The Kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳- 木 “tree” (4)


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain 木. We are going to look at the kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳.

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹, the left side of one ten style writing, in red, had a drum on the left and a hand on the right. The sound of a drum expelled evil while planting seedlings and trees. Another view is that the left side was a tall-legged tray with branches at the top, and the right side was hand holding it. In the second ten style writing a tree was added. The kanji 樹 means “tree” or “to plant a tree.” It is also used to mean “to establish.”

The kun-yomi 樹 /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹木 (“tree” /ju’moku/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/), 樹立する (“to establish” /juritsu-suru) and 大樹 (“big tree” /ta’iju/) as in the expression 寄らば大樹の陰 “If you want shelter, choose a big tree; if you want to turn to someone, choose the powerful.” /yora’ba taiju-no ka’ge/).

  1. The kanji 橋 “bridge”

The right side 喬 of the kanji 橋 was used phonetically to mean “tall tower; tall structure.” Even though the kanji 喬 is not a Joyo kanji, it had earlier writings that 橋 did not have, so let us look at the history of the kanji 喬 first.

The kanji 喬 “high; tall”

History of Kanji 喬For the kanji 喬, the bottom of bronze ware style, in green, and ten style had a tower with an arch, which became the kanji 高 “high; tall” in other development. The question is what was the top because that presumably became the slanted short stroke. The Setsumon’s explanation of (d) was that 喬 was made up of 夭 and 高, and it meant “tall and tilted at the top.” (夭 came from “a person tilting his head.”) Referring to earlier writings in bronze ware style, Shirakawa says it was tree branches placed at the top of a tower gate as a spell to prevent evil from coming through.  No other reference that I have explains bronze ware style writings.

Well, I was hoping that the bronze style writing for 喬 would shed light on 橋, but it was not as I had hoped. The two bronze ware style writings (b) and (c) had something bent above a high tower, so it fits with the meaning of 喬 “high; tall.” 喬 appears in other kanji — 矯 in 歯の矯正 (“orthodontic treatment; correcting teeth” /ha’-no kyoosee/); 嬌 in 愛嬌 (“charm” /aikyo’o/); and 僑 in 華僑 (“Chinese expatriate; overseas Chinese” /ka’kyoo/).

History of Kanji 橋Back to our kanji 橋. The ten style writing for 橋 was 木 and 喬 together. The two component木 “wood” and 喬 “tall; high” together signified a bent wooden structure in a high place, that is a “bridge.” The kun-yomi 橋 /hashi’/ means ‘bridge,” and is in 橋渡しする (“to mediate” /hashiwatashi-suru/). The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 鉄橋 (“iron bridge” for railroad /tekkyoo/) and 歩道橋 (“pedestrian bridge” /hodookyoo/).

  1. The kanji 校 “school; to check”

Before we look at the kanji 校, let us look at the kanji 交 and 郊, which contain the right side of the kanji 校.

The kanji 交

History of Kanji 交For the kanji 交, the oracle bone style writing, in brown, showed a person crossing his legs. “Crossing legs” gave the meaning “to mix; cross; mingle.”

The kun-yomi 交わる /majiwa’ru/ means “to intersect; keep company.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 交通 (“traffic” /kootsuu/), 交換する (“to exchange” /kookan-suru/), 交互に (“alternately” /ko’ogo-ni/), 交代する(“to take turns” /kootai-suru/), 交流する (“to interchange; mingle” /kooryuu-suru/).

The kanji 郊 “suburb”

History of Kanji 郊The kanji 郊 could have been discussed earlier together with other kanji with a bushu oozato [The Kanji 都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと on November 8, 2015]. For the kanji 郊 in ten style the left side was 交 “to mix; mingle” and the right side was 邑 “village.” (The top signified an area and the bottom a person; together an area where there were people meant “village.”) The outskirts of a village are “surburbs.” The kanji 郊 meant “suburbs.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 郊外 (“suburbs” /ko’ogai/) and 近郊 (“outskirts; area close to town” /kinkoo/)

History of Kanji 校Now we are ready to look at the kanji 校. By adding 木 “wood” it created a totally different meaning — a pair of shackles over a prisoner’s ankles or neck. Crossing also gave the meaning “to check; compare.” A school is where knowledge gets exchanged between teachers and students, so 校 also meant “school.” Piling logs in an interlocking manner makes a wall, and a house. A military installation had a crossed-log wall or fence, and from that 校 was also used to mean “military officer.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 学校 (“school” /gakkoo/), 校舎 (“school building” /ko’osha/), 校正 (“proofreading” /koosee/) and 将校 (“commissioned officer” /sho’okoo/).

