The Kanji 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録-かねへん(2)


This is the second post on kanji that have a bushu kanehen 金 “metal.” We are going to look at the kanji 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣監鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録.

  1. The kanji 鈴 “bell; chime”

History of Kanji 鈴For the kanji 鈴, the bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b) in green, in ten style writing, (c) in red, had 金 “metal” on the left. On the right side was a person under a roof bending his back low or kneeling, which would become the kanji 令 “order,” used phonetically for /ree/. (a) had a prayer box in front of this person, suggesting that he was praying. A metal object that called for a god was a “bell.” The kanji (d) is in Mincho style whereas (e) is in textbook writing style. In the last post we also looked at another kanji that meant “bell; chime” – the kanji 鐘. The kanji 鐘 /kane/ is a bigger bell and 鈴 /suzu/ is a small bell, both of which called for the attention of a god.

The kun-yomi 鈴 /suzu/ means “(small) bell.” The on-yomi /re’e/ is in 予鈴 (“first bell; warning bell” /yoree/). Another on-yomi /ri’n/ is in 風鈴 (“wind chime” /huurin/), 呼び鈴 (“bell (to get an attention); doorbell” /yobirin/).

  1. The kanji 銘 “to inscribe”

History of Kanji 銘For the kanji 銘, in bronze ware style and ten style the left side was 金 “metal.” The right side was 名 “name” and was used phonetically for /me’e/. From “name inscribed in bronze” it meant “to inscribe.” What was inscribed in metal/bronze was important names and words, and in Japanese it also means “famed.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 銘柄 (“brand; stock issue” /meegara/), 感銘 (“profound impression” /kanmee/), 正真正銘の (“true; genuine; authentic” /shooshinshoomee-no/) and 肝に銘じる (“to engrave advice on one’s heart; take to heart” /kimo’-ni meejiru/).

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; links”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, in ten style the left side was “metal” and the right side was small cowry shells (貝) strung together (the top), and was also used phonetically for /sa/. Together they meant “chain” and “being closed by a chain.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain; link.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 連鎖 (“chain; links” /rensa/), 封鎖 (“blockage” /fuusa/), 閉鎖 (“closing; chutdown” /heesa/) and 鎖国 (“national seclusion” /sakoku/).

  1. The kanji 鋭 “sharp”

History of Kanji 鋭For the kanji 鋭, the ten style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically. Setsumon also gave the left one, in purple, as its old writing, 古文 /kobun/. The left writing was a scene of a fire burning high in a kiln or furnace (on the left) to make a sharp sword or knife. The kanji 鋭 means “sharp.”

The kun-yomi 鋭い /surudo’i/ means “sharp.” The on-yomi /e’e/ is in 鋭利な (“sharp” /e’eri-na/), 鋭角 (“acute angle” /e’ekaku/) and 精鋭 (“the best pick of; elite” /seeee/).

  1. The kanji 鈍 “blunt; dull; slow”

History of Kanji 鈍For the kanji 鈍, the left side 金 was “metal,” and the right side 屯 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 純屯 came from a fringe of woven fabric that was tied in a knot. We can see what 屯 looked like in bronze style writings of the kanji 純 “pure”(from tufts of pure silk) shown on the right. The roundness of a knot signified “not sharp.” Together they meant “dull; blunt; slow.”
The kun-yomi /nibu’i/ means “dull.” The on-yomi /do’n/ is in 鈍感 (“insensibility; thick-skinned” /donkan/), 鈍行 (“a slow train; local train” /donkoo/), 鈍化する (“to become blunt; slow down” /do’nka-suru/) and 鈍器 (“blunt object” /do’nki/).

  1. The kanji 釣 “to fish; change”

History of Kanji 釣For the kanji 釣, the right side was 勺. 勺 was a “ladle,” something that scooped up (the dot was what was scooped up), or was a hook shape. 金 “metal” and 勺 “to scoop out; hook” together meant “to fish.” The kun-yomi 釣る /tsuru/ means “to fish; lure,” and is in 釣り (“fishing” /tsuri/) and 釣り合う “to match; equilibrate.” It is also used in words お釣り (“change money” /otsuri/) and 釣り銭 (“change money” /tsurisen/). お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment and how it came to be used for this meaning is not clear. お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment.

  1. The kanji 鑑 “model; mirror” and 監 “to observe; monitor”

The kanji 鑑 consists of 金, a bushu kanehen, and the kanji 監. So, let us look at 監 before 鑑.

The kanji 監 “to watch carefully; observe; monitor”

History of Kanji 監The oracle bone style writing for the kanji 監 was a vivid description of a person with a watchful eye kneeling down over a basin. In bronze ware style it became clearer that the basin had water – the extra short stroke right below the eye indicated water. Together they signified someone looking at himself carefully in the reflection of water. From that the kanji 監 meant “to watch carefully; observe; monitor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 監督 (“manager; supervisor; supervision” /kantoku/), 監視カメラ (“surveillance camera” /kanshika’mera/) and 監獄 (“prison; jail” /kangoku/).

