw rope, and 一俵 (one bag” /i’ppyoo/).

  1. The kanji 裏 “inside; wrong side; hidden”

History of Kanji 裏For the kanji 裏 in bronze ware style (a) had 田 “rice paddies” and 土 “dirt,” which was phonetically /ri/. In (b) 里 was placed inside a collar. From “the inside of clothes” it meant “wrong side; inside; hidden.” In (c) in seal style 里 was placed in 衣 which was split up to the top and the bottom. The kanji 裏 means “wrong side; back; inside; hidden.”

The kun-yomi 裏 /ura’/ means “back; wrong side,” and is in 裏返す (“turn the other around; reverse” /uraga’esu/), 裏切る(“to betray; double-cross” /uragi’ru/), 裏話 (“story behind a story” /uraba’nashi/) and 裏書き (“endorsement (of a check)” /uragaki/). The on-yomi /ri/ is in 裏面 (“wrong side; back” /ri’men/).

  1. The kanji 哀 “sorrow; pity”

History of Kanji 哀For the kanji 哀 in bronze ware style inside a collar was a mouth. The muffled sound of wailing meant “sorrow.”

The kun-yomi /a’ware/ means “to feel pity.” Another kun-yomi 哀しみ /kanashimi/ means “sorrow.” The on-yomi /ai/ is in 悲哀 (“sorrow” /hi’ai/) and 哀悼の意を表する (“to express condolences” /aitoo-no-i’-o hyoosu’ru/).

  1. The kanji 衷 “genuine sentiment”

History of Kanji 衷For the kanji 衷 in the seal style 中 “center; inside” in the middle was used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “center; middle.” What was inside a collar was underclothes worn under outerwear. Underclothes touch one’s skin. What was hidden under clothes was true feelings. The kanji 衷 means “true feeling; genuine sentiment.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 苦衷 (“predicament; mental suffering” /kuchuu), 折衷案 (“compromise plan” /secchu’uan/) and 衷心より (“from the bottom of my heart” in a formal letter /chuushin-yo’ri/).

  1. The kanji 衰 “to weaken; decline; diminish”

History of Kanji 衰For the kanji 衰 in bronze ware style it was a collar at the top and strands of grass or plants hanging down from the neck. It was a straw raincoat.  The Old style writing, in purple, is more descriptive because the wet straws were wilted with rain. It meant “to droop down.” In seal style the drooping straws was placed between the split collar. In kanji the straw became simplified. The kanji 衰 means “to slack; die away; fade; decline.”

The kun-yomi 衰える /otoroe’ru/ means “to weaken; decline; diminish.” The on-yomi /sui/ is in 衰退 (“atrophy; degeneration” /suitai/) and 衰弱 (“weakening” /suijaku/).


Stroke Order of 衣

The stroke order of the kanji 衣 is shown on the left.

We will continue exploring other kanji that contained a component inside a collar, most likely complex kanji such as 遠園・還環・懐壊・壌醸嬢譲 that have been given an intriguing explanation.  Thank you for your reading.  -Noriko [April 9, 2017]

The Kanji 糸糾約絵紀継絶絹紡—itohen “thread”


With this post we are going to start kanji that is related to thread, binding, weaving, cloth, etc., in connection with 糸 “thread.” We will see that when 糸 is used as a component, it is rarely used for phonetic value but it adds the meaning that pertains to characteristics of thread, such as continuity and binding. The kanji this week are 糸糾約絵紀継絶絹紡.

  1. The kanji 糸 “thread”

History of Kanji 糸For the kanji 糸, (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (b) and (c), in bronze ware style, in green, had two or three silkworm cocoons strung together with filaments coming out at two ends. An alternative view is that it was a skein of raw silk threads.  It meant “thread.” The two round shapes in (d) in seal style, in red, became the shape that had two 糸side by side in (e) in kyuji, in blue. In shinji (f) it became a single skein of threads. The kanji 糸 meant “thread.”