In Japan, 校倉造り “cross-log structure” is read as /azekurazu’kuri/. It was a building method in which triangle-shaped lumbers were assembled at both ends interlocking with another set. For Japanese the word azekurazukuri immediately takes us to the Shosoin Repository (正倉院 /shooso’oin/) in Todaiji Temple 東大寺 in Nara 奈良, which dates back to the mid-ninth century. In this photo of azekurazukuri, we can see how apt is the kanji 校 — which consisted of 木 “wood” and 交 “to cross; interlock”– to describe log-cabin style building for the then-existing Japanese word.

  1. The kanji 村 “village”

History of Kanji 村Here is another kanji for “village.” The kanji 村 originally was 邨. The left side of the ten style writing, 屯, “fringe,” was from threads gathered and tied, and signified “encampment; a band of people.” The right side 邑 was a village, as we have seen before. Together they meant “village.” The kanji 村 originally meant “field and villages,” but its use as “village” goes back a long time. The right side 寸 was used phonetically.

The kun-yomi 村 /mura’/ means “village.” The on-yomi /so’n/ is in 村長 (“village chief” /so’nchoo/), 農村 (“farming village” /nooson/), 漁村 (“fishing village” /gyoson/) and 市町村 (“cities, towns and villages” /shicho’oson/).

The next kanji is 枕. The kanji 枕 does not have an ancient writing earlier than ten style, but another kanji 沈 provides us with both oracle bone and bronze ware style samples. Let us look at the kanji 沈 first.

 5. The kanji 沈 “to sink; drop down”

History of Kanji 沈For the kanji 沈, the two oracle bone style writings had a sacrificial cow in a river for a rite. From that it meant “to sink; drop down.” The right side of the bronze ware style writing looks to me like a person with a bar across the neck. This reminds me of a yoke around the neck to indicate the center of a body in the origin of the kanji 央.  [The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑-Posture (1) on March 14, 2015.]

The kun-yomi 沈む /shizumu/ means “to sink.” The on-yomi /chi’n/ is in 沈下する (“to sink” /chinka-suru/), 沈殿 (“sedimentation” /chinden/), 沈黙 (“silence” /chinmoku/) and 意気消沈する (“to get discouraged greatly” /i’ki shoochin-suru/).

  1. The kanji 枕 “pillow”

History of Kanji 枕For the kanji 枕, the right side was used phonetically for /chi’n/. Shirakawa explains that the right side was a person lying down. Together a wooden item one used to sleep on meant a “pillow.” Kanjigen took its explanation for the kanji 沈 in the oracle bone style, referring to “a cow in river water.” It also says that the horizontal short line on the right side was a wooden piece to press down a person on the shoulder, and that something one used above the shoulder when lying down meant “pillow.”

The kun-yomi 枕 /ma’kura/ means “pillow; lead-in talk,” and is in 枕詞 (“set epithet” in classical Japanese poetry /makurako’toba/), 枕元 (“one’s bedside” /makura’moto/) and 腕枕する (“to use one’s arm as a pillow” /udema’kura-suru/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 桜 “cherry tree; cherry blossom”

History of Kanji 桜For the kanji 桜 in ten style, the right side was used phonetically. It signified a tree that bore small fruits like beads in a necklace (two 貝) that a woman wore. The fruit was called /yusura’ume/. In Japan it is used to mean /sakura/ “cherry (blossom) tree” for flower viewing. The kyujitai reflected ten style, but in shinjitai, the right top had been replaced by a simpler short katakana /tsu/ ツ. Cherry as a fruit is called /sakuranbo/.

The kun-yomi 桜 /sakura/ means “cherry tree; cherry blossom.” /-Zakura/ is in 夜桜 (“cherry-blossoms viewed in the evening” /yoza’kura/). Customarily 桜桃 “cherry” is read as /sakuranbo/.

  1. The kanji 松 “pine tree”

History of Kanji 松For the kanji 松 we have two ten style writings here. In (a) the right side 公 was phonetically used. The top of (b) had the shape of 容, but its role is not clear. 松 meant “pine tree.” Kadokawa explains that 公 was used phonetically to mean a pointed knife, and that a tree with pointed leaves meant pine tree. Kanjigen explains that 公 phonetically meant “letting through,” and that a tree with narrow leaves that left gaps was a pine tree. A pine tree is evergreen and grows tall and strong. In Japan pine trees are appreciated as auspicious trees. Customarily 松明 is read as /taimatsu/ and means “torch.” Pine and its resin burn well with bright light.

The kun-yomi /ma’tsu/ means “pine tree,” and is in 松林 “pine tree grove.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 松竹梅 (“pine-bamboo-plum auspicious arrangement” /shoochiku’bai/).

