The kanji 東棟陳凍練錬曹遭槽量糧-a rolled stuff tied on both ends and around 1


When we glance at a large group of kanji such as 東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧・重動働腫種衝・童鐘憧瞳・専伝(=傳)転(=轉)団(團)・恵穂 and, with the association with 専 kanji that contain 尃, 博敷薄簿縛・補捕浦舗哺 they certainly appear to be good candidates for our exploration in finding out if common shapes in kanji originated from the same origins. In order to cover all these kanji, we probably need to spend several posts. Most kanji are composites of two or more shapes, and naturally they do come up again in different contexts. In this post we are going to look at the first sub-group that originated rolled stuff or bag tied at both ends and around -東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧.

The first shape is東in東棟陳凍.

  1. The kanji 東 “east”

History of Kanji 東Any Japanese student knows the kanji 東 “east” because it is in the word Tokyo 東京 /tookyoo/. But the meaning “east” was a borrowing and had no relevance to its original meaning. In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was rolled stuff with a shaft going through that was tied on both ends and was wrapped around with a tie in the middle. In seal style, in red, it became more like the kanji 東. As a component it retained the meanings “through” and “rolled stuff,” but by itself it is used in the borrowed meaning “east.”

The kun-yomi 東 /higashi/ means “east,” and is in 東海岸 (“east coast: the East Coast”). The on-yomi /too/ is in 東京 (“Tokyo” /tookyoo/), 関東 (“Kanto region” /ka’ntoo/), 東西南北(“every direction” /toozaina’nboku/), 中東 (“Middle East” /chuutoo/) and 中近東 (The Near and Middle East” /chuuki’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 棟 “ridgepole; house; counter for houses”

History of Kanji 棟The seal style writing of the kanji 棟 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “through.” A piece of wood that was placed across a house was “a ridgepole; ridge beam,” which is the highest part of a house where two sides of roof met. It was also used to mean “a house” and as a counter for houses. The kanji 棟 means “ridgepole; house; counter for houses.” [The composition of the kanji 棟: 木and 東]

The kun-yomi 棟/mune’/ means “house”and is in 別棟 (“different building; annex building” /betsumune/) and also used as a counter for houses.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 病棟 (“hospital ward” /byootoo/) and 棟梁 (“master carpenter” /to’oryoo/) and 三棟 (“three building” /sa’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 陳 “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated”

History of Kanji 陳For the kanji 陳 (a) and (b) in bronze was style had “mounds of dirt; hills” (vertically placed) (阝)  on the left and “rolled stuff tied on both ends and around” (東) signifying “a thing.” In addition to them, (a) had 攴“to cause an action; do something” whereas (b) had 土 “soil.” The sound /chin/ meant “to display.” Together they meant to display things on the ground or line up bags of dirt. When something in display was left for a long time, it became “old; stale.” In (c) in seal style neither 攴nor 土appeared. The kanji 陳 means “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated; old.” [The composition of the kanji 陳: 阝 and 東]

There is no kun-yomi for  the kanji 陳 in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chin/ is in 陳列 (“display” /chinretsu/), 陳腐な (“stale; clichéd; obsolete” /chi’npu-na/), 陳情する(“to make a petition in person” /chinjoo-suru/) and 新陳代謝 (“metabolism; switch from old to new” /shinchin ta’isha/).

  1. The kanji 凍 “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone”

History of Kanji 凍The seal style writing of the kanji 凍 comprised “ice that has streaks” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “stuff tied” together signifying stuff freezing or a person freezing. It contrasts to the kanji 氷 “ice,” which was “water freezes; frozen ice.” The kanji 凍 means “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone.” [The composition of the kanji 凍: 冫and 東]

The next two kanji 練 and 錬 contain 東 in kanji, but in the kyuji it had 柬 with different meaning and the sound /ren/.

