The Kanji 牛物利件牧牲半判伴畔   


I have written last week that I was going to take a break from writing for a while. I am posting a new one so soon. This post was prompted by a comment from a reader last week about the origin of the kanji 物, which involves the discussion of the bushu ushihen “ox; cow.”  First we look at kanji with a bushu ushihen– 牛物件牧牲 with revisiting 利. Then we look at the kanji with 半-半判伴畔.

  1. The kanji  牛 “bull; ox”

For the kanji 牛 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, the top was an ox head with its two horns growing upwards, and the bottom was its body. It meant “an ox; a cow.” In kanji a short-slanted stroke was added on the top left for an emphasis on the horns. The kanji 牛 means “cow; ox; cow.” [Composition of the kanji 牛: a short ノ, 二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 牛 /ushi/ means “cow; bull; ox; cattle.” The on-yomi /gyuu/ is in 乳牛 “dairy cow; dairy cattle” /nyuugyuu/, 牛乳 “milk” /gyuunyuu/, 牛肉 “beef” /gyuuniku/, 牛車 “ox-drawn carriage used by nobility in the Heian period” /gi’ssha/ and 水牛 “buffalo” /suigyuu/.

  1. The kanji 物 “stuff; thing; various; to select”

For the kanji 物 there was an old view that the right side was streamers of different colors. Oxen had different coloration and signified “various or assorted.” From various things it meant “thing; stuff.” Another view (seen in Shirakawa) seems to explain the ancient writings here better. (a) was “a plough or hoe spattering the soil,” which was phonetically /butsu/. This eventually became the shape 勿 in kanji. In (b) and (c) “an ox,” a large animal, signifying all animals, was added. (d) had “a plough with spattering soil” only. (e) comprised “an ox” and “a plough.” Cows or oxen that pulled a plough for tilling the fields had different coloration, thus it meant “various or assorted.” Choosing from various things also signified “to select; make one’s choice.” The kanji 物 means “stuff; thing; various; to select.” [Composition of the kanji 物: 牛 and 勿]

The kun-yomi 物 /mono’/ means “thing; matter; article; goods,” and is in 安物 “cheap article; inferior article” /yasumono/, 買い物 “shopping” /kaimono/, 生き物 “living creature” /iki’mono/ and 物々しい “showy; stately” /monomonoshi’i/. The on-yomi /butsu/ is in 物品 “goods; an article” /buppin/, 物理学 “physical science” /butsuri’gaku/, 物色する “look for; select” /busshoku-suru/ and 見物する “to go sight-seeing” /kenbutsu-suru/. Another on-yomi /motsu/ is in 禁物 “tabooed thing; forbidden thing” /kinmotsu/.

[The interpretation of the shape in (a), (b) and (c) as “a plough or hoe spattering the soil” is also relevant to the kanji 利. So, let us look at the kanji 利 here. It is a revision of my earlier writing a year ago.]

The kanji 利 “sharp;  useful; advantageous”

For the kanji 利 (a) comprised “a knife” or “a plough or hoe” and “a rice plant with crop.” (b), (c) and (d) comprised of “a rice plant” and “a plough or hoe spattering the soil.” A sharp pointed plough or hoe could dig up the soil effectively and be useful. It meant “useful; advantageous; sharp.” In (e) the plough or hoe became replaced by “a knife,” preserving the sense of a tool that was sharp. (On the other hand in 物 it became 勿.) In kanji it was replaced by 刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji comprises 禾, a bushu nogihen, and刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji 利 means “sharp;  useful; advantageous.”

  1. The kanji 件 “case; matter”

The seal style writing of the kanji 件 had イ “an act that a person does” and 牛 “an ox.” Together they signified “a person counting oxen in a herd” or “counting cases.” The kanji 件 means “case; matter.” [Composition of the kanji 件: イ  and 牛]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ken/ is in 事件 “incidence; case” /ji’ken/, 条件付き “conditional” /jookentsuki/, 件名 “case name” /kenmee/, 別件 “separate charge; different case” /bekken/, 用件 “business; things to be done” /yooke’n/ and 人件費 “personnel expenses” /jinke’nhi/.

  1. The kanji 牧 “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture”

For the kanji 牧 at the top left (a) had “sheep” while (b), (c), (d) and (e) all had “ox.” (The direction of the horns differentiated the two animals.) The bottom in all was “a hand holding a stick to herd sheep or oxen” (攴攵, a bushu bokunyuu “to cause.”) Where animals grazed was “pasture.” The kanji 牧 means “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture.” [Composition of the kanji 牧: 牛 and 攵]

The kun-yomi /maki/ is in 牧場 “pasture; meadow” /makiba’/. The on-yomi /boku/ is in 放牧 “pasturage; grazing” /hooboku/, 牧師 “pastor; minister; cleric” /bo’kushi/, 遊牧 “nomadism” /yuuboku/, 牧場 “stock farm; ranch” /bokujoo/ and 牧歌的な “pastoral; idyllic” /bokkateki-na/.

  1. The kanji 牲 “sacrifice; sacrificial animal”

For the kanji 牲 the oracle bone style writing comprised “a sheep” and “a new emerging plant” used phonetically for /see/ to mean “life.” Together they signified “live sheep that was offered to a god as a sacrificial animal.” From bronze ware style on, however “an ox” was used. An ox is a big animal, and a sacrificial ox was more valuable than a smaller animal. The kanji 牲 means “sacrifice; sacrificial animal.” [Composition of the kanji 牲: 牛 and 生]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /see/ is in 犠牲になる“to sacrifice oneself” /gisee-ni na’ru/ and 犠牲者 “victim; prey” /gise’esha/.

The next four kanji 半判伴畔 contain 半, which came from a half of an axe.

6. The kanji 半 “a half”

For the kanj 半 the top of bronze ware style and seal style writings was ハ “to divide something in half” used phonetically for /han/. The bottom was “an ox.” Together they signified an ox that was cut in half.  In kanji ハ flipped upside down forming a sort of a truncated katakana ソ. The kanji 半 means “a half.”  [Composition of the kanji 半: a truncated ソ,二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 半ば /nakaba’/ means “the middle,” and is in 月半ば “middle of the month” /tsuki nakaba’/. The on-yomi /han/ is in 過半数 “majority; more than half” /kaha’nsuu/, 上半身 “the upper body” /jooha’nshin/, 生半可な “shallow; superficial” /namahanka-na/, 半可通 “superficial knowledge; smatterer” /hanka’tsuu/, 折半する “to cut into halves; split in half” /se’ppan-suru/ and 半べそをかく “be on the verge of crying” /hanbeso-o ka’ku/.

  1. The kanji 判 “a seal; to judge; discern”

For the kanji 判 the seal style writing comprised 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/ and “a knife” adding the meaning dividing something in half. After signing a contract both parties took one half of the contract as proof. In a dispute of a contract, a judge decided which party was right. In kanji the knife became 刂, a bushu rittoo. The kanji 判means “a seal; to judge; discern.” [Composition of the kanji 判: 半 and 刂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /han/ is in 判子 “hanko seal” /hanko/, 判決 “judicial decision; ruling” /hanketsu/, 公判 “public trial” /koohan/, 小判 “koban; Japanese gold coin of the Edo period” /ko’ban/, 判定勝ち “winning on point” /hanteegachi/, 判読する “to decipher; make out” /handoku-suru/, 談判 “negotiation; bargaining” /da’npan/ and 判事 “judge” /ha’nji/.

  1. The kanji 伴 “to accompany someone; companion”

The seal style writing of the kanji 伴 comprised “an act that a person does,” which became イ, a bushu ninben in kanji, and 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/. They signified two people, each being a half of each other’s accompaniment. The kanji 伴 means “to accompany someone; companion.” [Composition of the kanji 伴: イ and 半]

The kun-yomi 伴う /tomona’u/ means “to accompany; bring in its train.” The on-yomi /han/ is in 同伴者 “one’s companion” /dooha’nsha/, お相伴する “to join for a meal” /oshooban-suru/, 伴走する “to pace set; run alongside” /bansoo-suru/ and 伴奏 “accompaniment in music” /bansoo/.

  1. The kanji 畔 “a side; a ridge”

For the kanji 畔 the seal style writing comprised 田 “rice paddies” and 半 used phonetically for /han/ tomean “the side.” They meant the side or ridge of rice paddies, which was used for a walk path. It also meant “side.” The kanji 畔 means “a side; a ridge.” [Composition of the kanji 畔: 田 and 半]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /han/ is in 湖畔”lakeside” /kohan/ and 河畔”riverside” /kahan/.

Now I return to my break. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko [June 24, 2018]

The Kanji 一二三四五六七八九十上下


Finally, this is the last post on which we explore the origin of individual kanji using ancient writing. By my rough estimate we have touched upon over 1400 kanji last four years. This last post is about the kanji for the numbers 1 through 10 – 一二三四五六七八九十, and “top of” 上 and “bottom of”下.

  1. The kanji 一 “one; single; only; first”

History of Kanji 一For the kanji 一a single bar was used to mean “one; single; only; first.” The kun-yomi /hito/ is in 一つ /hito’tsu/, 一人 “one person” /hito’ri/, 一人っ子 “only child” /hitori’kko/, 一人暮らし “living alone” /hitorigu’rashi/, 一息つく “to take a break” /hitoiki tsu’ku/. The on-yomi /ichi/ is in 一番 “first” /ichi’ban/ and “most” /ichiban/ and 一度 “once” /ichido/. Another on-yomi /itsu/ is in 均一 “uniform; even” /kin-itsu/, 統一する “to unify” /tooitsu-suru/, 同一 “the same; identical” /dooitsu/ and 一般的な “general; popular; common” /ippanteki-na/.

  1. The kanji 二 “two; double; second”

History of Kanji 二For the kanji 二, two bars placed side by side horizontally meant “two; double; second.“

The kun-yomi /huta/ is in 二つ “two” /hutatsu/, 二人 “two person” /hutari/, and /hutsu/ is in 二日 “two days; second day of the month” /hutsuka/. The word /hatsuka/ “20th day” is written as 二十日. The on-yomi /ni/ is in 二分する “to divide into two” and 二人三脚 “three-legged race” /ninin-sa’nkyaku/.

  1. The kanji 三 “three”

History of Kanji 三For the kanji 三, three bars placed horizontally meant “three; third.”

The kun-yomi /mi/ is in 三つ “three” /mittsu/ and /mi/ is in 三日月  “crescent” /mikazuki/. The on-yomi /san/ is in 三角形 “triangle” /sanka’kkee/, 再三 “repeatedly” /saisan/ and 二、三  “two or three; a few” /ni’san/.