  1. The kanji 柳 “willow tree”

History of Kanji 柳For the kanji 柳 all three ancient writings consisted of a tree at the top and the shape that would become 卯 in kanji. What was the bottom shape, which eventually became the right side of the kanji 柳? The Kadokawa dictionary says that it was used phonetically and to mean “to flow” like 流, and that branches swinging in the wind were a “willow tree.” Kanjigen explains that the right side was the original writing for 留, which meant to stop everything from slipping, and that the kanji 柳 meant the leaves were slipping like they were flowing. Shirakawa treated it as phonetic use of 留.

The kun-yomi /yanagi/ means “willow tree.” The on-yomi /ryuu/ is in 川柳 (“senryu verse, 5-7-5- syllable comical verse” /se’nryuu/). The proverb 柳の下にどじょうは二匹いない /yanagi-no-shita’-ni dojoo-wa ni’hiki inai” means “you cannot expect the same luck simply because you got it before; a fox isn’t caught twice in the same snare.”

Other kanji that contain 木 that we have already discussed include: 材・相・想・箱・植・根・枚・板・構・栄・検・親・梅. A click on “Previous Posts and Search” on the front page will take you to any of these kanji. In the next post we are going to move onto another shape, most likely a bushu kurakanmuri “plants.”  [August 6, 2016]

The Kanji 業乗楽薬林森条査染机案極 – 木 “tree” (3)


In the last two posts, we explored kanji that originated from “tree.” In all of these kanji (休本体末抹朱株 and 未妹味昧制製果課裸菓, except 休) the shape 木 for “tree” was sort of hidden in a different shape. I would like to add a couple more to this group–業乗. We then start exploring kanji in which 木 appears as it is as a bottom or left component –楽薬林森条査染机案極.

  1. The kanji 業 “work; skills; deed; act”

History of Kanji 業For the kanji 業, the top of (a) in bronze ware style, in green, and ten style (c), in red, had notches to hang a number of musical instruments, and the bottom was its stand. This view came from Setsumon and is the prevalent view in references. The fact that such a stand became writing suggests the importance of musical instruments in a ceremony and religious rite in ancient times. It came to be used to mean “skills; work; one’s deed.” On the other hand Shirakawa takes the view that it was wooden frames that were used to ram dirt down to make a strong foundation or wall, and that from those boards in construction 業 came to mean “work” in general. In Buddhism it is used for “karma” from the Sanskrit word that meant “deed; act.”

The kun-yomi 業 /waza’/ means “work; deed; act,” and is in 仕業 (“one’s doing; act” /shiwaza/). The on-yomi /gyo’o/ is in 工業 (“manufacturing industry” /ko’ogyoo/), 産業 (“industry” /sangyoo/), 業務 (“work; service” /gyo’omu/), 授業 (“class; lecture” /ju’gyoo/). Another on-yomi 業 /goo/ means (“karma; inevitable retribution”).

  1. The kanji 乗 “to climb; ride”

History of Kanji 乗(frame)We looked at the kanji 乗 exactly two years ago in connection with “foot.” [One Foot at a Time (3) 無舞乗 on July 20, 2014.] The oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style writings was a man standing on top of a tree with his two feet anchored outward for a sure foothold. It meant “to ride, to get aboard.” There is another interpretation for the two feet in the ten style writing – two people (ヒ) were sitting on a tree. The kyujitai writing, in blue, reflected ten style. In shinjitai, the two feet, or people, lost their shape and became short lines. For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 楽 “music; pleasant; enjoyable; comfortable”

History of Kanji 楽There are different views on what the top of the kanji 楽 originated from — a swing drum on a stand (Setsumon); bells with a handle which had ornamental threads on both sides (Shirakawa); a string instrument, from a fingernail (白) plucking two strings of threads (幺) (Kadokawa); and acorns on a kunugi tree that were used phonetically to mean “fun; to enjoy.” A musical instrument making pleasant rhythmic sounds meant “music; pleasant; enjoyable; comfortable.” The kyujitai writing 樂 reflected ten style but it was simplified to 楽 in shinjitai.

The kun-yomi 楽しい /tanoshi’i/ means “enjoyable,” and is in 楽しみにする (“to look forward to” /tanoshi’mi-ni-suru/). The on-yomi /ga’ku/ is in 音楽 (“music” /o’ngaku/). Another on-yomi /raku/ is in 気楽な (“carefree; easygoing” /kiraku-na/) and 楽々と (“with great ease” /rakura’ku-to/).