  1. The kanji 練 “to refine; knead; train”

HIstory of Kanji 練In bronze ware style and seal style the kanji 練 had “a skein of threads” (糸) on the left side. The right side 柬 used phonetically for /ren/was “bundle of threads inside a rolled bag tied on both ends and around to be softened.” Softening threads involved repeated steps of exposing them to direct sunlight and soaking them in water at night. From repeating a process of refining materials, it meant “knead; train.” The kyuji 練, in blue, retained 柬, but in the shinji 練 the right side 柬 became 東.The kanji 練 means “to refine; knead; train hard.” [The composition of the kanji 練: 糸 and 東]

The kun-yomi 練る /ne’ru/ means “to kneed.” The on-yomi /ren/ is in 練習 (“practice; rehearsal” /renshuu/), 熟練した (“experienced and skilled” /jukuren-shita/) and 試練 (“trial; ordeal” /shi’ren/).

  1. The kanji 錬 “to refine metal; train”

HIstory of Kanji 錬The kanji 錬 comprised 金 “metal” and 柬 “to refine; knead” used phonetically for /ren/. Together they meant “heating iron in a high temperature and remove the impure minerals.” The kyuji 鍊 retained 柬. The kanji 錬 means “to refine metal; train hard.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ren/ is in 錬金術 (“alchemy” /renki’njutsu/), 精錬(“metal refining; smelting” /seeren/) and 鍛錬 (“tempering; toughening; annealing” /ta’nren/).  [The composition of the kanji : 金 and 東]

The next three kanji 曹遭槽 also shared the origin with 東even though it is not easy for us to recognize it. But their ancient writings demonstrate that connection.

  1. The kanji 曹 “low-level official; sergeant; fellows”

HIstory of Kanji 曹For the kanji 曹 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style the top had two pieces of stuff tied on both ends and around (東), signifying “two parties in a court – plaintiff and accused.” The bottom 曰 was “to speak.” (It is not 日 “the sun” but 曰 “to speak”). Together two parties standing to speak in court gave the meaning “companions; fellows.” It also meant “low-level officers; seargent.” The kanji 曹 means “low-level official; sergeant; fellows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 法曹界 “leagal circles; the bench and bar” /hooso’okai/), 軍曹 (“seargent” /gu’nsoo/) 重曹 (“sodium bicarbonate; baking soda” /juusoo/). /-Zoo/ is in 御曹司 (“a son of a doble or distinguished family” /onzo’oshi/).

  1. The kanji 遭 “to encounter; meet by chance”

HIstory of Kanji 遭The bronze ware style writing of the kanji 遭 was the same as 曹. The left side (辵) of the seal style writing had “a crossroad” and “a footstep,” together signifying “to move forward,” which eventually became a bushu shinnyooin kanji. The right side 曹 “fellows; companions” was also used phonetically for /soo/. “People meeting on their way unectectedly” meant “to encounter.” In kanji 遭 is associated with mishap such as “accident.” The kanji 遭 means “to encounter; meet by chance; mishap.”  [The composition of the kanji 遭: 曹 and 辶]

The kun-yomi 遭う /a’u/ means “to encounter.” The on-yomi /soo/ is in 遭難 (“disaster; mishap; shipwreck” /soonan/) and 遭遇する(“to encounter; come upon” /sooguu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 槽 “tub; tank; vat”

HIstory of Kanji 槽The seal style writing of the kanji 槽 comprised 木“tree; wood” and 曹 used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “tub” together signifying “a wooden tub.” The kanji 槽 means “tub; tank; vat.” [The composition of the kanji : and ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 水槽 (“water tank” /suisoo/) and 浴槽 (“bath tub” /yokusoo/).

The kanji 量 and 糧 were discussed earlier in connection with a scale to measure grain. I  bring them back here for us to know that 量had a rolled stuff tied at the bottom in oracle bone style and bronze ware style.