The kun-yomi 糸 /i’to/ means “thread,” and is in 糸口 (“the end of a thread; clue” /ito’guchi), ミシン糸 (“sewing machine thread” /mishin-i’to/), 毛糸 (“yarn” /keeto/) and 生糸 (“raw silk” /ki’ito/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in the expression 一糸乱れず (“in perfect order” /i’sshi-midare’zu/).

  1. The kanji 糾 “to entwine; investigate; scrutinize”

History of Kanji 糾The seal style writing of the kanji 糾 had “thread” on the left. The right side was two ropes that were twisted or entwined, and was used phonetically for /kyuu/. Threads that were twisted or entwined also signified to lump things together or to make things right. The kanji 糾 meant “to twist something; entwine; investigate; scrutinize.”  When糸 is used as a bushu on the left side it is called a bushu itohen.

The kun-yomi 糾す /tadasu/ means “inspect; scrutinize.” The on-yomi /kyuu/ is in 紛糾 (“to become entangled; be thrown into confusion” /hunkyuu-suru/), 糾明する (“to examine closely” /kyuumee-suru/) and 糾弾する (“to denounce” /kyuudan-suru/).

  1. The kanji 約 “promise; abridge”

History of Kanji 約The seal style writing of the kanji 約 is comprised of 糸 “thread” and 勺 “ladle scooping up something,” which was used phonetically for /shaku; yaku/. Together binding with threads what was raised meant “to promise.” Binding things in a bundle also gave the meaning to shorten or cut back. The kanji 約meant “to promise; shorten; cut back.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 約束 (“promise” /yakusoku/), 予約 (“reservation” /yoyaku/), 条約 (“treaty” /jooyaku/), 要約 (“summary” /yooyaku/) and 節約する (“to cut down; curtail” /setsuyaku-suru).

  1. The kanji 絵 “painting; picture”

History of Kanji 絵The seal style writing of the kanji絵 had 糸 “thread” and 會 “steamer with a lid.” A lid meets the steamer tightly, thus meant “to meet,” and it was also used phonetically for /kai/. Both sides together pulling threads of various color together originally signified brocade or embroidered cloth. Later it came to be used to mean “painting.” The kyuji 繪, which reflected seal style, was simplified to 絵, just as the kanji會 was replaced by 会 in shinji. The kanji 絵 meant “painting; picture.”

The kun-yomi 絵 /e/ means “picture; painting,” and is in 浮世絵 (“ukiyoe print” /ukiyo‘e/) and 絵文字 (“emoticon; emoji” /emoji/), a new word that seems to have been accepted in electronics communication nowadays.  The on-yomi /kai/ is in 絵画 (“painting; picture” /ka’iga/).

  1. The kanji 紀 “beginning; to chronicle”

History of Kanji 紀己, the bronze ware style writing for the kanji 紀, was phonetically /ki/, and has been given various interpretations — a tool used for spinning threads; a crooked end of a thread or rope; a motion in which a person in a crouched position was about to get up, etc. In seal style 糸 “thread” was added on the left to clarify the meaning. Gathering threads into one signified a beginning of a long-lasting event – thus, “to begin.” Making a chronicle of events was like gathering different lines of events into one – thus, “to chronicle.” The kanji 紀 meant “to begin; chronicle.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 紀元 (“starting point of years” /ki’gen/), 紀元前 (“before Christ; before common era” /kige’nzen/), 世紀 (“century” /se’eki/) and 風紀 (“public moral” /hu’uki/).

  1. The kanji 継 “to succeed; inherit: continue”

History of Kanji 継For the kanji 継, the bronze ware style writing had a pair of skeins of threads on two separate levels with a line in-between. That line signified that the threads were cut short (幺). In seal style another thread 糸 was added on the left, and together they signified “a thread (on the left) connecting the threads that are cut.” The four 幺 in kyuji was replaced by 米 in shinji.  The kanji 継 meant “to succeed; inherit: continue.”

The kun-yomi 継ぐ /tsugu/ means “to succeed; inherit,” and is in 受け継ぐ (“to follow; inherit” /uketsugu/) and 引き継ぎ (“taking over; transfer of (control)” /hikitsugi/). The on-yomi /kee/ is in 継続する (“to continue” /keezoku-suru/) and テレビ中継 (“television broadcast” /terebichu’ukee/).