  1. The kanji 四 “four”

History of Kanji 四For the kanji 四 four bars stacked up horizontally meant “four; all (directions).” Later on the shape 四was borrowed to mean “four.”

The kun-yomi 四 /yo’n/ means ‘four.”  /-Yo/ is in 四人 “four people” /yoni’n/, and /yotsu/ is in 四角 “intersection; four corners” /yotsukado/,  The on-yomi /shi/ is in 四角い “square” /shikakui/, 四方 “four directions; everywhere” /shiho’o/ and 四季 “four seasons” /shi’ki/.

  1. The kanji 五 “five; half”

History of Kanji 五For the kanji 五the shape in which two sticks crossing with a bar at the top and the bottom was borrowed to mean “five.” Five divides ten equally so it also meant “equal.”

The kun-yomi /itsu/ is in 五つ. The on-yomi /go/ is in 五分五分 “on even terms; evenly matched” /gobugobu/, 五感“five senses” /gokan/.

  1. The kanji 六 “six”

History of Kanji 六For the kanji 六the oracle bone style shape was the shape of a tent, but it is believed that the writing was never used for that meaning. Instead it was borrowed to mean “six.”

The kun-yomi /mu/ is in 六つ “six” /muttsu/ and 六日 “six days; sixth day of the month” /muika/. The on-yomi /roku/ is in  六月 “June” /rokugatsu/ and 四六時中 “around the clock; day and night” /shirokujichuu/, and /ro-/ is in 六法全書 “Compendium of Laws” /roppooze’nsho/.

  1. The kanji 七 “seven”

History of Kanji 七For the kanji 七, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and seal style it was a bone being cut. But it was borrowed phonetically for /shichi/ to mean “seven.”

The kun-yomi /na’na/ means “seven,” and is in 七つ “seven; seven-years old” /nana’tsu/. The on-yomi 七/shichi‘/ is in 七分目 “three-quarter filled; not full” /shichibunme/, 七分袖 “three-quarter sleeves” /shichibu’sode/ and 七面倒臭い “extremely tiresome” /shichimendookusa’i/.

  1. The kanji 八 “eight”

History of Kanji 八For the kanji 八it was the motion of splitting something into two. Eight is the multiples of two. It means “eight.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 八つ “eight; eight years old” /yattu/, 八つ当たり “random venting; of one’s anger” /yatsuatari/, 八百屋”green grocer” /yaoya/ and 八百長 “race fixing; match rigging” /yaochoo/. The eighth day /yooka/ is written as 八日. The on-yomi 八 /hachi’/ is in 八人 “eight people” /hachi’nin/ and 四苦八苦する “to suffer terribly; be in dire distress” /shikuha’kku-suru/.

  1. The kanji 九 “nine”

History of Kanji 九For the kanji 九 it was a bent elbow with fingers. One tried to thrust a hand into a hold to reach something but fell short of it. A number almost full but short of full is “nine.”

The kun-yomi 九つ /koko’notsu/ means “nine” and is in 九日 “nineth day of the mondy; nine days” /kokonoka/. The on-yomi 九  /kyuu/ is “nine” and is in 九十 “ninety” /kyu’ujuu/.  Another on-yomi /ku/ also means “nine” and is in 九月 “September” /ku’gatsu/.

  1. The kanji 十 “ten”

History of Kanji 十For the kanji 十it was just a vertical line that had a thickness changing or a small dot added, signifying a bundle of ten. In seal style, the dot became a line. It meant “ten; full.”

The kun-yomi 十/to’o/ means “ten,” and is in 十日 “ten days; tenth day” /tooka/. The on-yomi 十 /ju’u/ means ‘ten” and is in 十分な “sufficient” /juubu’n-na/. /Jitsu/ is in 十分 /ji’ppun/ “ten minutes.”

  1. The kanji 上 “top; above; to come up; superior; upper”

History of Kanji 上For the kanji 上 a spatial position above a line signified “above.” The kanji 上 means “top; above; to come up; superior; upper.”

The kun-yomi 上 /ue/ means “above; top” and is in 身の上 “one’s circumstances; one’s upbringing”  /minoue/. /Uwa/ is in 上書き “overwriting” /uwagaki/, 上着 “upper garment; coat” /uwagi/. 上がる /agaru/ means “to rise up” and 上げる /ageru/ means “to raise; give.” /Kami/ is 川上 “upper stream of a river” /kawakami/. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 上品な “stylish; elegant; refined” /joohi’n-na/, 三月上旬 “the first ten days of March” /sa’ngatsu joojun/.

  1. The kanji 下 “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior”

History of Kanji 下For the kanji 下a spatial position below a line signified “below.” The kanji 下means “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior.”

There are a number of kun-yomi and on-yomi. The kun-yomi 下/shita/ means “below.” /Shimo/ is in 川下”downstream of a river” /kawashimo/, /Moto/ is in 足下 “at one’s feet; steps” /ashimo’to/. 下げる /sage’ru/ means “to lower.” 下る/kudaru/ is in 下さる “a superior gives to me” /kudasa’ru/ and 下り電車 “down train; trains going away from the capital” /kudaride‘nsha/. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 廊下 “passage way; middle corridor” /rooka/. Another on-yomi /ge/ is in 上下 “top and bottom” /jo‘oge/ and 下車 “getting off a vehicle” /ge‘sha/.

Now that we have covered all the categories of kanji origins, it is the time to reflect on this approach to kanji learning that we have been exploring last four and a half years. I would like to take a break here for a few weeks to sit back and think about what we have learned through this rather lengthy exploration. I shall be back in a few week time, hopefully refreshed a little, with more thoughts. Thank you very much for your interest.  – Noriko [June 17, 2018]

The Kanji 専伝転団恵穂 – (3)


We have been exploring the relationship among the kanji that contained “wrapped stuff tied on both ends and in the middle with a shaft going through.” The chart below shows groups of kanji whose ancient style appeared to have similar shapes. The three basic shapes (a), (d) and (e) began in oracle bone style, the oldest writing, in brown. (b) and (c) were in bronze ware style, in green, which was the next oldest style. It is reasonable to think that (b) and (c) were created based on (a).Comparison of 東重童専甫尃smaller

In the first post a couple of weeks ago we looked at the kanji 東棟陳練錬曹遭槽量糧, as in the column (a). In second post last week we looked at the kanji 重動働腫衝種童鐘憧瞳 in which additional components appeared, as in the column (b) and (c). In this post we are going to look at (d) and the six kanji 専伝転団惠穂, which might or might not have been related to (a).

The shape (d) meant “to rotate” and has been explained as a tied bag of stuff that was pounded to make a round shape by hand,–  thus “round” (View A). This view is in line with (a). Another view is that its was a spindle, and the hand below was rotating it, — thus “to rotate” (View B). It became 專 in kyuji, and became 専 in the shinji. When used as component 專 was replaced by 云 in shinji. (The remaining shaped (e) and (f) will be discussed in the next post.)

A spindle — What is a spindle 紡錘 /boosui/? “A spindle in weaving is a rod for spinning and winding natural fibers, consisting of a shaft and circular whorl at the end of the shaft.” I got this description a while ago (but do now remember from where now). The photo (taken from Wiki) is a modern version in which a whorl is at the top, unlike our ancient writing (d). I have also come across a video clip that shows the mechanism of a modern (Navaho drop spindle –

Let us begin with this week’s kanji from the original shape (d).

  1. The kanji 専 (專) “solely; exclusively; entirely; to monopolize”

For the kanji 専, View A (by Shirakawa) takes the oracle bone style writing to be “a tied bag of stuff with the top opening tied that was pounded into a round shape by a hand,” signifying “to round; make a wad.” View B explains it as a spindle which had a whorl (weight attached at the bottom) and was turned by a hand, together signifying “to turn; rotate.” The two accounts viewed the source of “turning” differently but arrived at the same meaning “to rotate; round.” Multiple fibers converging into one forming a thread or yarn gave the meaning “solely; monopolize.” In seal style, in red, the hand at the bottom became寸. The kyuji 專, in blue, had the remnant of a small whorl in a spindle, but was dropped in the shinji 専. The kanji 専 means “solely; exclusively; entirely; to monopolize.” [The composition of the kanji 専: 十 and 曰 and 寸 (not the correct stroke order)]

The kun-yomi 専ら/moppara/ means “solely; entirely.” The on-yomi /sen/ is in 専門 (“specialty” /senmon/), 専門家 (“specialist” /senmonka/), 専業 (“primary occupation” /sengyoo/), 専心する (“to devote one’s attention to” /senshin-suru/), 専用 (“exclusive” /sen-yoo/) and 専制政治 (“autocratic government” /sensee-se’eji/).

2. 伝 (傳) “to relay; convey; hand down”

For the kanji 伝, (a)  in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style comprised “a person; an act that one does” (イ) and “a rolling motion” (專), also used phonetically for /den/. Together a person carrying on his back a load that rotated signified “to relay; hand down to another.” In the seal style (d) a hand “寸” returned, and the kyuji 傳 in (e), in blue. In the shinji 伝, the right side 專 was replaced by 云, one of the shapes used for simplification. The kanji 伝means “to relay; convey; hand down.” [The composition of the kanji 伝: イand 云]

The kun-yomi 伝える /tsutaeru/ means “to convey; hand down,” and is in 手伝い (“help” tetsuda’i/). /-Zute/ is in 言伝て (“message” /kotozute/). The on-yomi /den/ is in 伝達 (“conveyance; transfer” /dentatsu/), 直伝 (“art handed down directly” /jikiden/), 伝説 (“legend” /densetsu/), 伝統 (“tradition” /dentoo/) and 遺伝子 (“gene” /ide’nshi/).

3. 転 (轉) “to roll; fall; change”

For the kanji 転 in bronze ware style the top had “a vehicle with two wheels that were connected with a shaft with yokes or handles, signifying “to roll.” The bottom was “a rolling motion,” used phonetically for /ten/. Together they meant “to turn; roll.” Turning wheels of a vehicle transport something to a different place, and it also gave the meaning “to change to something else.” In seal style a vehicle was simplified to車. It meant “to roll over; fall; change.” The right side of the kyuji 轉, 專, was replaced by 云 in shinji style. The kanji 転 means “to roll; fall; change.” [The composition of the kanji 転: 車 and 云]

The kun-yomi 転がる means “to roll; fall.” and is in 寝転がる (/nekoroga’ru/). The on-yomi /ten/ is in 回転(“rotation; rolling” /kaiten/), 逆転 (“reversal” /gyakuten/), 転職 (“changing one’s employment” /tenshoku/), 運転手 (“driver” /unte’nshu/), 転機 (“turning point” /te’nki/).  The kun-yomi 転ぶ /korobu/ means “to fall,” and is in 転げる (“to roll overl” /korogeru/)  and its intransitive counterpart 転がる (“to roll over” /korogaru/).

