The Kanji 式試拭任妊作昨酢詐搾巨拒距規- Tool (1)


Our exploration of kanji relationship between common shapes (including bushu shapes) and its origin has entered the fifth year this month. The remaining shapes that I am planning to discuss are tools, containers, bundled objects, and shapes. We begin with tools in this post –the kanji 式試拭・任妊・作昨酢詐搾・巨拒距・規.

  1. The kanji 式 “formula; way of doing; ceremony”

History of Kanji 式For the kanji 式 the seal style writing, in red, comprised 弋 “a wooden stake for marking” and 工 “craft; a tool for carpentry.” Together they signified “a set way of making or doing something” or “formula.” The meaning was also used in a social setting, such as “ceremony.” The kanji 式 means “formula; way of doing; ceremony; style.”  <The composition of the kanji 式: 弋 and 工> (the stroke order breaks up the two components)

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shiki’/ means “ceremony; style; formula.”  It is in 卒業式 (“graduation ceremony; commencement” /sotugyo’oshiki/), 和式 and 洋式 (“Japanese style, western style” /washiki/ and /yooshiki/), 正式な (“formal” /seeshiki-na/) and 公式 (“formula in mathematics; “official; formal” /kooshiki/).

  1. The kanji 試 “to test; attempt to do something; trial”

History of Kanji 試For the kanji 試 the seal style writing comprised 言 “word; language; to say,” and 式 “a set way of doing,” which was used phonetically for /shi/. Together they meant “to try to find out the correct way to do by inquiring.” In testing an apprentice or applicant, an examiner asked his examinee a question on how he would do certain things. The kanji 試 means “to test; attempt to do something; trial.” <Composition of the kanji 試: 言 and 式)

The kun-yomi 試す /tame’su/ means “to try; attempt; put to a test,” and /-damesi/ is in 力試し (“test of one’s ability” /chikarada’meshi/). Another kun-yomi 試みる /kokoromi’ru/ means “to attempt; test.” The on-yomi /shi/ is in 試験 (“examination” /shike’n/), 試合 (“game; match” /shiai/) and 試行錯誤 (“trial and error” /shikoosa’kugo/).

  1. The kanji 拭 “to wipe; mop”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 拭. The kanji 拭 comprises 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” and 式, which was used phonetically for /shoku/ to mean “to wipe; clean.” Together they meant to wipe by hand. The kanji 拭 means “to wipe; mop.” <Composition of the kanji 拭: 扌 and式>

The kun-yomi 拭く /hu’ku/ means “to wipe” and is in 手拭き (“hand towel; cloth to dry one’s hands with” /tehuki’/). Another kun-yomi /nugu’u/ also means “to wipe,” and is in 手拭い (“tenugui thin cotton cloth” /tenugui/) and 尻拭いをする (”to clear up someone’s mess or blunder” /shirinu’gui-o-suru/). The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 払拭する (“to eradicate” /husshoku-suru/).

History of Kanji 壬The next shape 壬 “something thick in the middle” from a smithery table had a bulge in the middle, as shown on the right. It is different from 壬 and 王 in the kanji  廷庭呈程望 (In those kanji the middle line came from a line pointing a straight shin signifying “standing; straight”).

  1. The kanji 任 “to entrust; leave a task with someone”

History of Kanji 任For The kanji 任 the left side of (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, was “a standing person.” The right side was a smithy table with a bulge in the middle and was used phonetically for /jin; nin/. The bulge signifies “burden; responsibility.” Together they meant “a person who bears responsibility or role,” or “one entrusting a burden to someone else.” In (d) in seal style the bulge became another line, bearing the importance of its meaning, and in kanji the top became a slanted short stroke. The kanji 任 means “to entrust; leave a task with someone.” <Composition of the kanji 任: イ and 壬>

The kun-yomi 任せる /makase’ru/ means “to entrust; leave; let something do,” and is in 任せっきり (“to leave everything up to someone else” /makasekkiri/) and 人任せ (“evading responsibility” /hitoma’kase/). The on-yomi /nin/ is in 任命 (“appointment; commission” /ninmee/) and 一任する (“to leave a matter entirely to someone’s care” /ichinin-suru/).

