The Kanji 声南琴喜樹膨鼓-musical instrument


As the last article of the group of kanji that originated from “a thing; stuff,” we are going to look at kanji that originated from musical instruments – 声南琴喜樹膨鼓.

  1. The kanji 声 “voice; fame; reputation; sound”

History of Kanji 声For the kanji 声 (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, was “a musical instrument with a hanging rope” and “an ear” below that. (b) and (c) in seal style, in red, had “a hand holding a stick to bang the hanging sound” board added. Together they meant “one listening to the sound of a hanging musical instrument that was banged by hand.” The kyuji 聲 in (d), in blue, contained all the components — “a banging instrument,” “a hand hitting with a tool” and “an ear to listen to.” But in the shinji 声only the top left was kept. Even though the origin was from an musical instrument and a person’s ear, it meant human “voice.” The kanji 声means “voice; fame; reputation; sound.”

The kun-yomi 声 /ko’e/ means “voice.” 鶴の一声 (“authoritative pronouncement; voice of authority” /tsu’ru-no hito’koe/). /-Goe/ is in 大声 (“loud voice” /oogo’e/). Another kun-yomi /kowa-/ is in 声音 (“tone of voice” /kowa’ne/). The on-yomi /see/ is in 無声音 (“voiceless sound” /muse’eon/), 音声 (“voice; sound” /o’nsee/), 銃声 (“sound of gunfire” /juusee/, 声援を送る (“to cheer” /seen-o okuru/) and 名声 (“fame” /meesee/). Another on-yomi /shoo/ is a go-on in 大音声 (”an ear-splitting voice” /daio’njoo/).

  1. The kanji 南 “south”

History of Kanji 南For the kanji 南 in oracle bone, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style  it was a musical instrument called /nan/, which was hung with ropes at the top. The shape was similar to a hanging bell. The writing was borrowed to mean “south.” Some scholars suggested that the sound nanwas similar to dan 暖 “warm,” and it may have something to do with this choice. The kanji 南means “south.”

The kun-yomi 南 /minami/ means “south” and is in 南側 (“south side” /minamigawa/). The on-yomi /nan/ is in 南北 (“the south and north” /na’nboku/), 南極 (“Antarctica: South Pole” /nankyoku/) and 中南米 (“Latin America; Central and South America” /chuuna’nbee/).

  1. The kanji 琴 “harp”

History of Kanji 琴The seal style writing of the kanji 琴 was “a harp,” with a bowed body and bridges for strings. The kanji 琴 means “harp.”

The kun-yomi /koto/ means “hard.” The on-yomi /kin/ is in 木琴(“marimba; xylopohone” /mokkin/) and 心の琴線に触れる(“to touch one’s heartstrings” /kokoro-no-kinsen-ni hureru/).

  1. The kanji 喜 “to rejoice; happy; be delighted”

History of Kanji 喜For the kanji 喜 the oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings had “a hand drum with a hanging device” at the top and 口 “a box of prayers and benedictions” at the bottom. They meant “pleasing a god with good drumming. The Old style writing, in purple, had a person who was singing or about to eat feast with his mouth wide open added but dropped in seal style. The kanji 喜 means “to rejoice; happy; be delighted.”

The kun-yomi 喜ぶ /yoroko’bu/ means “to rejoice; be delighted” and is in 大喜びする  (“to be overjoyed; be thrilled” /ooyo’rokobi-suru/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 歓喜(“delight” /ka’nki/), 喜劇 (“comedy” /ki’gki/), 悲喜こもごも(“bittersweet; having mingled feelings of joy and sorrow” /hi’ki-komo’gomo/), 喜怒哀楽 (“feelings” /ki’do airaku/) and 一喜一憂 (“glad and sad by turns” /i’kki ichiyuu/).

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree; to plant a tree; establish”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹 the bronze ware style writing, (a), comprised 壴 “a drum” and 寸 “hand” used phonetically for /chu; ju/ to mean “a tree; arbor.” (c) in seal style reflected (a), but in (b) 木 “tree” was added. “A hand holding a tree straight up” gave the meaning “to plant a tree” and “to establish” in a general sense. The kanji 樹 means “tree; to plant a tree; establish.”