  1. The kanji 量 “mass; amount”

History of Kanji 量In the two earliest writing of kanji 量 also had rolled stuff tied on both ends and around signifying “stuff,” and a round shape at the top indicated an opening to put grains in to measure. Together they meant “a scale to weigh a bag of grain.” What was weighed meant “mass; amount.” An interesting thing was seen in Old style and seal style – they had土“dirt,” probably in a bag as a weight at the bottom, added. This combination of 東and 土will lead us to the next group of kanji starting with重“heavy” in the next post. In the kanji 量 the bottom took the shape 里. The kanji 量 means “mass; amount.” [The composition of the kanji 量: 曰, 一 and 里]

  1. The kanji 糧 “food; provisions”

History of Kanji 糧For the kanji 糧 the bronze ware style writing is seen in other kanji such as 重 “heavy” and had “a tied bag” in the middle with “an opening” on top, which was 量 “a scale to measure grains.” The bottom was “rice.” Together they meant “food; provisions.” In seal style “rice” was moved to the left and became 米 a bushu komehenin kanji. The kanji 糧means “food; provisions.” [The composition of the kanji 糧: 米 and 量]

For the sample words for the kanji 量 and 糧 please refer to the earlier post.

Trying to find a common thread in so many kanji is not very easy. I needed an extra week to sort them out. Let us continue with this exploration into our assumption or premise – “the same kanji components came from the same origin (verified by ancient writings), thus they retain related meaning in kanji.” Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [April 14, 2018]

The Kanji 阪反坂陳東陛比階皆完院—こざとへん(2)


Two three-trianglesWe are looking at kanji with a kozatohen, keeping in mind that each may have originated from three different meanings and, possibly, shapes. Ochiai (2014) gave two different original shapes of a kozatohen in which the three triangles were placed differently – one with a horizontal line at the top (for a “ladder”), and the other with a peak of each of three triangles being in the center if you look at them sideways (for “mountains; hills”). He said that these two shapes converged into one. We have also seen the third meaning, “a stack of soil raised high.” Over the last couple of weeks as I looked at these three different shapes and meanings, they started to mingle together and the lines among them became blurred in my mind. A ladder suggests something “high.” A ladder could be flights of dirt stairs. An undulating line of mountains or hills suggests ground that is high and low. Hills are mounds of soil, etc. Keeping all these – a ladder, stairs, mountains/hills, high ground- in mind – we move on to look at more kanji.

  1. The kanji 阪 and 反

History of Kanji 阪For the kanji 阪, the left side of the bronze ware style, in green, would be a good candidate for the interpretation “hills placed vertically.” It gave the meaning that is something to do with soil. The right side 反 is a familiar shape in many kanji, such as 反阪坂返板叛版, all of which have the sound /ha’n/ or /he’n/, and form semantic-phonetic composite kanji.  Let us look at the kanji 反 first.

History of Kanji 反 (frame)The Kanji 反: In the Key to Kanji I explained that it was “a hand pushing back a piece of cloth, indicating ‘to push back, to roll back or to reverse.’” The Kadokawa dictionary, Kanjigen and Shin-Kangorin (2011) all take this view. The history of the kanji 反 is shown on the right. Now looking at the earlier shapes in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, I wonder if the upper left shape really looks like a hanging cloth. Usually the upper left (), a bushu gandare in kanji, is viewed as a “cliff.” If we take it as a “cliff,” what does “a hand under or against a cliff” mean?  Shirakawa’s explanation is that putting hands against a sacred area to climb in was sacrilege or disrespect, thus it meant “against.” I need to see more examples for this view to make sense. So, in the mean time, I just leave my explanation in the book as it is.

Now back to the kanji 阪. The left side looks like undulating hill lines. The right side was used phonetically for /han/ and signified “against; to turn back.”  A landscape that would push a person against going forward was a “slope.” The kanji 阪 means “slope.”

The kun-yomi /saka’/ is in 大阪 (“Osaka city; the minor prefecture (府) of Osaka” /oosaka/) and 大阪弁 (“Osaka dialect” /oosakaben/).  The on-yomi /ha’n/ is in 阪神地方 (“Osaka and Kobe area” /ha’nshin-chi’hoo/).