  1. The kanji 薬 “medicine; pharmaceutical”

History of Kanji 薬The kanji 薬 has a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; plant life; vegetation” on top of the kanji 楽. The bottom 楽 was used phonetically for /raku/ to mean “medicinal herb.” Together they meant “medicine; pharmaceutical.” Just like 樂, 薬 was simplified to 薬

The kun-yomi /kusuri/ means “medicine; herbal medicine,” and is in 薬屋 (“pharmacy; drug store” /kusuriya/). /-Gusuri/ is in 飲み薬 (“internal medicine” /nomigu’suri/) and 目薬 (“eye drop” /megu’suri/). The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 薬品 (“medicine; chemicals” /yakuhin/).

The next two kanji are self-explanatory –林森.

  1. The kanji 林 “wooded area”

History of Kanji 林In all the ancient writings in three styles shown on the left, it had two trees side by side. They meant “woods; grove.” When 木 is placed on the left side of a kanji, it is a bushu kihen, and the fourth stroke becomes short.

The kun-yomi /hayashi/ means “wooded area; grove.” The on-yomi /ri’n/ is in 林立する (“to stand close together”/rinritsu-suru/), as in 高層ビルが林立する (“crowded with high-rise buildings” /koosoobi’ru-ga rinritsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 森 “forest”

History of Kanji 森In oracle bone style the kanji 森 had three trees, either in a triangle shape or side by side. A lot of trees meant “forest.” Deep in a forest also gave the meaning “mystic.”

The kun-yomi /mori/ means “forest.” The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 森林 (“forest” /shinrin/). The phrase 森羅万象 /shi’nra banshoo/ means “all things in nature.”

  1.  The kanji 条 “line; streak”

History of Kanji 条The kanji 条 had the kyujitai 條. The ten style writing had quite a few discrete items– the left side was a person; the middle vertical line was water trickling down; and the right side had a hand holding a stick at the top and (a branch of) a tree. In an earlier post on the bushu bokuzukuri/bokunyoo [Kanji Bushu ぼくづくり攵・攴(1) 改攻枚教 on October 18, 2014], we saw that “a hand holding a stick” became a bushu bokuzukuri/bokubyoo (攴・攵) and meant “action; to cause an action.” In ten style all the components together made up the meaning of “a standing person being purified with water sprinkled  by shaking a twig of a tree.” From “trickle of water” it meant a long thin lines or a sentence line in a document such as a section or article of law. In shinjitai, curiously the line for water trickling down that meant “line” disappeared together with a person. Only the right side remained, but even then 攵 changed to 夂 “backward.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 条件 (“condition” /jooke’n/), 条約 (‘treaty” /jooyaku.), 条例 (“ordinance; regulations” /jooree/), 一条の光 (“a ray of light” /ichi’joo-no hikari/) 憲法九条 (article 9 of the Japanese Constitution) and the phrase 金科玉条 (“golden rule” /ki’nka gyokujoo/).

  1. The kanji 査 “to inspect”

査(kanji)査 was not discussed in Setsumon. In kanji, the bottom 且 was used phonetically for /sa/. The use of 査 to mean “to examine” was said to have come from a dialectal use or borrowing.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa/ is in 検査 (“inspection” /ke’nsa/), 査定 (“assessment” /satee/), 査証 (“visa” /sashoo/), 審査 (“examination; investigation” /shi’nsa/), 調査 (“survey; investigation” /cho’osa/) and 巡査 (“police constable” /junsa/).

  1. The kanji 染 “to dye”

History of Kanji 染The ten style of the kanji 染 had “water; liquid” on the left side. The right side was wilted leaves and a tree, signifying tree extract to dye. Together soaking fabric in tree extract liquid meant “to dye.” The kanji 染 meant “to dye.”

The kun-yomi 染める /someru/ means “to dye.” In Japan it is also used for 染みる (“to soak; permeate” /shimiru/, as in 心に染みる (“to sink into one’s heart” /kokoro’-ni shimiru/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 染色 (“dyeing” /se’nshoku/), 染料 (“dye” /senryo’o/), 感染 (“infection” /kansen/) and 汚染 (“contamination; pollution” /osen/).

  1. The kanji 机 “desk”

History of Kanji 机In ten style, the left writing was a low stand with a leg on two sides. It was also used as a stool to sit on or an armrest. The right ten style writing had “wood” on the left. A wooden low table became the kanji 机 “desk; writing table.”

The kun-yomi /tsukue/ means “desk,” and is in 文机 (“low writing table” /huzu’kue/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in the expression 机上の空論 (“a mere theory; an academic theory that cannot be put into practice” /kijoo-no-kuuron/).