The kun-yomi /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹立する (“to establish” /juristsu-suru/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/) and 広葉樹 (“broad leaf tree” /kooyo’oju/).

  1. The kanji 膨 “to swell out; expand; get big”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 膨. The kanji comprised 月 “a part of one’s body” on the left side and 壴 “a hanging drum” and 彡 “something pretty” together used phonetically for booto mean “sound of a hand drum reverberating” or something spreading like the sound. A part of the body that tended to expand was a stomach. The meaning of a part of body dropped it meant “to expand.” The kanji 膨means “to swell out; expand; get big.”

The kun-yomi 膨らむ /hukuramu/ means “to swell out; expand,” and is in 着膨れる(“to be thickly clad” /kibukure’ru/). The on-yomi /boo/ is in 膨張する(to expand; swell” /boochoo-suru/) and 膨大な (“enormous; colossal” /boodai-na/).

  1. The kanji 鼓 “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up”

History of Kanji 鼓For the kanji 鼓(a) and (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style comprised “a drum with a hanging rope at the top” and “a hand hitting the drum with a drumstick.” Together they meant “a hand drum.” A hand hitting a drum gave the meaning “rhythemic; to stir up.” The kanji 鼓 means “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up.”

The kun-yomi /tuzumi/ (つづみ) means “hand drum” and is in 小鼓 (“hand-held drum” /kotuzumi/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 太鼓 (“drum” /taiko/), 鼓舞する(“to encourage; inspire” /ko’bu-suru/), 鼓動 (“to beat; pulsate” /kodoo-suru/) and 鼓笛隊 (“fife and drum band” /kotekitai/).

The next group of kanji we explore is a tied bag or things in a bundle. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 31, 2018]

The Kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳- 木 “tree” (4)


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain 木. We are going to look at the kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳.

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹, the left side of one ten style writing, in red, had a drum on the left and a hand on the right. The sound of a drum expelled evil while planting seedlings and trees. Another view is that the left side was a tall-legged tray with branches at the top, and the right side was hand holding it. In the second ten style writing a tree was added. The kanji 樹 means “tree” or “to plant a tree.” It is also used to mean “to establish.”

The kun-yomi 樹 /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹木 (“tree” /ju’moku/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/), 樹立する (“to establish” /juritsu-suru) and 大樹 (“big tree” /ta’iju/) as in the expression 寄らば大樹の陰 “If you want shelter, choose a big tree; if you want to turn to someone, choose the powerful.” /yora’ba taiju-no ka’ge/).

  1. The kanji 橋 “bridge”

The right side 喬 of the kanji 橋 was used phonetically to mean “tall tower; tall structure.” Even though the kanji 喬 is not a Joyo kanji, it had earlier writings that 橋 did not have, so let us look at the history of the kanji 喬 first.

The kanji 喬 “high; tall”

History of Kanji 喬For the kanji 喬, the bottom of bronze ware style, in green, and ten style had a tower with an arch, which became the kanji 高 “high; tall” in other development. The question is what was the top because that presumably became the slanted short stroke. The Setsumon’s explanation of (d) was that 喬 was made up of 夭 and 高, and it meant “tall and tilted at the top.” (夭 came from “a person tilting his head.”) Referring to earlier writings in bronze ware style, Shirakawa says it was tree branches placed at the top of a tower gate as a spell to prevent evil from coming through.  No other reference that I have explains bronze ware style writings.

Well, I was hoping that the bronze style writing for 喬 would shed light on 橋, but it was not as I had hoped. The two bronze ware style writings (b) and (c) had something bent above a high tower, so it fits with the meaning of 喬 “high; tall.” 喬 appears in other kanji — 矯 in 歯の矯正 (“orthodontic treatment; correcting teeth” /ha’-no kyoosee/); 嬌 in 愛嬌 (“charm” /aikyo’o/); and 僑 in 華僑 (“Chinese expatriate; overseas Chinese” /ka’kyoo/).

