Kanji Bushu 攵・攴 ぼくづくり (1) 枚散故教


In this post, we are going to look at a few kanji that contain a bushu bokudukuri 攵 that means “to cause an action” or “an action” in general. We will begin this post by examining the development of the shapes and then look at four kanji 枚散故 and 教 that contain this radical.

(1) The kanji radical bokudukuri 攵・攴

History of Kanji Radical 攵攴The shape never seems to have been a writing by itself but was always used as a component. The five shapes shown on the left were taken from various kanji. In oracle bone style (in light brown, 1), it had a single line and a hand. In bronze ware style (in green, 2) and ten style (in red, 3) the top had another line added, probably for emphasis. The shapes meant an act of hitting or pounding something with a stick and causing something to happen. The old kanji (in sepia background, 4) reflected the ten style. In the current kanji style (in black, 5), the first stroke became a katakana shape /no/; the short second stroke got lengthened; and the kanji 又 became a cross shape, resulting in 攵. I have intentionally avoided calling the old kanji (in sepia) kyujitai, which in this blog would have been in blue. In the Kangxi kanji dictionary of the 18th century in China, most kanji already used the style 攵 (5), even though as a radical category (部首 bushu) 攴 (4) was used. Following that, in Japanese kyujitai too, most kanji used the shape 攵 (5). Even now, if you look up a kanji dictionary, both shapes are listed as bush. Currently the only kanji that still contains 攴 (4) that I can think of is 敲 in 推敲 (“polishing sentences” /suikoo/).

(2) The kanji 枚(counter for thin flat objects)

History of Kanji 枚For the kanji 枚 in bronze ware style, the left side was a standing tree and the right side was a hand holding an axe. Together they signified that someone was cutting a tree making thin flat pieces of wood. In ten style the shape was more stylized.

There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /mai/ is used as a counter for thin flat objects such as paper and is in 紙何枚 (“how many pieces of paper” /kami na’nmai/) and 切符三枚 (“three tickets” /kippu sanmai/).

(3) The Kanji 散 “to disperse; useless”

History of Kanji 散In bronze ware style, the top was pieces of hemp plant, which were pounded to make fibers for clothes. The bottom left was a piece of meat; and the bottom right side was a hand with a stick. Tough pieces of meat were pounded to tenderize them. Pounding to reduce to pieces meant “to disperse.” Tough meat that needed to be pounded did not taste good, so it also meant “useless.”

The kun-reading is /chiru/ as in 花が散る (“flower pedals fall” /hana’ ga chiru/),  散り散りになる (“to disperse; break up” /chirijiri-ni-na’ru/), 散々な目に遭う (“to have a terrible experience” /sanzan-na me’ ni a’u/).  The word 散歩する (“to take a stroll; take a walk” /sanpo-suru/) must have come from “walking without a particular purpose.”

(4) The kanji 故 “reason; cause; of the past”

History of Kanji 故In bronze ware style and ten style, 故 had 古 “old” on the left side and a hand holding a stick on the right side. Together they meant “of the past.” Old customs or precedents were what were to be followed as norms, so they were the cause of or reason for doing something. From that it meant “reason; cause.”

The kun-reading /yue’/ is in それ故 (“therefore” /soreyue/). The on-reading /ko/ is in 故人 (“deceased” /ko’jin/), 故意に (“intentionally” /ko’ini/) and 故障 (“breakdown” of a machine /koshoo/). The kanji 故 meant “on purpose.” I first thought that the word 事故 (“accident” /ji’ko/) would contradict the meaning of the kanji because an accident is an event that happens without one’s intention. But now I realize that 事故 may mean “an incidence that happened in the past,” even though it is often used to mean “happening without intention.”

(5) The Kanji 教 “to teach”

History of Kanji 教History of Kanji 学In the oracle bone style of the kanji 教, the left side had a hand holding a stick, and the right side had two crosses, meaning “to mingle,” and a child. “Two crosses above a child”— It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That combination was in the kyujitai of kanji 學 and 覺.  In 學 [shown on the right from our earlier post], in addition to the crosses and a child, it had two caring hands and a house, whereas 教 on the left had a hand holding a stick. “A hand holding a stick to teach?” No, I do not think it meant that children were made to learn with the threat of a stick. Even in oracle bone style time, the writing was sophisticated enough that the combination of a hand and a stick was used to signify a more general sense of causation of an event or action. Teaching is “to cause children to learn.” In kyujitai the two crosses were present, but in shinjitai it took the shape of the kanji 孝 “filial duty” having a bushu oigashira “long time.” It had very little if anything to do with the kanji 孝.

