The Kanji 徳待役後従 – ぎょうにんべん(1)


In the last post we have seen that an image of a crossroad became a bushu yukigamae (行) in 行街術衛. A crossroad was where an action took place. On the other hand, when half a crossroad () was used, the move or motion seemed more apparent. We would imagine that half a crossroad () must have derived from the full shape of a crossroad (行). But, from what I see in oracle bone style samples, both shapes already existed by then, as we will see in 1. The name gyooninben comes from the on-yomi /gyo’o/ of the kanji 行, even though the kanji 行 belongs to the bushu yukigamae group in the traditional kanji dictionary.

Since our exploration on this blog started almost two years ago, we have touched several kanji that had a gyooninben as component. This post is to revisit those kanji from the point of view of the gyooninben. (For sample words, please see the original posts.)

  1. The kanji 徳 “virtue; merit; good (acts)”

The first kanji that we came across that contained the bushu gyooninben was the kanji 徳 in connection with an eye (Eye Wide Open (2) 直値植置徳 posted on March 25, 2014.) We saw that the shape 直 originally came from an eye looking straight ahead that was signified by a vertical line. The horizontal line at the top (十) was originally a bulge in the vertical line to emphasize that the line was straight. The angle at the left bottom below 目 was an emphasis of  being straight.

History of Kanji 徳rFor this post I have added a couple of  samples for the kanji 徳. The two oracle bone style sample (a) and (b), in brown, are mirror images − We have seen many times that in oracle bone style whether a component faces right or left did not carry a particular meaning. Each had an eye looking straight ahead, and a crossroad. The writing meant that one behaved oneself in a straight manner. In the second bronze ware style sample, (d), in green, a heart was added. One had to act straight using not only his eyes but also his heart. In ten style (e), in red, a crossroad became more prominent. In kyujitai (f), in blue, the extra line above 心 was the remnant of an angle that 直 had. So the kanji 徳 is a heavy loaded kanji that meant “a way of life in which one should follow his own heart in a straightforward way.” If you live that way you would be someone of “virtue; merit; good (acts).” I am overwhelmed by morality of this kanji every time I see it.

  1. The kanji 待 “to wait”

History of Kanji 待The kanji 待 was discussed along with kanji that contained 寺 as its component (The Kanji 寺-持待侍特時詩等 “to hold; sustain” on January 24, 2015.) In that post, we noted that even though the kanji 寺 “temple” had lost its original meaning, when 寺 was used as its component it kept the original meaning of “to sustain; hold.” In the kanji 待 in bronze ware style, the left side was a crossroad. The right side was a footprint at the top and a hand at the bottom, signifying “to sustain; hold.” Holding back from crossing a crossroad meant “to wait.”

  1. The Kanji 役 “battle; military service; role”

HistoryofKanji役The kanji 役 was discussed with the kanji that contained the bushu rumata/bokuzukuri (The kanji 役投段殺-rumata posted on October 10, 2014.) The bushu rumata/bokuzukuri generally means “to hit,” from someone hitting with a stick. The two oracle bone style samples did not contain a crossroad at all. Instead they had a person on the left, either standing or kneeling. The right side was a hand holding a long object, which was a weapon, with an emphasis on its tip. Together they meant a person readying to go to battle or patrol of the border. It was an ordinary person conscripted for military duty. In ten style the left side became a crossroad, signifying “to go to the front; a soldier leaving for battle.” The kanji 役 originally meant “battle; military service.” From a call to duty, it also meant “role one assumes.”

  1. The kanji 後 “rear; back; behind; after”

History後rThe kanji 後 was discussed in One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来 on July 5, 2014. That was the first of several articles that discussed various shapes that came from a footprint (footmark). We also compared a forward facing footprint, such as 止, and a backward facing footprint, such as suinyoo 夂. For the kanji 後, the two bronze ware style samples shown here shared a crossroad and a skein of threads without fringes and a backward foot. The left sample had a forward foot as well, which in ten style was dropped. The skein of threads without the fringes signified “short or small.” Together they meant taking short steps or walking backward that resulted in “coming behind or be late in time.” The kanji 後 means “rear; back; behind; after.”

  1. The kanji 従 “to follow”

History of Kanji 従The kanji 従 was discussed in connection with two people standing side by side (The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3) on April 5, 2015.) The first oracle bone style sample (a) was just two people standing viewed from the side, signifying “a person following another.” In the second oracle bone style sample (b), a crossroad was added on the left side, giving the sense of forward motion. In bronze ware style (c) a footprint was further added below the two people adding the sense of walking. In ten style (d) this footprint was moved to the left, just below a crossroad. When a crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically, they usually became the precursor to the bushu shinnyoo. However something interesting took place in this kanji. In kyujitai (e) this footprint moved back to the original position, below two people, leaving the crossroad back in its original shape. The two people were kept as two small 人, which became the two stroke ソ shape in shinjitai.  Unless we are shown the original shapes we would never have guessed that the current shape 従 originated from just two standing persons.