History of Kanji 橋Back to our kanji 橋. The ten style writing for 橋 was 木 and 喬 together. The two component木 “wood” and 喬 “tall; high” together signified a bent wooden structure in a high place, that is a “bridge.” The kun-yomi 橋 /hashi’/ means ‘bridge,” and is in 橋渡しする (“to mediate” /hashiwatashi-suru/). The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 鉄橋 (“iron bridge” for railroad /tekkyoo/) and 歩道橋 (“pedestrian bridge” /hodookyoo/).

  1. The kanji 校 “school; to check”

Before we look at the kanji 校, let us look at the kanji 交 and 郊, which contain the right side of the kanji 校.

The kanji 交

History of Kanji 交For the kanji 交, the oracle bone style writing, in brown, showed a person crossing his legs. “Crossing legs” gave the meaning “to mix; cross; mingle.”

The kun-yomi 交わる /majiwa’ru/ means “to intersect; keep company.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 交通 (“traffic” /kootsuu/), 交換する (“to exchange” /kookan-suru/), 交互に (“alternately” /ko’ogo-ni/), 交代する(“to take turns” /kootai-suru/), 交流する (“to interchange; mingle” /kooryuu-suru/).

The kanji 郊 “suburb”

History of Kanji 郊The kanji 郊 could have been discussed earlier together with other kanji with a bushu oozato [The Kanji 都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと on November 8, 2015]. For the kanji 郊 in ten style the left side was 交 “to mix; mingle” and the right side was 邑 “village.” (The top signified an area and the bottom a person; together an area where there were people meant “village.”) The outskirts of a village are “surburbs.” The kanji 郊 meant “suburbs.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 郊外 (“suburbs” /ko’ogai/) and 近郊 (“outskirts; area close to town” /kinkoo/)

History of Kanji 校Now we are ready to look at the kanji 校. By adding 木 “wood” it created a totally different meaning — a pair of shackles over a prisoner’s ankles or neck. Crossing also gave the meaning “to check; compare.” A school is where knowledge gets exchanged between teachers and students, so 校 also meant “school.” Piling logs in an interlocking manner makes a wall, and a house. A military installation had a crossed-log wall or fence, and from that 校 was also used to mean “military officer.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 学校 (“school” /gakkoo/), 校舎 (“school building” /ko’osha/), 校正 (“proofreading” /koosee/) and 将校 (“commissioned officer” /sho’okoo/).

In Japan, 校倉造り “cross-log structure” is read as /azekurazu’kuri/. It was a building method in which triangle-shaped lumbers were assembled at both ends interlocking with another set. For Japanese the word azekurazukuri immediately takes us to the Shosoin Repository (正倉院 /shooso’oin/) in Todaiji Temple 東大寺 in Nara 奈良, which dates back to the mid-ninth century. In this photo of azekurazukuri, we can see how apt is the kanji 校 — which consisted of 木 “wood” and 交 “to cross; interlock”– to describe log-cabin style building for the then-existing Japanese word.

  1. The kanji 村 “village”

History of Kanji 村Here is another kanji for “village.” The kanji 村 originally was 邨. The left side of the ten style writing, 屯, “fringe,” was from threads gathered and tied, and signified “encampment; a band of people.” The right side 邑 was a village, as we have seen before. Together they meant “village.” The kanji 村 originally meant “field and villages,” but its use as “village” goes back a long time. The right side 寸 was used phonetically.

The kun-yomi 村 /mura’/ means “village.” The on-yomi /so’n/ is in 村長 (“village chief” /so’nchoo/), 農村 (“farming village” /nooson/), 漁村 (“fishing village” /gyoson/) and 市町村 (“cities, towns and villages” /shicho’oson/).

The next kanji is 枕. The kanji 枕 does not have an ancient writing earlier than ten style, but another kanji 沈 provides us with both oracle bone and bronze ware style samples. Let us look at the kanji 沈 first.

 5. The kanji 沈 “to sink; drop down”

History of Kanji 沈For the kanji 沈, the two oracle bone style writings had a sacrificial cow in a river for a rite. From that it meant “to sink; drop down.” The right side of the bronze ware style writing looks to me like a person with a bar across the neck. This reminds me of a yoke around the neck to indicate the center of a body in the origin of the kanji 央.  [The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑-Posture (1) on March 14, 2015.]