  1. The kanji 絶 “to cut; die out”

History of Kanji 絶RThe bronze ware style writing of the kanji 絶 was similar to 継 in 6– a pair of skeins of threads on two shelves to mean “short thread” The Old style, in purple, was the same as the right side of the kanji 継, except that it was a flip-side. In seal style the right side (色) was added and used phonetically for /zee; zetsu/. The top of 色 had a knife (刀). Together they meant “to cut; die out.”

The kun-yomi 絶える /tae’ru/ means “to die out,” and is in 絶え間なく (“constantly; perpetually; endlessly” /taemana’ku/).  The on-yomi /ze’tsu/ is in 絶滅 (“extinction; eradication” /zetsumetsu/), 断絶 (“severance; extinction” /danzetsu/), and /zet-/ is in 絶対に(“absolutely” /zettai-ni/).

History of Kanji 断The combination of “four skeins of short threads” and “knife” reminds us of another kanji 断 in the earlier discussion. [December 6, 2016]  The kanji 断 in seal style had a hand axe (斤), a more powerful sharp object- thus, the kanji 断 meant “to cut drastically.”

  1. The kanji 絹 “silk”

History of Kanji 絹The writing in light color (time unknown) and seal style writing had 糸 on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /ken/. The top of the right side was generally viewed as a round silkworm. The kanji 絹 meant “silk.”

The kun-yomi 絹 /ki’nu/ means “silk” and is in 絹豆腐 (“tofu of fine texture” /kinudo’ohu/).  The on-yomi /ken/ is in 人絹 (“imitation silk; rayon” /jinken/), a word somewhat outdated because レーヨン is used.

  1. The kanji 紡 “to spin”

History of Kanji 紡The seal style of the kanji 紡 had 糸 “skein of thread” and 方 for a phonetic /hoo; boo/.  The kanji 紡 meant “to spin.”

The kun-yomi /tsumugu/ means “to spin.” The on-yomi /boo/ is in 紡績業 “the spinning and weaving industry; textile manufacturing” /booseki’gyoo/) and 紡織機 (“spinning and weaving machine; spindles and looms” /booshoku’ki; boosho’kkuki/.)

We are going to continue with the kanji that have a bushu itohen in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 12, 2017]

The Kanji 盾循干刊汗


This is a short post in finishing up with kanji that originated from two weapons– 盾循 and 干刊汗.

  1. The kanji 盾 “shield”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9b%beIn oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was an image of a shield. The seal style writing, in red, had a canopy-like shape and an eye with a cross shape. Following Setsumon’s explanation, which is based on the seal style, many scholars view this as a shield which protected the eyes of a soldier and his body. The kanji 盾 meant “shield.”

The kun-yomi 盾 /tate’/ meant “shield,” and /-date/ is in 後ろ盾 (“support; backing” /ushirodate/).  The on-yomi /jun/ is in 矛盾 (“contradiction; inconsistency” /mujun/) that comprises 矛 “halberd” for attacking an enemy and 盾 “shield” for defending oneself.

  1. The kanji 循 “to follow”

history-of-kanji-%e5%be%aaThe left side of the seal style writing was a crossroad, signifying “going” and the right side 盾 “shield” was also used phonetically for /jun/ to mean “to follow; go along.” The kanji 循 meant “to follow.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jun/ is in 循環 (“cycle; circulation; rotation” /junkan/).

  1. The kanji 干 “dry; attack”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b9%b2rIn oracle bone, bronze ware and ten styles, it was a forked weapon. The kanji 干 meant “to violate; attack.” However, this kanji is rarely used to mean aggression, except in the word 干渉 “interference; meddling.” It was borrowed to mean “dry; dry up.”

The kun-yomi /hi/ is in 干からびる (“to shrivel up; shrink” /hikarabi’ru/), 干物 (“dried fish” /himono/). Another kun-yomi /ho’su/ means “to air under the sun,” as used in 布団を干す /huton o hosu/ “to air futon under the sun.” The on-yomi /kan/ is in 干渉する (“to interfere; meddle” /kanshoo-suru/), 干拓 (“reclamation by drainage” /kantaku/) and 干害 (“drought damage” /kangai/).