4. 団 (團) “band; round; mellow; lump; mass”

For the kanji 団the bronze ware style and seal style writings had 專, used phonetically for /dan/, inside 囗, a bushu kunigamae“enclosure.” A band of people also made a circle. From those, it meant “round” or “a group or band of people.” People sitting together in a circle also meant “harmony.” In shinji団, inside 囗, only the bottom half of 專, 寸“a hand,” is kept. The kanji 団 means “band; round; mellow; lump; mass.” [The composition of the kanji 団: 囗 and 寸 (the bottom line in 囗 comes last)]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /dan/ is 団体 (“band of people” /dantai/), 集団 (“group” /shuudan/), 団子(“dumpling” /dango/), 一家団欒 (“pleasures of a happy home; happy time of family together” /i’kka danran/), 団地 (“housing or apartment complex” /danchi/). Another on-yomi /ton/ is in 掛け布団 (“quit; cover” /kakebu’ton/), 敷布団 (“futon mattress” /shikibu’ton/) and 座布団  (“seating cushon” /zabu’ton).

5. 恵 (惠) “blessing; bounty; benefaction”

The kanji 恵 had appeared in a many variations in the history. (a) in oracle bone style was a spindle, same as 専without a hand.  (b) and (c) in bronze ware style can be viewed just variations of (a), and was used phonetically for /kee/. Something that rotated signified “all around; fullness.” In (d) and (e) “a heart” was added at the bottom. Together a heart that was full covering all around signified “generous and kind,” and it also meant “to bless; to give something in charity; be merciful.” The top of the kyuji 惠 in (h) was the same as the kanji 伝転団 without 寸. The kanji 恵 means “blessing; bounty; to confer benefits on one.” [The composition of the kanji 恵: 十, 曰 (not in this stroke order) and 心]

The kun-yomi /megumi/ means “blessing,” the verb /megumu/ means “to give something in charity” and the adjective恵まれた“to be blessed with; fortunate” /megumareta/. The on-yomi /kee/ is in 恩恵(“benefit; favor” /onkee/). Another on-yomi /e/ is in 知恵(“wisdom” /chie’/) and 悪知恵(“cunning” /warujie/).

  1. 穂 (穗) “ear or spear of rice plants”

For the kanji 穂 in seal style (a) comprised 禾 “rice plant” and 惠 used phonetically for /sui/ to mean “hanging; drooping,” whereas (b) had “fingers from above” that were “picking up rice plant” whose tip was drooping with its own weight. They meant “ear or spear of rice plant.” As with other kanji that had 惠 in its kyuji, the kyuji 穗 was simplified to 穂. The kanji 穂 means “ear or spear of rice plants.” The two seal style writings (a) and (b) differed so much. (a) was a semantic-phonetic composite while b) was a semantic composite (会意文字/ kaii-mo’ji/). Personally since I am interested in how a shape formed the meaning, I find (b) make more sense, but the history chose (a). [The composition of the kanji 穂: 禾 and 恵]

The kun-yomi /ho/ means “ear or spear of plant” and is in 稲穂 (“ear of rice plant” /inaho/. The on-yomi /sui/ is rarely used.

We also notice that all six kanji in this group had the kyuji writings. If we know the history we can see that what was deleted in shinji was a weight in a spindle. It ended up very similar to the right side of the kanji 博. The right side of the kanji 博 also went through simplification. Weshall explore that in the next post. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko  [April 28, 2018]

The kanji 東棟陳凍練錬曹遭槽量糧-a rolled stuff tied on both ends and around 1


When we glance at a large group of kanji such as 東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧・重動働腫種衝・童鐘憧瞳・専伝(=傳)転(=轉)団(團)・恵穂 and, with the association with 専 kanji that contain 尃, 博敷薄簿縛・補捕浦舗哺 they certainly appear to be good candidates for our exploration in finding out if common shapes in kanji originated from the same origins. In order to cover all these kanji, we probably need to spend several posts. Most kanji are composites of two or more shapes, and naturally they do come up again in different contexts. In this post we are going to look at the first sub-group that originated rolled stuff or bag tied at both ends and around -東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧.

The first shape is東in東棟陳凍.

  1. The kanji 東 “east”

History of Kanji 東Any Japanese student knows the kanji 東 “east” because it is in the word Tokyo 東京 /tookyoo/. But the meaning “east” was a borrowing and had no relevance to its original meaning. In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was rolled stuff with a shaft going through that was tied on both ends and was wrapped around with a tie in the middle. In seal style, in red, it became more like the kanji 東. As a component it retained the meanings “through” and “rolled stuff,” but by itself it is used in the borrowed meaning “east.”

The kun-yomi 東 /higashi/ means “east,” and is in 東海岸 (“east coast: the East Coast”). The on-yomi /too/ is in 東京 (“Tokyo” /tookyoo/), 関東 (“Kanto region” /ka’ntoo/), 東西南北(“every direction” /toozaina’nboku/), 中東 (“Middle East” /chuutoo/) and 中近東 (The Near and Middle East” /chuuki’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 棟 “ridgepole; house; counter for houses”

History of Kanji 棟The seal style writing of the kanji 棟 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “through.” A piece of wood that was placed across a house was “a ridgepole; ridge beam,” which is the highest part of a house where two sides of roof met. It was also used to mean “a house” and as a counter for houses. The kanji 棟 means “ridgepole; house; counter for houses.” [The composition of the kanji 棟: 木and 東]

The kun-yomi 棟/mune’/ means “house”and is in 別棟 (“different building; annex building” /betsumune/) and also used as a counter for houses.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 病棟 (“hospital ward” /byootoo/) and 棟梁 (“master carpenter” /to’oryoo/) and 三棟 (“three building” /sa’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 陳 “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated”

History of Kanji 陳For the kanji 陳 (a) and (b) in bronze was style had “mounds of dirt; hills” (vertically placed) (阝)  on the left and “rolled stuff tied on both ends and around” (東) signifying “a thing.” In addition to them, (a) had 攴“to cause an action; do something” whereas (b) had 土 “soil.” The sound /chin/ meant “to display.” Together they meant to display things on the ground or line up bags of dirt. When something in display was left for a long time, it became “old; stale.” In (c) in seal style neither 攴nor 土appeared. The kanji 陳 means “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated; old.” [The composition of the kanji 陳: 阝 and 東]

There is no kun-yomi for  the kanji 陳 in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chin/ is in 陳列 (“display” /chinretsu/), 陳腐な (“stale; clichéd; obsolete” /chi’npu-na/), 陳情する(“to make a petition in person” /chinjoo-suru/) and 新陳代謝 (“metabolism; switch from old to new” /shinchin ta’isha/).

  1. The kanji 凍 “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone”

History of Kanji 凍The seal style writing of the kanji 凍 comprised “ice that has streaks” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “stuff tied” together signifying stuff freezing or a person freezing. It contrasts to the kanji 氷 “ice,” which was “water freezes; frozen ice.” The kanji 凍 means “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone.” [The composition of the kanji 凍: 冫and 東]

The next two kanji 練 and 錬 contain 東 in kanji, but in the kyuji it had 柬 with different meaning and the sound /ren/.

  1. The kanji 練 “to refine; knead; train”

HIstory of Kanji 練In bronze ware style and seal style the kanji 練 had “a skein of threads” (糸) on the left side. The right side 柬 used phonetically for /ren/was “bundle of threads inside a rolled bag tied on both ends and around to be softened.” Softening threads involved repeated steps of exposing them to direct sunlight and soaking them in water at night. From repeating a process of refining materials, it meant “knead; train.” The kyuji 練, in blue, retained 柬, but in the shinji 練 the right side 柬 became 東.The kanji 練 means “to refine; knead; train hard.” [The composition of the kanji 練: 糸 and 東]

The kun-yomi 練る /ne’ru/ means “to kneed.” The on-yomi /ren/ is in 練習 (“practice; rehearsal” /renshuu/), 熟練した (“experienced and skilled” /jukuren-shita/) and 試練 (“trial; ordeal” /shi’ren/).

  1. The kanji 錬 “to refine metal; train”

HIstory of Kanji 錬The kanji 錬 comprised 金 “metal” and 柬 “to refine; knead” used phonetically for /ren/. Together they meant “heating iron in a high temperature and remove the impure minerals.” The kyuji 鍊 retained 柬. The kanji 錬 means “to refine metal; train hard.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ren/ is in 錬金術 (“alchemy” /renki’njutsu/), 精錬(“metal refining; smelting” /seeren/) and 鍛錬 (“tempering; toughening; annealing” /ta’nren/).  [The composition of the kanji : 金 and 東]

The next three kanji 曹遭槽 also shared the origin with 東even though it is not easy for us to recognize it. But their ancient writings demonstrate that connection.

  1. The kanji 曹 “low-level official; sergeant; fellows”

HIstory of Kanji 曹For the kanji 曹 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style the top had two pieces of stuff tied on both ends and around (東), signifying “two parties in a court – plaintiff and accused.” The bottom 曰 was “to speak.” (It is not 日 “the sun” but 曰 “to speak”). Together two parties standing to speak in court gave the meaning “companions; fellows.” It also meant “low-level officers; seargent.” The kanji 曹 means “low-level official; sergeant; fellows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 法曹界 “leagal circles; the bench and bar” /hooso’okai/), 軍曹 (“seargent” /gu’nsoo/) 重曹 (“sodium bicarbonate; baking soda” /juusoo/). /-Zoo/ is in 御曹司 (“a son of a doble or distinguished family” /onzo’oshi/).

  1. The kanji 遭 “to encounter; meet by chance”

HIstory of Kanji 遭The bronze ware style writing of the kanji 遭 was the same as 曹. The left side (辵) of the seal style writing had “a crossroad” and “a footstep,” together signifying “to move forward,” which eventually became a bushu shinnyooin kanji. The right side 曹 “fellows; companions” was also used phonetically for /soo/. “People meeting on their way unectectedly” meant “to encounter.” In kanji 遭 is associated with mishap such as “accident.” The kanji 遭 means “to encounter; meet by chance; mishap.”  [The composition of the kanji 遭: 曹 and 辶]

The kun-yomi 遭う /a’u/ means “to encounter.” The on-yomi /soo/ is in 遭難 (“disaster; mishap; shipwreck” /soonan/) and 遭遇する(“to encounter; come upon” /sooguu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 槽 “tub; tank; vat”

HIstory of Kanji 槽The seal style writing of the kanji 槽 comprised 木“tree; wood” and 曹 used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “tub” together signifying “a wooden tub.” The kanji 槽 means “tub; tank; vat.” [The composition of the kanji : and ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 水槽 (“water tank” /suisoo/) and 浴槽 (“bath tub” /yokusoo/).

