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]

The kanji 愛恋憂優 − 心 こころ (2)


Happy Valentine’s Day!

(1) The kanji 愛 “love”

History of the kanji 愛There are at least two different interpretations of the origin of the kanji 愛. There is no oracle bone style available to us but two bronze ware writings, in green, are shown on the left. In the left one, the top was a person leaning back because his stomach was full, signifying “filled with,” and the bottom was a “heart.” – It described his heart filled with emotions. Another interpretation is that the second writing consisted of a person facing toward the right side, signifying looking backward, a heart inside a circular line and a long line coming down – It described a person looking back because the heart inside him found it hard to leave because of emotions.

The ten style writing, in red, seems to favor the second interpretation. In ten style, in addition to what the second bronze ware style had, it had a “dragging foot” at the bottom.  For 愛 with the top and the bottom together they meant the state of mind that one could not move forward because his heart was filled with emotions. That is “love.” In kanji the top becomes the shape that we find in the kanji 受, which I call “a hand from above” [in the May 24, 2014 post], but I do not think it is related to a hand in this case. The katakana /tsu/ shape is used as a simpler replacement in many kanji. The circular shape that surrounded the heart in ten style was kept above the heart.

There are two kun-yomi. /Ito/ is in 愛しい /itoshi’i/ “dear; beloved” and /mana/ is in 愛娘 (“someone’s loving daughter” /manamu’sume) and 愛弟子 (“one’s favorite disciple or student” /manadeshi/.) The on-yomi /a’i/ is in 愛情 (“affection; love” /aijoo/), 恋愛 (“love; romance” /ren-ai/), 愛用する (“to use habitually; cherish” /aiyoo-suru/) and 愛車 (“one’s own car” /aisha/).

(2) The kanji 恋 “to be in love; romance”

History of the kanji 恋The kanji 恋 had a totally different shape in ten style. It had two skeins of threads on both sides, and in the center was a tattoo needle over a mouth that meant “word or language,” and a heart below that. Together they meant that a heart was so tangled up with emotions or yearnings, like many threads tangled up, and did not know how to express itself in words. It meant “to be in love.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the heart was moved out to the bottom to be more conspicuous. In shinjitai, the top became 亦. What a difference! But this seemingly simplified shape also has its own history too.

History of the kanji 亦The history of the shape 亦 is shown on the right side. In oracle bone style through ten style, it was a person and two dots on both sides, indicating “both sides.” (Its bronze ware style, not shown here, is practically identical to oracle bone style.) The kanji 亦 is sometimes used as /mata/ “also” even though it is not a Joyo kanji. Now I am beginning to wonder if the reason why this shape was chosen for shinjitai simplification in 恋 was because it had a person and two dots on either side, signifying that a person whose heart was confused must be in love. Well, I may be reading too much into it. (In case you are wondering about the kanji 変 “strange; to change”– It  (變) contained the same element at the top in ten style, but its bronze ware style was different. We need to explore more about the kanji 変 later on.)

The kun-yomi /ko’i/ is in 恋 (“being in love; romance” /ko’i/), 初恋 (“first love; puppy love” /hatsukoi/), 恋文 (“love letter” /koibumi/), 恋する (“to be in love; to yearn” /koisu’ru/). The on-yomi /ren/ is in 恋愛 (“love; romance” /ren-ai/) and 失恋 (“broken heart” /shitsuren/).

(3) The kanji 憂 “anxious; melancholy”

History of Kanji 憂Since we have covered two important kanji 愛 and 恋 for Valentine’s Day today, we move on to a couple of kanji that are closely related to the kanji 愛. The two kanji 愛 and 憂 share the same components with “a heart inside” and “a “backward foot.”

We have three samples of bronze ware style writings here. The left-most one had a person whose head was covered with something, and a hand in front. What he was wearing was a veil for mourning. The middle one had something at the foot that looked like a hand from the back, preventing him from moving. The third one looks like there was a hand in front of his head, pushing him back. Together they meant the sorrow one feels in mourning that prevented one from moving. In ten style, the top became 頁 without the two short strokes at the bottom. The shape 頁 originally came from an official or ceremonial headdress and meant “head.” We discussed this shape (pronounced as /ke’tsu/) that meant “head” in an earlier post [on November 15, 2015]. The bottom had a heart inside. Together they meant “to feel anxious about; be worried about; melancholy.”

The kun-yomi 憂い /urei/ means “melancholy,” and is also in 憂い顔 (“sorrowful face” /ureigao/). The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 憂鬱 (“melancholy” /yuuutsu/), and the verbal phrase 杞憂に終わる (“to be proven unfounded” /kiyuu ni owaru/.) The word 杞憂 (/kiyuu/ “groundless worry”) came from a fable that people in a country named 杞 /ki/ were worried that the sky would break and fall.

