The Kanji 力協脅脇加賀架勃励劣-agricultural tool (2)


The second agricultural implement we look at is what became the kanji 力. I have been using the word “plough (plow)” for 力 in the past, because it had teeth or pegs at the end. It is more likely that this was a hand tool, rather than a machine. Should we call it a harrow? I do not know the answer. In this post we stick to the word plough for the time being. The kanji that contain 力 that we are going to explore here are: 力協脅脇加賀架勃励劣.

  1. The kanji 力 “power; strength”

History of Kanji 力For the kanji 力, there are two different views. One view, by Setsumon, is that the bottom suggested that it was a hand, and that the curve at the top in (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, was “muscles in the arm,” and that flexing muscles meant “strength; power.” This view has been the traditional view. Another view in Shirakawa’s Shinjito is that the bottom was “a plough; a digging fork” in the field. In working in the field one had to apply much muscular strength. In this blog we take the second view. The kanji 力 means “power; strength.”  (For the stroke order, you write the angled stroke first.)

The kun-yomi 力 /chikara’/ means “might; power; strength,” and is in 力仕事 (“heavy labor” /chikarashi’goto/). /-Jikara/ is in 馬鹿力を出す (“to give incredible physical strength” /bakaji’kara-o da’su/). The on-yomi /riki/ is in 力量 (“ability; capacity” /rikiryoo/), 馬力 (“horsepower; energy” /bariki/). Another on-yomi /ryoku/ is in 体力 (“physical strength” /ta’iryoku/) and 重力 (“gravity” /ju’uryoku/).

  1. The kanji 協 “to cooperate; give help to others”

History of Kanji 協For the kanji 協, the Old style writing, in gray, comprised 口 “mouth” and 十 “to bundle up to one.” The seal style writing had “three ploughs” together, which was used phonetically for /kyoo/. Together they meant many people work together in a field, giving help to others. The kanji 協 means “to cooperate; give help to others.” <Composition of the kanji 協: a narrow 十 and three力>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi kyoo is in 協力する (“to cooperate; collaborate” /kyooryoku-suru/), 生協 (“co-op” /se’ekyoo/) and 協会 (“association; society” /kyookai/).

  1. The kanji 脅 “to threaten; menace; coerce”

History of Kanji 脅The kanji 脅 and the next kanji 脇 shared the same seal style writing — “three ploughs” and 月 “a part of one’s body”– and yet they have different meanings. For the kanji 脅, the top was used phonetically for /kyoo/ to mean “power,” and the bottom 月 was “a part of one’s body.” Together “powers over one’s body” meant “to threaten; menace; coerce.” <Composition of the kanji: Three 力 and 月>

The kun-yomi 脅す /odosu/ means “to threaten,” and is in 脅し取る (“to blackmail; extort” /odoshito’ru/). The on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 脅迫する (“to intimidate; threaten” /kyoohaku-suru/) and 脅威となる (“to become the menace” /kyo’oi-to-naru/).

  1. The kanji 脇 “side of one’s body; flank; supporting role”

History of Kanji 脇The seal style writing of the kanji 脇 was the same as 脅. In the kanji 脇, “three ploughs lining up” signified “ribs.” Together with 月, a bushu nikuzuki “flesh,” they meant “side (of one’s body); flank.” It also means “supporting role.” The kanji 脇 means “side of one’s body; flank; supporting role.” <Composition of the kanji: 月 and three 力>

The kun-yomi 脇 /waki/ means “one’s side,” and is in 脇役 (“supporting role” /wakiyaku/) and 脇腹が痛い (“to have a pain in the side” /wakibara-ga ita’i/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 加 “to add”

History of Kanji 加For the kanji 加 the two bronze ware style writings comprised “a plough; a digging fork” that was placed sideways and “a mouth.” When doing heavy labor in the field adding voice was encouraging in exerting effort. It meant “to add.” The katakana カ and the hiragana か came from the kanji 加. The kanji 加 means “to add.” <Composition of the kanji 加: 力 and 口>

The kun-yomi 加える /kuwaeru/ means “to add,” and 加わる /kuwawaru/ means “to join.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 追加 (“addition; supplement” /tsuika/), 増加 (“increase” /zooka/), 加味する (“to take something into account” /ka’mi-suru/). 加減 (“addition and subtraction” /kagen/) is also used to mean “one’s condition” in the expression お加減はいかかですか (“How do you feel?” /oka’gen-wa ika’ga-desu-ka?/) in inquiring someone who has been sick.

  1. The kanji 賀 “to celebrate; auspicious”

History of Kanji 賀For the kanji 賀 the bronze ware style writing comprised “a cowrie; valuable,” and “a plough” and “a mouth,” which was phonetically used for /ka/ to mean “to add.” One gave someone a valuable gift at a time of celebration. It meant “to celebrate; congratulate; auspicious occasion.” In seal style and in kanji the cowrie was moved to the bottom. The kanji 賀 means “to celebrate; auspicious.”  <Composition of the kanji 賀: 力, 口 and 貝>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 祝賀会 (“celebratory party” /shukuga’kai/) and 賀正 (“New Year’s greeting in writing” /gashoo/).