The kanji 量 and 糧 were discussed earlier in connection with a scale to measure grain. I  bring them back here for us to know that 量had a rolled stuff tied at the bottom in oracle bone style and bronze ware style.

  1. The kanji 量 “mass; amount”

History of Kanji 量In the two earliest writing of kanji 量 also had rolled stuff tied on both ends and around signifying “stuff,” and a round shape at the top indicated an opening to put grains in to measure. Together they meant “a scale to weigh a bag of grain.” What was weighed meant “mass; amount.” An interesting thing was seen in Old style and seal style – they had土“dirt,” probably in a bag as a weight at the bottom, added. This combination of 東and 土will lead us to the next group of kanji starting with重“heavy” in the next post. In the kanji 量 the bottom took the shape 里. The kanji 量 means “mass; amount.” [The composition of the kanji 量: 曰, 一 and 里]

  1. The kanji 糧 “food; provisions”

History of Kanji 糧For the kanji 糧 the bronze ware style writing is seen in other kanji such as 重 “heavy” and had “a tied bag” in the middle with “an opening” on top, which was 量 “a scale to measure grains.” The bottom was “rice.” Together they meant “food; provisions.” In seal style “rice” was moved to the left and became 米 a bushu komehenin kanji. The kanji 糧means “food; provisions.” [The composition of the kanji 糧: 米 and 量]

For the sample words for the kanji 量 and 糧 please refer to the earlier post.

Trying to find a common thread in so many kanji is not very easy. I needed an extra week to sort them out. Let us continue with this exploration into our assumption or premise – “the same kanji components came from the same origin (verified by ancient writings), thus they retain related meaning in kanji.” Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [April 14, 2018]

The Kanji 声南琴喜樹膨鼓-musical instrument


As the last article of the group of kanji that originated from “a thing; stuff,” we are going to look at kanji that originated from musical instruments – 声南琴喜樹膨鼓.

  1. The kanji 声 “voice; fame; reputation; sound”

History of Kanji 声For the kanji 声 (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, was “a musical instrument with a hanging rope” and “an ear” below that. (b) and (c) in seal style, in red, had “a hand holding a stick to bang the hanging sound” board added. Together they meant “one listening to the sound of a hanging musical instrument that was banged by hand.” The kyuji 聲 in (d), in blue, contained all the components — “a banging instrument,” “a hand hitting with a tool” and “an ear to listen to.” But in the shinji 声only the top left was kept. Even though the origin was from an musical instrument and a person’s ear, it meant human “voice.” The kanji 声means “voice; fame; reputation; sound.”

The kun-yomi 声 /ko’e/ means “voice.” 鶴の一声 (“authoritative pronouncement; voice of authority” /tsu’ru-no hito’koe/). /-Goe/ is in 大声 (“loud voice” /oogo’e/). Another kun-yomi /kowa-/ is in 声音 (“tone of voice” /kowa’ne/). The on-yomi /see/ is in 無声音 (“voiceless sound” /muse’eon/), 音声 (“voice; sound” /o’nsee/), 銃声 (“sound of gunfire” /juusee/, 声援を送る (“to cheer” /seen-o okuru/) and 名声 (“fame” /meesee/). Another on-yomi /shoo/ is a go-on in 大音声 (”an ear-splitting voice” /daio’njoo/).

  1. The kanji 南 “south”

History of Kanji 南For the kanji 南 in oracle bone, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style  it was a musical instrument called /nan/, which was hung with ropes at the top. The shape was similar to a hanging bell. The writing was borrowed to mean “south.” Some scholars suggested that the sound nanwas similar to dan 暖 “warm,” and it may have something to do with this choice. The kanji 南means “south.”

The kun-yomi 南 /minami/ means “south” and is in 南側 (“south side” /minamigawa/). The on-yomi /nan/ is in 南北 (“the south and north” /na’nboku/), 南極 (“Antarctica: South Pole” /nankyoku/) and 中南米 (“Latin America; Central and South America” /chuuna’nbee/).

  1. The kanji 琴 “harp”

History of Kanji 琴The seal style writing of the kanji 琴 was “a harp,” with a bowed body and bridges for strings. The kanji 琴 means “harp.”

The kun-yomi /koto/ means “hard.” The on-yomi /kin/ is in 木琴(“marimba; xylopohone” /mokkin/) and 心の琴線に触れる(“to touch one’s heartstrings” /kokoro-no-kinsen-ni hureru/).

  1. The kanji 喜 “to rejoice; happy; be delighted”

History of Kanji 喜For the kanji 喜 the oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings had “a hand drum with a hanging device” at the top and 口 “a box of prayers and benedictions” at the bottom. They meant “pleasing a god with good drumming. The Old style writing, in purple, had a person who was singing or about to eat feast with his mouth wide open added but dropped in seal style. The kanji 喜 means “to rejoice; happy; be delighted.”

The kun-yomi 喜ぶ /yoroko’bu/ means “to rejoice; be delighted” and is in 大喜びする  (“to be overjoyed; be thrilled” /ooyo’rokobi-suru/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 歓喜(“delight” /ka’nki/), 喜劇 (“comedy” /ki’gki/), 悲喜こもごも(“bittersweet; having mingled feelings of joy and sorrow” /hi’ki-komo’gomo/), 喜怒哀楽 (“feelings” /ki’do airaku/) and 一喜一憂 (“glad and sad by turns” /i’kki ichiyuu/).

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree; to plant a tree; establish”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹 the bronze ware style writing, (a), comprised 壴 “a drum” and 寸 “hand” used phonetically for /chu; ju/ to mean “a tree; arbor.” (c) in seal style reflected (a), but in (b) 木 “tree” was added. “A hand holding a tree straight up” gave the meaning “to plant a tree” and “to establish” in a general sense. The kanji 樹 means “tree; to plant a tree; establish.”

The kun-yomi /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹立する (“to establish” /juristsu-suru/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/) and 広葉樹 (“broad leaf tree” /kooyo’oju/).

  1. The kanji 膨 “to swell out; expand; get big”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 膨. The kanji comprised 月 “a part of one’s body” on the left side and 壴 “a hanging drum” and 彡 “something pretty” together used phonetically for booto mean “sound of a hand drum reverberating” or something spreading like the sound. A part of the body that tended to expand was a stomach. The meaning of a part of body dropped it meant “to expand.” The kanji 膨means “to swell out; expand; get big.”

The kun-yomi 膨らむ /hukuramu/ means “to swell out; expand,” and is in 着膨れる(“to be thickly clad” /kibukure’ru/). The on-yomi /boo/ is in 膨張する(to expand; swell” /boochoo-suru/) and 膨大な (“enormous; colossal” /boodai-na/).

  1. The kanji 鼓 “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up”

History of Kanji 鼓For the kanji 鼓(a) and (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style comprised “a drum with a hanging rope at the top” and “a hand hitting the drum with a drumstick.” Together they meant “a hand drum.” A hand hitting a drum gave the meaning “rhythemic; to stir up.” The kanji 鼓 means “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up.”

The kun-yomi /tuzumi/ (つづみ) means “hand drum” and is in 小鼓 (“hand-held drum” /kotuzumi/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 太鼓 (“drum” /taiko/), 鼓舞する(“to encourage; inspire” /ko’bu-suru/), 鼓動 (“to beat; pulsate” /kodoo-suru/) and 鼓笛隊 (“fife and drum band” /kotekitai/).

The next group of kanji we explore is a tied bag or things in a bundle. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 31, 2018]

The Kanji 典冊柵・偏編遍・論輪倫 – “bound writing tablets”


In this post we are going to look at nine kanji in three subgroups –典冊柵 (with 冊)・偏編遍 (with 扁)・論輪倫 (with 侖). They share the origin of writing tablets bound together that made a book and could be rolled up for storage.

  1. The kanji 典 “code; law; model”

History of Kanji 典For the kanji 典 in (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, the top was writing tablets of the same length linked together with leather straps. (a) had two hands holding it very carefully while (b) had a hand turning the book to read. What the two lines at the bottom in (a) signified is not clear, but they might have indicated a table. (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, in green, had a low table (几). The important bound writing tablets were a model or code from precedents that one looked up, and the writing meant “code; law; model.” In (e) in Old style, in purple, “bamboo” pertaining to “writing” was added at the top, but it was dropped in (f) in seal style, in red. In kanji the top was coalesced to the top of a low table. The kanji 典 means “code, law; model.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ten/ is in 辞典 (“dictionary” /jiten/), 典雅な (“refined; elegant” /te’nga-na/), 出典 (“source of reference” /shutten/), 古典 (“classics” /koten/) and

典型的な (“stereotyped; typical” /tenkeeteki-na/). /-Den/ is in 香典 (“offering in Buddhism funeral” /kooden/; 典 substitutes for a non-Joyo kanji).

  1. The kanji 冊 “bound book; a counter for books”

History of Kanji 冊The history of the kanji 冊 has two different interpretations. One is that it was writing tablets linked together as a book. (d) in Old style, in purple, had “bamboo” at the top but lost it in (e) in seal style. This development is very similar to the kanji 典, without a table to place on. It meant “a counter of bound books.” Another view takes notice on the different length of the vertical lines in the ancient writings. Shirakawa says that a writing tablet had a set length and that wooden stakes of different length linked in a circle signified “a corral to keep live stocks to be used for sacrificial offering.” It was /saku/ phonetically. Because of the similar appearance between stakes pounded to the ground to keep live animals and writing tablets linked together, the writing mistakenly came to be used to mean “a bound book.” The kyuji 册, (f) in blue, was simplified to 冊. The kanji 冊 is used as a counter for books.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /satsu/ is in 三冊 (“three books” /sa’nsatsu/), 冊数 (“number of volume” /satsusu’u/), 別冊 (“separate volume; extra issue” /bessatsu/) and 小冊子 (“booklet” /shoosa’sshi/). Another on-yomi /-zaku/ is in 短冊 (“strip of paper” /tanzaku/).

  1. The kanji 柵 “fence; wooden stockade”

History of Kanji 柵The seal style writing of the kanji 柵 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 冊 “linked wooden stakes” used phonetically for /saku/. Because the writing 冊 changed to mean “a bound book,” the new writing was created for the original meaning of “wooden uneven length stakes to keep animals.” The kanji 柵 means “fence; wooden stockade.”  <Composition of the kanji 柵: 木 and 冊>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 柵 /saku/ means “fence” and is in 鉄柵 (“iron fence” /tessaku/)

扁: In the next three kanji 偏編遍, what is common is 扁. One view of the origin is “a screen; mesh” in a part of a single swing door (扁); another view is that it was a bound book.

