The Table of the Shapes in Kanji That Came from “Hand”- “hand” (9)

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This is the table of the shapes that originally came from a hand and that we have looked at on this blog.

Microsoft Word - 手から来る部首形の表.docx

I remember that a former student of mine would lament my comments on the kanji and say, ‘Oh, everything in kanji is about a hand!”  Now I can see why she was struck by that impression.  [June 22, 2014]

A Hand with a Finger of Another Hand-寸付府守対討 -“hand” (8)

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In this final post regarding “hand,” we are going to look at 寸, 付, 府, 守, 対 and 討.

1. The kanji 寸 “a little”

History寸The origin of the kanji 寸 has puzzled me for a long time, particularly the origin of the third stroke. Following a view that was based on the first century explanation in Setsumon-kaiji, I wrote that it was “a finger pointing at a wrist where one’s pulse was taken. The distance between a hand and that point is small, so this portion signified a little…” (Williams 2010: 183) This time I searched for earlier ancient writing, hoping that it might give us better evidence for that explanation. Strangely enough, there was no sample for 寸 earlier than the ten style on the left. Let us look at a few kanji that may contain earlier styles.

2. 付 “to attach; issue”

History付The three bronze ware styles for the kanji 付 (1), (2) and (3), have a person and a hand from behind. In (1) the hand was touching the person, and in (1) and (2) there is no short line that would become a third stroke in kanji. From handing something to another person, 付 meant “to hand out; attach.” Giving out documents was what a government office did, so it also meant “to issue.” The kun-reading /tsu/ is used in 付ける (“to attach” tr. v. /tsuke’ru/) and 付く (“to attach itself to; adhere; touch” intr. v. /tsu’ku/), 受け付ける (“to accept“(application, etc.) /uketsukeru/)  The on-reading /hu/ is in the words such as 交付する (”to issue; to grant” /koohu-suru/), 送付する (”to serve (someone) with~” /soohu-suru/) and 添付ファイル (“file attached” /tenpufa’iru/.)

3. 府 ”government ”

history府The kanji 府 looks like the kanji 付 inside a bushu called madare 广, which means a house that had one side open for people walking in and out. That would explain the meaning “government” that 府 has. However the two bronze ware style samples on the left add a little more story to it. They had a cowry at the bottom, representing important documents. Thus it originally meant a vault for important documents and money. In Ten-style there was no cowry. The kanji 府 means “government office.” In Japan it is a jurisdiction smaller than 都 (“metropolitan government” /to’/) but larger than 県 (“prefecture” /ke’n/). Only 大阪府 (“Osaka prefecture” /oosaka’hu/) and 京都府 (“Kyoto prefecture” /kyooto’hu/) have this designation. There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /hu/ is in 政府 (“government” /se’ehu/), 幕府 (“military government” /ba’kuhu/.)

4. 守 “to protect”

History守The kanji 守 has 寸 under a bushu ukanmuri. A bushu ukanmuri was originally a house or complete cover that securely protects something inside. It meant “to work inside a house or to protect what is inside a house.” The two bronze styles differ in that one has the extra dot and one does not. The kun-reading is in 守る (“to protect” /mamo’ru/), 見守る (“to watch over” /mimamoru/) and the on-reading is in 守衛 (“watch guard” /shuee/), 保守的な (“conservative” /hoshuteki-na/.)

5. 対 (對) “opposing; pair”

History対The kyujitai for the kanji 対 is 對. As I laid the three styles side by side like this, I realize that the shinjitai is closer to the oracle bone style. I do not have time right now to look into this, and at the moment we are interested in the right side 寸.The story of the left side varies. Whether it was “a notched stand to hang musical instrument,” as I wrote in 2010, or a building foundation made between boards by pounding dirt and gravel (Shirakawa), the right side is clearly a hand. Neither of the bronze ware style samples shows an extra stroke, but both ten style samples do. The kanji 対 means “opposing; pair.” There is no kun-reading. /Tsui/ is go-on on-reading and is used in words by itself as in 対になっている (”They are in a pair.” /tsui ni na’tteiru/) and 一対 (“one pair” /ittsui/.) /Ta’i/ is a kan-on on-reading and is used in 反対する (“to oppose” /hantai-suru/), 対立 (“confrontation” /tairitsu/) and 対象 (”target; aim” /taishoo/.)