The kun-reading is in 教える (“to teach” /oshieru/) and 教え (“teaching; lesson” /oshie/). The on-reading /kyo’o/ is in 教育 (“education” /kyooiku/), 教師 (“teacher” /kyo’oshi/) and 宗教 (“religion” /shu’ukyoo/).

Stroke Order

Stroke Order

The stroke order of a bushu bokudukuri is shown on the left. As is always the case when two strokes cross, you write the one that starts from the right first so that the second stroke ends at the right bottom.

We will continue to look at a few more kanji that contain this bushu in the next post. I have taken a chance in typing in 攴 and 攵 without converting them into images. I hope your browser shows them correctly. [10-18-2014]

Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (4) 売読続出買


We have been looking at the kanji that contain a bushu ninnyoo (儿), “a person.” The kanji we have looked at were: 先洗充統 (August 30, 2014) and 説税脱(September 10, 2014), some kanji that contain 見 in relation to the “eye” 現親視規覚 (April 12, 2014) and 元完院見光児 (August 20, 2014). The ancient writing for most of the kanji here suggested that the shape 儿 had come from the image of a person kneeling down with his hand in front, and it meant a “person.” In this post, we are going to look at three kanji 売読続 that have a bushu ninnyoo but their origins were unrelated to the original meaning of a bushu ninnyoo. We will see that the shape ninnyoo in shinjitai was what replaced the bottom of a kanji 貝 used in kyujitai.

1. The Kanji 売 “to sell”

History of Kanji 売For the kanji 売, the ten style writing (in red) shown on the left consisted of three components: a footprint with an outline underneath, a fishing net in the middle and a cowry at the bottom. Let us look at these components one by one. [Top] The shape was the same as the ten style writing of the kanji 出. History of Kanji 出The history of the kanji 出 is shown on the right side: in the two oracle bone style writings, a right foot or a left foot had a receptacle-shaped line around the heel. This receptacle-like shape signified a deeper footprint impression made by the first step when one walked out. 出 meant “to go out.” [Middle] The crisscross shape was a fishing net. [Bottom] It was a 貝 “cowry.” History of kanji貝.jpgThe history of the kanji 貝 is shown on the right. A cowry is a type of mollusk that has a glossy dome-like shell. Beautiful and rare cowries from the southern sea were treasured in ancient times and were sometimes used for money. In the archaeological excavations, a number of ornamental bronze ware containers that kept those precious cowries were found.  They were called 貯貝器 (“cowrie keeper” /choba’iki/.)

History of Kanji 買The kanji 買 —  The bottom two elements in the kyujitai 賣 for 売 were also the same as the kanji 買. The history of the kanji 買 is shown on the right. The top was a fishing net and the bottom was a cowry. Together a netful cowries signified a lot of money with which you can purchase something, thus the kanji 買 means “to buy.”

Now, back to the kanji 売 or its kyujitai 賣. With 士 “footprint; to go out” and 買 “a bagful of cowries” together, they meant goods, a person with goods, going out in exchange for money, that is, “to sell to make profit.” In shinjitai, the net and a shell 貝 lost their shapes completely, and the bottom was replaced by 儿 a bushu ninnyoo with the remnant of a fishing net above.

The kun-reading /uru/ “to sell” is in 安売り(“a sale” /yasuuri/), 押し売り (“aggressive selling or a person who does a pushy sale” /oshiuri/). The on-reading /ba’i/ is in 売店 (“concession; booth” /baiten/) and 販売員 (“sales person” /hanba’iin/).

2. The Kanji 読 “to read”

History of Kanji 読The next two kanji 読 and 続 both contain 賣 In kyujitai (讀 and 續 in blue) on the right side, which is the same shape as the kyujitai for 売.  So, the transition from the kyujitai to shinjitai seems to be consistent among the three kanji. However, when our eyes move to the left to see its ten style, we notice that the right sides were different. What the right side of the ten style originally was is not known. It was used phonetically for /toku/ to mean “to read.” Its left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” Together they meant “to read a book.” In shinjitai the right was changed to 売.

The kun-reading is /yo’mu/ “to read.” The on-reading /do’ku/ is in 音読 (“reading aloud” /ondoku/), 難読な (“difficult to read” /nandokuna/). Another on-reading /to’o/ is in 句読点 (“punctuation” /kuto’oten/).

