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 功加労助幼協 – 力 “power” (2)


This post is a continuation of the discussion of the bushu shape 力 from the last post.

1. The Kanji 功  “achievement; skilled work; merit”

History of the kanji 功The bronze ware style (in green) of the kanji 功 was same as the bronze ware style of the kanji 工 “craft” or, more generally, “things that people made or crafted.” In ten style (in red) the shape 工 became minimized, and the shape for a “plough” was added to signify strenuous work in the field. Work that people created and hard work in the fields together meant “achievement, skilled work, or merit.”

The kun-yomi is not in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 成功する (“to succeed” /seekoo-suru/), 年功序列 (“seniority system” /nenkoo joretsu/) and 功績 (“merits; achievement” /kooseki/). Another on-yomi /ku/ is a go-on and is in 功徳 (“act of charity” /ku’doku/), a Buddhist term.

2. The kanji 加 “to add”


Katakana /ka/ stroke order


Hiragana /ka/ stroke order

History of the kanji 加In bronze ware style, the top may be interpreted as “a hand and strong arm” placed sideways, and underneath was a “mouth.” In ten style, the left side appeared more like a plough. (Please read the last post about the development of the shape 力.) When one wants to exert himself, adding a shout, such as a one-two-THREE, is helpful. Together they meant “to add.” Both the katakana カ /ka/ and hiragana か /ka/ came from this kanji. A simple kana such as カ or か can create a little embarrassing situation if you write the first strokes in the wrong order — the angle stroke is the first stroke in the katakana カ and the hiragana か (and the kanji 加), as shown on the right.

The kun-yomi 加える /kuwaeru/ means “to add” and its intransitive verb counterpart 加わる /kuwawaru/ means “to join.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 追加 (“supplement addition” /tsuika/), 加算する (“to add (in caltulation)” /kasan-suru/), 加減する (“adjust; modify; moderate” /kagen-suru/) and 加工品 (“processed goods” /kakoohin/).

3. The kanji 労 “labor; effort”

History of the kanji 労The top of the bronze ware style of the kanji 労 had two bonfires on torches. Bonfires burn intensely. From that it meant “vigorous; energetic.” The bottom was a piece of clothing (a collar) to signify “a person.” In ten style, it had “fires” and “a plough,” which was reflected in the kyujitai (in blue). “Power” (from a plough) and “fires” together meant “working hard at night.” It also meant “to reward for service.” In shinjitai, the two fires were reduced to a shallow katakana ツ /tsu/ shape, just as we have seen previously in 栄 from 榮 and 営 from 營 in the previous post entitled “A Bonfire for Prosperity” (on March 6, 2014.) Replacing a complex shape in kyujitai with a katakana /tsu/ shape in shinjitai can be observed in many other kanji, and we will discuss that at a later time.

There are two kun-yomi that are not on the Joyo kanji list but are used commonly – 労る/itawa’ru/ means “to treat kindly; comfort” and 労う /negira’u/ means “to express one’s thanks; reward for one’s pains”. The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 苦労 (“trouble; worry; pain” /ku’roo/), 労働 (“labor” /roodoo/), 心労 (“the strain of grief; weight of are” /shinroo/) and 過労 (“strain; overwork” /karoo/).

4. The kanji 助 “to help”

History of the kanji 助In the bronze ware style of the kanji 助, the top was a stack of things and the bottom was a hand. In ten style, the stack of things was placed on the left side and the right side was a plough or a strong hand. Adding a helping hand meant “to help; assist.”

The kun-yomi 助ける /tasuke’ru/ means “to help,” and 助かる /tasuka’ru/ is its intransitive verb counterpart that means “(it) helps me; it saves me; being helpful.” 助かります “Thank you for your help” is an expression you use when someone offers help. 手助けする /teda’suke-suru/ is a verb “to give a hand to help.” There is another kun-yomi /suke/ and it is in 助太刀する (“to lend a helping hand (in a fight).” The on-yomi /jo/ is in 助手 (“assistant” /joshu/), 助走する (“to make an approach run” /josoo-suru/) and 助詞 (“particle” /joshi/) in Japanese grammar.

5. The kanji 幼 ”very young”

History of the kanji 幼In the oracle bone style of the kanji 幼, it was a skein of threads twisted with a stick at the top. In ten style, the left side showed the contrast with the bushu itohen “thread; continuity,” which would have three lines to signify long silk filaments. Without three lines at the bottom, the shape signified that threads were short, or being young. On the right side a plough was added. Together someone who was still short of power meant “young; immature; little; tender.”

The kun-yomi 幼い /osana’i/ means “very young; immature.” The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 幼稚な (“immature” /yoochina/) and 幼稚園 (“kindergarten” /yoochi’en./

6. the kanji 協 “to cooperate”

History of the kanji 協In the ten style of the kanji 協, the left side was a shape that meant “to bundle up.” On the right side was three hands or three ploughs. Together they meant many people “cooperate.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 協力する (“to cooperate” /kyooryoku-suru/) 生協 (“co-op” /se’ekyoo/) from 生活協同組合 (/seekatsu kyoodoo ku’miai/) and 経済協力 (“economic corporation” /keezaikyo’oryoku/).

In the next post, I am planning to discuss the kanji 動働重 and 東. 東, as in “east”? Yes, surprisingly, they share the same origin for the shape. [December 29, 2014]