6. 討 “to inquire thoroughly; attack”

History討The left side is a bushu gonben 言 “language; to say.” (言 itself deserves a post so we will look into the origin of 言 at later time.) Phonetically 寸 was close to 誅 /chuu/ “to kill” and 肘 /chuu/ ”elbow,” a body part that controls use of the hand. The kanji 討 means to inquire thoroughly; attack.” The kun-reading is in 討つ (“to attack” /u’tsu/.) The on-reading is in 討論する (“to debate; contend”/to’oron-suru/), 検討する (”to investigate; examine thoroughly” /kentoo-suru/) and in the sense of attack, 討伐する (“to put down”/toobatsu-suru/.)

Returning to the question of where the little stroke in 寸 come from, we do not seem to be getting anywhere other than that in bronze ware style both shapes appear, possibly with the extra stroke in a later one. So, I just take the explanation of two thousand year ago that it is a finger, or the width of a finger, and meant “a little.” I am going to leave the topic of hand for now with another post today that shows in a table the shapes from hand that we looked. Thank you very much for reading those posts about hands. [June 22, 2014]

P. S. For a madare, I used a symbol (广) that I had used in my book. (I had thought this would come out in mojibake on this site before. If browsers can take this, it will make it easier to see and write.) I hope your browser shows it correctly.

Hand and Bushu Tehen: 手挙拳摩打持推 – “hand” (6)

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We have been looking at various shapes that originated from a hand. In this post we look at the kanji that contain the shape 手 itself (手, 挙, 拳 and 摩) and the bushu tehen (打, 持 and 推.)

1. The kanji 手 “hand; person with hand skill; method”

History of the Kanji 手 "hand"This is an open hand with five fingers and a wrist area, which seems to me the most obvious shape for a hand. However, I found only bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red. I had to go back to the sources a few times to make sure that I did not miss any oracle bone style. It puzzles me.

It is not surprising how many meanings a hand has: 1) a hand as a physical feature, as in 手 (“hand” /te’/) and 手でする(“to do by hand” /te’de suru/) ; 2) a person who has skill using a hand, such as 運転手 (“driver” /unte’nshu/), 選手 (“participating athelete” /se’nshu/) and やり手 (“an enterprising man” /yarite/); 3) skills in the use of a hand, as in 上手 (“skillful” /joozu’/) and 下手 (“unskillful” /heta’/); 4) a way or method as in 手法 (“method” /shuhoo/) and 奥の手 (“the last resort” /o’kunote/); and 5) something on one’s hand to own, such as 手に入れる(“to obtain” /te’ ni-ireru/) and 手にする (“to obtain; hold in one’s hand” /te’ ni suru/.

2. The kanji 挙 “to raise a hand; carry out”

History of Kanji 挙 ”to raise; carry out"The kanji 挙 looks to have a single hand in kanji, but if you look at its ten style, it had as many as five hands! At the top were two hands from either side and an interlocking shape in the middle. At the bottom were two hands from either side and another hand inside. In the last post we saw the kanji 興 having four hands that gave the meaning “to raise,” but this topped that in terms of the number of hands. How did it get reduced to a single hand? The kyujitai 擧, in blue, serves as the middle step: The two hands at the bottom were replaced by two strokes (ハ) left and right. In shinjitai, the top was replaced by a truncated katakana tsu (ツ). The history of kanji is a history of simplification of shape to make writing easier, to write and to read. We have seen this process in the top of the kanji 覚 “to be conscious of” and 学 “to learn”: In kyuujitai 覺 and 學 got replaced with the katakana tsu shape at the top, as discussed in an earlier post [link.] With five hands in its ancestor, the kanji 挙 means “to do something together at once, and is used in words such as 一挙に (“at a stroke” /i’kkyo ni/,) 挙手 (“raising a hand” /kyo’shu/) and 結婚式を挙げる (“to carry out a wedding ceremony” /kekko’nshiki o ageru/.)