3. The kanji 続 “to continue”

History of Kanji 続In ten style of the kanji 続, the left side had silk cocoons strung together with their long filaments coming out, which signified “thread” or “continuity.” This shape became a bush itohen (糸). The right side was used phonetically for /zoku/ to mean “to continue.” Together they meant “to continue.” What is common between the two kanji 読 “to read (book)” and 続 “continue”?  Both have an activity that requires continuation. In shinjitai, the right side changed to 売 (糸).

In other words, both 売 (賣) and 買 contained the contained the original meaning of a cowry (money), whereas the shape 売 in the kanji 読 and 続 had little to do with a cowry and was probably used in the process of shape reduction in kanji.

The kun-reading is in 続く (つづく) (“(it) continues” /tsuzuku/) – an intransitive verb, and 続ける (“to continue” /tsuzukeru/) – a transitive verb. With a verb stem つづ /tsuzu/, it makes a verb “to continue doing something,” such as しゃべり続ける (“to keep on chatting/talking” /shaberitsuzuke’ru/), 守り続ける (“to continue to protect” /mamoritsuzuke’ru/). The on-yomi /zo’ku/ is in 継続する (“to continue” /keezoku-suru/), 相続する (“to inherite” /soozoku-suru/).  An adverb ぞくぞくと (“one after another” /zokuzokuto/) comes from this kanji.

Kanji貝_草書体“Why a ninnyoo?”  We have just seen that the three kanji 売読続 that contain a ninnyoo in fact were not related to the original meaning “person.” Then, how did the shape of a ninnyoo come to be used in those kanji?  I could not find any plausible explanation in references. This is just my guess but it might have come from a fast informal writing style called grass style writing 草書 (“fast fluid writing style” /soosho/) in calligraphy. The samples on the left are in grass style 草書. In the grass style samples of the kanji 貝, 買 and the kyujitai 賣, the bottom was reduced to two strokes a ハ-shape. When 賣 was further reduced in shinjitai by losing 目, the ハ-shape might have stretched out to a ninnyoo shape.  [October 3, 2014]

Two hands from below (2): 算戒械弁and 葬鼻升昇 -“hand” (7)


We have seen previously that two hands from below created a two-stroke ハ shape that was present in 共供興兵具 (and 異.)  In this post we are going to see another shape that came from two hands from below: it is a three-stroke shape at the bottom of 算戒械弁. The shape is called /niju’uashi/ “two-ten bottom” in a kanji dictionary. Japanese people rarely use bushu names, except a handful of common names such as ninben, shinnyuu (nowadays shinnyoo), kihen, etc. We just say “the bottom of the kanji san,” hoping that the hearer knows which kanji /sa’n/ being referred to. For convenience, I am going to use the name nijuuashi.

1. 算 “to calculate; count”

History算In ten style, the top was a takekanmuri “bamboo.” The middle and the bottom were the same as that of the ten style shape of the kanji 具 “contents; filling.” In the development of the kanji 具 what looks like 目 in fact came from a pot for cooking a sacrificial animal and other food. The bottom was two hands holding it up. [Link to 具]  Bamboo sticks were used for counting. From “counting the contents” the kanji 算 meant “to count.” Two hands from below became a ハ shape in 具 whereas they became a nijuuashi in 算. The kanji 算 does not have a kun-reading. The on-reading /san/ is in 計算 (“calculation” /keesan/), 算数 (“reckoning; arithmetics” /sansu’u/), 予算 (“budget” /yosan/) and 打算的 (”calculating; prudent” /dasanteki/.)

2. 戒 “to admonish”

History戒In the kanji 戒 ”to admonish” the oracle bone style had a halberd in the middle and a hand on both sides. In bronze ware style, a halberd was raised by two hands and pushed to the right, and in ten style the halberd was placed on top of the two hands. (A halberd is a weapon that has two functions, for thrusting and cutting. [The Oxford dictionary: a combined spear and battle-ax].)History戈(金文)  The bronze ware style of the kanji 戈 /ho’ko/ “halberd” is shown on the right side.

Shirakawa (2004) notes that: (1) Two hands raising an axe made the kanji 兵 “weapon; soldier” and; (2) two hands raising a halberd made the kanji 戒 “to admonish.” It is interesting to see a parallel here, that two hands from below ended up with two different shapes ハ in 具 and nijuuashi in 算, and the same thing happened in 兵 and 戒 [Link to 具 and 兵.] The kun-reading is 戒める (“to admonish” /imashime’ru/) and 戒め (“admonition; caution” /imashime/.) The on-reading /kai/ is in 戒律 (“commandments; religious precepts,” /kairitsu/), 十戒 (“the Ten Commandments” /jikkai/) and 懲戒処分 (“disciplinary measure“ /chookai-sho’bun/.)

