The Kanji 鬼畏異細思脳悩胃-田 (4) “not rice paddies”


In this post, we are going to look at kanji in which the component 田 did not come from “rice paddies.” Three origins are discussed here — [A] The shape 田 from “head of the spirit of the dead” in the kanji 鬼畏異; [B] The shape 田 “brain” from “baby’s skull viewed from above” in the kanji 細思脳悩; and [C] The shape 田 from “stomach” in the kanji 胃.

[A] The shape 田 from “head of the spirit of the dead”– 鬼畏 and 異

The kanji 畏 has the 田 shape at the top, but in order to discuss that it may be useful to look at a closely related kanji 鬼 first.

  1. The kanji 鬼 “devil; deceased”

History of Kanji 鬼In the history of the kanji 鬼 shown on the left, in oracle bone style, in brown, it was a figure with a square head with a crisscross inside kneeling down. The crisscross inside the square shape signified a fierce expression of a deceased person. It meant the spirit of a deceased person. In bronze ware style, in green, the head became a pointed shape. In the old style that predated ten style given in Setsumon, in gray, the left side had an altar table, and a small shape that signified a dark spirit was added next to the figure. In ten style, in red, an altar table was not present. The kanji reflected ten style writing, including the top short stroke above the head as a short slanted stroke. From the spirit of the dead in its origin, 鬼 was used to signify mysterious ability or supernatural power.

The kun-yomi /oni’/ means “ogre; devil,” and is in 鬼退治 “slaying the ogre” in folktale, 鬼ごっこ (“a game of tag” /onigo’kko/) in children’s play, and 仕事の鬼 (“demon for work” /shigoto-no-oni’/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 鬼才 (“genius; a person of extraordinary talent” /kisai/) and 鬼門 (“weak point; area to be avoided” /kimon/). The expression 鬼籍に入る (“to join the necrology; to die” /ki’seki-ni hai’ru/) takes the original meaning of the spirit of a deceased person. Other kanji that contain 鬼 among the Joyo kanji all reflect “spirit” in its origin. They are 魂 (“soul; spirit” /ta’mashii/ in kun-yomi, /ko’n/ in on-yomi), 魅 (“charm” /mi/ in on-yomi) and 醜 (“ugly” /miniku’i/ in kun-yomi, /shu’u/ in on-yomi).

  1. The kanji 畏 “to revere; obey respectfully”

History of Kanji 畏In the oracle bone style sample of the kanji 畏 (a), we recognize a shape similar to the kanji 鬼 on the left, with a couple of differences — the figure in 畏 was standing whereas the figure in 鬼 was kneeling; and 畏 had a stick. A figure of the spirit of the dead carrying a stick signified something to be feared. The bronze ware style samples (b) and (c) had the position switched. In the third bronze ware style sample (d) another set of elements was added on the right side — a stick and a hand. As we have discussed before, “a stick” and “a hand” made up the meaning “to cause an action to happen,” which became a  bushu bokuzukuri 攴, or 攵 in a newer kanji [the postings on October 18 and 24, 2014]. So the right side reinforced the meaning “making someone revere or obey respectfully.” In ten style, (f), just as we saw in 鬼, the pointed head changed to a short line sticking out above the head. The bottom shape is difficult to make out (and its older style given in Setsumon (e) is not helpful to me either.) The best I can do is to suggest that the stick on the left, the body in the center and a hand contributed to this shape. The kanji 畏 means “to be fearful of; awe.”

The kun-yomi 畏れる /osore’ru/ means “to revere; awe,” and another kun-yomi 畏まる /kashikoma’ru/ (this sound not on the Joyo kanji list) means “to obey respectfully; humble oneself.” The polite expression かしこまりました (“Certainly; I understand.” /kashikomarima’shita/) comes from this verb. The on-yomi /i/ is in 畏敬の念 (“reverence; awe” /ikee-no-ne’n/) and 畏怖の念 (“fearful; with awe” /ihu-no-ne’n/).

History of Kanji 異(frame)The kanji : Another kanji that had the shape 田 related to a fierce facial expression or a spirit is the kanji 異. [Two post on May 31, 2014 and September 26, 2014]. In 異, rather than a face bearing fierce expression, it was a mask worn in a votive play. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style on the right we see two hands holding a mask of a fearsome face. The ten style sample had a stage for the votive play added. Putting on a mask of an extraordinary face changes the wearer into another person. It meant “different.”

There is another difference in ten style. In the ten style of 鬼 and 畏 from “face/head,” there was a short line sticking out at the top whereas 異 from “mask” did not. Then, if we look at the ten style samples of the kanji 細思脳悩, which originated from a baby’s skull as we are about to see,we notice that they all have a short line at the top. So, it appears that this short line at the top in ten style did carry the meaning of a head as a part of the body. In the case of 鬼, it retained as the short slanted stroke in kanji.

