The Kanji 主注柱住筆律書粛津- “lamp” and “brush”

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As one of the last categories of the origins of kanji we have been looking at things  around the living area. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that originated from “a burning lamp” (主) – 主注柱住 and “a writing brush” (聿) – 筆律書粛津.

  1. The kanji 主 “master; main; primary”

History of Kanji 主For the kanji 主 the oracle bone style writing, in brown, was “a flame” on top of 木 “wood,” signifying “a torch” (used outside). The bronze ware writing, in green, was “a flame” alone. In seal style, in red, it became “a burning oil wick on a long-stem oil lamp holder” inside a house. A fire was important and symbolized “the master of a house.” The kanji 主 means “master; main; primary.” [the composition of the kanji 主: 丶 and 王]

There are three different kun-yomi: 主 /a’ruji/ means “master; proprietor”; a second kun-yomi 主な /o’mo-na/ means “major; primary”; and a third kun-yomi /nu’shi/ is in 家主 (“landlord; owner of a house” /ya’nushi/), 飼い主 (“owner of a pet” /ka’inushi/) and 雇用主 (“employer” /koyo’onushu/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 主人公 (“main character” /shuji’nkoo/), 主義 (“principle; ideology” /shu’gi/), 主観的な (“subjective” /shukanteki-na/), 主体的な (“independent; active” /shutaiteki-na/) and 主客転倒 (“mistaking the means for the end; putting the cart before the horse” /shu’kakutentoo). Another kun-yomi /zu/ comes from a go-on reading and is in 丸坊主 (“shaven head’ bald” /marubo’ozu/).

  1. The kanji 注 “to pour; pay (attention)”

History of Kanji 注For the kanji 注 the seal style writing comprised “water; liquid” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “staying in one place.” Together they meant “a manner in which one poured lamp oil very carefully.” The kanji 注 meant “to pour; pay (attention).” [the composition of the kanji 注: 氵and 主]

The kun-yomi 注ぐ /sosogu/ means “to pour.” The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 注意する “careful; to watch out; to give warning” /chu’ui/), 注目 (“attention; recognition” /chuumoku/), 注文 (“order” /chuumon/) and 外注(“outsoursing” /gaichuu/).

  1. The kanji 柱 “pillar; column; support”

History of Kanji 柱The seal style of the kanji 柱 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “something that does not move; main.” Together “wood that stayed in one place supporting the rest of a house” was “column.” The kanji 柱 means “pillar; column; support.” [the composition of the kanji 柱: 木 and 主]

The kun-yomi 柱 /hashira’/ means “column.” /-Bashira/ is in 大黒柱 (“the central pillar of a house; breadwinner” /daikokuba’shira/). The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 電柱 (“utility pole” /denchuu/).

  1. The kanji 住 “to live; reside”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 住. The kanji 住 comprised イ, a bushu ninben “person; an act that one does,” and 主 used phonetically for /juu/ to mean “to stay in one place” like a lamp would. A place in which one stayed for a long time meant “to live; reside.” The kanji 住 means “to live; reside.” [the composition of the kanji 住: イand 主]

The kun-yomi 住む /su-mu/ means “to live,” and is in 住み込み (“a live-in” /sumikomi/). Another word to mean “to reside” is 住まう /suma’u/ and is in 住まい (“house; residence” /su’mai/). The on-yomi /juu/ is in 住所 (“address” /ju’usho/), 住民 (“resident” /juumin/), 住居 (“housing” /ju’ukyo/), 住宅地 (“residential area” /juuta’kuchi/) and 定住 (“long-term residency” /teejuu/).