3. 械 “machine; gadget”

History械By adding a kihen “tree; wood” to 戒, we get the kanji 械 as in 機械 (“machine; machinery” /kika’i/) and 器械 (“instrument; apparatus” /kika’i/). From “wooden apparatus that admonishes” the original meaning was “wooden shackle.” In kanji, the meaning of “admonishing” dropped and it means “gadget; machine.” There is no kun-reading in joyo kanji.

4. 弁 “flower petal; to defend; speak; dialect”

History弁The shape of the kanji 弁 came from two hands trying to put on a hat, which came from the left side of the ten style writing. According to Shirakawa, a black hat was worn by a civilian officer and a white hat by a military officer. In shinjitai the kanji 弁 has assumed various meanings from different kanji in the kyujitai – 瓣, 辨 and 辯.

弁の旧字体In order to understand different meanings of 弁, it may be useful to look at these three kanji in an enlarged view on the right side. If we compare the first three shapes, we notice that only the middle component is different. The outer shape had two 辛, which were tattooing needles. They meant two people pledging something with understanding that they would get tattooed as a punishment if they broke the pledge. From that it meant “to pledge.” The shape (a) 瓣 had 瓜 “gourd” in the center. Inside the gourd seeds are packed neatly in rows. It came to mean “flower petal.” The shape (b) 辯 had 言 “word; language” in the center, and it meant two people argue side by side. The shape (c) 辨 had a bushu shape called /rittoo/ “knife,” which divided something equally. It meant separating the two sides in court and making balanced judgment. In shinjitai, all three kanji uses the kanji 弁.

The on-reading /be’n/ is in the expressions such as 花弁 (“flower petal” /kaben/), 弁が立つ (“to speak eloquently” /be’n-ga ta’tsu/,) 答弁 (“answer; account” /to’oben,) 弁護士 (“legal attorney”/bengo’shi/) and 関西弁 (“Kansai dialect” /kansaiben/.)  弁当 (“boxed lunch” /bento’o/) appears not to be related (The Kojien dictionary suggests that it may be phonetic or for the meaning of convenience /ben/.) The kun-yomi 弁える /wakimae’ru/ means “to discern; have good knowledge of” and and is used in the phrase 場所を弁えない (“not bear in mind of the occasion” /basho-o wakimae’nai/.)

Now, not all the bushu nijuuashi shapes came from two hands from below. Here are a few kanji that I have found that do not share its meaning in our brief exposition of “hand” in kanji.

5. The kanji 葬 ”to bury; entomb”; and (2) 鼻 ”nose”

History葬In 葬 “to bury; entomb,” the ten style had two pairs of grasses or plants, the top for the bush kusakanmuri and the bottom in the same shape, and the precursor of 死 in the middle. A body hidden in tall grasses is a burial. From the kanji shape I had thought that the deceased being buried with tender care made sense. After I copied the ten style, I still thought they were hands. But I seem to be wrong.

In the kanji 鼻” nose,” the top 自 was “self” from a nose. The middle and the bottom together were used phonetically from kanji that was not used in Japanese. In the kyujitai 鼻 the two vertical strokes did not go above the long horizontal line in suggesting a table.

6. The kanji 升 “ladle; unit of measuring mass” and 昇 “to rise”

History升I became curious about the kanji 升 and 昇, because they contained the shape nijuuashi right in the middle. I had never paid attention to these kanji before.  (They are not among the “first half” of the Joyo kanji, so I did not include them in The Key to Kanji.) The development of 升 is shown on the left. When we think about its meaning, the shapes on the left make sense to me. It was a ladle to measure grains and liquid. It even points to the fact that the ladle has something inside. The kanji 升  /sho’o/ was an old unit of measuring grains and liquid before Japan switched to the metric system. Even after that the words 米一升 (“one sho of rice” /kome-i’sshoo/) or 一升瓶 (“a bottle of one sho; 1.8 liter” /issho’obin/) were words that were used in daily life.

History昇The kanji 昇 means “the sun rising.” It had the sun 日 and the bottom 升 was used phonetically. The kun-reading is 昇る (“to rise” /noboru/) and the on-reading /sho’o/ is found in 上昇 (“rising” /jooshoo/) and 昇進する (“to get promoted to a higher position” /shooshin-suru.)

So in this post, we have seen that not all the kanji that contain the bushu shape called nijuuashii came from the same origin. In the next post I am planning to discuss one more shape 寸 that came from a hand (or two hands, depending on the interpretation.) [June 15, 2014]