  1. The kanji 偏 “to become lopsided”

History of Kanji 偏The seal style writing of the kanji 偏  comprised イ “an act one does” and 扁 “a screen door” used phonetically for /hen/ to mean “one side (of the two),” together signifying “to lean to one side.” The kanji 偏 means “to get lopsided; one side; bias.” <Composition of the kanji 偏: イ, 戸 and 冊 without the horizontal line going through >

The kun-yomi 偏る /katayo’ru/ means “to become lopsided; become biased.” The on-yomi /hen/ is in 偏と旁 (left side component and right side component in kanji), 偏食 (“deviated food habit; unbalanced diet” /henshoku/) and 偏向 (“inclination; leaning; bias” /henkoo/).

  1. The kanji 編 “to compile; edit; knit; braid”

History of Kanji 編The seal style writing of the kanji 編 comprised 糸 “a skein of thread” and 扁 for /hen/ phonetically. 扁 comprised 戸 “door; family” and 冊 “bamboo or wooden tablets tied together for record keeping,” signifying “family registry record; to compile documents; edit.” Together they also meant “to knit (yarn); braid.” The kanji 編 means “to compile; edit; knit.” <Composition of the kanji 編: 糸 and 扁>

The kun-yomi /a’mu/ means “to knit” and is in 編み物 (“knitting” /ami’mono/), 三つ編み (“braid” /mitsuami/), 編み出す (“to invent; forge; contrive” /amida’su/). The on-yomi /hen/ is in 編集 (“editing” /henshuu/), 再編成 (“reorganization; reshuffle” /saihe’nsee/) and 長編小説 (“long novel” /choohen sho’osetsu/).

  1. The kanji 遍 “to go around; universal; time”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 遍. The kanji 遍 comprises 辶, a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” and 扁 used phonetically for /hen/, together signifying “to go around,” and further “everywhere; widely; extensively; far and wide.” “Making a round in a circuit” also gave the meaning “once; time.” The kanji 遍 means “to go around; far and wide; time.” <Composition of the kanji 遍: 扁 and 辶>

The kun-yomi 遍く/amane’ku/ means “everyplace; all over; extensively.” The on-yomi /hen/ is 普遍的 (worldwide; universal; general” /huhenteki/). /-Pen/ is in 一遍 (“once; one time” /ippen/) and 一遍に (“in one sitting; all at one” /ippe’n-ni/). /-Ben/ is in 何遍も (“several times; repeatedly” /na’nben-mo/).

History of Kanji 侖The third shape 侖 has the history shown on the right. (a), (b) and (c) had writing tablets that were linked with straps as a book rolled up for storage under a roof. From “bound writing tablets rolled up” 侖 signified “things in good order in a circular shape.”

  1. The kanji 論 “logic; argument”

History of Kanji 論For the kanji 論 the bronze ware style writing was things in good order bound together in a circular shape (侖). The seal style writing comprised “word; language; to say” was added. Words that were arranged in good order meant “logic; argument.” The kanji 論 means “logic; argument.”  <Composition of the kanji 論: 言 and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ron/ is in 論じる (“to discuss” /ronjiru/), 議論 (“argument” /gi’ron/), 論争 (“dispute; controversy” /ronsoo/), 論文 (“article; dissertation; thesis” /ronbun/), 異論を唱える (“to object to” /iron-o tonae’ru/) and 世論 (“public opinion” /yo’ron/).

  1. The kanji 輪 “wheel; circle; loop”

History of Kanji 輪The seal style writing of the kanji 輪 comprised 車 “a wheel” and 侖 used phonetically for /rin/ to mean “many arrows arranged in a circular shape.” Together they meant “wheel; circle; loop.” <Composition of the kanji 輪: 車 and 侖>

The kun-yomi 輪 /wa/ means “a ring,” and is in 輪ゴム (“elastic band” /wagomu/) and 内輪話 (“inside information; private talk” /uchiwaba’nashi/). The on-yomi /rin/ is in 車輪 (“wheel” /sharin/), 三輪車 (“tricycle” /sanri’nsha/), 両輪 (“two wheels; both wheels” /ryoorin/) and 輪郭 (“contour; outline; profile” /rinkaku/).

  1. The kanji 倫 “ethics; principle”

History of Kanji 倫The seal style writing of the kanji 倫 had a “person; an act that one does” and 侖 used phoentically for /rin/ to mean “things ordered in good order.” Together “what a person should observe” means “ethics; principle.” The kanji 倫 means “ethics; principle.” <Composition of the kanji 倫: イ and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /rin/ is in 倫理 (“morality; ethics” /ri’nri/) and 人倫 (“human relations; morality” /jinrin/).

Even though the three shapes 冊, 扁 and 侖 have different meanings, they share the underlying meaning “writing tablets or stakes linked together in an orderly manner and it can be rolled up.” I believe that we still need to have another post on the topics of objects next week. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 24, 2018]

The Kanji 合拾答塔搭今陰含吟貪念捻倉 Container (1)


We are going to look at kanji that originated from a lid over a container. In this post the kanji we are going to look at are: 合拾答塔搭 (containing  合) and 今陰含吟貪念捻 (containing 今) and 倉.

  1. The kanji 合 “to meet; put together; fit; mix”

History of Kanji 合In all three types of ancient writing (oracle bone style in brown, bronze ware style in green and seal style in red) for the kanji 合 it had a container with a lid on top. From the meaning of “a lid and the container fitting well,” it meant “to meet; fit.” The kanji 合 means “to meet; put together; fit; mix.” Of the two kanji that is pronounced as /au/ to mean “to meet,” the kanji 合 is used for things whereas the kanji 会 is for people.  <Composition of the kanji 合: and 𠆢 , 一 and 口>

The kun-yomi 合う /a’u/ means “to fit; meet” and is in  打ち合わせ (“staff meeting” /uchiawase/), 詰め合わせ (“assortment” /tsumeawase/), 言い合い (“argue; verbal fight” /iiai/), 間に合う (“be in time; to manage” /mania‘u/) and 歩合 (“percentage” /buai/). The on-yomi /goo/ is in 合計 (“total sum” /gookee/), 合意する (“to agree upon” /gooi-suru/) and 結合 (“bind; union” /ketsugoo/). Another on-yomi /gatsu/ is in 合作 (“joint work” /gassaku/) and 合唱 (“chorus” /gasshoo/).

  1. The kanji  拾 “to pick up; gather”

History of Kanji 拾The seal style writing of the kanji 拾 comprised “a hand” and 合 used phonetically for /shuu/ to mean “to pick up,” together signifying “a hand picking up a thing.” In kanji the left side became 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand.”  The kanji 拾 means “to pick up; gather.”  <Composition of the kanji 拾: 扌 and 合>

The kun-yomi 拾 /hirou/ means “to pick up” and is in 拾い物 (“find; windfall” /hiroimono/).  /-Biro/ is in 命拾い (“a narrow escape” /inochibi’roi/). The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 拾得物 (“lost-and-found item” /shuutoku’butsu/) and 事態を収拾する (“to get the situation under control” /ji’tai-o shuushuu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 答 “answer”

History of Kanji 答There is no ancient writing for the kanji 答. The writing on the left side is a brush writing from a later time and comprised 艸 “plants; grass” and 合 “to meet” used phonetically for /too/, together forming 荅 “answer.” One view explains 荅 to be two sides of a pea pod, fitting very well. Later the top was replaced by 竹, a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo.” A bushu takekanmuri often pertained to writing because bamboo writing tablets and writing brush had a bamboo handle. It may be the case that the takekanmuri replaced “plants” because writing an answer using a bamboo brush fit better to its meaning. The kanji 答 means “answer.”  <Composition of the kanji 答: 竹 and 合>

The kun-yomi /kota’e/ means “answer.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 答案用紙 (“answer sheet” /tooan-yo’oshi/), 回答 (“answer; response to a question” /kaitoo/) and 解答 (“work out; answer” /kaitoo/).

  1. The kanji 塔 “tower; monument”

History of Kanji 塔The seal style writing for the kanji 塔 comprised 土 “dirt; soil” and 荅 used phonetically for /too/. The writing 塔 was phonetic rendition of 卒塔婆 /sotoba/ from the Sanskrit “stupa,” which was a dome-like monument erected as a Buddha shrine. The kanji 塔 means “tower; monument.”  <Composition of the kanji 塔: 土 and 荅>

There is no on-yomi. The on-yomi /too/ means “tower; monument,” and is in 管制塔 (“control tower” /kanseetoo), 金字塔 (“monumental achievement” /kinjitoo/) and 象牙の塔 (“ivory tower” /zooge-no-too/).

  1. The kanji 搭 “to load; board”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 搭. The kanji 搭 comprises 扌, a bushu tehen, “an act one does using a hand,” and 荅 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “an action.” The kanji 搭 is now used to mean “to load; board.”  <Composition of the kanji 搭: 扌 and 荅>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /too/ is in 搭乗券 (“boarding pass” /toojo’oken/) and 搭載する (“to load; be equipped with” /toosai-suru/).

  1. The kanji 今 “now; present time”

History of Kanji 今For the kanji 今 in all three ancient style it comprised “a cover with a stopper for a container or rice wine cask.” (The shape appeared in the top of the anceint writing of the kanji 飲 which we looked at in earlier post.) It was borrowed to mean “present moment; now.” Another explanation is that “the top was capturing the present moment.” The kanji 今 means “now; present time.” <Composition of the kanji 今: 𠆢  and ラ>

The kun-yomi 今 /i’ma/ means “now; present time,” and is in 只今 (“promptly” /tada’ima/) in a humble way. The expression one says when he comes home is pronounced as /tadaima/, an unaccented word.  The on-yomi /kon/ is in 今月 (“this month” /kongetsu/), 今週 (“this week” /konshuu), 今後 (“from now” /kongo/) and 昨今 (“up-date; these days” /sak’kon/). 今年 /kotoshi/ is also a customary reading. Another on-yomi /kin/ is in 今上天皇 (”the reigning emperor; His majesty” /kinjootenno’o/).

