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]

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


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)


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.

A Hand From Above (2): 浮乳争静印 -“hand” (4)


In continuing the “hand-from-above” shape, we are going to look at the kanji that have a hand-from-above and  子 “child” together [浮 and 乳] and three other kanji [争, 静 and 印] in which a hand-from-above lost its shape.

1. The Kanji Component 孚

History孚[Note: The first three kanji are not in Joyo kanji but they tell us what the component of “educational” kanji (学習漢字 /gakushuuka’nji/) 浮 and 乳 meant. So I am going to leave them in here.]

1-1. The Kanji Component 孚 — When a hand-from-above shape took 子 “child” below, 孚 was created. by itself as a kanji It did not survive into Japanese use, but a full range of ancient writing is available to us [left]. All the ancient writing (oracle bone style in brown, bronze ware style in green and ten style in red) consisted of a hand reaching over the head of a child. Let us look at four kanji here.

1-2 The Kanji 孵 — When used with the kanji 卵 “egg,” 孵 “to hatch,” was created. In this kanji what we think to be fingers in other kanji were the claws of a bird, and the kanji meant brooding over eggs. Because this kanji is not a Joyo kanji, in the phrase 卵が孵る (“an egg hatches” /tama’go ga ka’eru/) a more commonly used kanji 返る (“to return” /ka’eru/) is often used. But for the verb 孵化する (“to hatch” /fu’ka-suru/) we still use this kanji. In this kanji 孚 meant a protective hand over a child.

1-3 The Kanji 俘 — When used with a ninben “person,” 俘 (“captive” /toriko’/) was created. The expression とりこになる (“to become a captive” /toriko’-ni-naru/) is a casual expression when you get hooked on something. The on-reading is in 俘虜 “prisoner of war.” So in this kanji, 孚 meant “a captive.”

2. The Kanji 浮  “to float”

History浮In bronze ware style, when a bushu sanzui “water” was added, 浮 was created. A child floated when an adult hand held him. It meant “to float.” The verbs 浮かぶ /ukabu/ and 浮く /uku/ both mean “to float” in the water or in the air. A state of not being attached to something permanent is used in the word 浮き世 (“transitory world; fleeting life” /uki’yo; ukiyo/) and 浮世絵 (“woodblock print” /ukiyoe; ukiyo’e/.)

3. The Kanji 乳 “milk; breast”

HIstory乳When a single bent line (乚) was added, 乳 “milk; breast” was created. This single stroke shape has two different interpretations. One is a hand to caress a baby and the other is a swallow. There was a folktale that a swallow was the messenger of a god and would bring a baby, much like the Western folktale of a stork carrying a new baby to you. In either case, from “caring for a child” it meant milk and the mother’s breast that produces with. The kanji 乳 is used in words such as 牛乳 (“cow’s milk” /gyuunyuu/), 母乳 (“mother’s milk” /bonyuu/) and 乳歯 (”baby tooth” /nyu’ushi/) in on-reading, and 乳 (“milk; breast” /chichi’/) in kun-reading.

4. The Kanji 争 “to fight”

History争Next, I am going to discuss three kanji that lost their hand-from-above shape. For the kanji 争, a hand-from-above was visible through the kyujitai style, in blue on the left, before the Japanese language reform in 1946. The lower part was what I call a sideways hand, because the three fingers stay horizontal in kanji. We see this “sideways hand” in many kanji, and I will discuss them in my future posts. In addition to two hands there was a stick. Together they meant two hands fighting over a stick, or control. In the new style the top was simplified. It is in the words such as 争う (“to fight” /araso’u/) and 争い (“a fight” /arasoi/) in kin-reading, and 戦争 (“war” /sensoo/) and 競争 (“competition” /kyoosoo/) in on-reading.

5. The Kanji 静 “quiet; still”

History静When 争 was combined with 青 “blue,” it made 静 (kyujitai 靜) ”quiet.” Fighting and serenity are opposites. Where did the meaning come from, we wonder. There are two different interpretations. The left side 青 is agreed upon: In the bronze ware style, the upper left was what would become the kanji 生 “live; new life” and the middle was a well 井 with clean water (the dot pointed). Together they made the kanji 青 (kyuujitai靑) and it meant “fresh clean water,” or its color, ”blue,” by itself.

For the right side, one interpretation is that in the bronze ware style, in green, the right side was a plough to till the field that was held by a hand at the bottom. With 青, it meant a “peaceful, quiet” time after a bountiful harvest. Another interpretation is in ten style, in red, “fighting” and “quiet” together meant tranquility after a ceasefire. In the current kanji, the shapes on both sides changed. The kun-reading is in 静けさ (“tranquility” /shizuke’sa/) and the on-reading /se’e/ is in 冷静に (“calmly; cool-heartedly” /reesee-ni/) and 静止する (“to stand still” /seeshi-suru/). Another on-reading じょう is in 静脈 (“vein” /joomyaku/), which is a go-on, an older reading.

6. The kanji 印 “seal”

History印The oracle bone style of the kanji 印 showed a hand-from-above in front of a person who knelt down. In ten style, a hand came above the person who was bowing deeply as if a hand is pushing him down. In kanji, a hand and a person were placed side by side. Pushing a person down was used to mean pressing a seal down. The kanji 印 /i’n/ means ”seal; sign.” 印鑑 (“seal” /inka’n/) is an important thing in Japanese life because it functions as a signature. The kun-yomi 印 (“sign” /shirushi/) is in 目印 (“landmark; sign“ /meji’rushi/).

So, a hand-from-above shape is visible in some kanji such as 受, 授, 釆, 菜, 採, 彩, 孵, 俘, 浮 and 乳, and it has changed its shape in some kanji such as 争, 静 and 印. [May 24, 2014]

[I would like to postpone the kanji 為 to a future post when I talk about an elephant. Yes, it had an elephant in it!]