Yesterday in Tokyo I had a chance to see a few actual pieces of oracle bone writing that dated from the 13th century B. C. The visit to this small museum (Taito-ward Calligraphy Museum 台東区立書道博物館 in Tokyo near the Uguisudani station on the Yamanote Line) was on my agenda for my visit to Japan this time, but for various reasons it was only yesterday that I was able to visit it. This museum originated from a private collection by an artist-calligrapher before the WWII and was donated by his family to the Taito-ku (ward) in Tokyo more recently. Unlike many art museums in Japan, which started as private collections of wealthy art loving industrialists who had amassed a fortune in modern times, this collection is a modest one and the layout of of the exhibit is rather outdated and not as easy for a visitor to see the objects because of poor lighting. Nonetheless the opportunity to see first-hand the actual archeological pieces was exciting to me. It was also very timely for discussing the kanji 従 in today’s post.

甲骨文(王従)台東区立書道博物館rrOn the right, (A) is a piece of an animal bone with oracle bone writing carved, taken from the article in Yomiuri Shinbun (October 20, 2015). (B) is what I  reproduced from the photo. The left side may be incomplete because it is not legible. (C) is the kanji based on my reading with the help of the accompanying article in the paper. (This exhibit did not give out any literature that I was able to bring home.)  It reads vertically from the right top to the left bottom. It says “The king (王) asked for a forecast (貞) on whether he would make a certain tribe chief (sanzui and 止) follow (従) him or not.” A new sentence starts from the third writing 王, 従, then moves to the left writing. Even in this tiny piece of cow’s bone (the piece is only one inch-wide), we see two samples of the kanji 従 – They were two people standing, one following another.

Oracle bone writing was the record of fortune-telling or divination in answer to a prayer or question made to the god by a ruler. The belly side of a tortoise or a piece of animal bone was heated, and the cracks that appeared were read as the answer from the god. From the contents of this piece, we glimpse the nature of 甲骨文 /kookotsubun/, literally “shell and bone writing,” to be divination. English name goes by its function and it is called “oracle bone” writing. Oracle bone writings were “discovered” as ancient writings only in 1899. The discovery of oracle bone style writing since then has changed the understanding of the ancient Yin 殷 (Shang 商) dynasty and the origin of Chinese characters. Some were brought to Japan. I am hoping to see several more items at the Tokyo National Museum next week. (For bronze ware style writing, I was able to see some items of superb quality at the special exhibit brought from China held at the same museum several years ago.)

This post was revisiting the kanji we had looked at before from the point of a gyooninben. I will continue with a few new kanji with gyooninben next time. [October 25, 2015]

P.S. I have learned that there are various collections of oracle bones in Japan. Most notable one is in Kyoto University. The photos of “rubbing” of these bones were published by Shigeki Kaizuka in 1960, 1968. Another collection is with Tokyo University. I do not know if these collections can be viewed if we make a request in advance.  I would like to try that in my next stay in Tokyo. An experience of looking at real pieces is so different from looking at the “rubbing” of the pieces in print.  [January, 2017}

The Kanji 息恥志悩聴 – 心 こころ (3)


In this post we are going to explore the kanji that are made up of a heart 心 and another part of the body. The parts of the body that appear in this post are one’s nose, ear, mouth, foot (footprint), brain, and eye.

(1) 息 “breath”

History of the kanji 息History of the kanji 自The kanji shape 息 consists of two kanji 自 “oneself” and 心 “heart.” On the right side the history of the kanji 自 is shown. In oracle bone style, in brown, it was a nose, with wide nostrils and the bridge in the center. In bronze ware style and ten style, the shape became less picture-like. The nose is in the center of one’s face, and it was used to mean oneself. As you undoubtedly know, in Chinese and Japanese culture when you point at yourself you point at your nose. In western cultures, you would point at the chest. After the shape for the nose was taken to mean “oneself” a new kanji had to be created to mean a nose, 鼻, which has its original shape at the top. For the kanji 息, in ten style it was a nose as a physical feature, rather than meaning “oneself,” and a heart. One breathes through the nose, and breathing carries oxygen to the heart. It meant “breath; to breathe.” The kun-yomi /i’ki/ “breath” is in ため息をつく (“to sigh” /tamei’ki-o-tsuku/). 息をする “to breathe” /i’ki-o-suru/). The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 消息 (“news about a person (in a distance)” /shoosoku/), 休息する (“to rest; take a break” /kyuusoku-suru/) and 子息 (“someone’s son” in honorific style /shi’soku/). It is also used in the word 息子 (“son” /musuko/).

(2) 恥 “shamed; embarrassing”

History of the kanji 恥History of the kanji 耳In ten style of the kanji 恥, the left side was an ear and the right side was a heart. The history of the kanji 耳 “ear” is shown on the right. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, the shape of an ear is more recognizable. The shape in ten style was consistent with the shape that appeared on the left side of 恥. When embarrassed, one’s ears become red. From that it meant “to be embarrassed; shame.” The kun-yomi 恥 /haji’/ means “shame,” and is used in the verbal phrase 恥をかく (“to embarrass oneself; disgrace oneself” /haji’-o-kaku/). In an adjective, it is pronounced as /hazu/ in 恥ずかしい /kazukashi’i/ “to feel embarrassed; be ashamed”).  The on-yomi /chi/ is in 羞恥心 (“sense of shame” /shuuchi’shin/).