  1. The kanji 陰 “shadow; negative”

History of Kanji 陰For the kanji 陰 in the two bronze ware style writings the left comprised “mountains” (vertically placed), “something to cover” and “a cloud rising” underneath, together a mountain blocking the sun and a could under a cover signified “a dark area” or “a shadow.” The contrast between a sunny area and a shadowy area also is used for the contrast between “positive (陽) and negative (陰).” The seal style writing comprised the same components in more stylized shape. The kanji 陰 means “shadow; negative.” <Composition of the kanji 陰: 阝, 今 and 云>

The kun-yomi /ka’ge/ means “shade; dark area.” The on-yomi /in/ is in 陰影 (“shading; nuance” /in-ee-no-a’ru/) and 山陰地方 (“San’in region,” the northern side of the Chugoku region”  /san-in-chi’hoo/) and 陰性 (“negative” /insee/).

  1. The kanji 含 “to contain; include”

History of Kanji 含The seal style writing of the kanji 含 comprised “a cover with a stopper” (今) and “a mouth; box” (口) together signifying “putting something inside a mouth or container.” The kanji 含 means “to contain; include.” <Composition of the kanji 含: 今 and 口>

The kun-yomi 含む /huku’mu/ means “to include; contain.” The on-yomi /gan/ is in 含有量 (“content” /ganyu’uryoo/) and 含蓄のある (“signifying; suble; pregnant with meaning” /ganchiku-no-a’ru/).

  1. The kanji 吟 “to groan; chant”

History of Kanji 吟For the kanji 吟 in seal style the left one comprised 口 “mouth” and 今 “a cover with a stopper” used phonetically for /kin; gin/ to mean “muffling sound in a mouth.” The second one had 音 “sound” instead of 口. The kanji 吟 reflected the left one. From “a muffled voice in a closed mouth” the kanji 吟 means “to groan; chant.” <Composition of the kanji 吟: 口 and 今>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gin/ is in 吟味する (“to examine closely” /gi’nmi-suru/) and 詩吟 (“shigin; recitation of Chinese poem” /shigin/).

  1. The kanji 貪 “to covet; be greedy; devour”

History of Kanji 貪The seal style writing of the kanji 貪 comprised “a lid with a stopper” (今) and “a bronze ware vessel” (貝) to store valuables. Together they signified “stashing away greedily with a stopper.” The kanji 貪 means “to covet; be greedy; devour.”  <Composition of the kanji 貪: 今 and 貝>

The kun-yomi 貪る /musaboru/ means “to covet; crave.” The on-yomi /don/ is in 貪欲な (“greedy” /don-yoku-na/).

  1. The kanji 念 “thought; pray; wish; ponder”

History of Kanji 念For the kanji 念 the bronze ware style writing and the seal style writing comprised 今 “a lid to keep something in” and 心 “heart.” Together they meant “a thought that one kept inside his heart for a long time.” The kanji 念 means “thought; pray; wish; ponder.”  <Composition of the kanji 念: 今 and心>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /nen/ is in 念じる “to pray; wish; hope” /nenjiru/), 失念する “to forget” /shitsunen-suru/), 念願の (“long-cherished” /nengan-no), 雑念 (“idle thoughts; distraction” /zatsunen/) and 念仏 (“to invoke Buddha; pray to Amida Buddha” /nenbutsu-o tonae’ru/).

  1. The kanji 捻 “to twist; bend”

History of Kanji 捻The seal style writing of the 捻 comprised “a hand” and 念 used phoneticallly for /nen/ to mean “twist.” Together they signified “to twist something with fingers.” The kanji 捻 means “to twist; bend.”  <Composition of the kanji 捻: 扌, 今 and 心>

The kun-yomi 捻る /hine’ru/ means “to twist.” The on-yomi /nen/ is in 捻出する (“to squeeze money; manage to come up with money” /nenshutsu-suru/) and 捻挫 (“sprain; ligament rupture” /nenza/).

  1. The kanji 倉 “storage; warehouse; vault”

History of Kanji 倉For the kanji 倉 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it was  “a grainer,” with “a cover to protect the grain from rain” at the top and “an opening to get the grain out” at the bottom, together signifying “storage of grain.” In seal style the top became a bushu hitoyane. The kanji 倉 means “storage; warehouse; vault.”  <Composition of the kanji 倉: 𠆢 , 戸 with another stroke and 口>

The kun-yomi 倉 /kura’/ means “storage; vault,” and /-gura/ is in 米倉 (“rice storage” /komegura/). The on-yomi /soo/ is in 倉庫 (“warehouse” /so’oko/), 穀倉地帯 (“farm belt” /kokusoochi’tai/).

There are a few more shapes that belong to the group of containers.  We shall continue with them in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko  [January 13, 2018]

The Kanji 力協脅脇加賀架勃励劣-agricultural tool (2)


The second agricultural implement we look at is what became the kanji 力. I have been using the word “plough (plow)” for 力 in the past, because it had teeth or pegs at the end. It is more likely that this was a hand tool, rather than a machine. Should we call it a harrow? I do not know the answer. In this post we stick to the word plough for the time being. The kanji that contain 力 that we are going to explore here are: 力協脅脇加賀架勃励劣.

  1. The kanji 力 “power; strength”

History of Kanji 力For the kanji 力, there are two different views. One view, by Setsumon, is that the bottom suggested that it was a hand, and that the curve at the top in (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, was “muscles in the arm,” and that flexing muscles meant “strength; power.” This view has been the traditional view. Another view in Shirakawa’s Shinjito is that the bottom was “a plough; a digging fork” in the field. In working in the field one had to apply much muscular strength. In this blog we take the second view. The kanji 力 means “power; strength.”  (For the stroke order, you write the angled stroke first.)

The kun-yomi 力 /chikara’/ means “might; power; strength,” and is in 力仕事 (“heavy labor” /chikarashi’goto/). /-Jikara/ is in 馬鹿力を出す (“to give incredible physical strength” /bakaji’kara-o da’su/). The on-yomi /riki/ is in 力量 (“ability; capacity” /rikiryoo/), 馬力 (“horsepower; energy” /bariki/). Another on-yomi /ryoku/ is in 体力 (“physical strength” /ta’iryoku/) and 重力 (“gravity” /ju’uryoku/).

  1. The kanji 協 “to cooperate; give help to others”

History of Kanji 協For the kanji 協, the Old style writing, in gray, comprised 口 “mouth” and 十 “to bundle up to one.” The seal style writing had “three ploughs” together, which was used phonetically for /kyoo/. Together they meant many people work together in a field, giving help to others. The kanji 協 means “to cooperate; give help to others.” <Composition of the kanji 協: a narrow 十 and three力>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi kyoo is in 協力する (“to cooperate; collaborate” /kyooryoku-suru/), 生協 (“co-op” /se’ekyoo/) and 協会 (“association; society” /kyookai/).

  1. The kanji 脅 “to threaten; menace; coerce”

History of Kanji 脅The kanji 脅 and the next kanji 脇 shared the same seal style writing — “three ploughs” and 月 “a part of one’s body”– and yet they have different meanings. For the kanji 脅, the top was used phonetically for /kyoo/ to mean “power,” and the bottom 月 was “a part of one’s body.” Together “powers over one’s body” meant “to threaten; menace; coerce.” <Composition of the kanji: Three 力 and 月>

The kun-yomi 脅す /odosu/ means “to threaten,” and is in 脅し取る (“to blackmail; extort” /odoshito’ru/). The on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 脅迫する (“to intimidate; threaten” /kyoohaku-suru/) and 脅威となる (“to become the menace” /kyo’oi-to-naru/).

  1. The kanji 脇 “side of one’s body; flank; supporting role”

History of Kanji 脇The seal style writing of the kanji 脇 was the same as 脅. In the kanji 脇, “three ploughs lining up” signified “ribs.” Together with 月, a bushu nikuzuki “flesh,” they meant “side (of one’s body); flank.” It also means “supporting role.” The kanji 脇 means “side of one’s body; flank; supporting role.” <Composition of the kanji: 月 and three 力>

The kun-yomi 脇 /waki/ means “one’s side,” and is in 脇役 (“supporting role” /wakiyaku/) and 脇腹が痛い (“to have a pain in the side” /wakibara-ga ita’i/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 加 “to add”

History of Kanji 加For the kanji 加 the two bronze ware style writings comprised “a plough; a digging fork” that was placed sideways and “a mouth.” When doing heavy labor in the field adding voice was encouraging in exerting effort. It meant “to add.” The katakana カ and the hiragana か came from the kanji 加. The kanji 加 means “to add.” <Composition of the kanji 加: 力 and 口>

The kun-yomi 加える /kuwaeru/ means “to add,” and 加わる /kuwawaru/ means “to join.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 追加 (“addition; supplement” /tsuika/), 増加 (“increase” /zooka/), 加味する (“to take something into account” /ka’mi-suru/). 加減 (“addition and subtraction” /kagen/) is also used to mean “one’s condition” in the expression お加減はいかかですか (“How do you feel?” /oka’gen-wa ika’ga-desu-ka?/) in inquiring someone who has been sick.

  1. The kanji 賀 “to celebrate; auspicious”

History of Kanji 賀For the kanji 賀 the bronze ware style writing comprised “a cowrie; valuable,” and “a plough” and “a mouth,” which was phonetically used for /ka/ to mean “to add.” One gave someone a valuable gift at a time of celebration. It meant “to celebrate; congratulate; auspicious occasion.” In seal style and in kanji the cowrie was moved to the bottom. The kanji 賀 means “to celebrate; auspicious.”  <Composition of the kanji 賀: 力, 口 and 貝>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 祝賀会 (“celebratory party” /shukuga’kai/) and 賀正 (“New Year’s greeting in writing” /gashoo/).

  1. The kanji 架 “building something over; to bridge over”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 架. The top 加 was used phonetically for /ka/. 加 above 木 “a tree” signified “building something over at a high place.” The kanji 架 means “to bridge over; building something above.”<Composition of the kanji 架: 力, 口 and 木>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 架線 (“overhead wire” /kasen/), 架橋 (“crosslink; bridging” /kakyoo/) and 高架道路 (“elevated road” /kookado’oro/).

  1. The kanji 勃 “to happen abrupt; enegetic”

History of Kanji 勃For the kanji 勃 the left side of the seal style was “a plant whose center was bulging with a seed,” and was used phonetically for /botsu/ to mean “a sudden change; a force pushing out from within.” A child at the bottom may suggest a seed. The right side “plough” added “power.” Together they meant “sudden occurrence.” The kanji 勃 means “to happen abruptly; energetic.”<Composition of the kanji 勃: a truncated 十, , 子 and 力>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /botsu/ is in 勃興 (“sudden rise; rise to power” /bokkoo/) and 暴動が勃発する (“a riot breaks out” /boodoo-ga boppatsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 励 “to strive for; give encouragement; industrious”

History of Kanji 励There is no ancient writing for the kanji 励.  The left side of the kyuji 勵, in blue, for the kanji 励 was used phonetically for /ree/ to mean either “a hard mineral rock” or “a poisonous scorpion.” The right side 力 “plough” signified “hard field work.” Together they meant “to strive for; labor for; be industrious; give encouragement.” In kanji the left side became 厂 and 万. <Composition of the kanji 励: 厂, 万 and 力>

The kun-yomi 励む /hage’mu/ means (“to endeavour; be industrious” /hage’mu/) and in 励ます (“to cheer; support” /gahema’su/). The on-yomi /ree/ is in 奨励する (“to recomment; encourage” /shooree-suru/) and 激励する (“to encourage” /gekiree-suru/).