History of Kanji 坂The kanji 坂 “slope”: In Japanese for the kanji that means “slope” we use the kanji 坂, with a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil.” The kanji 坂 is newer kanji and was not included in Setsumon Kaiji. But, interestingly, Akai (2010) gave the bronze ware style sample shown on the right. (I do not know from which source this shape was taken.) It had a cliff with a slight bulge in the middle for an emphasis, soil (土) at the bottom, and a hand (又) on the right side. The image may be a person trying to climb a cliff putting his hands against it.

  1. The kanji 陳 “to display; state; old”

History of Kanji 陳For the kanji 陳, the two bronze ware style samples on the left had a kozatohen. and what would become the kanji 東, which originally meant “a bag of stuff or dirt tied at both ends.” (We are coming back to this in a second.) In the first bronze ware style sample, the shape on the far right was a bushu bokuzukuri (攵) “to do; cause an action”( from a hand moving a stick.) In the second sample, the bottom was “soil” (土). Together they meant displaying bags of stuff or soil tied on the both ends. From this meaning we interpret the kozatohen in this kanji to mean a stack of dirt (– unless we take the view that bags of soil were placed in front of the divine ladder).

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chi’n/ is in 陳列棚 (“display shelf” /chinretsu’dana/), 陳述 (“statement; declaration” /chinjutu/), 陳情する (“to make representation against or for; lodge a petition” /chinjoo-suru/), 陳腐な (“stale; ready-made phrase”/chi’npuna).

History of Kanji 東(frame)The kanji 東: Taking the explanation given in Setsumon 2000 years ago, the kanji 東 has often been explained as the sun coming through a tree, thus “east.” But now with abundant samples in oracle bone and bronze ware style scholars generally agree that it was a bag of stuff that was tied on two ends. The three lines at the top and the bottom were the ends of a tied rope. The meaning “east” for 東 was a borrowing. When used as a component the original meaning was retained, as is always the case in bushu. The meaning of “a bag of heavy stuff that was tied on both ends” was in the origin of many other kanji such as 重 “heavy,” 動 “to move” and 童 “child,” just to name a few. I hope to have a chance to look at ancient writing samples for those kanji in the near future.

  1. The kanji 陛 “His majesty”

History of Kanji 陛The next two kanji 陛 and 階 have been discussed in the earlier post [The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3) on March 28, 2015] in connection with “person,” In this post we look at 陛 and 階 as the examples of a kozatohen to mean “steps; stairs.” In 陛, the right side had 比 “people standing in a row” and 土 “ground.” The subjects were standing in neatly formed rows in front of the stairs that lead to where the emperor was. The kanji 陛 is used only to refer to the royal head of a state. For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

History of Kanji 比(frame)The kanji 比 – The upper right component of the kanji 陛 was well documented from oracle bone time, as shown on the right. They were all two people standing, one behind the other. Two means “many.” When two people faced backward it became the kanji 比 “to compare,” whereas when they faced left it became 従 “to follow.”

  1. The kanji 階

History of Kanji 階The kozatohen in the kanji 階 really signified exactly the same meaning as the kanji 陛. The origin of the shape, whether “soil stacked up high” or a “ladder,” gave the meaning of having different levels within. Flights of a staircase or steps to walk up were a good match for a kozatohen. The kanji 階 had 皆 “many; everybody,” which was used phonetically for /ka’i/. A kozatohen gave the meaning “stairs; gradation; story” to the kanji 階. We are seeing a clear-cut illustration of the important fact about a bushu and tsukuri (the right side of kanji) in kanji here – A bushu gives meaning and a tsukuri gives sound.