History of Kanji 鑑Now let us look at the kanji 鑑. The bronze ware style writing (a) was the same as 監 above, whereas in (b) “metal” was added. Together metal and one looking at one’s own reflection meant “mirror.” It also meant something that one heeded as a shining model.

The kun-yomi 鑑 /kagami’/ means “mirror; model,” as in the expression ~を鑑とする (“to take ~ as one’s model” /~o kagami’to-suru/) in one’s ethics and action. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 鑑別する (“to discriminate; differentiate” /kanbetsu-suru/), 鑑定 (“expert judgment; appraisal” /kantee/) and 年鑑 (“yearbook; almanac” /nenkan/).

  1. The kanji 鏡 “mirror”

History of Kanji 鏡For the kanji 鏡, the right side 竟 was used phonetically for /kyo’o/ to signify “shape; scene.” With the left side 金 “metal” together, they meant “mirror.”

The kun-yomi /kagami’/ means “mirror.” The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 双眼鏡 (“binocular” /soogankyoo/), 老眼鏡 (“reading eye glasses” /roogankyoo/). Customarily a pair of eye glasses /me’gane/ is written as 眼鏡. The expression おめがねに適う (お眼鏡に適う) /o-megane-ni kana’u/ means “to suit your discerning eye or taste.”

  1. The kanji 釜 “rice cooker; pot”

History of Kanji 釜The kanji 釜 looks a little strange. It looks like the kanji 父 “father” and 金 “metal” coalesced into one. In bronze ware style, (a) had metal on the left. The right side was a hand holding a stick, which originally signified a “measuring tool.” What the left side of (b) signified is not clear to me. Setsumon gave two writings (c) and (d). (c) reflected the bronze ware style, which also became the kanji (e). The left side of (e) was a cooking pot or food storage, and the right side was used phonetically. The kanji 釜 meant “iron cooking pot.”

History of Kanji 父父 and 釜 — The kanji 釜 does not appear to be related to the meaning of “father” (父). On reflection, however, the origin of the kanji 父 also came from “a hand holding a stick to lead the family,” as shown on the right. So it looks like that both  父 and 釜 had “hand holding something” in their origins.

The kun-yomi 釜 /kama/ means “cooking pot: rice cooker,” and is in 茶釜 “an iron teakettle (used in the tea ceremony)” /chagama/) — a rather specialized object, nonetheless an important object in Japanese culture.

  1. The kanji 鎌 “sickle” and 兼 “to serve both”

The kanji 鎌 consists of a bushu kanehen 金 and the kanji 兼. So, let us look at the kanji 兼 first.

History of Kanji 兼The kanji 兼 — The ten style writing of 兼 had “two rice plants” (禾) held by “side-way hand” in the middle. Holding two in one hand meant “to have both.”

The kun-yomi 兼ねる /kane’ru/ means “to combine two things; possess both; serve both.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 兼任 (“holding two offices” /kenning/) and 兼用 (“serving both purposes” /ken-yoo/).

History of Kanji 鎌Now let us look at the kanji 鎌.  In ten style the left side 金 “metal” and the right side 兼 “two rice plants held by hand.” Together they signified a metal tool that one used to cut rice plants, a “sickle.”

The kun-yomi /ka’ma/ means “sickle.” The on-yomi /re’n/ is not commonly used in Japanese. Did you notice that the two word were different in the location of the word accent?  They are pronunced as 釜がある /kama-ga a’ru/ “There is a rice cooking pot.” and 鎌がある /ka’ma-ga aru/ “There is a sickle.”

Other Joyo kanji that contain 兼 include 謙 as in 謙譲語 (“humble style word” /kenjoogo/) and 嫌 “dislike” as in 嫌い (“to dislike” /kirai/).

  1. The kanji 鉱 “ore”

History of Kanji 鉱The kanji 鉱 had the kyujitai 鑛, and the right side was used phonetically for /ko’o/. In ten style the left side was 石 “rock” rather than 金. In the kanji 礦 it has 金. 礦 and 鑛 were used interchangeably before for “ore,” –a solid rock from which metal is extracted. The writing in purple on the left is interpreted as two persons protecting an area that had valuable ore. The kanji 鉱 means “ore.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉱石 (“ore; mineral” /ko’oseki/), 炭鉱 (“coal mine” /tankoo/) and 溶鉱炉 (“smelting blast furnace” /yooko’oro/).

  1. The kanji 録 “record”

History of Kanji 録The right side of the kanji 録 was used phonetically for /roku/. Setsumon explained it as “the color of bronze (金の色),” which was bluish green. (Related to this, the kanji 緑 “green,” whose on-yomi is /roku/ or /ryoku/, shared the same right side component.)  The inscription on bronze ware gave the meaning “to record” (Shirakawa).