  1. The kanji 案 “plan; proposal; to worry”

History of Kanji 案For the kanji 案, the top 安 was used phonetically for /a’n/. The bottom 木 “wood” signified a wooden table. (For the discussion of the kanji 安, please read the previous post [Kanji Radical 女 おんなへん – 女好妹要妻安 on November 23, 2014].) One thought about a matter in order to make a proposal at a desk. From that, it meant “plan; proposal; idea.” Sitting at a desk pondering for a long time also gave the meaning “anxious; to be worried.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /a’n/ is in 案を練る (“to work out a plan” /a’n-o ne’ru/), 立案する (“to make a proposal” /ritsuan-suru/), 案内 (“guide; showing around a place” /an-na’i/) and 案じる (“anxious; to worry” /anjiru/).

  1. The kanji 極 “extreme”

History of Kanji 極In bronze ware style, it was a person standing in a constricted space. In ten style, a tree was added on the left side. Setsumon treated 極 and 棟 as the “ridge beam” of a house. The room between the ridge beam and roof is very small. In ten style,  “wood” and a hand of another person pushing the standing person into a tight corner, and was used phonetically for /kyoku/ to mean “extreme.” Together they meant “extreme.”

The kun-yomi 極める /kiwame’ru/ means “to reach the end; go to the extreme,” and is in 極めて (“extremely; very” /kiwa’mete/). The on-yomi /kyo’ku/ is in 究極 (“extreme; limit” /kyuukyoku/), 極限 (“utmost limit” /kyokugen/), 極端に (“extremely” /kyokuta’n-ni/) and 南極 (“the Antarctic” /nankyoku/).

There are many more kanji that contain 木 “tree; wooden” in various positions of kanji. We will have one more posting on kanji with 木 next week.  Thank you very much. [July 30, 2016]

The Kanji 未妹味昧制製果課裸菓–“tree” (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from “tree.” The kanji we are going to look at are 未妹味昧・制製・果課裸菓.

In the last post, we looked at 末, which had a long horizontal stroke at the top that came from just a marking bulge called hiten pointing out the top of a tree. In contrast the kanji we are going to look at here first is 未, which had a short stroke at the top, but it actually came from a real line rather than just a symbol.

  1. The kanji 未 “not yet; still”

History of Kanji 未rIn the oracle bone style writings of 未 (a), in brown, there was an upward-facing U-shape line placed on a tree. It signified that the tree was growing with rigor and the limbs were even outgrowing the trunk. It originally meant “a tree growing strong.” In the second oracle bone sample (b), bronze ware style, (c) in green, and ten style, (d) in red, the top limbs were in a more well-formed shape. The original meaning “a tree growing strong” was borrowed, or came, to mean something that had not been completed. The writing 未 meant “not yet; still.”

The kun-yomi 未だ /mada/ means “not yet; still.” Another kun-yomi 未だに /imada-ni/ means “not yet; still.” The on-yomi /mi/ is in 未来 (“future” /mi’rai/), 未明 (“early morning; dawn” /mimee/), 未然に防ぐ (“to prevent beforehand” /mizen-ni huse’gu/).

  1. The kanji 妹 “younger sister”

History of Kanji 妹(frame)A long-time reader of this blog may recall reading such a story given in 1 above before in the kanji 妹 in the context of a bushu onnahen “woman; female.” [Kanji Radical おんなへん-女好妹要妻安 on November 23, 2914.]  A female member of a family who was still growing meant “younger sister.” The history is shown on the right in a green box. For sample words, please refer to the previous post.

  1. The kanji 味 “taste”

History of Kanji 味For the kanji 味, in ten style the left side 口 was a mouth and the right side 未 was used phonetically for /mi/ to mean “not yet; still.” Tasting something in the mouth is the process of trying to figure out what it is. It meant “taste.”

The kun-yomi /aji/ means “taste,” and is in 味見する “to taste for a try,” 塩味 (“salty taste” /shio’aji/), 後味の悪い (“leaving a bad aftertaste; feeling an unpleasant effect” /atoaji-no-waru’i/). The on-yomi /mi/ is in 味覚 (“taste bud” /mikaku/) and 賞味期限 (“best before” date; food expiration date” /shoomiki’gen/). It is also used for other than food, such as 味方する (“to take someone’s side” /mikata-suru/), 興味ある (“interesting” /kyoomia’ru/) and 趣味 (“hobby; pastime” /shu’mi/).