  1. The kanji 妊 “pregnant”

History of Kanji 妊For the kanji 妊, (a) in oracle bone style, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style all comprised 女 “a woman” and 工 with a bulge (壬).” They signified “a woman who has a bulged stomach” — “pregnant.” The kanji 妊 means “pregnant.” <Composition of the kanji 妊: 女 and 壬>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /nin/ is in 妊娠 (“pregnancy” /ninshin/), 妊婦 (“pregnant woman” /ni’npu/), 避妊 (“contraception; birth control” /hinin/) and 不妊 (“infertility” /hunin/).

History of Kanji 乍The shape 乍 appeared frequently in oracle bones to mean “to create; make” and was /saku/ phonetically, and yet, accounts of its origin vary — twigs bent to make a fence; a tool such as an adze chipping off pieces of wood to make craft; woven basket, among others. The history is shown on the right.

  1. The kanji 作 “to make; create”

History of Kanji 作For the kanji 作 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it was just 乍 “to make; create.” Soon,乍 came to be used in other kanji phonetically, and in order to keep the original meaning “to make” a standing person was added to signify “an act one does.” The kanji 作 meant “to make; create; do; begin.” <Composition of the kanji 作: イ and 乍>

The kun-yomi 作る /tsuku’ru/ means “to make,” and is in  作り方 /tsukurikata/. /-Zuku/ is in 物作り (“making an object by hand; craftsmanship” /monozu’kuri/). The on-yomi /saku/ is in 作物 (“produce” /saku’motsu/) and 工作 (“construction; craft” /ko’osaku/). Another on-yomi /sa/ is in 動作 (“action; movement; gesture” /do’osa/), 作業 (“work” /sa’gyoo/) and 作動する (“to operate; run” /sadoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 昨 “past; last”

History of Kanji 昨For the kanji 昨 the seal style writing comprised 日 “the sun; day” and 乍, which was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “to pass quickly.” A day passing quickly meant “past; last.” The kanji 昨 means “past; last.” <Composition of the kanji 昨: 日 and 乍>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /saku/ is in 昨年 (“last year” /sakunen/), 一昨年 (“the year before last” /issakunen/), 昨日 (“yesterday” /saku’jitu; kinoo/) and 昨今 (“these days” /sak’konn/).

  1. The kanji 酢 “vinegar”

History of Kanji 酢We have looked at the kanji 酢 quite recetly in connection with the bushu 酉 “cask for fermented liquid.” The right side 乍 was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “something past.” Rice wine that went bad was vinegar. The kanji 酢 means “vinegar.” For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.  <Composition of the kanji 酢: 酉 and 乍>

  1. The kanji 詐 “to deceive; lie”

History of Kanji 詐The writings in bronze ware style and seal style comprised 言 “word; language; to say” and 乍, which was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “deceive.” Together they meant “to break oath.” The kanji 詐 means “to deceive; lie.” <Composition of the kanji 詐: 言 and 乍>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa/ is in 詐欺 (“fraud; swindle” /sa’gi/).

  1. The kanji 搾 “to wring; squeeze; exploit”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 搾. 搾 comprises 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” and 穴 “a hole” and 乍, which was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “to force something into a small hole.” Together they meant “to wring; squeeze.” It is also used to mean “to extort.” The kanji 搾 means “to squeeze; exploit.” <Composition of the kanji 搾: 扌, 穴 and 乍>

The kun-yomi 搾る /shibo’ru/ means /to squeeze/ and is in 乳搾り (“milking” /chichishi’bori/). The on-yomi /saku/ is in 搾取する (“to exploit” /sa’kushu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 巨 “huge; giant; gigantic”

History of Kanji 巨For the kanji 巨 (a) and (b) in bronze ware style was “a large carpenter’s rectangular ruler with a handle in the middle,” and (c) had “a person who was holding a ruler” added. There were two different writings in seal style — (d) had “an arrow (矢),” which was used to measure a short object, “a large ruler” (巨) and a wooden object (木), whereas (e) returned to the original shape of a large ruler only. The kanji 巨 means “huge; giant; gigantic.” <The stroke order of 巨 begins with the vertical line>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyo/ is in 巨大な (“huge; gigantic; colossal” /kyodai-na/) and 巨人 (“giant” /kyojin/).

  1. The kanji 拒 “to prevent; refuse; reject”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 拒. The kanji 拒 comprises 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” and 巨, which was used phonetically for /kyo/ to mean “to prevent.” One account says that the shape of a large carpenter’s rule was similar to a side bar for preventing traffic. The kanji 拒 means “to prevent; refuse; reject.”