3. The kanji 拳 “fist”

History of Kanji 拳 "fist"Similar to 挙 is 拳. In ten style the top was used phonetically for /ke’n/, and was the same as the kanji 券 (“ticket” /ke’n/), which had 刀 “knife; sword” instead of 手. The kun-reading is /kobushi’/ “fist” and it makes the word 拳銃 (“pistol” /kenjuu/.) After simplification of 擧 to 挙, the kanji 挙 and 拳 look so much alike. In trying to find either kanji in isolation in a dictionary or on the computer, I often pick the wrong kanji first.

4. The kanji 摩 “to rub; knead and soften by hand”

History of Kanji 摩 "rub; knead"The top 麻 was hemp or flax whose fibers needed to be pounded by hand to soften. There is another kanji that uses 麻, which is 磨 (“to polish; hone” /migaku/.) It has a stone 石 underneath instead of a hand 手. In 摩, adding a hand below emphasizes kneading- or rubbing-like work that one does by hand. The kun-reading is not used often and the on-reading /ma/ is in 按摩 (“massage” /anma/) and 摩擦 (“friction” /masatsu/.)

So the three kanji we have just looked at have direct use of a hand. Next we look at three kanji that have a bushu tehen. In the past I have touched on a few kanji that contained a tehen: 振 “to shake” from 辰 “clam” [link]; 採 “to adopt” from 采 “picking from above” and 授 “to bestow” from the original meaning of 受 “to receive” [link]. Let us look at a few more.

5. The kanji 打 “to hit” (and 丁 “block”)

History of Kanji 打 and 丁

Only ten style is available for 打, so let us look at the kanji 丁 “block.” In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, 丁 was a “nail”, or something oblong. With a tehen added, the kanji 打 got the meaning of hitting a nail by hand to pound it in. So it meant “to hit.” In a baseball game 打者 (“hitter; slugger” /da’sha/) uses his arms and the kun-reading is in 打つ (“to hit” /u’tsu/.) In Japanese there is a prefix うち- “emphatic” that makes up many words such as 打ち明ける “to confide,” 打ち合わせ “staff meeting; informal meeting,” うち興じる ”to make merry” and 打ち消す “to deny.” This prefix must be of Japanese origin. Shirakawa (2004) mentions that there was a use of the kanji 打 as an emphatic prefix in Chinese. I do not have knowledge of how these two facts were related, and I am curious.

6. The kanji 持 “to have” (and 寺 “temple”)

History of Kanji 持 and 寺Only ten style is available for 持, but we can get some insight from 寺 on the right. For 寺, the bronze ware style writing had a footprint or foot (the precursor of 止) and a hand. In ten style an extra line was added, making the shape 寸. Together they meant that one used feet and hands to work in a place, specifically in a government office. Later on Buddhist monks stayed in the government building and it came to mean a “temple.”  Now back to the kanji 持 –寺 was used phonetically for /ji/ and probably for its meaning of a hand. Adding a tehen emphasized that one had something in hand. The kun-reading  持つ  /mo’tsu/ means “to hold in hand; own,” and is in 持ち物 (“one’s property” /mochi’mono/.) The on-reading is in 持参する (“to bring something with one” /jisan-suru/.)

7. The kanji 推 “to push forward; guess”

History of Kanji 推The right side is 隹, a bushu hurutori “bird,” which I discussed earlier  [link], but here it was used phonetically for /sui/ to mean “to push forward.” By adding a tehen, it meant to push by hand. A bird was also used in fortune-telling or divination and had the meaning “to guess.” A hurutori was also used for guessing, as in 誰 (“who” /da’re/) even though in current writing hiragana is usually used. The kun-reading 推す /osu/ means “to thrust forward; to recommend,” and the on-reading /sui/ is in 推薦状 (“a letter of recommendation” /suisenjoo/), 推進する (“to propel” /suishin-suru/) and 推測 (”guess; conjecture” /suisoku/.)