The kun-yomi 沈む /shizumu/ means “to sink.” The on-yomi /chi’n/ is in 沈下する (“to sink” /chinka-suru/), 沈殿 (“sedimentation” /chinden/), 沈黙 (“silence” /chinmoku/) and 意気消沈する (“to get discouraged greatly” /i’ki shoochin-suru/).

  1. The kanji 枕 “pillow”

History of Kanji 枕For the kanji 枕, the right side was used phonetically for /chi’n/. Shirakawa explains that the right side was a person lying down. Together a wooden item one used to sleep on meant a “pillow.” Kanjigen took its explanation for the kanji 沈 in the oracle bone style, referring to “a cow in river water.” It also says that the horizontal short line on the right side was a wooden piece to press down a person on the shoulder, and that something one used above the shoulder when lying down meant “pillow.”

The kun-yomi 枕 /ma’kura/ means “pillow; lead-in talk,” and is in 枕詞 (“set epithet” in classical Japanese poetry /makurako’toba/), 枕元 (“one’s bedside” /makura’moto/) and 腕枕する (“to use one’s arm as a pillow” /udema’kura-suru/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 桜 “cherry tree; cherry blossom”

History of Kanji 桜For the kanji 桜 in ten style, the right side was used phonetically. It signified a tree that bore small fruits like beads in a necklace (two 貝) that a woman wore. The fruit was called /yusura’ume/. In Japan it is used to mean /sakura/ “cherry (blossom) tree” for flower viewing. The kyujitai reflected ten style, but in shinjitai, the right top had been replaced by a simpler short katakana /tsu/ ツ. Cherry as a fruit is called /sakuranbo/.

The kun-yomi 桜 /sakura/ means “cherry tree; cherry blossom.” /-Zakura/ is in 夜桜 (“cherry-blossoms viewed in the evening” /yoza’kura/). Customarily 桜桃 “cherry” is read as /sakuranbo/.

  1. The kanji 松 “pine tree”

History of Kanji 松For the kanji 松 we have two ten style writings here. In (a) the right side 公 was phonetically used. The top of (b) had the shape of 容, but its role is not clear. 松 meant “pine tree.” Kadokawa explains that 公 was used phonetically to mean a pointed knife, and that a tree with pointed leaves meant pine tree. Kanjigen explains that 公 phonetically meant “letting through,” and that a tree with narrow leaves that left gaps was a pine tree. A pine tree is evergreen and grows tall and strong. In Japan pine trees are appreciated as auspicious trees. Customarily 松明 is read as /taimatsu/ and means “torch.” Pine and its resin burn well with bright light.

The kun-yomi /ma’tsu/ means “pine tree,” and is in 松林 “pine tree grove.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 松竹梅 (“pine-bamboo-plum auspicious arrangement” /shoochiku’bai/).

  1. The kanji 柳 “willow tree”

History of Kanji 柳For the kanji 柳 all three ancient writings consisted of a tree at the top and the shape that would become 卯 in kanji. What was the bottom shape, which eventually became the right side of the kanji 柳? The Kadokawa dictionary says that it was used phonetically and to mean “to flow” like 流, and that branches swinging in the wind were a “willow tree.” Kanjigen explains that the right side was the original writing for 留, which meant to stop everything from slipping, and that the kanji 柳 meant the leaves were slipping like they were flowing. Shirakawa treated it as phonetic use of 留.

The kun-yomi /yanagi/ means “willow tree.” The on-yomi /ryuu/ is in 川柳 (“senryu verse, 5-7-5- syllable comical verse” /se’nryuu/). The proverb 柳の下にどじょうは二匹いない /yanagi-no-shita’-ni dojoo-wa ni’hiki inai” means “you cannot expect the same luck simply because you got it before; a fox isn’t caught twice in the same snare.”

Other kanji that contain 木 that we have already discussed include: 材・相・想・箱・植・根・枚・板・構・栄・検・親・梅. A click on “Previous Posts and Search” on the front page will take you to any of these kanji. In the next post we are going to move onto another shape, most likely a bushu kurakanmuri “plants.”  [August 6, 2016]