  1. The kanji 架 “building something over; to bridge over”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 架. The top 加 was used phonetically for /ka/. 加 above 木 “a tree” signified “building something over at a high place.” The kanji 架 means “to bridge over; building something above.”<Composition of the kanji 架: 力, 口 and 木>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 架線 (“overhead wire” /kasen/), 架橋 (“crosslink; bridging” /kakyoo/) and 高架道路 (“elevated road” /kookado’oro/).

  1. The kanji 勃 “to happen abrupt; enegetic”

History of Kanji 勃For the kanji 勃 the left side of the seal style was “a plant whose center was bulging with a seed,” and was used phonetically for /botsu/ to mean “a sudden change; a force pushing out from within.” A child at the bottom may suggest a seed. The right side “plough” added “power.” Together they meant “sudden occurrence.” The kanji 勃 means “to happen abruptly; energetic.”<Composition of the kanji 勃: a truncated 十, , 子 and 力>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /botsu/ is in 勃興 (“sudden rise; rise to power” /bokkoo/) and 暴動が勃発する (“a riot breaks out” /boodoo-ga boppatsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 励 “to strive for; give encouragement; industrious”

History of Kanji 励There is no ancient writing for the kanji 励.  The left side of the kyuji 勵, in blue, for the kanji 励 was used phonetically for /ree/ to mean either “a hard mineral rock” or “a poisonous scorpion.” The right side 力 “plough” signified “hard field work.” Together they meant “to strive for; labor for; be industrious; give encouragement.” In kanji the left side became 厂 and 万. <Composition of the kanji 励: 厂, 万 and 力>

The kun-yomi 励む /hage’mu/ means (“to endeavour; be industrious” /hage’mu/) and in 励ます (“to cheer; support” /gahema’su/). The on-yomi /ree/ is in 奨励する (“to recomment; encourage” /shooree-suru/) and 激励する (“to encourage” /gekiree-suru/).

  1. The kanji 劣 “inferior; to deteriorate”

History of Kanji 劣The seal style writing of the kanji 劣 comprised 少 “a little” and 力 “power.” Together “lack of strength” meant “inferior.” The kanji 劣 means “inferior; to deteriorate.” <Composition of the kanji 劣: 少 and力>

The kun-yomi 劣る /oto’ru/ means “inferior,” and 見劣りする (“pale in comparison” /miotori-suru/). The on-yomi /retsu/ means 劣化する (“to deteriorate” /rekka-suru/) and 優劣をつける (“to judge which is better” /yu’uretsu-o tsuke’ru/).

The year 2017 is almost over. I truly thank our readers who have followed my posting or have visited our site from time to time. Your interest and support have helped me in continuing my weekly writing and preparing my manuscripts for a future book. I wish you and your family a very happy new year.   – Noriko [December 30, 2017]

The Kanji 男 and 田力甥舅虜勇湧- 力 “power” (1)


In the last two posts we looked at the kanji that were related to 女 “woman.” What about the kanji that are related to man? Unlike 女 “woman,” the kanji for “man” was not a single pictographic writing, but a semantic composite of 田 “rice paddies” and 力 “power; strength.” So in order to understand the kanji 男, it would be helpful for us to look at these two components beforehand.

(1) The kanji 田 “rice paddies”

HistoryoftheKanji田Many of the oracle bone style samples for the kanji 田 (such as the two in light brown on the left) had multiple grids. It was an image of rice paddies. The account in Setsumon Kaiji (100 AD) was that it was the image of the footpath that ran from south to north and from east to west in four directions. Most rice plants grow in paddies in which plants get immersed in irrigation water when they are young. The kanji 田 meant “rice paddies; field.”

The kun-yomi for 田 /ta/ is in 田んぼ (田圃) (“rice paddies” /tanbo/) and 田畑 (“agricultural fields” /ta’hata/). The on-yomi /de’n/ is in 田園 (“pastoral field” /den-en/), 油田 (“oil field” /yuden/). It is also used in 田舎 (“country side” /inaka/).

(2) The kanji 力 “power; strength”

HistoryoftheKanji力For the kanji 力, there are two different views that are of interest. One view, by Setsumon, is that it was muscles in an arm. The bottom was a hand. It meant “a strong hand.” The bronze ware style sample (in green) showed a bump at the top that was interpreted as muscle in the upper arm. But in ten style (in red), I find it somewhat hard to view the bottom as fingers. Another view, that it was “a plough for field work,” by Shirakawa, appeals more to me. (There are many other kanji that can be explained better if we look at the origin of the component 力 to be a plough in the field, as we will discuss in the next post.) When I go back to the earlier four writings, the idea of “plough” still works for me. Whether it originally was a strong hand or a plough in the field, it meant “power; strength.”