In writing this post, I was not able to find any oracle bone style or bronze ware style that had a tehan. That leads me to conclude that the kanji that have a tehen were created after bronze ware style, most likely as 形声文字 semantic-phonetic composite writing. I was going to wrap up my “hand”stories in this post, but it looks like I need more posts to do so. [June 7, 2014]

A Hand From Above (1) – 受授釆菜採彩 – “hand” (2)

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HandfromAboveThe kanji 受 and 授 have 又 ”hand” in common, the shape that we discussed in the previous post. In addition to 又, they have another hand in common, shown on the left. There are several different shapes that originated from a hand; and for our reference I label this shape as “a hand from above.” It has three fingers and the top of the hand, possibly like the image on the right.FingersAbove

1. 受 “to receive”

History受For the kanji 受, In the oracle bone style writing, in brown, what looks like two cross shapes were two hands and between the hands was a big plate. In the bronze ware style writing, in green, we can see that they used two different shapes for two hands: one from above and one from below. The middle was a boat shape. Both a big plate and a boat transport food or stuff from one place to another. One hand handing something to another meant “to receive” or “to give.” In oracle bone style and bronze ware style times, the writing did not differentiate who gave or who received but rather pointed at the transaction itself. By Ten style, in red, however, the meaning of giving had been dropped and it only meant “to receive.” The kun-reading is in 受ける (”to receive” /uke’ru/) and 受付 (“reception” /uketsuke/) and 引き受ける (“to undertake” /hikiuke’ru/.) The on-reading is in 受験する (“to take/sit for an exam” /juken-suru/)

2. 授ける “to bestow; grant; confer”

History授Sometime before ten style a new kanji was created to describe an act by a giver, by adding a bushu tehen, which generally meant an act that one does using a hand. The new writing 授 described giving from someone in a higher position to someone in a lower position, so it meant “to bestow; grant; confer.” The kanji 授 contained three hands in which the bushu tehen signaled that the writing was about an act itself. The kun-reading is in 授ける (“to bestow; grant; confer” /sazuke’ru/) and the on-reading is in 授業 (“class instruction” /ju’gyoo/) and 教授 (“professor” /kyooju/).

An interesting thing about this pair of kanji 受 and 授 is that the transitivity of a verb affects its meaning. For instance, with a transitive verb /uke’ru/, 試験を受ける (/shike’n-o uke’ru/) means “to take a test; sit for an exam“ whereas with an intransitive verb /uka’ru/, 試験に受かる (/shike’n ni uka’ru/) means “to be accepted; to pass.” In 授, with a transitive verb /sazuke’ru/, 賞を授ける (/sho’o o sazuke’ru/) means “to bestow an award” whereas with an intransitive verb /sazuka’ru/ 才能を授かる (/sainoo o sazuka’ru/) means “to be bestowed with talent; to be gifted.”

3.采 “to pick”

History采Now, we move to another shape that contained a hand from above and 木 “tree,” that is, 采. The oracle bone style tells the story best: A hand from above was picking flowers, fruits or nuts on a tree. From that 采 meant “to pick.” This kanji does not have a kun-reading and its on-reading /sa’i/ is used in the phrase 采配をふるう (“to take command; manage in person” /saihai o furuu/.)

4. 菜 “green vegetable”

History菜Adding the bushu kusakanmuri “grass; vegetation” to 采 created the kanji 菜 “green leaves; vegetable.” One picked the leaves of vegetables by hand from above. The kun-reading /na/ is in the word 菜っ葉 (“leaf vegetable” /nap’pa/). The on-reading is in 野菜 (“vegetable” /yasai/) and 白菜 (“hakusai” /hakusa’i/). (I have seen many different English names in grocery stores for 白菜 in the U. S. and U. K., where I do or did my grocery shopping; Chinese long cabbage, nappa cabbage, or sometimes even in hakusai, the Japanese name!)

5. 採 “to pick”

History採The kanji 採 consists of the bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand” and the kanji 采. There seems to be no ancient writing for this. The one on the left, in grey, is from a 6th century inscription on a tombstone. The kanji 採 means “to take; adapt.” The kun-reading is in 採る (“to pick” /to’ru/) and the on-reading /sai/ is used in 採用する (”to hire; adopt” /saiyoo-suru/), 採光 (“lighting” /saikoo/) and 採算のとれる (“profitable” /saisan no tore’ru/).

6. 彩 “color scheme”

History彩Flowers on a tree give us a multitude of beautiful colors. The three diagonal lines on the right side meant “beautiful shape; shape.” This bushu appears in the kanji such as 形 (“shape” /katachi/), 影 (“shadow” /ka’ge/) and 髪 (“hair” /kami’/).  The kanji 彩 means “coloring; color scheme.” The kun-reading is in 彩り (“color scheme” /irodori/) and the on-reading is in 色彩 (“color scheme” /shikisai/) and 水彩画 (“water color painting” /suisaiga/).