  1. The kanji 昧 “self-absorption in something”

History of Kanji 昧The two kanji 味 and 昧 are easy to be confused in isolation. The kanji 昧 has a bushu hihen “sun” instead of a bushu kuchihen “mouth.” For the kanji 昧, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, the top was 未 “not yet,” and the bottom was “the sun.” The time before the sun rose was dark, and from that it meant “not clear.” When one is self-absorbed in something, he cannot see other things. In ten style (c), 日 and 未 were placed side by side. The kanji 昧 means “self-absorption; indulge.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ma’i/ is in 曖昧な (“ambiguous; vague” /aimai-na/). 三昧 /za’nmai/ means “being self-absorbed in doing somethingor indulgence,” and is always used with other words such as 読書三昧 (“indulgence in reading books” /dokushoz’nmai/) and 釣り三昧 (“self-indulgence in fishing” /tsuriza’nmai/).

Overgrown limbs (the origin of 未) have to be trimmed back neatly. That is what happened to the next two kanji, 制 and 製.

  1. The kanji 制 “to control; regulate”

History of Kanji 制In ten style for 制 the left side was exactly the same as that of 未, whose original meaning was “a tree growing strong.” The right side was “knife.” Together “trimming overgrowing limbs at the top with a knife or a pair of shears” meant “to put in order; control; regulate.” In kanji an extra short stroke was added to emphasize pruning. (In the last post in 朱 and 株, we saw a similar device of adding an extra short stroke on top left of a tree.) The right side became a bushu rittoo “vertical knife,” which is a bushu shape when 刀 “knife; sword” was placed on the right side of kanji. The kanji 制 means “to put in order; control; regulate.”

  1. The kanji 製

History of Kanji 製For the kanji 製, in ten style the top was pruning a tree with a pair of shears, which became the kanji 制 “to regulate.” A well-maintained tree signified something well-made. The bottom was “clothes” from “collar.” Together they signified “to make clothes.” The meaning extended to mean manufacturing a well-made product with precision. The kanji 製 means “to manufacture products of even quality; product; made in.”

The next four kanji 果課裸菓 share the same shape 果.

  1. The kanji 果 “fruit; end; to perish”

History of Kanji 果rIn bronze ware style, it was a tree with berries or fruits on top.The oddly elongated wtiting (b) may be due to a particular stylistic effect. It meant “nut; fruit; berry.” It also meant something that came to fruition, thus, “results.” In ten style (c) the dots were lost. In Japan this writing also meant “to perish; end.” Could it be because fruits and berries perish very quickly?  The kanji means “fruit; result; outcome; to perish; end; carry out.”

The kun-yomi /kuda/ is in 果物 (“fruit” /kuda’mono/). Another kun-yomi 果て /hate/ means “end; result,” and in the verb 果てる (“to perish; die; be exhausted ” /hate’ru/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 果実 (“fruit; fruition” /ka’jitsu/) and 結果 (“result” /kekka/).

  1. The kanji 課 “to impose; section; study subject”

History of Kanji 課 copyFor the kanji 課, in ten style the left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” The right side 果 was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to use; try.” Together they originally signified administering an employment exam. An applicant studied the materials and the examiner gave the test. An official examined the fee or levy, so it also extended to mean “charge.” The kanji 課 means  “section of study; lesson; to charge; impose.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 課する (“to levy; impose; assess” /kasu’ru/), 課目 (“subject of study” /kamoku/), 第三課 (“lesson 3” /da’i sa’nka/), 課題 (“assignment; question; problem” /kadai/), 課税 (“taxation”/kazee/) and 課長 (“section manager” /kachoo/).

  1. The kanji 裸 “bare; naked”

History of Kanji 裸For the kanji 裸, in the ten style writing 果 was phonetically used for /ka/, which was placed inside 衣 “clothes.” In the development of kanji, the shape of a component stayed in tact, not splitting up to allow other shape in between. There are some exceptions. 衣belonged to those exceptions, showing the back and front of a collar separately in some kanji. (The kanji 裏 “back; wrong side” is another example.) The role of 果 is not very clear in 裸 but some scholars think that smooth skin of a fruit and a body could be the connection. A body without clothes meant “bare; naked.”

The kun-yomi /hadaka/ means “naked; bare.” The on-yomi /ra/ is in 裸体 (“bare body” /ratai/), 全裸 (“completely naked” /zenra/) and 赤裸々な (“unvarnished; frank” /sekirara-na/).

  1. The kanji 菓 “sweets”

There is no ancient writing sample for the kanji 菓. Fruit was eaten as something sweet. The original writing for fruit, 果, came to have a wider meaning as discussed in 10, and a new kanji was created to mean “sweets” by adding a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; grass.” In Japan it originally meant “fruit processed with sugar,” and came to mean sweets that were made with bean or rice powder and sugar. The kanji 菓 means “sweets.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in お菓子 (“snack; sweets” /oka’shi/). /-Ga/ is in 和菓子 (“Japanese-style sweets” /waga’shi/) and 洋菓子 (“western-style sweets” /yooga’shi/) and 生菓子 (“Japanese unbaked sweets” /namaga’shi/).