History of Kanji 皆(frame)The kanji 皆. In the earlier post I mentioned that the bottom of the kanji 皆 was from 自 “self,” and also that there is a view that it was 曰 “to talk.” I do not have anything new that makes me choose one over the other now, but now I am inclined to think that both must be correct. The ten style sample may be 自 (白) from a nose on the face, but the bronze ware style was 曰 (“to talk” /e’tsu/ in on-yomi and /i’waku/ in kun-yomi.) During the last two years of our exploration of the etymology of kanji on this blog site, we have seen that components of ancient writing got lost, added, or replaced over the years. In the kanji 皆, both interpretations of the bottom may be right. Even though 曰 is not among the Joyo kanji, it is used in expressions such as 彼曰く (“according to what he said” /ka’re i’waku/”) and 曰く付きの悪者 (“a villain with the past” /iwakutsuki-no-warumono/). For the kanji 皆, from many people talking, it meant “everyone; all.”

  1. The kanji 院 “institution”

History of Kanji 院The right side of the kanji 院 is the kanji 完. History of Kanji 完(frame)In the absence of writing that was earlier than ten style for 院 shown on the left, I hoped to find earlier shape in the kanji 完. But my search came up empty-handed — the kanji 完 only had a ten style sample too. But there was a difference that, in the ten style sample of 完, the walls of the house, a bushu ukanmuri, reached the floor. So, 元 “a person with a big head kneeling down with his hand in front” was entirely wrapped in the safety of the inside the house. The kanji 完 meant “entire; complete.”

Now we go back to the ten style of the kanji 院. 完 was used phonetically (it is not easy for us to see that /kan/ and /in/ shared the same phonetic origin, but that seems to be the finding by kanji scholars). What would a kozatohen add to the kanji 完, then? It is the soil that was stacked high to surround a person in the house. A dirt-walled house with people inside means a “large public house; institution.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 病院 (“hospital” /byooin/), 入院する (“to become hospitalized” /nyuuin-suru/), 医院 (“physician’s private practice office” /i’in/), 上院 (“the Upper House; the Senate” /jooin/) and 下院 (“the Lower House; the House of Representatives” /kain/) and 大学院 (“graduate school” /daigaku’in/).

I was not able to squeeze in a few more kanji with a kozatohen here. So there will be one more post on a kozatohen. For our readers who keep the American tradition – A Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your family!  -Noriko [November 22, 2015 ]

The Kanji 東動働重童-力 “power” (3)


In continuing the bushu 力 “power; strength”, we are going to look at the kanji 動 and 働 in this post. In the two kanji 動 and 働, the obvious starting point is the kanji 重.  When we look at ancient writing, discussing the kanji 重 further takes us to the kanji 東.

(1) The kanji 東 “east”

The kanji 東 is the kanji that we study at a very early stage (we need it for 東京 “Tokyo” /tookyoo/!). Your teacher tried very hard to make kanji meaningful to the class and may have said something like, “Can you see the sun, 日, inside a tree, 木, in this kanji?  Morning sun shines through the branches of a tree in the east.  So, the kanji 東 means ‘east.’”  Forty years ago, when I first started to teach Japanese and looked for a way to explain kanji, I also came across this explanation. Even then I felt doubtful about it. Apparently that was the explanation given in the Setsumon Kaiji, the utmost authoritative etymology source of Chinese characters.  So, it has been retold timelessly.

The history of the kanji 東(abc)The ancient writings tell us a different story. In oracle bone style, (a) in brown, and bronze ware style, (b) in green, it was a bag that was tied around a pole, with two ends tied tightly and the middle wrapped around as well.  The middles of these samples do not look anything like the sun.

History of the kanji 日

The History of the kanji 日

At the time of the oracle bone style and bronze ware style, shown on the right, the sun was a circle with a dot, long or short, in the middle, that signified that the inside was not empty.  It was only in ten style, (c) in red, when the middle dot became a line across.

What did a bag of stuff with a pole going through have to do with the direction “east”?  The answer is, “Nothing.” The writing was borrowed to mean “east.” Borrowing means it had no relevance to the meaning or sound of the original kanji. Borrowing a shape for a direction was not uncommon: the kanji 西 “west,” from a basket, 南 “south,” from a musical instrument, were borrowed. The kanji 北, “back to back,” was used phonetically for “north.”  This was just the ground work for the kanji in this post.