The kun-yomi /koba’mu/ means “to reject; prevent.” The on-yomi /kyo/ is in 拒絶 (“refusal; rejection” /kyozetu/) and 拒否 (“refusal; turning down” /kyo’hi/).

  1. The kanji 距 “distance”

History of Kanji 距For the kanji 距 the bronze ware style writing had 足 “foot,” and a shape that was used phonetically for /kyo/. The short line in the middle was considered to be similar to a spur of a chicken, and that a chicken leaping a long distance signified “distance.” The kanji 距 means “distance.” <Composition of the kanji 距: あしへん and 巨>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyo/ is in 距離 (“distance” /kyo’ri/).

  1. The kanji 規 “standard; criterion”

History of Kanji 規One last tool we look at in this post came from “a compass to draw a circle.” For the kanji 規 the left side of the seal style writing looked like that of the kanji 夫, but it did not share the same origin – it was “a compass to draw a circle,” possibly using two short arrows. “A tool that was used to draw a circle” gave the meaning “standard; criterion.” The right side was 見 “to look at.” The kanji 規 meant “standard.” <Composition of the kanji 規: 夫 with a short fourth stroke and 見>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 規準 (“standard; criterion; norm” /kijun/) and 規定 (“regulation” /kitee/), and /-gi/ is in 定規 (“ruler” /jo’ogi/).

Well, the article has ended up a little too long here. I had better end it here. We shall continue this topic in the next post. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [December 9, 2017]

The Kanji 時昔借春昨 – 日ひへん (3)


We have been discussing kanji that contain a bushu hihen (日). This is the third post on this topic.

  1. The kanji 時 “time; hour; o’clock”

History of Kanji 時We have looked at the kanji 時 in connection with 寸 “hand” in the earlier post. [寺持待侍特時詩等- “temple; to sustain” on January 24, 2015]  We saw that as a common component 寺 meant “to sustain; hold,” and that it was used mostly phonetically. The history of the kanji 時 is shown on the left with some additional writings.

The three oracle bone style writings, (a), (b) and (c) in brown, had “footprint” at the top and “the sun” at the bottom. By itself, a footprint became the kanji 之 “to go” and 止 ”to halt one’s step.” The sun never stays in one place. The sun moving on and footprint walking forward together meant “passage of time; time.” We do not have bronze ware style writings but the next two (d) and (e) were before ten style was formalized. (e) came from a sekkobun 石鼓文, writing that was chiseled on a stone. In (e) the sun moved to the left side and the right side became 寺 (“footprint” and “hand”) that was used phonetically for /ji/. The three components in (e) appeared in the ten style writing, (f), and the kanji, (g), except one point. In kanji (g), the right top 之 from a footprint, “to go,” became 土 “soil; ground,” not the same meaning. This disjunction of the two shapes (from “footprint” to “soil; ground”) is also seen in the kanji 売 (賣) in which footprint became 士 at the top, as we have seen in another post earlier [Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (4) 売読続出買 on October 3, 2014]. The change occurred in standardization process to reduce a number of shapes. The kanji 時 also means “hour; o’clock.” For sample words, please refer to the previous post.

Note: The oracle bone style writings (a), (b) and (c) are taken from Akai (2010). Shirakawa stated that there was no oracle bone or bronze ware style writing for 時. Instead he gave (d) and (e) as its earlier writings.

  1. The kanji 昔 “bygone days; ancient times”

History of Kanji 昔For the kanji 昔, the two oracle bone style writings and the bronze ware style writing, in green, had two or three wavy lines at the top and the sun at the bottom. What were these wavy lines? The interpretations among reference vary; (1) layers of floor covering (Kadokawa); and (2) an abstract symbol for “accumulation” (Kanjigen). With the sun added to the meaning layers, accumulation or repeat, the kanji 昔 meant “bygone days; ancient times.” Another interpretation (3) is that top was thin pieces of meat dried under the sun, i.e. a jerky (Shirakawa from Setsumon). Then it was borrowed to mean “bygone days; ancient times.”