  1. The kanji 刊 “to publish”

history-of-kanji-%e5%88%8aFor the kanji 刊, the left side (干) of the seal style writing was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “to shave a piece of wood.” The right side was a knife. By using a knife, printing blocks were shaved to make a book. In kanji the knife became刂,a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji 刊 meant “to publish.”

There is no fun-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 月刊誌 (“monthly magazine” /gekka’nshi/), 朝刊 (“morning paper” /chookan/), 刊行 (“publication” /kankoo/), 新刊本 (“new publication; new title” /shinkanbon/).

  1. The kanji 汗 “perspiration; sweat”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b1%97For the kanji 汗, the left side of the seal style was “water,” which became a bushu sanzui in kanji (). The right side was used phonetically for /kan/. The kanji 汗 meant “perspiration; sweat.”

The kun-yomi /a’se/ means “perspiration; sweat” and is in 汗をかく(“to sweat; perspire” /a’se-o kaku/) and 冷や汗 (“cold sweat” /hiyaa’se/).  The on-yomi /kan/ is in 発汗 (“sweating” /hakkan/).

It is time for us to move onto another subject. I have not decided which groups of “things and objects” we may start with next time yet. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [March 5, 2017]

Kanji 医短至屋握室窒到倒致緻-“arrow” (2)


In the last post we looked at a few kanji that originated from 矢 “arrow.”  We start this post by adding two more kanji that contains 矢 – 医短. Then we look at kanji that contains 至, with a reduced shape of an arrow at the top – 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 医 “medical”

history-of-kanji-%e5%8c%bbFor the kanji 医, the two seal style writings, (b) and (c), were originally not related. (b) had its oracle bone style precursor (a), which had an arrow in a box that signified “to hide an arrow.” The other seal style writing (c) had (b) 医 “a box of arrows” at the top left. With the right side殳 “a hand holding a weapon or tool” that meant “to cause,” together it meant an injury caused by an arrow in battle. The bottom酉 was a spirit jar that signified medicinal spirit. Altogether “treating an injured person with medical spirit” meant “medicine.” The kyujitai (d) reflected (c). The shinjitai became only an arrow hidden in a box. The kanji 医 meant “medicine.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi 医 meant “medicine; medical,” and is in 医者 (“medical doctor” /isha/), 医学 (“medical science” /i’gaku/), 内科医 (“doctor of internal medicine; physician” /naika’i/) and 医療費 (“fee for medical treatment; doctor’s bill” /iryo’ohi).

  1. The kanji 短 “short”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%adFor the kanji 短, the left side was an arrow and the right side 豆 was a small one-legged tray or bowl. Setsumon explained that an arrow was used in measuring length. From that the kanji 短 meant “short.”

The kun-yomi 短い /mijika’i/ meant “short,” and is in 気短な (“short-tempered; impatient” /kimijika-na/) and in the expression 手短に言えば (“to put it succinctly; to cut a long story short” /temijika-ni-ie’ba/).  The on-yomi /tan/ is in 長短 (“merits and demerits; strength and weakness” /cho’otan/), 短所 (“weakness” /ta’nsho/), 単刀直入に (”frankly; come straight to the point” /tantoo-chokunyuu-ni/) and 短歌 (“tanka poetry; 31-syllabled poem” /ta’nka/).

Now we move to another group of “arrow” kanji — 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 至 “to reach an end”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b3For the kanji 至, the bronze ware style writing was an arrow with its arrowhead at the bottom, hitting the ground (一). It meant “to reach an end.” In seal style the arrowhead became long, which in kanji became a part of 土 “soil; ground.” The kanji 至 meant “to reach an end; to the end.”

The kun-yomi 至る /itaru/ means “to reach; arrive,” and is in the expression 至れり尽せりの (“complete; leaving nothing to be desired” /itareri-tsukuse’ri-no/) and 至る所に (“everywhere” /ita’rutokoro-ni/). The on-yomi /shi/ is 至急 (“urgently; without delay” /shikyuu/), 必至だ (“inevitable” /hisshi-da/), 至上命令 (“supreme directive” /shijoome’eree/) and 夏至 and冬至 (“summer solstice” around June 22 and “winter solstice” around December 22. /geshi/ and /tooji/).