The next five kanji contain 聿 “a writing brush” -筆律書粛津

  1. The kanji 筆 “a writing brush”

History of Kanji 筆For the kanji 筆 (a), (b) and (c) had “a writing brush held by a hand.” It meant “a writing brush.” In (d) “bamboo” (竹) was added at the top to mean the brush itself, differentiating from act of writing. A writing brush usually had a bamboo handle. The kanji 筆 means “a writing brush.” [the composition of the kanji 筆: 竹かんむり and 聿]

The kun-yomi /hude/ means “writing brush” and is in 筆使い (“one’s handling of a brush; touch; technique” /udezu’kai/), 絵筆 (“paintbrush; an artist’s brush” /e’hude/), 筆まめな (“facile with the pen” /hudemame-na/), 筆が立つ (“good writer” /hude-ga-ta’tsu/). The on-yomi /hitsu/ means 筆記用具 (“writing materials” /hikkiyo‘ogu/) and 万年筆 (“fountain pen” /manne’nhitsu/). /-Pitsu/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 達筆な (“skillful penmanship” /tappitsu-na/) and 執筆者 (‘the author; the writer” /shippitsu’sha)

  1. The kanji 律 “law; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律 the oracle bone writing comprised “a crossroad” signifying “a way to go or to conduct oneself” and “a hand holding a writing brush straight up.” Together they meant “to conduct oneself in an upright manner as prescribed in a rule.” The kanji 律 means “law; rules that one follows.” [the composition of the kanji 律: 彳 and聿]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ritsu/ is in法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (“to measure; govern” /rissuru/), 戒律 (“religious percept” /kairitsu/) 一律に (“uniformly; across the board” /ichiritsu-ni/), 不文律 (“unwritten rule” /hubu’nritsu/) and 規律正しい (“disciplined; well-ordered” /kiritsutada’shii/). Another on-yomi /richi/ is a go-on reading and is in 律儀な (“upright; conscientious” /ri’chigi-na/).

  1. The kanji 書 “to write; writing; documents”

History of Kanji 書For the kanji 書in the bronze ware style and seal style writings the top was “a hand holding a writing brush upright” (聿). The bottom (者) was used phonetically for /sha/ to mean “to copy.” The kanji 書 means “to write; writing; scripture.” [the composition of the kanji 書: 聿 except the middle vertical line does not go through and 日]

The kun-yomi 書く /ka-ku/ means “to write” and is in 書留 (“registered mail” /kakitome/).  -/Ga/ is in 下書き (“draft” /shitagaki/), 横書き (“horizontal writing” /yokogaki/), 上書き (“overwriting” /uwagaki/) and 肩書き (“title of one’s position” /katagaki/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 書類 (“documents” /shorui/) and 文書で (“in writing; on paper” /bu’nsho-de/), 聖書 (“the Bible” /se’esho/), 書記 (“secretary” /shoki/) and 白書 (“White paper –comprehensive report by the government” /ha’kusho/).

  1. The kanji 粛 “solemn; quiet; prudent”

History of Kanji 粛For the kanji 粛 (a) in oracle bone style had “a writing brush” and “a pair of compasses for drawing a circle.” Together they meant “drawing a picture on bronze ware.” In (b) and (c) in bronze ware style the brush was not present. (d) in Old style, in purple, comprised “a writing brush,” “a heart” and something else (possibly 勺 for phonetic use of /shaku/). Adding a picture to a bronze ware was serious work. From that the kanji 粛 meant “solemn; gravely harsh.” The kyuji, in blue, (f), reflected (e) in seal style. In kanji the bottom was replaced by 米, but had no relevance to the meaning “rice.” The kanji 粛 means “solemn; quiet; prudent.” [the composition of the kanji 粛: hard to describe]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shuku/ is in 静粛に (“silently; in an orderly manner”  /seeshuku-ni/), 自粛 (“voluntary restraint” /jishuku/) and 粛清 (“purge; cleanup” /shukusee/).

  1. The kanji 津 “shoal; landing”

History of Kanji 津For the kanji 津 the bronze ware style and Old style comprised “water” “a bird” and “a boat.” A bird alighting on a boat in water signified “a boat landing area.” In seal style the right side became a writing brush dripping ink or liquid droplets on the lower left side signifying an area with little water, and it was used phonetically for /shin/. The kanji 津 means “shoal; landing.” [the composition of the kanji 津: 氵and聿]

The kun-yomi /tsu/ is in 津波 (“tidal wave; tsunami” /tsunami/). The on-yomi /shin/ is in 興味津々 (“of absorbing interest; having a keen interest” /kyo’omi shinshin/).