(3) 志 “aspiration; will”

History of the kanji 志In ten style of the kanji 志, if you look very closely you may be able to see that the top is not quite symmetrical. It was a forward-facing footprint that meant “to go.” [We have talked about two directions of a footprint creating different shapes in the July 5, 2014, post.]  One of the forward-facing footprint shapes became the shape 士, as seen in kanji such as in 売. (It is different from the kanji 士, which came from a warrior’s weapon.)  In the ten style of 志, it was the combination of a footprint “to go” and a heart “will.” Together they signified “where one’s heart desires to go” and it meant “will; aspiration.” The kanji 志 also appears with a bushu gonben in the kanji 誌 “journal.” A journal was where one wrote down his thoughts as he wished.

The kun-yomi 志 /kokorozashi/ means “aspiration,” and its verb is 志す (“to aspire; aim; shoot for” /kokoroza’su/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 志望者 (“applicant” /shibo’osha/), 志望校 (“the school to which one wishes to get accepted; school of one’s choice” /shibo’okoo/), 同志 (“comrade; each other” /do’oshi/) and 有志 (“volunteer” /yu’ushi/).

(4)  The kanji 悩 “to suffer torment; to be perturbed; worry”

History of the kanji 悩The kanji 悩 in both kyujitai, in blue, and shinjitai had a heart stretched vertically to make space for the right side component. It is the bushu risshinben “vertical heart.” Its ten style writing shown in the Setsumon had a woman on the left side, instead of a heart. Curiously the only explanation I could find was Shirakawa’s (2004) – The ten style writing with a woman on the left came from a particular dialect, and it meant “to be distressed; worry.” Other references do not even mention “the woman” on the left in ten style. So we leave it as it is. In ten style, the right side was a scalp with the brain inside at the bottom and hair at the top. In the last post, we have just seen the same shape of a brain in the kanji 思, which was a baby’s scalp with its fontanel showing.(The kanji 思 did not have hair.) Having a heart on the left and the brain on the right the kanji 悩 meant “to worry; be tormented.” In shinjitai, the three wavy lines of the hair were replaced by a katakana ツ /tsu/ and the bottom became a receptacle and a katakana メ /me/. The kun-yomi 悩む /naya’mu/ means “to suffer torment; to be troubled,” and is in the adjective 悩ましい “disturbing; perturbing” /nayamashi’i/. The on-yomi /no’o/ is in 煩悩 (“earthly desires” /bonnoo/), 子煩悩 (“a person who dotes on his children” /kobonnoo/).

History of the kanji 脳The kanji 脳 — Relatedly, the kanji 脳 “brain” shares the right side with the kanji 悩. The ten style writing shown on the right had a person facing the brain. In kyujitai the left side became a bushu nikuduki “part of the body.” In shinjitai the right side was reduced to the katakana ツ /tsu/ and メ /me/ and a receptacle for the brain.

(5) The kanji 聴 “to listen to”

History of the kanji 聴The oracle bone style of the kanji 聴, (a) on the left, had an ear and two mouths. It signified to listen to words of a god. In bronze ware style the left sample, (b), had an ear and a mouth. The right sample, (c), was a person with an enlarged ear at the top and his legs marked with a short stroke, signifying “standing.” This bottom shape 壬 also appeared in other kanji such as 聖, 廷 and 望, and meant that a man was standing to look far. So, the shape in (c) meant that someone was listening to the words of a god from a distance. In ten style, (d), a set of other elements was added – an eye looking straight with a straight true heart. Does this sound familiar to you? The History of the kanji 徳That is right. It was exactly the same as the right side of the kanji 徳 [in the March 26, 2014, post]. To refresh our memory, the history of the kanji 徳 “virtue” is shown on the right side — now in color (!), thanks to the recolor feature that Microsoft Office has. The kanji 徳 began as an eye with a straight line with a crossroad on the right in oracle bone style, and it developed into the kyujitai which had a straight line of sight, a true heart and a straight forward act (the bush gyooninben), all in one. It means “virtue; personal grace.” In shinjitai, the straight line above the heart was dropped.

Now back to our kanji 聴. In ten style, (d), the elements in (c) from the bronze ware style time and the right side of the kanji 徳 together meant “someone listening to a god’s voice far away with a true heart and eyes that see things straight. In a single English word it means to “listen.” I normally do not draw a lesson from kanji etymology, but once in a while I cannot help doing it. This kanji reminds us that we should humbly and attentively use our ears, heart and eyes when we listen to the words of the God or of people. In kyujitai, (e), the standing person is visible under the ear, but in shinjitai, it disappeared, along with a straight line above the heart. In shinjitai we have an ear, an eye that look straight and a heart to make up the kanji 聴. The kun-yomi 聴く means “to listen to.” The on-yomi /cho’o/ is 聴衆 (“audience; listeners” /chooshuu/), 傾聴する (“to listen attentively” /keechoo-suru/). We still have more to go in discussing the kanji that contain 心. A heart makes us human. So it is not surprising to see it in many kanji. [February 21, 2015]