  1. The kanji 屋 “house; roof”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b1%8bFor the kanji 屋, in (a) in Old style, (b) Chubun style, and (c) seal style 至 was placed inside a house, (a), or under尸 , (b) and (c). There are different views on its origin: (1) Shirkawa took the view that in ancient times an arrow was shot to determine an appropriate location and where an arrow dropped was considered to be the place. That is 至.  尸 was a hut to house a corpse to intern to weather it before burial. Together 屋 meant a house. (2) Kanjigen explained that a covering drapery 至 “dead end” together blocked passing. 屋 meant a covered house; (3) The Kadokawa dictionary explained 尸 “drapery” and 至 “to reach” together meant a secluded room in the back. The fact that a bushu shikabane 尸has two distinctly different meanings –“corpse,” as the name indicates, and “roof” — is reflected in these different views. The kanji 屋 meant “roof; house.”  In Japanese it was also used to mean business that was conducted under a roof, a “store.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 本屋 (“bookstore” /ho’nya/), 屋号 (“name of a store” /ya’goo/), 屋根 (“roof” /ya’ne/) and 小屋 (“hut” /koya/). The on-yomi /oku/ is in 屋外 (“outdoors; open-air” /oku’gaai/) and 屋上 (“rooftop” /okujoo/).

  1. The kanji 握 “to grip; grasp”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8f%a1The seal style writing of the kanji 握 had 扌, a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” and 屋 phonetically for /oku; aku/. Together a hand reaching out to seize meant “to grip; grasp.”

The kun-yomi /nigiru/ meant “to grip; grasp,” and is in the expression 手に汗を握る (“to be in breathless suspense; gripping; heated” /te’ni a’seonigiru/) . The on-yomi /aku/ is in 握手 (“shaking hands” /a’kushu/), 握力 (“grip strength” /aku’ryoku/) and 把握する(“perceive; grasp” /haaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 室 “room”

history-of-kanji-%e5%ae%a4For the kanji 室 all three ancient style — oracle bone, bronze ware and seal — had a house (宀) and an arrow reaching the ground (至), signifying “the farthest point” in a house. Together they meant a secluded room in the back. The kanji 室 meant “room.”

The kun-yomi /muro/ is in 氷室 (“icehouse” /hi’muro/). The on-yomi /shitsu/ is in 教室 (“classroom” /kyooshitu/), 室内 (“inside a room” /shitsu’nai/), 寝室 (“bedroom” /shinshitsu/), 皇室 (“royal family” /kooshitsu/) and 側室 (“concubine” /sokushitsu/).

  1. The kanji 窒 “to suffocate; smother”

history-of-kanji-%e7%aa%92The seal style writing for the kanji 窒 had 穴 “house; cave” at the top and 至 “an arrow reaching the ground” used phonetically fpr /shi; tetsu/.  Together an arrow reaching a cave meant “to block passing or traffic.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chitsu/ is in 窒素 (“nitrogen” /chi’sso/) and 窒息する (“to smother; suffocate” /chissoku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 到 “to arrive; come”


The two bronze ware style writings shown on the left had an arrow reaching the ground and a person standing on the right. Together they meant a person reaching the spot where an arrow dropped, or “to arrive.” In seal style on the right side a person changed to a sword, which became 刂, a bushu rittoo in kanji. The mix-up of 人 and 刀 in kanji history was not uncommon, as we saw in the kanji召 in an earlier post. The kanji 到 meant “to arrive; come.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /too/ is in 到着する (“to arrive” /toochaku-suru/), 到底〜ない (“cannot possibly” /tootee ~nai/), 到達する (“to attain” /tootasu-suru/) and 殺到する (“to rush to” /sattoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 倒 “to fall down; topple; collapse”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%92The seal style writing for the kanji 倒 had イ “person” and 到 “to reach,” from a person arriving at where an arrow reached, used phonetically for /too/. Together a person retrieving an arrow and coming back originally signified a person in a reverse manner or upside-down position. The kanji 倒 meant “to invert; fall; topple.”