There are more kanji that contain a shape that originated from a tree. We will look at those before we start looking at kanji with a bushu kihen “tree; wooden” in the next post. [July 17, 2016]

The Kanji 木休本体末抹朱株—”tree” (1)


We are going to explore the origin of kanji that were related to living things in nature, starting with a standing tree, 木. In some kanji the shape 木 was used as a bushu kihen, keeping the shape unchanged. In some kanji a new shape was created in ancient times by adding a bulge or dot to a standing tree. In this post, after we look at the kanji 木 and 休, we are going to look at those kanji that had different meanings by having a bulge at different positions on a single writing — a bulge at the bottom 本体; a bulge at the top 末抹; and a bulge in the center 朱株.

  1. The kanji 木 “tree; wood; wooden”

History of Kanji 木For the kanji 木 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a standing tree with big limbs stretching out upwards and downwards. When a tree is cut down it becomes wood. The kanji 木 meant “tree; wood; wooden.”

The kun-yomi 木 /ki’/ means “tree,” and is in 植木 (“garden tree” /ueki/). Another kun-yomi /ko/ is in 木立 (“a cluster of trees; grove” /ko’dachi/) and 木の葉 (“leaf” /ko’noha/ or /ki’noha/). The on-yomi /bo’ku/ is in 大木 (“big tree” /taiboku/). Another on-yomi /mo’ku/ is in 木曜日 (“Thursday” /mokuyo’obi/).

  1. The kanji 休 “rest; holiday; closed”

History of Kanji 休The most prevalent view of the origin of the kanji 休 is “a person leaning against a tree resting.” From that the kanji 休meant “to rest.” This explanation sounds convincing to us when we look at the kanji. However, this time when I was making a copy of ancient writings samples, the slightly bent top of the tree in the two bronze ware style writings, (c) and (d), puzzled me a little. It looked similar to 禾. Shirakawa offered an explanation for this. He said that the right side was not 木 but 禾. 禾 was explained as a sign placed on the gate of a military installation where a cease-fire ceremony was held (related to the kanji 和 “peace; harmony”). From this the writing 休 meant to conduct a peace-keeping negotiation at this gate. We will explore the meaning of 禾 when we look at a bushu nogihen later on.

The kun-yomi 休む /yasu’mu/ means “to rest; absent from work/school,” and is in 昼休み (“lunch break” /hiruya’sumi/), 一休み (“short break” /hito’yasumi/), 夏休み (“summer vacation” /natsuya’sumi/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 休憩 (“break” /kyuukee/), 休息 (“relaxation; respite” /kyuusoku/) and 運休 (“suspension of transportation service” /unkyuu/).

A “bulge” at three different locations on 木 “tree”

A bulge on a line in ancient writing is called 肥点 /hiten/. A hiten placed an emphasis on a particular part of writing and drew the viewer’s attention. It generally developed into a full line. We have a perfect set of three different uses of hiten on a single shape. Let us look at the role that a hiten played in oracle bone style and/or bronze ware style writings to differentiate the meanings.

  1. The kanji 本 “book; origin; base; true; serious”

History of Kanji 本For the kanji 本, in bronze ware style, the bottom or base of a tree trunk had a small bulge. That indicated that this writing was about the “base of a tree” or a basis of something that grew and branched out. A basis never changes, so it remains true. From that the kanji 本 meant “origin; base; true; serious.” In ten style, the bulge became a short horizontal line. It was also used to mean “book,” and as a counter for a long slender object.

The kun-yomi 本 /mo’to/ means “base; origin.” The on-yomi本 /ho’n/ means “book.” It is also in 本当の (“true” /hontoo-no/), 本気 (“serious; earnest” /honki/), 本州 (“main island; Honshu Island” /ho’nshuu/), 本人 (“person in question” /ho’nnin/). /Pon/ is in 一本 (“one long object” /i’ppon/), and /bo’n/ is in 三本 (“three long objects” /sa’nbon/).

  1. The kanji 体 “body; entity; style”

History of Kanji 体The shinjitai kanji 体 has the totally different kyujitai 體, in blue, which came from ten style. In ten style, it consisted of 骨 “bone” on the left, which had “vertebrae” at the top and 月 “flesh” at the bottom. The right side 豊 was used phonetically for /ho’o/ to mean “all.” Together they meant an entity with full bones and flesh, that was “body; entity.” It also meant “style.” The shinjitai consisted of イ, a bushu ninben, and 本 “base.” It is hard to connect 體 and 体 as belonging to the same writing, but 体 is believed to have been used as an informal writing for several centuries.