The kun-yomi 東 /higashi/ means “east.”  Another kun-yomi /a’zuma/ also meant “east.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 東京, 東海道 (“the Tokaido road” /tooka’idoo/) and 東北地方 (“northeast region” /toohokuchi’hoo/), 中東 (“Middle East” /chuutoo/).

(2) The kanji 重 “heavy; weight”

The history of the kanji 重(de)The bronze ware style sample, (d), of the kanji 重 consisted of a person on top, a bag that was tied around, and soil at the bottom. In ten style, (e), it had the shape of a person bending over at the top, and below that was the same as (c) in 東, and the dirt at the bottom. The person’s feet were connected all the way to the ground.  Together a person with a heavy bag standing on the ground meant “heavy.”

The kun-yomi is in 重い (“heavy” /omoi/), 重たい (“heavy” /omotai/), and 重み (“weight” /omomi/).  Another kun-yomi 重ねる (“to pile; lay something on the other” /kasaneru/), 重ね重ね (“repeatedly” /kasanega’sane/). The on-yomi /ju’u/ is in 二重 (“double” /nijuu/), 厳重に (“closely; strictly” /genjuuni/).

(3) The kanji 動 “to move” and the kanji 童 “young child”

The history of the kanji 動(fg)In the kanji 動, the left side 重 was just explained. If we jump to the ten style, (g), we see what we expect from the kanji 重, with the plough for 力 “power” on the right side. Together they meant applying power to move heavy stuff, or “to move.”  So far it makes sense, doesn’t it.

But what about the bronze ware style, as in (f)?  It had a large tattoo needle (辛) with a big handle, and an eye underneath at the top. (f) in bronze ware style was different from (d), 重 in bronze ware style. Why is that? Even though the ten style, (e) for 重 and (g) for 動, are closely similar, why are the bronze ware styles from which they developed so different? What a bother…, but we will not give up.  There is a reason. Ancient creators of writing used a tattoo needle in various kanji. The bushu 言 and 音 that we saw earlier were just a few of the examples. Another example of use of a tattoo needle was that a convict was tattooed as a punishment for a crime.

History of the kanji 童

History of the kanji 童

I remember that earlier I had come across a shape that was the same as (f).  It was the bronze ware style of the kanji 童, shown in (h) on the right. (f) and (h) had to be the same.  In 童, someone who had a tattoo, a convict, did a heavy manual work. (We recognize a heavy load and the soil in (h) and (i).)  The needle over an eye symbolized blindness to knowledge or not having freedom. Later on, the meaning of convict was dropped and the kanji meant someone who was ignorant. That is a young child. The kanji 童 means “young child.”

Now back to our kanji 動. The kanji 動 originally meant “to work hard” or “physical work.” The writing was later taken away to mean “to move” or “to move stuff,” which is the current use.

The kun-yomi 動く (“to move” ugo’ku/) is 身動きできない (“cannot budge; cramped” /miu’goki deki’nai/), 動き回る (“to move about” /ugokimawa’ru/).  The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 運動 (“exercise” /undoo/), 活動 (“activity” /katsudoo/) and 自動ドア (“automatic door” /jidoodo’a/).

(5) The Kanji 働 “to work; labor”

What happened to the original meaning of “working hard” that 動 had? That is where the newer kanji 働 comes in.  The kanji 働 was created in Japan to mean “to work (using one’s body).” So, there is no ancient writing existed. Logically a kokuji (国字), a kanji that was created in Japan, does not have an on-yomi. But the kanji 働 just took the on-yomi of the kanji 動 /do’o/.

The kun-yomi /hataraku/ means “to work for wages” and is in ただ働き (“work without pay” /tadaba’taraki/). The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 労働 (“labor” /roodoo/) and 稼働する (“(machine is) in operation” /kadoo-suru/).

The year 2015 is hitsujidoshi, “the year of the sheep,” written as 未年.The kanji 未 and the animal sheep have no relation, so it is just an arbitrary use. I would like to touch on the kanji 羊 to celebrate the new year in the next post. [1_6_2015]