The kun-yomi 倒れる /taore’ru/ means “to fall; topple,” and 倒す means “to topple; bring down.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 倒壊する (“to collapse; topple” /tookai-suru/), 倒産 (“bankruptcy” /toosan/), 打倒 する (“to overthrow” /datoo-suru/) and卒倒する (“to faint; faint unconsciously” /sottoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 致 “to do; cause”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b4The seal style writing for the kanji 致 had 至on the left. The right side was a hand or glove for shooting arrows holding a long bow. Together they meant “to make someone do something.” In kanji the right side became 攵,a bushu bokuzukuri “to cause.“

The kun-yomi 致す /ita’su/ means “to do” in humble style. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 致命的な (“fatal” /shimeeteki-na/), 一致する (“to agree; conform” /icchi-suru/), 合致する (“to coincide; correspond” /gacchi-suru/ and 誘致する (“to lure; entice” /yu’uchi-suru/).

  1. The kanji 緻 “minute; fine”

history-of-kanji-%e7%b7%bbThe seal style writing of the kanji 緻 had 糸 “stein of threads” that signified “close-grained; fine” next to 致 “to do” used phonetically for /chi/. Together they meant “fine.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 緻密な (“minute; intricate” /chimitsu-na/) and 精緻な (“detailed; thorough; precise” /seemitsu-na/).

We have collected 16 kanji that originated from an arrow in this and last posts.  I must admit that I was surprised how extensively an image or meaning of an arrow was used in kanji, just as I was astonished at the extensive use of a halberd in Japanese kanji in our December and January posts. I was reminded of the role that that weapons played in ancient time in China and how it inspired the creators of ancient writing to go beyond the use of arrow as weapon. Thank you for your reading.     -Noriko [February 26, 2017]

The Kanji 桟箋浅残銭践・載戴裁栽繊-戈halberd (4)


This is the fourth post on the kanji that contain 戈 “halberd.” history-of-kanji-%e6%88%94The first six kanji in this post, 桟箋浅残銭践, shared the same origin 戔. The seal style writing, in red, shown on the right side had two halberds, one on top of the other. It had two different meanings: one was to hurt a person with weapon; and the other came from the fact that a sharp blade was thin and halberds were placed in a pile – so they signified “thin things that were layered; thin strips.”

  1. The kanji桟 “crosspiece; frame; ledge”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a1%9fFor the kanji 棧, the writing in dark blue was in the style that was said to have been used by the newly unified Qin (秦) dynasty to put a curse on their former enemy Chu (楚). Because it is from the same time that the small seal style 小篆 (now commonly known as just the seal style) was created, it looked very similar to the seal style writing, in red. Both had 木 “wood” on the left and 戔 “two halberds placed in layers.” Together they meant thin pieces of wood or bamboo, such as crosspieces, frames or narrow strips. The kyujitai, in blue, reflected seal style. In shinjitai the two halberds coalesced into one shape with three horizontal strokes.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 桟 /sa’n/ means “crosspiece” and 桟橋 (“pier; landing stage” /sanbashi/), a narrow strip where boats dock.

  1. The kanji 箋 “thin strips of note paper”

history-of-kanji-%e7%ae%8bFor the kanji 箋, the top 竹 was a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo,” and the bottom 戔 signified thin strips. A bamboo tablet was used to write on, which was tied as a book. Together they meant narrow thin pieces of writing. While other Joyo kanji that contained 戔 in seal style or kyujitai became simplified, the kanji 便 retained the old shape. The kanji 箋 meant “thin strips of note paper.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 便箋 (“letter paper” /binsen/) and 附箋 or 付箋 (“tag paper” /husen/).

  1. The kanji 浅 “shallow; thoughtless”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b5%85For the kanji 浅, the left side of the seal style writing was a bushu sanzui “water,” and the right side戔 “thin objects piled.” Together the area where there is little water meant “shallow.” It also meant “light” in color, as well as lack of understanding or knowledge. The kanji 浅 meant “shallow; thoughtless.”