[B] The shape田 “brain” from baby’s skull

The next four kanji shared the same shape in ten style — a rounded square with a diagonal crisscross and a short line on top. That shape became 田 in the kanji 細 and 思, but not in the kanji 脳 or 悩.

  1. The kanji 細 “small; thin”

History of Kanji 細The left side of the ten style of the kanji 細 was a skein of threads, which signified “long and thin,” and it became the bushu itohen. History of Kanji Component %22Brain%22On the right side was a rounded square shape with a diagonal crisscross inside and a short line at the top. This shape came from an infant small head with a fontanel that was viewed from the top. A fontanel is a soft spot between the bones of the skull and it is  called ひよめき /hiyomeki/ or 泉門 /senmon/ in Japanese. The gap is so small that it signified “smallness.” Together they meant something “long and thin; very small.” In an earlier kanji for 細, the right side had 囟 (if your browser comes as blank, it is (b) in the purple table on the right.) The diagonal crisscross was similar to a katakana メ.

History of Kanji 思(frame)The kanji : The kanji 思 shared the same origin as “brain” as 細. We have looked at the kanji 思 in connection with 心 “heart.”[February 7, 2015] In ten style the top was an infant head where the bones of the skull had not closed completely and it signified the brain. Together with an anatomical shape of a “heart” they meant “to think.” In kanji the top took the shape 田 and the bottom 心.

The kanji 脳 ”brain” and 悩 “torment; distress” The meaning of “brain” from a baby’s skull with a fontanel shape not only became the shape 田, but it also became an combination of a receptacle with a katakana /me/ inside, in kanji such as 脳 and 悩. We revisit those kanji that we looked at earlier [February 21, 2015] to focus on the role of “brain.”

History of Kanji 脳(frame)The kanji 脳: The left side of the ten style writing of the kanji 脳 (a) on the right was a person. On the right side in addition to an infant head viewed from above, it had three wavy lines. Those were fully grown hair. So, the right side was no longer that of an infant, but of a person. Together they meant “brain.” (b) and (c) were both older kanji, (b) with a person from ten style, and (c) with the body radical nikuzuki 月. Officially (c) was the kyujitai. In shinjitai (d) the right side had a simplified shape ツ and the bottom was replaced by a receptacle shape with メ inside.

History of Kanji 悩(frame)The kanji :  The left side of the ten style writing was a woman, whose role is not clear. It meant “to torment; distress.” In kyujitai 女 was replaced by the bushu risshinben “heart.” In shinjitai, the right side have gone through the same process as 脳.

In [B] we have looked at four kanji 細思脳 and 悩, that originated from a baby’s skull. They all share the same ten style shapes with a diagonal crisscross inside (囟).  The baby’s skull became 田 in two kanji 細 and 思, and a receptacle with a メ in 脳 and 悩.

One more “not rice paddies” 田 here — 胃.

[C] The shape 田 from “stomach”     

  1. The kanji 胃

History of Kanji 胃In bronze ware style of the kanji 胃, the top was a stomach that contained food. The dots signified that it had food particles and was not empty. The bottom came from a piece of meat, which signified that the writing was about a part of a body. Together they meant “stomach.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 胃 /i/ means “stomach,’ and is in 胃腸 (“stomach and intestines” /ichoo/).

Next we are going to move onto another topic of “habitats.” Since we have discussed a house in the bushu ukanmuri “house,” anakanmuri “opening (in a cave dwelling),” and madare “house with one side open” before we spent four posts on the bushu ta “rice paddies,” how about returning to a house and looking at a door and a gate next time?   [July 25, 2015]

Two Hands from Below (1) 共供異興兵具 -“hand” (5)


In this post, I am going to discuss the kanji that have “two hands from below”: 共, 供, 異, 興, 具 and 兵. We immediately spot that they all have a shape that is like the kanji 八 squashed flat a little. They are hands trying to lift something.

1. 共 “together”

Two hands from belowIn the kanji共, in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, a hand from the right side and another hand from the left side were holding up something in the middle. The use of both hands and raising something above suggested he was handling with care because it was something important to him. In ten style hands the thing got separated and in kanji they became two components. The meaning focuses on the point that “two” hands were used, rather than on the point of “raising.” It means “to share; do something together.” The kun-yomi makes a phrase “~と共に“ (“together with〜” /〜to tomo ni/) and the on-yomi makes the words such as 共有する (”to share” /kyooyuu-suru/), 共著 (“co-authoring” /kyo’ocho/), 共演者 (“co-stars” /kyooe’nsha/) and 共同で (“collectively; sharing” /kyoodo-de/.)