The kun-yomi /mukashi/ means “bygone days; ancient times,” and is in 昔々 (“once upon a time” /mukashimukashi/), 大昔 (“a long time ago” /oomu’kashi/), 昔話 (“folklore; reminiscences” /mukashiba’nashi/) and 昔なじみの人 (“old familiar face” /mukashina’jimi-no-hito/). The kun-yomi /se’ki/ is only in writing such as 昔日 (“old days” /sekijitu/). Another on-yomi /shaku; ja’ku/ is a go-on, and is even more limited to 今昔 /konjaku/, as in 今昔物語 (“Konjaku Stories” from the Heian period /konjakumonoga’tari/). But this on-yomi /shaku/ is used phonetically in the kanji 借, which is our next kanji.

  1. The Kanji 借 “to borrow”

History of Kanji 借The ten style writing of the kanji 借 had a standing person on the left and the shape from the kanji昔 on the right side, which was used phonetically to mean “to borrow temporarily.“ It meant “to borrow.”

The kun-yomi 借りる /kariru/ means “to borrow,” and is in 借り手 (“borrower” /karite/) and 貸し借り (“lending and borrowing” /kashi’kari/). The on-yomi /sha’ku/ is in 借金 (“borrowing money” /shakki’n/), 借家 (“rented house” /shakuya/) and 拝借する (“to borrow” in a humble style /haishaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 春 “spring”

History of Kanji 春The history of the kanji 春 is shown on the left. In oracle bone style (a) the left side had a tree and the sun, and the right side also was a tree. I am unable to figure out what the center signified. (No interpretation is available on this shape.) The bronze ware style writing (b) had grass or plants at the top, a plant trying to sprout up in the middle and the sun at the bottom. Together they meant the season when plants are pushing upward under the brighter sun — that is, “spring.” The ten style writing (c) was a stylized version of (b). But as we know, the kanji 春 (e) consists of three horizontal lines三, the kanji 人, and 日. I always find it somewhat difficult to see the flow from ten style to kanji in 春. So this time I went back to writing samples between the two styles, including inscriptions on a stone stele and brush writings on silk cloth. The photo (d) is a sample of brush writing on silk cloth in the 2nd century B.C. taken directly from a reference, not my reproduction by hand. I think that in (d) we can recognize how the lines in (c) were simplified to the kanji shape (e).

The kun-yomi /ha’ru/ means “spring,” and is in the expression 我が世の春 (“one’s peak of prosperity; heyday” /wa’gayono ha’ru) and 春学期 (“spring school term” /haruga’kki/). The on-yomi /shu’n/ is in 春分の日 (“Vernal Equinox Day,” around March 21 /shunbun-no-hi/), 思春期 (“(early) adolescence” /shishu’nki/) and 春秋に富む (“to be young” /shunjuu-ni-to’mu/).

  1. The kanji 昨 “past; last”

History of Kanji 昨The kanji 作 is a phonetic-semantic composite形声文字– 日, a bushu hihen, “the sun,” and 乍for the sound /sa’ku/. So, let us take a look at the fuller history of the right side 乍 shown on the right. History of Kanji 乍There are two different views on the origin of 乍 — (1) a craft tool for chipping off pieces of wood; and (2) bending vines in a craft such as a basket-making. 乍 meant “to make; create.” Later on 乍 began to be used phonetically in other kanji, so an additional component was added to differentiate the meanings. For the original meaning ”to make; create” a person was added (作). With the sun 日 added, the kanji 昨 was created to mean “last; previous.” With a sake cask 酉 added, the kanji for “vinegar; sour” was created (酢).

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa’ku/ is in 昨年 (“last year” /sakunen/), 一昨年 (“the before last” /issakunen/) and 昨日 (“yesterday” /saku’jitu/), all of which have a slightly more formal tone than 去年 /kyo’nen/ for “last year,” おととし /oto’toshi/ for “the year before last” and きのう /kinoo/ for “yesterday.”

A few more kanji that contain 日 have been discussed earlier. For the kanji 映, please read the post entitled The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑-Posture (1) on March 14, 2015, and for the kanji 普 and 譜, the post entitled The Kanji 立位泣粒並普譜 – Posture (2) on March 25, 2015. Other kanji such as 曜 “day of the week” and 暖 “warm” came into existence relatively recently and do not have ten style writings. We will probably look at 曜 later on when we take up the topics on animals (曜 has 羽 “wing; feather” and 隹 “bird” on the right side).

In the next post I would like to start discussing the shapes that came from a moon – 月 and 夕 [March 5, 2016]