  1. The kanji 劣 “inferior; to deteriorate”

History of Kanji 劣The seal style writing of the kanji 劣 comprised 少 “a little” and 力 “power.” Together “lack of strength” meant “inferior.” The kanji 劣 means “inferior; to deteriorate.” <Composition of the kanji 劣: 少 and力>

The kun-yomi 劣る /oto’ru/ means “inferior,” and 見劣りする (“pale in comparison” /miotori-suru/). The on-yomi /retsu/ means 劣化する (“to deteriorate” /rekka-suru/) and 優劣をつける (“to judge which is better” /yu’uretsu-o tsuke’ru/).

The year 2017 is almost over. I truly thank our readers who have followed my posting or have visited our site from time to time. Your interest and support have helped me in continuing my weekly writing and preparing my manuscripts for a future book. I wish you and your family a very happy new year.   – Noriko [December 30, 2017]

The Kanji 丁打訂頂予序預幻互緑録克- Tool (2)


In this second post on kanji that originated from “carpenter’s tools” we are going to explore the kanji 丁打訂頂(丁), 予序預幻(予), 互, 緑録(彔) and 克.

  1.  The kanji 丁 “a square block; counter for a square section”

History of Kanji 丁There are two different meanings associated with the ancient writings of 丁 – one is “an area; a square” and another “a nailhead” that was viewed from above or from the side. (In our blogs, oracle bone style is shown in brown; bronze ware style in green; and seal style in red.) A nail got pounded down flat in a straight angle, thus it meant something “right angle; flat,” and “a square block.” In Japan it is used as a counter for a square block as well as in an address for a section of an areas in a large city, such as 銀座四丁目 (“Fourth block of the Ginza area in Tokyo” /ginza-yonchoome/). The kanji 丁 means “a (square) block; section; counter for a section.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /choo/ is in 丁度 (“just; precisely; barely” /choodo/), and 三丁目 (“3-chome; third block” /sanchoome/). Another on-yomi /tee/ is in 丁寧な (“polite” /te’enee-na/) and 丁重に (“courteously; respectfully” /teechoo-ni/). The expression 一丁上がり /icchooagari/ means “Now finished!; the dish is ready!” We used to buy tofu at a tofu shop by small blocks, such as お豆腐二丁下さい (“May I have two pieces of tofu, please?” /otoohu ni’choo-kudasai/), but nowadays tofu comes in a plastic container in all sorts of sizes and 丁 is no longer needed.

  1. The kanji 打 “to hit; pound on”

History of Kanji 打The seal style writing of the kanji 打 comprised “a hand; an act that one does using a hand” and 丁 “square; a right angle.” Together a hand over a nailhead meant “to hit; strike hard.” 打 was also used to make a word without adding the meaning “to hit.” The kanji 打 means “to hit; pound on.” <Composition of the kanji: 扌and 丁>

The kun-yomi 打つ /u’tsu/ means “to hit; strike hard,” and is in 打ち消す (“to negate; contradict” /uchikesu/) and 打ち上げる (“to launch; conclude” /uchiageru/). The on-yomi /da/ is in 打撃 (“batting; damage; blow” /dageki/), 打者 (“slugger; batter” /da’sha/), 打楽器 (“percussion instructment” /daga’kki/), 打算的な (“calculating” /dasanteki-na/) and 一網打尽 (“making a roundup arrest” /ichimoo-dajin/).

  1.  The kanji 訂 ‘to correct; revise; amend”

History of Kanji 訂The seal style writing of the kanji 訂 comprised 言 “word; language; to say” and 丁 “straight; right angle,” which was used phonetically for /tee/.  Together they meant “to make words right.” The kanji 訂 means “to correct; revise; amend.” <Composition of the kanji 訂: 言 and 丁>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /tee/ is in 訂正 (“correction; revision” /teesee/) and 改訂版 (“revised edition” /kaiteeban/).

  1. The kanji 頂 “summit; top”

History of Kanji 頂The seal style writing comprised 丁 “a flat nailhead,” which was used phonetically for /choo/, and 頁, a bushu oogai “head,” from a man with formal headdress. Together they meant “a flat top area; summit; the top of one’s head.” In Japanese this kanji is also used for a humble verb for “to receive.” Comparing to another kanji 戴 for “to receive,” 頂 is used more casually. The kanji 頂 means “summit; top; to receive (humble style).” <Composition of the kanji 訂:  丁 and 頁>

The kun-yomi 頂く /itadaku/ means “to receive; hold above one’s head,” and is also in 山の頂 “mountain summit” /yama-no-itadaki/). The on-yomi /choo/ is in 頂上 (“top; summit” /choojo’o/), 有頂天 (“ecstatic; rapturous” /ucho’oten/) and 仏頂面をする (“to look sullen” /bucchoozura-o-suru/).

The component 予 appear in 予序預, and oddly in 幻 coming from the upside shape of 予.

  1. The kanji 予 “in advance; preliminary; allowances”

History of Kanji 予For the kanji 予 there are two different writings (a) and (b) in seal style to account for the kyuji (c), in blue, and the shinji (d). (a) was a “weaving shuttle with a thread hanging down.” A weaving shuttle was pushed through the warps that were loosened on the loom. From “making room in advance of a shuttle’s passing” the kanji 予 meant “in advance; preliminary; allowances.” (b) had 象 “elephant,” which had been explained that the large size and slow movement of an elephant signified “large; relaxed; loose.” (c) reflected (b). In shinji, 象 was dropped. The kanji 予 means “in advance; preliminary.” The kanji for the original meaning, a weaving shuttle, is the non-Joyo kanji 杼 with a bushu kihen “wooden.” <Composition of the kanji 予: マ and 了>

The kun-yomi 予め /arakajime/ means “in advance.” The on-yomi /yo/ is in 予定 (“schedule; plan” /yotee/), 余裕 (“allowances; additional coverage” /yoyuu/) and 猶予 (“hesitation; postponement” /yu’uyo/).

  1. The kanji 序 “order; beginning of an order”

History of Kanji 序For the kanji 序, the top left of the seal style writing was the eaves or an addition to a house. Under that 予 “extra room” was used phonetically for /jo/. The extended area next to the main house was used as a place or school where propriety was taught. From that the kanji 序 meant “order; beginning of an order.” It is sometimes used for the word 序でに “while I am at it (I do another thing); taking the opportunity,” perhaps from the sense of order.<Composition of the kanji 序: 广 and 予>

The kun-yomi 序でに “while (you) are at it” (not on the Joyo kanji list). The on-yomi /jo/ is 順序 (“order” /ju’njo/), 秩序 (“order; discipline” /chitsu’jo/), 序曲 (“prelude” /jo’kyoku/), 年功序列 (“seniority system” /nenkoojo’retsu/) and 序の口 (“lowest ranking” /jonokuchi/).

  1. The kanji 預 “to deposit; temporary custody”

History of Kanji 預For the kanji 預 the left side of the seal style writing was 予 “roomy; extra,” which was used phonetically for /yo/. The right side 頁 was a man with a ceremonial hat or a “head.” How they came to mean “to deposit; leave something for a temporary custody” is not clear, perhaps it signified an act that one does for future purpose. The kanji 預 means “to leave for a temporary custody; deposit.” <Composition of the kanji 預:  予 and 頁>

The kun-yomi 預ける /azuke’ru/ means “to deposit; leave for temporary custody” and its intransitive counterpart 預かる /azuka’ru/ means “to keep; take care of.” The on-yomi /yo/ is in 預金 (“bank deposit; saving in a bank” /yokin/).

  1. The kanji 幻 “illusion; magic”

History of Kanji 幻The ancient writing for the kanji 幻 was the upside down image of 予, showing the thread coming out at the top. Pulling a shuttle in the wrong way caused confusion in weaving, signifying something that was not correct or real, thus “illusion.” Very clever!  The kanji 幻 means “illusion; magic.”

The kun-yomi 幻 /maboroshi/ means “illusion.” The on-yomi /gen/ is in 幻想的な (“fantastic; visionary” /gensooteki-na/) and 幻覚 (“hallucination” /genkaku/).

  1. The kanji 互 “each other; alternately”

History of Kanji 互For the kanji 互 the seal style writing was “a tool to make a rope by twisting threads alternately from two of more sides.” The kanji 互 means “each other; alternately.”

The kun-yomi 互い /tagai/ means “mutual; each other” and is in 互い違い (“alternate” /tagaichi’gai/). The on-yomi /go/ is in 交互に (“alternately” /ko’ogo-ni/), 相互の (“mutual” /so’ogo-no/), 互角の (“well-matched; equal” /gogaku-no/) and 互換性 (“compatibility” /gokansee/).

History of Kanji 彔The component 彔 – The right side 彔 of the kyuji for the kanji 緑 and 録 had its own history as shown on the right. It was a twisting devise for wringing wet threads or drilling a piece of wood, creating spills around. It was phonetically /roku/.

10. The kanji 緑 “green”
History of Kanji 緑For the kanji 緑 (a) in oracle bone style and (c) in the styles found in documents, in gray, and (d) in seal style had a skein of threads (糸). The right side was a twisting devise for wringing wet threads or drilling a piece of wood, creating spills around or sawdust. It was also used phonetically for /roku/ to mean “green.” A skein of threads that was green gave the meaning “green.” The kanji 緑 means “color of green.” <Composition of the kanji 緑: 糸, ヨ with a long stroke and 氺>

The kun-yomi 緑 /mi’dori/ means “green.” The on-yomi /ryoku/ is in 緑化運動 (“tree-planting drive” /ryokka-u’ndoo/) and 新緑 (“fresh green; new leaves in spring” /shinryoku/), 常緑樹 (“evergreen tree” /jooryoku’ju/) and 緑茶 (“green tea” /ryokucha/). Another on-yomi /roku/ is in 緑青 (“copper green rust; verdigris patina” /rokusho’o/).