2. 供  “to keep company; make offering to”

History供In bronze ware style, the components were same as that of 共, and in ten style, by adding a ninben, it indicated the act that a person does with both hands, which was “to make an offering to” or “to keep someone company; accompany someone.” There are two kun-yomi for 供. They are in お供え (“an offering (that one leaves on an altar table)” /osonae/) and お供する (“to accompany a person” [humble style] /oto’mo-suru/). There are also two on-yomi for 供. /Kyo’o/ is in 提供する (“to sponsor; supply; furnish” /teekyoo-suru/)  and /ku/ is in 供物 (“offering at alter” /ku’motsu/). If you guessed that this must be a go-on because it appeared to have a bearing on Buddhist practice, you are right. Naturally the reading /mo’tsu/ for 物 is a go-on too, as seen in 荷物 (“luggage” /ni’motsu/).

You probably have seen the word /kodomo/ written in both 子供 and 子ども and wondered why in hiragana. Because the kanji 供 means “accompanying,” some people consider it to be pejorative. Even in this age of children’s rights, I am quite puzzled by this logic. Now that we have a chance to see the origin of the kanji 供, I still do not see what the fuss is about.

3. 異 “odd; peculiar; different”

History異大盂蘭鼎ー異写真I once showed to the students of my second-year Japanese class the photo of bronze ware style inscriptions in the famous huge bronze ware pot called Daiutei (大盂鼎 Dà Yú Dĭng), and asked them to decipher the writing. The writings were in bronze ware style.  One by one they guessed and enjoyed this new game. And someone said, “There is a guy doing rap!” [The photo on the right (Ishikawa 1996)] Indeed he looked like that. Looking at a photo of ancient artifacts in that way makes the kanji alive. The kanji historians’ interpretation is that he was putting on a fearsome mask over his face to turn himself to another character. From that it meant “peculiar; different.” The kun-reading is in the adjective 異なった (“different” /kotona’tta/) and in the verb (~と) 異にする (“to differ from~” /to koto’-ni-suru/.) The on-reading is in 異説 (“conflicting view” /isetsu/) and 異常な (“unusual; extraordinary  /ijoo-na/).

Notes:  After some exchanges of the comments with a reader on the interpretation of the ancient writings of the kanji 異, I have written its follow-up article entitled “Kanji 異 Revisited and 典其選殿臀” posted on September 26, 2014. Thank you.

4. 興 “to raise; resurrect; start”

History興In oracle bone style, a pair of hands at the top and another pair of hands from below were holding something in the middle. In bronze ware style and ten style, the top and the bottom separated. Shirakawa (2004) says that what was in the middle was a vase which contained sake that a priest sprinkled around to wake up the spirit of the earth. From people trying to raise something together at once it means “to raise; start; to resuscitate.” The kun-reading is in 興す (“to start something new; revive; resuscitate”/oko’su/). The on-reading /kyo’o/ is in 興味 (“interest” /kyo’omi/), 即興で (”extemporaneously” /sokkyoo de/).  Another on-reading /ko’o/ is in 新興の (”newly-risen” /shinkoo-no/). Lately, you see the word 町おこし (“revitalization of a locality” /machi-o’koshi/) quite a lot in the news. Even though the media tend to use the hiragana, it is in this meaning, that people do something to revive the locality by creating an event or project.  Because it is a Japanese word, it is not that necessary to use this kanji, however.

5. 具 “filling; to be equipped”

History具In oracle bone style and bronze ware style what two hands were holding above was a tripod (鼎 /kanae/) or cowry (貝 /ka’i/). A tripod was used to cook sacrificial animals for a religious ceremony, and cowry was used as currency in ancient times. So both are things that had important substance. From placing something important with both hands, it meant “filling; to be equipped.” The kun-reading is in 具わる (“to be equipped with” /sonawa’ru/) and the on-reading is in 具 (“topping/filling on food” /gu/), 具体的に (“concretely” /gutaiteki-ni/), because you would give the details, and 金具 (“hardware/metal fittings” /kanagu/).

6. 兵 “soldier”

History兵Just as I was about to write that “the top of the oracle bone style (the first one) was an axe,” I thought “I do not think I can convince my readers.” So, I went back to my source (Akai 2010) and found the second one, which showed the blade of an axe better. An axe was a weapon, and someone who held a weapon is a soldier. So it meant “soldier.” In writing the kanji 兵, the third stroke starts a little below the beginning of the second stroke, much like the kanji in the upper right of the kanji 近 (“near”), in which 斤 was used phonetically. The old Japanese word for solider was /tsuwamono/, and this kanji is sometimes read as /tsuwamono/. The on-reading is in 兵士 (“soldier” /he’eshi/), 兵器 (“weapons” /he’eki/) and 派兵 (“sending military” /hahee/).

There are a couple of more shapes taken from a hand that I have not touched yet. I will discuss them in the next post, to wrap up the discussion on various shapes that originated from a hand. [May 31, 2014]