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ro’ku/ is in 記録 (“record” /kiroku/), 議事録 (“minutes of a meeting” /giji’roku/), 録音 (“sound recording” /rokuon/) and ビデオ録画 (“video recording” /bideoro’kuga/).

There are several more Joyo kanji that contain a bushu kanehen, including 錯 “to mix; error,” 錦 “brocade; pretty cloth,” 錬 “to refine; kneed,” 鍋 “cooking pot” and 銃 “firearms; gun.”

With this post we leave the topic of inanimate objects in nature. In the next post we will start looking at kanji that originated from animals and plants in nature. Thank you for your reading. -Noriko [July 2, 2016]

The Kanji 金全銅同銀鉄鋼針銭-かねへん(1)


In this and next posts we are going to look at kanji that contain 金 the bushu kanehen “metal.” There are quite a large number of kanji with a kanehen among the Joyo kanji. There seem to be no oracle bone style samples of any kanji for the shape 金.

  1. The kanji 金 “metal; gold; money”

History of Kanji 金The generally accepted explanation of the kanji 金 is the Setsumon’s explanation that the top originated with 今, which was used phonetically for /kin/, and that the bottom was glistening metal nuggets in soil. I imagined a scene in nature or a mine with a roof. (In this blog, oracle bone style writing is shown in brown, bronze style writing is in green, and ten style writing is in red.) I would like to add another explanation (proposed by Shirakawa) – it was the composite of another kanji 全 and pieces of copper for casting. To understand this, the history of the kanji 全 is useful. So let us make a detour to look at the origin of the kanji 全.

The kanji 全 “complete; to fulfill”

History of Kanji 全For the kanji 全, the Setsumon’s explanation for (c) was that it consisted of a bushu hitoyane and 工. It also explained it earlier shapes, (a) and (b), as flawless perfect jewels or gems (王 is the same as 玉 “jewel; gem”). From that the kanji 全 meant “complete; perfect; to fulfill.” Shirakawa explained (a) as 佩玉 /haigyoku/ “gems strung together worn by a noble on the waist in a ceremony.” In this view the whole kanji was a single image of the jewelry rather than a composite of two components.

The kun-yomi 全く/mattaku/ means “completely; entirely.” 全うする /mattoo-suru/ means “to fulfill one’s mission; accomplish one’s purpose.” The on-yomi /ze’n/ is in 全部 (“whole; all” /ze’nbu/), 全体 (“the whole; entirely” /zentai/), 完全に (“completely; perfectly” /kanzen-ni/).

Now back to the kanji 金. In ancient times in China “metal” referred to bronze. It makes sense that the term 金文 is translated as “bronze ware style writing” in kanji history. Five kinds of metal were named by their color —黄金, from “yellow metal,” meant gold [金]: 黒金, from “black metal,” meant iron [鉄] ; 白金, from “white metal,” meant silver [銀]; 赤金, from “red metal,” meant copper [銅]; and 青金, from “blue metal,” meant lead [鉛].

The kun-yomi 金 /kane/ means “metal,” and is in お金 /okane/ meaning “money,” 金持ち “rich; wealthy” /kanemo’chi/). /-Gane/ is in 有り金 (“money left” /arigane/), and 黄金 (“golden; gold” /kogane/). /Kana-/ is in 金物 (“metal” /kanamono/). The on-yomi 金 /ki’n/ is a kan-on and means “gold,” and is in 借金 (“debt; borrowing money” /shakki’n/), 金属 (“metal” /ki’nzoku/), 金髪 (“blond hair” /kinpatsu/). Another on-yomi /kon or gon/ is a go-on and is in 黄金 (“golden” /oogon/). The word 金色 is read in two way — /kin-iro/ “golden” in kan-on reading; and /konjiki/ “golden” in go-on reading.

  1. The kanji 銅 “copper”

History of Kanji 銅For the kanji 銅, the bronze ware style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically for /do’o/ to mean “red.” Together they meant “red metal” (赤金), which is “copper.” The kanji 銅 means “copper.” When 金 is used on the left side it is called a bushu kanehen. Bronze is 青銅, which is a yellowish brown color but when rusted 銅 becomes greenish blue (緑青 “verdigris” /rokusho’o/).

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /do’o/ means “cupper” and is in 赤銅色 (“reddish dark color” /shakudooiro/), 青銅器 (“bronze ware” /seedo’oki/), 銅像 (“bronze statue” /doozoo/).

The kanji 同 “same; identical”

History of Kanji 同The right side of the kanji 銅 is the kanji 同 “same.” In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it had a piece of board at the top and a hole at the bottom. A hole that went through boards enabled them to become one, which signified “the same.” In ten style, a part of the board became a line inside. The kanji 同 means “same; identical.”