In the next post we are going to look at kanji including those that originated from musical instruments.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [March 17, 2018]

The kanji 径往律彼得復徒-ぎょうにんべん(2)

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In the last post, we revisited some gyoninben kanji that had been discussed before with a focus on a component other than gyoninben. In this post we are going to look at several more kanji that we have not discussed yet – 径往律彼得復徒.

  1. The kanji 径 “narrow bath; pathway”

History of Kanji 径For the kanji 径, the left side of the ten style, in red, was a “crossroad.” The right side depicted a loom which had warps (three wavy lines) that were held with a horizontal bar at the bottom, signifying “lines that go straight,” together with the sound /ke’e/. Going straight on foot along a narrow path meant “narrow path; pathway.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the wavy lines reflected warp that would get straightened on a loom. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji 又and 土, which is also seen in the kanji 経.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo-kanji. Sometimes it is used in 小径 (“a little pathway” /komichi/) in a literary style. The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 直径 (“diameter” /chok’kee/) and 口径 (“caliber; aperture” /kookee/).

  1. 往 “to go; past”

History of Kanji 往The kanji 往 appears to be a combination of a gyoninben and 主 “main.” But its history tells us that it had nothing to do with 主, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, in brown, the top was a footprint, and the bottom was a king, which was signified by a large ornamental axe. In the last post we happened to see two actual samples of oracle bone style for 王 in our discussion of the kanji 従 (shown in the photo in the last post). “A king advancing” meant “to advance.” In ten style a crossroad “to go” was added. The kanji 往 means “to go” or “something that has gone; past.” In kanji the footprint became a small dot, resulting in the same shape as the kanji 主.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 往復 (“return trip; going and coming back” /oohuku/), 往来 (“traffic; street” /oorai/), 往年 (“years gone by; the past” /oonee/) and 往々にして (”more often than not; frequently” /oooonishite/).

History of Kanji 主 (frame)The kanji – In contrast with the origin of the right side of 往, the history of the kanji 主 is shown on the right. In bronze ware, in green, it was a flame of a lamp only. In ten style, it was a whole image of a long-stem oil lamp holder with a burning oil wick at the top. Fire was important and symbolized the master of a house. The kanji 主 meant “master; primary.” By adding a ninben to this origin, we get the kanji 住 “to reside.”

  1. 律 “law; impartially; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律in oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, signifying “a way to go” or “to conduct oneself.” The right side was a hand holding a writing brush straight up. It also had the sound /ri’tsu/. Together they signified “to proclaim law.” Law is something that applies to everyone impartially. So it also means “evenly; impartially.” In ten style the right side took the shape that was closer to the current shape 聿, which is called hudezukuri as a bushu. The kanji 律means “law; impartially; rules that one follows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ri’tsu/ is in 一律に (“impartially” /ichiritsuni/), 法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (to judge; govern” /rissuru/) and 規律正しく (“in an orderly manner” /kiritsutada’shiku/). Another on-yomi /ri’chi/ is a go-on and is in 律義に (“sincerely; faithfully” /ri’chigini/).

聿 as a bushu in the traditional kanji classification — There are not many kanji that belong to it. The more frequently used kanji are classified in other bushu. For instance the kanji 律 belongs to the gyoninben group, and the kanji 筆 belongs to the bushu takekanmuri group.

History of Kanji 筆 (frame)The kanji is shown on the right side. The oracle bone style was identical to the right side of 律. In bronze ware style, the left one was a straight line for brush handle only whereas the right sample showed brush’s hair at the bottom as well as a handle. In ten style, a bamboo radical, a bushu takekanmuri, was added at the top to signify a writing brush, from the fact that a writing brush had a bamboo handle. By adding the bamboo the kanji 筆means “a writing brush” rather than an act of writing.

  1. 彼 “he; she; over there”

History of Kanji 彼The kanji 彼 is a borrowed kanji called 仮借 /kashaku/. Kashaku is one of the six ways of classification 六書 /ri’kusho/ in the Setsumon Kaiji. Kashaku writing means that a writing shape was borrowed to mean something totally unrelated in meaning and sound. In 彼, it was borrowed to be used as a pronoun for “he; she” and “over there.” Generally speaking a pronoun was a borrowed writing, including 我 “I,” 他 “other,” and 是 “this; pointing something close to the speaker.” In ten style a crossroad was added on the left. The kanji 彼 indicated a direction away from the speaker and listener.