The kun-yomi is in 力 (“power; strength” /chikara”/) and 底力 (“real ability” /sokojikara/). The on-yomi /ryo’ku/ is in 努力 (“effort” /do’ryoku/) and 電力(“electric power” /de’nryoku/).Another on-yomi /ri’ki/ is a go-on and is in 力量 (“ability” /rikiryoo/).

(3) The kanji 男 “man; male; masculine”

HistoryoftheKanji男Now we are ready to look the kanji 男. In oracle bone style, it had rice paddies and a plough or strong hand. In bronze ware style, the right one had something on the right side. Could it be a handle of a plough? In ten style the two components were placed vertically, which became the kanji shape. The person who does manual hard work in the field using a plough was a man. It means “man; male; masculine.”

The kun-yomi /otoko’/ means “man,” and is in 男の子 (“boy” /otoko’noko/), 男らしい (“manly” /otokorashi’i/) and 男勝り (“strong-minded (woman)” /otokoma’sari/). The on-yomi /da’n/ is in 男性.  Another on-yomi /na’n/ was a go-on and in 長男 (“firstborn son” /cho’onan/) and 下男(“manservant” /ge’nan/).

According to Atsuji (2004), 男 was a bushu in Setsumon. Only two kanji, 甥 and 舅, are included among Joyo kanji. In the current kanji in Japanese, it is not a bushu, but there are other kanji that contain 男 — 虜 and 勇 (and 湧). We are going to look at those kanji now.

(4) The kanji 甥 “nephew”

HistoryoftheKanji甥In ten style of the kanji 甥, the left side was a growing plant, which becomes the kanji 生 “life.” The right side was the kanji 男.  Together, they originally meant sons of one’s sisters, meaning only a female side. But in Japanese it means “nephew.”

The kun-yomi is 甥 (“nephew” /oi/) and is also in 甥子さん (someone else’s “nephew” /oigo-san/.)  The on-yomi /se’e/ is not used in Japanese.

(5) The kanji 舅 “father-in-law”

HistoryoftheKanji舅The ten style of the kanji 舅 consisted of 臼, which gave the pronunciation, and 男 “man; male.” Together they originally meant a maternal uncle. In Japanese it means “father-in-law.”

The kun-yomi 舅 /shuuto/ means “father-in-law.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is not used in Japanese.

(6) The kanji 虜 “captive; prisoner”

HistoryoftheKanji虜In ten style of the kanji 虜, the top and the middle were used phonetically for /ro/ to mean “to tie on a rope” and the bottom was 力. Captives in battle were tied together on a rope and often became slaves. Together they meant “captive; prisoner.” The kyujitai (in blue) reflected the ten style writing. In kanji the middle became 田.  So, the kanji 虜 did not share the origin of the kanji 男 even though in kanji the shape 男 appears.

The kun-yomi /toriko’/ means “captive; prisoner.” The on-yomi /ryo/ is in 俘虜 (“prisoner of war” /hu’ryo./)  [We touched this word when we discussed the kanji 俘 in the post entitled as “A Hand From Above (2): 浮, 乳, 争, 静 and 印” on May 24, 2014]

(7) The kanji 勇 “courageous; gallant”

HistoryoftheKanji勇(2)Another kanji that did not have the same origin as 男 but contains it now is the kanji 勇. The kyujitai (which I am unable to find a typeface for) had 甬 at the top and 力 at the bottom. Let us look at the development on the left.

In bronze ware style, (1), the top meant a hand bucket of spring water and the bottom was a plough. Together they meant “spirit” that sprang out. The pre-ten style, (2), had a heart at the bottom. The Setsumon variant, (3), had a halberd (戈) on the right, whereas the primary ten style in Setsumon, (4), had 力. The kanji variant, (5), reflected the variant style in Setsumon, consisting of 甬 and 力. The kyujitai (not shown here) had マ at the top, 用 in the middle and 力 at the bottom. In the current kanji, (6), the middle 用 was replaced by 田.  By adding a bush sanzui, we get the kanji 湧く/waku/ “to gush out; spring out.” So, from the point of the view of origin, it would be wrong to connect “bravery; courage” (勇) to “manliness” (男). Rather, courage is something that wells out of one’s heart.

The kun-yomi 勇ましい /isamashi’i/ means “courageous; valiant; gallant” and also in 勇んで (“in full of spirits” /isa’nde/.)  The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 勇気 (“courage” /yu’uki/) and 勇退する (“to retire voluntarily” /yuutai-suru/).

In the next post, I would like to start to look at the kanji that contain 力 now that it has been introduced in this post. [12-19-2014]