The kun-yomi /asai/ means “shallow,” and is in 浅はかな (“thoughtless” /asa’haka-na/), 浅ましい (“vile; unworthy; pathetic” /asamashi’i/) and 日が浅い (“it has not been long since the time” /hi-ga-asai/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 浅薄な (“superficial; shallow” /senpaku-na/).

  1. The kanji 残 “to remain; cruel”

history-of-kanji-%e6%ae%8bFor the kanji 残, the left side of the seal style writing was the bones of a dead person, which became 歹, a bushu shikabane “dead body.” With the right side 戔 “thin objects” and bones together, they meant remains that were cut up small. The scene in which an animal eating the corpse of another animal and leaving bones behind is “gruesome; cruel.” The kanji 残 meant “remains; cruel; gruesome.”

The kun-yomi 残る /noko’ru/ means “to remain,” and its transitive verb 残す /noko’su/ means “to leave.” 残り (“remnant; leftover” /nokori/) and 名残惜しい (“reluctant to part” /nagorioshi’i/). The on-yomi /za’n/ is in 残念 (“regrettable” /zanne’n/), 残業 (“overtime work” /zangyoo/), 残忍な (“gruesome; cruel” /zannin-na/) and 無残な (“ruthless; pitiful” /mu’zan-na/).

  1. The kanji 銭 “small change; coin”

history-of-kanji-%e9%8a%adFor the kanji 銭, having 金 “metal” added to戔 “layers of thin strips,” the kanji 銭 meant farming tools that have thin blades, such as a plough and spade. In ancient China there was plough shaped money. From that the kanji 銭 meant “money; coins.”

The kun-yomi 銭 /ze’ni/ meant “money” and is in 小銭 “small change; coin.” The on-yomi /sen/ is in 金銭 “money” and 銭湯 (“public bath,” where you pay money to go in /se’ntoo/.)

  1. The kanji 践 “to tread upon; act”

history-of-kanji-%e8%b7%b5For the kanji 践, the left side足 was foot. With 戔 “to lay over; superimpose” added, placing a step over another signified “to tread upon” and “to follow an old way.” The kanji 践 meant “to tread upon; experience; act.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 実践する “to execute; carry out” and 実践的な “practical” /jissenteki-na/).

The next four kanji 載戴栽裁 share a shape on the top right that is not in kanji. I do not have access to a font for (e) below, so in this post I am going to call it just the writing sai.

history-of-top-right-of-%e5%93%89The writing sai – The top left in oracle bone style (a) and (b) in brown, was a 才, which was a pictograph of a weir that blocked water flow. It came to indicate timbers or materials in general. From that the generally accepted view is that the writing sai meant “to block; stop.”

There is a different explanation of the writing sai by Shirakawa, which was directly connected to his view of the origin of 才. The history of 才 is shown on the right. He took (a) through (d) as two logs in crosswise that had a prayer box in the middle and that 才 marked a consecrated area. With 戈, the writing sai was a consecrating ceremony using a halberd before starting a war. From that the writing sai as component meant “to begin.” So, one view focuses on the meaning “to stop” and the other on the meaning “to begin.” Both agree that the writing sai was used phonetically for /sa’i/.

Now let us look at five kanji 載戴裁栽繊 with the writing sai.

  1. The kanji 載 “to load; record”

history-of-kanji-%e8%bc%89For the kanji 載, we have three bronze ware style writings here. (a) had才 on the top left, and 戈 on the right for /sai/ to mean “to block.” To this 車 “vehicle” was added at the bottom left. Together, they meant to fasten a load on a vehicle so that it would not fall. The kanji 載 meant “to load.” (b) was the same as 才, and (b) had 車 added underneath. In seal style, (d), the top left had two strokes above the 戈, whereas in kanji it became one stroke. Shirakawa suggested that the kanji 戴 was probably a ritual to sanctify military vehicles before a battle began. The kanji 載 meant “to load; put up.” It was also used to mean to enter or place article or documents in a book or publication.