The kun-yomi 彼 /ka’re/ means “he,” and 彼女 /ka’nojo/ mean “she.” The on-yomi /hi/ is in 彼岸 /higan/. Higan literally means “the other shore,” which came from “the realm of Buddhist enlightenment.” In the Japanese calendar there are two 彼岸 (usuallyお彼岸 /ohigan/) — they are a spring equinox day and an autumnal equinox day. Each is a national holiday. On ohigan time people pay a visit to a family cemetery to place flowers and the favorite food of the deceased. (On the other hand, お盆 /obo’n/ in mid-August is the time when the spirit of the dead comes home.)

History of kanji 皮 (frame)The kanji 皮 – The kanji 彼 was a borrowed kanji, but when the right side, 皮, is used by itself it is used in the original meaning. The history of 皮 is shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was an animal head. The bottom right was a hand. (We can see that the bronze ware style writing of 彼 came from 皮). It depicted a scene in which an animal was being skinned by hand. The kanji 皮 meant “skin” or “surface skin” and when it is used as a component it usually carries the sound /hi/ or /ha/, as seen in the kanji 波, 破.

  1. The kanji 得 “to gain; make a profit”

History of Kanji 得For the kanji 得 in oracle bone style, (a) was a combination of a cowry, signifying money or valuables, and a hand at the bottom. (b) had a crossroad added. They meant “to obtain something valuable in one’s hand” and “going out to make a gain.” In bronze ware style, in (c) and (d), the three components were the same as (b). Ten style, (e), had the shape 寸 for a hand. From “going out to gain something valuable in one’s hand,” it meant “to gain; make a profit.” In kanji (f), the cowry became 日 “the sun” that had a line underneath.

The two kun-yomi for 得る, /e’ru/ and /u’ru/, mean “to obtain; gain.” The on-yomi /toku/ is in 得する (“to gain; profit” /tokusuru/), 得意がる (“to congratulate oneself; be full of oneself” /tokuiga’ru/), 得意げに (“looking self-satisfied” /tokuige’ni/), Xが得意だ (“to be strong in” /X ga toku’ida/) and得意先 (“customer” /tokuisaki/).

  1. The kanji復 “to repeat; return way; again”

History of Kanji 復For the kanji 復, in bronze ware style a middle cylindrical shape had a small shape at both ends. This was a tool which one flipped repeatedly to measure grain. Underneath this measuring tool was a “footprint” that signified walking back and forth, also a repeated motion. Together they signified “to repeat.” In bronze ware style, the measuring tool became more elaborate and a crossroad was added to signify repeated going and coming. In ten style, it became two round shapes. The kanji 復 meant “to repeat; return way; again.” The same oracle bone style and bronze ware style shapes appear in other kanji such as 複 and 腹, all three of which have the same sound /hu’ku/.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 復習 (“review learning” /hukushuu/), 回復 (“recovery” /kaihuku.), 復元 (“restoration” /hukugen/) and反復 (“repetition” /hanpuku/).

  1. 徒 “on foot; follower; in vain”

History of Kanji 徒For the kanji 徒, in both samples of bronze ware style the left side was a crossroad, the right side was a mound of soil, and the right bottom was a footprint. Together they meant “going on dirt on foot.” In ten style, the footprint shifted to the left side, but in kanji it went back to the original position. In travelling, an accompanying servant walked while his master was on a vehicle. So it meant someone who followed a master or follower. It was also used to mean “without purpose; in vain.”

History of Kanji 走 (frame)The kanji –The kanji 徒 looks like it comprised of a gyoninben and the kanji 走 “to run.” But the origin of the kanji 走 is not closely related, as shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was a person running energetically with his hand up, and the bottom was a footprint, emphasizing that this writing was about the use of feet. In ten style, a footprint got extended toward the bottom right. It meant “to run.” In kanji, this running person took the shape 土 “soil” and the last stroke of the footprint got extended

There is one more kanji I hoped to include in this post, 御. However I do not have enough reference materials with me at the moment. Maybe I will have a chance to look at 御 in connection with other components in the future. [October 31, 2015]