  1. The kanji 銀 “silver”

History of Kanji 銀(frame)This kanji has been discussed over two years ago in the post Eyes Wide Open (4) 限, 眼, 根, 恨, 痕, 銀 and 退 on April 7, 2014. The ten style writing of the kanji 銀 had “metal” on the left. The right side was used phonetically to mean “white.” “White metal” (白金) meant “silver.” (In modern use, 白金 means platinum.) For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 鉄 “iron”

History of Kanji 鉄黒金 “black metal” meant “iron.” The kanji 鉄 had a kyujitai 鐵, which came from ten style. In ten style the left side was metal; the center and right side together were used phonetically to mean “reddish black.” Together they meant “metal that becomes red when rusted,” which was “iron.” In shinjitai, the right side became the kanji 失, which resembled the pre-ten style writing, in purple.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /tetsu/ means “iron.” It is in 鉄道 (“railroad; railway” /tetsudoo/), 私鉄 (“private railway” /shitetsu/), as in the nationally owned railway (国有鉄道 or 国鉄), which is now called JR (/jeea’aru/) after privatization in 1987, 地下鉄 (“subway; underground railway” /chikatetsu/), 鉄則 (“iron rule” /tessoku/), 鉄砲 (“gun; firearms” /teppoo/), 鉄火巻き (“sushi roll with pieces of raw tuna inside” /tekkamaki/), from the red color of heated iron and tuna.

  1. The kanji 鉛 “lead”

History of Kanji 鉛For the kanji 鉛, the left side was “metal,” and the right side was used phonetically for /e’n/ to mean “to flow along” (as in the kanji 沿 “to go along; follow”). Lead melts at a low temperature and runs quickly. From that the kanji 鉛 meant “lead.”

The kun-yomi /namari/ means “lead.” The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 亜鉛 (“zinc” /a’en/), 無鉛ガソリン (“unleaded gasoline” /muenga’sorin/).

  1. The kanji 鋼 “steel”

The kanji 鋼There is no ancient writing for the kanji 鋼. The left side 金 was “metal.” The right side 岡 meant “a hardy mold that had been baked at a high temperature.” Together “hard and strong metal/iron” meant “steel.“ Steel, a hard, strong, gray alloy of iron with carbon is used extensively as a structural and fabricating material.

The kun-yomi 鋼 /hagane/ means “steel.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉄鋼業 (“steel industry” /tekko’ogyoo/).

7. The kanji 針 “needle”

History of Kanji 針The orthodox writing (正字) for the kanji 針 was 鍼. The ten style writing of 鍼 had “metal” on the left, and the right side 咸 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 十This kanji is now used to mean “acupuncture,” an alternative pain treatment using needles. In shinjitai kanji 針, the 十 shape on the right side came from a needle with a bulge in the middle, as in the kanji 十 shown on the right. The kanji 針 means “needle.”

The kun-yomi /ha’ri/ means “needle,” and is 時計の針 (“clock hand” /tokee-no-ha’ri/) and 針金 (“thin wire” /harigane/). /-Bari/ is in 縫い針 (“sewing needle” /nuiba’ri/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 方針 (“guideline” /hooshin/), 秒針 (“second hand” /byooshin/) and メーター検針 (“inspection/reading of a meter” /meetaake’nshin/).

  1. The kanji 鐘 “bell”

History of Kanji 鐘The kanji 鐘 consists of a bushu kanehen and the kanji 童. We have looked at the unusual origin of the kanji 童 in the previous post [The Kanji 東動働重童 on January 6, 2015.] Here it was used phonetically for /do’o/ only. The bronze ware style writings (a) and (b) became (c) in ten style. Another ten style writing (d) was also given in Setsumon as an alternative. The kanji 鐘 means “bell.”

The kun-yomi 鐘 /kane/ means “bell.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 警鐘 (“alarm bell” /keeshoo/).

  1. The kanji 銭 “money”

History of Kanji 銭For the kanji 銭, the left side in ten style was “metal.” The right side had two halberds, 戔, giving the sound /se’n/ and also meant “shaving something thinner.” Together they originally meant a plough that had thin blades. There were plough-shaped coins. From that it meant “money.” The kyujitai 錢, in blue, reflected ten style. The shinjitai simplified the right side, and it means “money; small change; coin.”

The kun-yomi 銭 /ze’ni/ means “money,” and is in 小銭 (“small change” /kozeni/) and 身銭を切る (“to pay for from one’s own pocket” /mizeni-to-ki’ru/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 金銭 (“money” /ki’nsen/), 一銭 (“one-hundredth of a yen” /isse’n/), 守銭奴 (“miser; scrooge” /shuse’ndo/).

There are many more kanji with a bushu kanehen. We will continue with them in the next post. [June 25, 2016]