The kun-yomi 体 /karada/ means “body.” The on-yomi /tai/ is in 体重 (“one’s body weight” /taijuu/), 体積 (“volume; cubic volume” /ta’iseki/), 本体 (“main body; true form” /ho’ntai/), 一体化 (“unification; combining into a single unit” /ittaika/), 自治体 (“local government” /jichitai/). The other on-yomi /te’e/ is in 体裁 (“outward appearance” /teesai/), as in the expression 体裁が悪い (“not fit to be seen; in a bad form” /teesai-ga-waru’i/), and 有り体に言うと (“to put it crudely/bluntly” /aritee-ni-iu-to/).

  1. The kanji 末 “end; close”

History of Kanji 末The next kanji is the example of having a bulge at the top of a tree. For the kanji 末 in the bronze ware style writing we see a short line crossing the tip of a tree. It meant the “end” of a tree. In ten style, it became a very long line, which is reflected in kanji. In writing the kanji 末, the first stroke has to be longer than the second stroke. The kanji 末 meant “end.”

The kun-yomi 末 /sue/ means “end,” and is in 末永く (“everlastingly; for ever” /suena’gaku/). The on-yomi /ma’tsu/ means 月末 (“end of a month” /getsumatsu/), 始末する (“to deal with; put in order” /shi’matsu-suru/) and 結末 (“conclusion; result” /ketsumatsu/).

  1. The kanji 抹 “powder; to erase”

There is no ancient writing available for the kanji 抹. The left side is a bushu tehen “hand.” The right side 末had the meaning “powder,” and was also used phonetically to mean “to paint over.” Together “to paint over by hand” meant “to erase.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ma’tsu/ is in 抹茶 (“a quality powder green tea” /maccha/), 抹消する (“to erase” /masshoo-suru/) and 一抹の不安 (“a tinge of worry” /itchi’matsu-no huan/).

  1. The kanji 朱 “red; vermillion”

History of Kanji 朱When the bulge was placed at the center of a tree, it developed into the kanji 朱. (a) in oracle bone style and (c) in bronze ware style had a bulge at the center of a tree trunk. What the bulge at this location meant is not very clear. But 朱 meant “red.” The most prevalent explanation for the connection between the shape and the meaning “red” is that when you cut a fresh trunk, the color of the center of a trunk is reddish. In ten style, the extra line stayed in the middle. In kanji a short slash was added as the first stroke. Where did this come from? I was not able to find any reference on this, but something similar had happened in the kanji 先, as we have touched upon in an earlier post. History of Kanji 先(frame)[Hands and Legs- Bushu にんにょう – (2) 先洗育充統 on August 30, 2014.] The history of the kanji 先 is shown on the right. In the kanji 先, the top came from a footprint. A slash, which was not present in ten style, was added in kanji at the tip of a foot to emphasize the meaning of the kanji “ahead of.” So, what happened in the kanji 朱 seems to be similar to 先. Adding a slash is another device to focus on the meaning. The kanji 朱 means “(orange) red; vermilion.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shu/ is in 朱色 (“(orange) red” /shuiro/), 朱肉 (“vermilion inkpad” /shuniku/). The expression 朱に交われば赤くなる (/shu’-ni majiwa’reba akakuna’ru/) means “a bad company makes you bad.”

  1. The kanji 株 “stump; share”

History of Kanji 株In ten style, the left side was “tree,” and the right side was used phonetically to mean “bright red.” The color of a freshly cut trunk is red or reddish. Together they meant “tree stump; stub.” It is also used for “share; stock,” as in shares of a corporation.

The kun-yomi /kabu/ means “stock; share; stump,” and is in 切り株 (“tree stump” /kirikabu/), 株式会社 (“corporation; Ltd.; Inc.” /kabushikiga’isha/), 株主 (“shareholder” /kabu’nushi/). The word お株 (“someone’s unique talent; specialty” /okabu/) is in the expression お株を取られる (“to be outdone by another person for the same talent” /okabu-o torare’ru/).

Until I put these kanji together for this post, I did not realize that there was a three-way contrast of using a hiten on a single writing of 木 “tree.” Once again I am very impressed by the ingenuity in kanji formation that creators of Chinese ancient writers had. I expect that we will have a few more postings on kanji that originated in a tree, including a group of kanji that contain 未, which we will explore in the next post. [July 10, 2016]