(4) The kanji 優 “excellent; actor”

History of the kanji 優The kanji 優 has a twist to it too. In terms of the shape, you just add a bushu ninben “person” on the left side and the right side was phonetically used for /yu’u/. But when you dig up a little deeper with knowledge of the origin of the right side 憂, a story comes out like this — It signified the posture that a person took when feeling melancholy, and the person who took that posture, with his/her feel dragging gracefully, was an actor in a play of tragedy. In ancient times music and plays were votive offerings. They were important parts of worshiping, and an actor’s role was to express emotions and appeal gracefully to the god. From that the kanji 優 meant “graceful” and “actor.” On the other hand an actor who played a comedic role was 俳 /ha’i/. The kanji 俳 is used in a Japanese literary genre haiku (俳句) that came from 俳諧 (“playful literary genre” /haikai/). So, a 17-syllable poem haiku is a poem in which one expresses the light side of one’s emotion. The word for an actor in Japanese, 俳優 /haiyuu/, contains both the kanji 優 and 俳, and the origin of that word was a person who could play both tragedy and comedy.

The kun-yomi 優れる /sugure’ru/ means “to excel.” Another kun-yomi 優しい /yasashii/ means “gentle-hearted.” The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 優雅な (“elegant” /yuuga-na/), 優先する (“to prioritize” /yuusen-suru/), 優秀な (“excellence” /yuushuu/) and its original meaning 俳優 (“actor” /haiyuu/) and 声優 (“voice actor” /seeyuu/) in modern times.

Well, doing researching and writing about kanji that deal with emotion drains me of my energy. So, I end today’s post here. We will continue with many more kanji with 心 “heart.” [February 14, 2015]

The Kanji 心思急恩念応 – こころ (1)


The kanji 心 “heart” appears in a large number of kanji that are related to mental and emotional experiences. So I expect that our discussion of these kanji will stretch over a few postings.

 (1) The kanji 心 “heart; mind; core”

History of the kanji 心In bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was an anatomical shape of the chambers of a heart. In ten style an artery was added. It meant “heart” as in the part of one’s body and “heart; mind” as in emotion. The heart being the center of the body and important, it is also used to mean “essential; core.”

The kun-yomi /kokoro’/ means “heart; mind; feelings,” whereas the on-yomi /shi’n/ is in the 心臓 /shinzoo/ “heart,” as in the part of the body. The kun-yomi /kokoro’/ is in 心から (“sincerely; truly” /kokoro’kara/), 心がける (“to be mindful of” /kokorogake’ru/), 気心の知れた (“trusted” /kigokoronoshireta/). /Koko/ is in 心地よい (“to feel good; pleasant” /kokochiyo’i/). The on-yomi /shi’n; ji’n/ is in 心配する (“to be worried” /shinpai-suru/), 安心する (“to feel relieved” /anshin-suru/), 中心 (“central; middle” /chuushin/) and 肝心な (“essential; point of” /kanjin-na/.)

 (2) The kanji 思 “to think”

History of the kanji 思In ten style, the top of the kanji 思 was a baby’s fontanel that was viewed from above. (A fontanel is the soft spot between the bones on a new-born baby’s head.) It signified “brain.” The bottom was a “heart.” “Brain” and “heart” together meant “to think.” In the last post, we looked at the kanji 考 “to think.” What is the difference between 思 and 考, both of which means “to think,”in English is an often asked question by a student. The verb /kanga’eru/ (考える) was using one’s mind actively or thinking logically, taking time to think matters over. In kanji 考, the bushu oigashira came from an image of an elder with long hair and a cane, and it indicated “taking time.” The process of deliberate thinking takes time. On the other hand the verb /omo’o/ (思う) means that a thought, idea, feeling or opinion comes to you, usually spontaneously.

The kun-yomi 思う /omo’o/ is in 思い出す (“to recall; remember; recollect” /omoida’su/), 思い出 (“memory” /omoide/), 思いがけず (“unexpectedly” /omoigake’zu/).  It is interesting to know that the words in on-yomi /shi/ do not necessarily imply spontaneity. It is in 思考 (“thought’ thinking” /shikoo/), 思想 (“thought; ideology” /shisoo/), 思考力 (“ability to think” /shiko’oryoku/) and 意思 (“one’s will; intent” /i’shi/).  So the distinction between 思う and 考える that I have just written may apply only to those words.

 (3) The kanji 急 “to hasten; rush” and 及 “to reach; also”

History of the kanji 急The kanji 急 “to hasten” has a surprise “cousin” — the kanji 及 “to reach; extend; in addition to.” How could the kanji 急 and 及 be related other than having the same on-sound /kyuu/?  The answer lies in the ancient writing, not only in the meanings but also the shapes. For the kanji 急 we only have a ten style sample shown on the left. The top was a person (he had very long arms, didn’t he?); the middle was what I call a sideways hand (of someone else); and at the bottom was a heart. The exact same shape appeared in the kanji 及. The kanji 及 has a fuller inventory of ancient writing, as shown on the right. Since we have not discussed this kanji before, let us look at it now.