The kun-yomi 載せる /noseru/ means “to load; put up,” as in 棚に載せる (“to place on a shelf” /tana-ni noseru/), and “to carry,” as in 広告を載せる (“to place an ad” /kookoku-o noseru/). The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 満載 (“full load” /mansai/), 掲載 (“publication; printing” /keesai/) and 転載 (“reprinting; republication” /tensai/).

  1. The kanji 戴 “to hold something above one’s head; receive”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%b4The kanji 戴 is comprised of the writing sai and the kanji 異. For this, Kanjigen took the writing sai to be the old form of the kanji 在signifying “to cut and stop” and 異 for a phonetic feature for /tai/. Together they meant “to hold something on the head.” On the other hand Shirakawa took the writing sai to be the phonetic component that changed from /sai/ to /tai/. 異 was carrying an extraordinary head of a dead person’s spirit above one’s own head. Together 戴 signified to protect something sacred with a halberd. The kanji 戴 meant “to hold something above one’s head” and is also used to mean “to receive; eat” in humble style.

The kun-yomi /itadaku/ means “to hold up above one’s head; receive; eat (in humble style).” The expression one uses before eating a meal いただきます /itadakima’su/ is usually written in hiragana. The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 頂戴する (“to receive” in humble style /choodai-suru/) and 戴冠式 (“coronation” /taika’nshiki/).

  1. The kanji 裁 “to cut (cloth); rule; make a final decision”

history-of-kanji-%e8%a3%81The kanji 裁 is comprised of the writing sai “to cut” or “to begin,” which was used phonetically for /sa’i/, and the kanji 衣 “clothes; fabric.” Together they meant to cut fabric for the first time. A judge makes a ruling after careful deliberation, just as cutting new fabric. From that it also meant “to make a careful decision.” The kanji 裁 meant “to cut cloth; make a final decision.”

The kun-yomi /saba’ku/ means “to make a ruling in court; judge.” The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 裁判 (“trial; judgment” /sa’iban/), 裁縫 (“sewing” /saihoo/), 独裁 (“dictatorship” /dokusai/), 体裁のいい (“presentable” /teesainoi’i/) and 経済制裁 (“economic sanction” /keezaise’esai/).

  1. The kanji 栽 “to grow (plant); cultivate”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a0%bdThe seal style of the kanji 栽 had 木 “tree” underneath the writing sai, which was used phonetically for /sai/. Together they signified to prune unnecessary branches of a tree. The kanji 栽 meant “to grow (plant); cultivate.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 栽培する (“to grow (plant); cultivate” /saibai-suru/) and 盆栽 (“miniature tree potted in a flat planter; bonsai” /bonsai/).

The last kanji 繊 came from a very different origin. The history of the writing sai for the kanji 繊 is shown on the right. history-of-kanji-%e7%b9%8a%e3%81%ae%e5%8f%b3%e4%b8%8a

History of the writing sai in the kanji 繊 – In oracle bone style (a) had two people pierced by a halberd at the feet, and (b) had three people pierced by a halberd at the neck. It signified “to behead many people,” and from that it meant “to make something into small pieces.” When it comes to killing, the origin of kanji can be graphic. In the earlier post a month ago, we saw that in the oracle bone style of the kanji a halberd touching a person’s neck originally meaning “to kill (someone).” That was the kanji 伐. [December 18, 2016]  So in oracle bone style 伐 was about beheading one person whereas the right side of 繊 was about beheading many people.

  1. The kanji 繊 “fine; detailed”

history-of-kanji-%e7%b9%8aFor the kanji 繊, the seal style writing had 糸, a bushu itohen “thread.” The right side had two people above a halberd, and 韭underneath signified small things. Together they signified fine threads. Fibers are fine and short hair-like. The kyujitai, in blue, retained the same shape as seal style, which had two 人 at the top – the remnant of the gruesome origin –, but in shijitai the center right became the same as the writing sai, and the center bottom was also simplified. The kanji 繊 meant “fine; detailed.”

There is no kun-yomi.The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 繊維 (“fiber” /se’n-i/), 繊細な (“delicate” /sensai-na/) and 繊毛 (“cilia” /senmoo/).

In the next post we will wrap up the kanji that contain 戈. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko [January 22, 2017  Japan time]