You have probably noticed that the on-reading of all four kanji 采, 菜, 採 and 彩 is /sai/. The first one 采 was 会意文字 (“semantic composite writing” /kaiimo’ji/) and the other three were 形声文字 (“semantic-phonetic composite writing” /keeseemo’ji/). Similarly, the kanji 受 was a semantic composite writing and the kanji 授 was a semantic-phonetic composite writing.

In the next post I would like to look at the kanji that have a hand from above shape, including 浮 and 乳, and kanji that used to have a hand from above but it was replaced by a simpler shape in shinjitai style, including 争, 静 and 為. [May 11, 2014]

A Celestial Record Keeper’s Work – 史事吏使

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A Hand Holding a Tally Container

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This post is a story of the four kanji that came from the a tally container and a hand of a celestial record keeper: 史, 事, 吏 and 使.

(1) 史 “history; to chronicle”

History史It all started with the images of a container that had bamboo sticks inside used as tallies, and a hand. A calendar maker kept the records of celestial changes using these tallies. The kanji 史 meant “to chronicle; history.” Throughout the three ancient writing styles, oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, and even in ten style, in red, a container and a hand were recognizable as such. In kanji, something changed. I will come back to this shortly. The kanji 史 is used in words such as 歴史 (“history” /rekishi/) and 世界史 (“world history” /sekaishi/) in on-reading. There is no kun-reading.

(2) 事 “work/job; thing; matter”

History事For the kanji 事, in oracle bone style, other than a twig shape at the top, it was the same as that of (1) 史. The twig shape was a sign where government work was done. It meant “work; job; thing; matter.” In bronze ware style, the first two writings had an additional wiggly sideway line right below the twig shape. This was a streamer to point out that it was the government office too. The third bronze ware style writing was less elaborate. In ten style, a hand that was more dominant and it intersected the vertical line that went through the bottom. In kanji, the vertical line goes up at the bottom. The kanji 事 is used in 仕事 (“work; job” /shigoto/) in kun-reading, 用事 (“errand” /yooji/) and 事件 (“incidence” /ji’ken/) in on-reading.

(3) 吏 “government worker”

History吏The kanji 吏 means “government worker.” We see that the oracle bone style writing and the bronze ware style writing were essentially identical with those of 事 in (2) — “Government work” and “a person who works” used the same writing. In ten style, however, 吏 and 事 became different in that the vertical line did not go through in 吏. Further, in kanji the vertical line became a long bent stroke, which left only a single slanted stroke. The kanji 吏 is in 官吏 (“public servant” /ka’nri/). There is no kun-reading.

吏&事DifferenceDuring the last few weeks, while I was preparing for the new kanji tutorial site videos, I was wondering how 史, 吏 and 使, our next kanji, had ended up with a bent stroke, whereas 事 had stayed with as a straight line. Here is my conjecture (the images on the left). When the vertical line in the container got connected to one of the strokes in hand, it produced the shape in 史, 吏 and 使. On the other hand, in 事 “work; job; matter” because a hand was an important aspect of doing actual work, it was made more recognizable. The vertical line in the container got extended through the hand and thus we got 事. Does it make sense to you?

(4)  使 “to use; to make someone do; send a person as a proxy”

History使In the kanji 使, a bushu ninben was added to 吏 “government worker.” A bushu ninben always added the sense of “an act that a person does.” From “to make someone do the work,” 使 meant “to use” or “to send someone as a proxy.” It is used in words such as 使う (“use” /tsukau/) in kun-reading, 使用中 (“in use; occupied” /shiyoochuu/) and 大使 (“ambassador” /ta’ishi/) in on-reading.

So, even though it started with a celestial record keeper, we do not seem to have received a visit from a space alien like we did in the posting last week. The writings were for mundane every day work and nothing fanciful. In the next post, if I can, I would like to take a break from a kanji story and touch on the topic of Japanese tonal patterns, which is very important for us to be able to speak correctly. [April 20, 2014]