History of the kanji 及The kanji 及 — In 及, the two oracle bone style samples, in brown, were a mirror image of each other, featuring a person and a hand from behind catching his leg. It was someone trying to reach from behind, and it meant “to reach; chase.” In bronze ware style, the left sample had a bigger sideways hand, focusing on “to catch; reach,” and the right sample had a crossroad, indicating that two people were moving. In ten style the crossroad dissappeared. In kanji the person and a hand from behind coalesced into the current shape. It meant “to reach over; extend; also.”

The kun-yomi is in the verb 及ぶ (“to reach; extend; stretch” /oyobu/) and in the connecter 及び (“and; in addition to” /oyobi/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in  追及する (“to investigate; accuse” /tsuikyuu-suru/) and 波及する (“to infect; extend” /hakyuu-suru/). Other kanji that contain the shape 及 include the kanji 吸 “to suck; absorb” and 扱 “to handle; deal.”

Now back to the kanji 急. We can see now that the ten style of the kanji 急 was really 及 and 心 combined. From a feeling of being chased, it meant “to hurry; rush.” In kanji, the shape of a person reached by the hand is better preserved in 急 than in 及. It is noteworthy that even though the kanji 急 belongs to semantic-phonetic composite writing (形声文字 /keeseemo’ji/), the element that was used for a phonetic purpose clearly demonstrated semantic relevance as well.

The kun-yomi 急ぐ /iso’gu/ means “to hurry; rush.” Another kun-yomi /se/ in 急かす /seka’su/ (“to rush someone”) is a transitive verb, while 気がせく /kigase’ku/ (“to feel rushed”) is an intransitive verb. The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 急に (“suddenly; abruptly” /kyuuni/), 急行 (“express” /kyuukoo/) and 急速に (“rapidly” /kyuusoku-ni/).

(4) The kanji 恩 “indebtedness; goodness; favor”

History of the kanji 恩In the ten style writing of the kanji 恩, the top 因 had a person (大) sleeping on a floor mat, and was used phonetically. By itself it was the kanji 因 /i’n/ “to be based on; dependent on.” The bottom was a heart. With a heart 心 added at the bottom to 因, the kanji 恩 meant “goodness; a debt of gratitude.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’n/ is in 恩がある (“to be indebted; feel grateful for a favor” /o’n-ga-aru/), 恩人 (“benefactor; patron” /onjin/), 恩返しする (“to repay out of gratitude” /onga’eshi-suru/), 恩義 (“obligation; favor” /o’ngi/), 恩恵 (“benefit; blessing; grace” /onkee/.)

(5) The kanji 念  “long-held thought; for confirmation”

History of the kanji 念In bronze ware style and ten style, the top of the kanji 念 was a lid or a stopper for a rice wine cask. The bottom was a heart. Together they meant something that one kept inside his heart for a long time, that is, “to ponder; thought.” We recognize the top to be another kanji 今 “now.” History of the kanji 今

The kanji 今 had the same development, as shown on the right. The shape was borrowed to mean “now,” but the interpretation that a stopper for a wine wine cask signifying catching the present moment makes sense to me. The kanji 今 meant “present time; now.”

There is no kun-yomi for 念. The on-yomi /ne’n/ is in 念じる (“to pray” /nenjiru/), 残念な (“pitiful; sorrowful; regrettable” /zanne’n-na/), 念入りな (“careful; elaborate” /nen-iri-na/), 念を押す (“to remind; make sure” /nenoosu/), 念のため (“just to make sure; for confirmation” /nennotame/), 念仏を唱える (“to chant a prayer to the Buddha” /nenbutsu-o tonae’ru/).

(6) The kanji 応・應 “to respond (willingly)”

History of the kanji 応The kanji 応 had a kyujitai that was much more complex, 應, shown in blue on the left side. In bronze ware style, all three writings had a bird that returned to the eave of a house. The bird is believed to be a hawk, which swiftly returns on command. I have noticed that all of the bronze ware style samples in the reference (there were six of them in Akai 2010) had a dot or a line on the left side of the bird. Just to make sure that it was not a simple bump that showed up in the reference materials, or even in copying the original, I have looked up a photo of 毛公鼎 in Ishikawa (1996), which provided an image in better quality, and it was there too. To my disappointment I still cannot make out what that extra dot or line next to the bird meant. We only have one sample of ten style, but in it a couple of more changes took place — The eave of the house became a table with legs, and a heart was added at the bottom. Altogether, they signified “to respond willingly like a hawk returning swiftly at the command of a person. In kyujitai, the top left became a bush madare “a house with one side wall open.” In shinjitai, the person and the bird were dropped, leaving a madare and a heart only. The kanji 応 means “to respond (willingly).”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 応じる (“to respond willingly; comply” /oojiru/), 応募する (“to apply for” /oobo-suru/), 相応の (“suitable; appropriate” /soooo-no/). It is also read as /no’o/ in 反応 (“reaction” /hannoo/).

We have looked at only six kanji with 心 so far. We obviously need to continue to look at many more kanji that contain 心, so I had better stop here until our next post. [February 7, 2015]