  1.  The kanji 録 “to record”

History of Kanji 録For the kanji 録, in seal style 金 “metal” and 彔 “green” together meant greenish color of bronze ware, on which record of important events were cast, and was used phonetically for /roku/ “to record.” The kanji 録 means “records; to record.” <Composition of the kanji 録: 金, ヨ with a long stroke and 氺>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /roku/ is in 記録 (“record” /kiroku/), 目録  (“catalogue; inventory” /mokuroku/), 実録 (“papers; authentic record” /jitsuroku/), 回顧録 (“memoirs” /kaiko’roku/), 議事録 (“minutes; proceeding of meeting” /giji’roku/) and 登録 (“registration” /tooroku/).

  1. The kanji 克 “to overcome”

History of Kanji 克The kanji 克 had a stream of records from the ancient times. How we interpret them is another matter. One view is that (a) and (b) in oracle bone style (c) in bronze ware style was “a curved knife with a large handle at the top and that a handgrip on the side that was used to core out.” (d) in Old style showed that it had saw-dust. The writing was borrowed to mean “to overcome.” Another view is that the ancient writings was a person with a heavy helmet, sitting with his legs bent and enduring the weight. In this account the kanji shape 克 is explained as a person (兄) with a helmet. In my view whichever appeals to you for your study should be fine. The kanji 克 means “to overcome.” <Composition of the kanji 克: a short 十 and 兄>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koku/ is in 克服 (“to overcome” /kokuhuku-suru/), 克己心 (“self-control” /kokki’shin/), 克明な (“scrupulous; minute” /kokumee-na/) and 下克上 “social upheaval; junior dominating senior” /gekoku’joo/).

I expect that we shall have a couple or three more posts on kanji that originated from a tool. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [December 16, 2017]

The Kanji 即既憤概・会曽増層憎僧贈- Food (2)


Last week we started exploring kanji that originated food and kitchen, etc. In this second article, two groups of kanji are looked at: The first group is 即既慨概, which contained “food in a raised bowl.” In addition to that three of them contained 旡 “someone with full stomach.” The second group – 会曽層増憎僧贈 – came from “layers in a food steamer” for its meaning and sound.

  1. The kanji 即 “immediate; to accede to the throne; namely”

History of Kanji 即For the kanji 即 in (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, the left side was “food in a raised bowl,” and the right side was “a person about to take a seat to eat.” A person about to do something gave the meaning “at once; immediately.” The sense of immediacy was also used to mean “accession to a throne” (it happens immediately after a predecessor’s death). The kyuji 卽, (e) in blue, comprised 皀 (often explained as “a bowl of food” and “a spoon” (ヒ)), and 卩 “a kneeling person.” In shinji the left side became the bottom of a bushu shokuhen. The kanji 即 means “immediate; instance; to accede to the throne; namely.”

The kun-yomi 即ち /suna’wachi/ means “namely; just; precisely.” The on-yomi /soku/ is in 即時 (“immediate; prompt” /so’kuji/), 即位 (“enthrone” /so’kui/), 即席 (“instant; impromptu” /sokuseki/), 即興 (“improvised amusement” /sokkyoo/) and 即死 (“instant death” /sokushi/).

  1. The kanji 既 “already”

History of Kanji 既For the kanji 既, in (a) and (b) in oracle bone style a person who knelt down in front of food was turning his face away from the food to indicate that he had had enough food. His open mouth is interpreted as belching because of his full stomach. “Having finished eating” gave the meaning “already.” In (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style the two components swapped the positions. In (d) the right side was the reversed shape of 欠 in seal style and became 旡 /ki/ in kanji to mean “full of.” (The kanji 欠 “lack of” and 旡 “full of” had a reverse meaning of each other” in its origin.) The kanji 既 means “already; to be finished.”

The kun-yomi 既に /su’deni/ means “already.” The on-yomi /ki/ is in 既存の (“existing” /kison-no/), 既出 (“aforementioned; previously covered” /kishutsu/), 既婚 (“married” /kikon/), 既製服 (“ready-made clothes; off-the shelf clothing” /kise‘ehuku/), 既成事実 (“an established fact” /kiseeji’jitsu/) and 皆既日食 (“total solar eclipse” /kaiki-ni’sshoku/).

  1. The kanji 慨 “to lament; deplore; grieve over”

FHistory of Kanji 慨or the kanji 慨, the seal style writing comprised “heart,” and 既 “a person looking backward with an open mouth.” A heart full of emotions signified “to lament; grieve over,” and was used phonetically for /gai/. The kanji 慨 means “to lament; deplore; grieve over.”

The on-yomi /gai/  is in 憤慨 (“resentment; indignation” /hungai/) and 感慨 (“strong feelings; deep emotion” /kangai/).

  1. The kanji 概 “roughly; in general”

History of Kanji 概For the kanji 概, in the seal style writing the top 既 was used phonetically for /gai/, and the bottom meant 木 “tree; wood.” Together they originally meant “a wooden strickle – a rod to level off a heaped measure.” Leveling off grains indicated “roughly equal.” The kanji 概 means “roughly; in general.”

The on-yomi /gai/ is in 大概 (“almost; mostly; for the most part; probably; all probability” /taigai/), 概説 (“a rough summary; a rough sketch; brief account” /gaisetsu/), 概観 (“general view; general survey” /gaikan/ and 概要 (“outline; summary; resume” /gaiyoo/).

  1. The kanji 会 “to meet”

History of Kanji 会For the kanji 会 the oracle bone style writing comprised “a crossroad” (彳), “a container with a lid” (合), signifying “to fit; meet,” and “a footprint” at the bottom. Together they meant “to go on foot to meet (someone).” In bronze ware style and seal style it had “a food steamer with a lid with layers of steaming trays” and “a cooking stove” at the bottom. The crossroad disappeared. The kyuji 會 reflected seal style. The shinji 会 is the simplified form with 云 (a shape that is used in place of a complex shape) under 𠆢 “a cover.” The kanji 会 means “to meet; meeting; association.”

The kun-yomi 会う /a’u/ means “ to meet,” and is in 出会う (“to encounter” /dea’u/). The on-yomi /kai/ is in 会合 (“meeting” /kaigoo/), 会議 (“conference; meeting” /ka’igi/), 会計 (“accounts; bill; check” /kaikee/), 会話 (“conversation” /kaiwa/) and in the expression 会心の笑み (“smile of satisfaction” /kaishin-no-e-mi’/). nother on-yomi /e/ is in 会釈 (“a bow” /e’shaku/) and会得する (“to grasp; understand” /etoku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 曽 “formerly; great-grand (father)”

History of Kanji 曽For the kanji 曽, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style was “a steamer” from which steam was rising (八) at the top. A steamer had layers of trays or baskets, and from that it meant “to layer; layered.” The kyuji 曾, (d), reflected (c) in seal style, and became simplified to 曽 in shinji, changing ハ to a truncated ソ, 田 and曰. It was also borrowed to mean “once; on one occasion; formerly” or “three generations ago.” The kanji 曽 means “to lay something on top of another; formerly.”

The kun-yomi /katu/ is in 曽て (“formerly; once” /ka’tsute/). The on-yomi /soo/ is in 曽祖父 (“great-grandfather” /sooso-hu/) and曾孫 (“great-grandchild” /sooson/).

  1. The kanji 層 “layer”

History of Kanji 層For the kanji 層 the seal style comprised 尸 , a bushu shikabane “roof,” and 曾 “layers; to add” and was used phonetically for /soo/. Something in multiple levels meant “stratum.” It is also used for “class of people.” The kyuji 層, 2, reflected 1. The kanji 層 means “layer; stratum.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 層になる (“to become the layer” /so’o-ni-naru/), 断層 (“fault; dislocation; a gap; difference” /dansoo/) and 階層 (“class; rank; level in society” /kaisoo/).

  1. The kanji 増 “to increase; add”

History of Kanji 増For the kanji 増the seal style writing comprised 土 “dirt; soil,” and 曾 “layer; to add,” which was used phonetically for /soo/. Together adding soil to existing layers meant “to increase.” The kyuji 增, 2, was simplified to 増. The kanji 増 means “to add; increase.”

The kun-yomi 増す /masu/ means “to increase.”  Another kun-yomi /huya’su/ 増やす (transitive verb) and 増える /hue’ru/ (intransitive verb) are “to increase; add.” The on-yomi /zoo/ is 増加 (“increase” /zooka/), 増水 (“the rise of a river; flooding” /zoosui/), 倍増 (“redoubling” /baizoo/) and 増長する (“to grow impudent; become presumptuous; be puffed up (with pride)” /zoochoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 憎 “to hate”

History of Kanji 憎For the kanji 憎 the seal style writing comprised “heart,” which became , a bushu risshinben, and 曾 “layers; to add,” which was used phonetically for /zoo/. Together “certain emotions that accumulated” gave the meaning “hate.” The kyuji 憎, 2, became shinji 憎. The kanji 憎 means “to hate; detest; abhor; hateful.”

The kun-yomi 憎む /niku’mu/ means “to hate,” and is in 憎しみ (“hatred; animosity; bad blood” /nikushimi/) and 憎い (“detestable; annoying; fantastic; remarkable” /niku’i/). The on-yomi /zoo/ is in 憎悪 (“hatred” /zo’oo/) and 愛憎 (“love and hatred” /aizoo/).

  1. The kanji 僧 “monk”

History of Kanji 僧For the kanji 僧 the seal style writing comprised “a person,” and 曾, which was used phonetically for /soo/. The writing was used as a phonetic rendition of the Buddhism word sampha in Sanskrit. The kanji 僧 means “monk; priest.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 僧侶 (“monk” /so’oryo/).

  1. The kanji 贈 “to give; present”

History of Kanji 贈For the kanji 贈 the seal style writing comprised 貝 “cowry” signifying “valuable; monetary value,” and 曾 “layers; to add,” which was used phonetically for /soo; zoo/. Giving a present was an act of one conferring or giving a valuable item to another person. The kyuji 贈, 2, was simplified to 贈. The kanji 贈 means “to give; present.”

The kun-yomi 贈る /okuru/ means “to give (a gift).” The on-yomi /zoo/ is in 贈答品 (“gift” /zootoohin/) and 寄贈する (“to contribute; donate” /kazoo-suru/).

The second group会曽層増憎僧贈 is rather straight forward — The common component (曽) was used phonetically for /so; soo; zoo/ as well as to mean “to add; layer.” With , a bushu shikabane 層 means “stratum; level”; with 土, a bushu tsushiben 増 means “to add”; with, a bushu risshinben, 憎 means “hatred”; with イ, a bushu ninben, 僧 means “monk”; and with 貝means a bushu kaihen “to give a present,” and even in kanji会, with 𠆢, a bushu hitoyane 會, in kyuji.

There are many more kanji that originated from things in kitchen and we shall be exploring them in the next few postings.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [August 26, 2017]

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 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 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]