The Kanji 典冊柵・偏編遍・論輪倫 – “bound writing tablets”


In this post we are going to look at nine kanji in three subgroups –典冊柵 (with 冊)・偏編遍 (with 扁)・論輪倫 (with 侖). They share the origin of writing tablets bound together that made a book and could be rolled up for storage.

  1. The kanji 典 “code; law; model”

History of Kanji 典For the kanji 典 in (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, the top was writing tablets of the same length linked together with leather straps. (a) had two hands holding it very carefully while (b) had a hand turning the book to read. What the two lines at the bottom in (a) signified is not clear, but they might have indicated a table. (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, in green, had a low table (几). The important bound writing tablets were a model or code from precedents that one looked up, and the writing meant “code; law; model.” In (e) in Old style, in purple, “bamboo” pertaining to “writing” was added at the top, but it was dropped in (f) in seal style, in red. In kanji the top was coalesced to the top of a low table. The kanji 典 means “code, law; model.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ten/ is in 辞典 (“dictionary” /jiten/), 典雅な (“refined; elegant” /te’nga-na/), 出典 (“source of reference” /shutten/), 古典 (“classics” /koten/) and

典型的な (“stereotyped; typical” /tenkeeteki-na/). /-Den/ is in 香典 (“offering in Buddhism funeral” /kooden/; 典 substitutes for a non-Joyo kanji).

  1. The kanji 冊 “bound book; a counter for books”

History of Kanji 冊The history of the kanji 冊 has two different interpretations. One is that it was writing tablets linked together as a book. (d) in Old style, in purple, had “bamboo” at the top but lost it in (e) in seal style. This development is very similar to the kanji 典, without a table to place on. It meant “a counter of bound books.” Another view takes notice on the different length of the vertical lines in the ancient writings. Shirakawa says that a writing tablet had a set length and that wooden stakes of different length linked in a circle signified “a corral to keep live stocks to be used for sacrificial offering.” It was /saku/ phonetically. Because of the similar appearance between stakes pounded to the ground to keep live animals and writing tablets linked together, the writing mistakenly came to be used to mean “a bound book.” The kyuji 册, (f) in blue, was simplified to 冊. The kanji 冊 is used as a counter for books.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /satsu/ is in 三冊 (“three books” /sa’nsatsu/), 冊数 (“number of volume” /satsusu’u/), 別冊 (“separate volume; extra issue” /bessatsu/) and 小冊子 (“booklet” /shoosa’sshi/). Another on-yomi /-zaku/ is in 短冊 (“strip of paper” /tanzaku/).

  1. The kanji 柵 “fence; wooden stockade”

History of Kanji 柵The seal style writing of the kanji 柵 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 冊 “linked wooden stakes” used phonetically for /saku/. Because the writing 冊 changed to mean “a bound book,” the new writing was created for the original meaning of “wooden uneven length stakes to keep animals.” The kanji 柵 means “fence; wooden stockade.”  <Composition of the kanji 柵: 木 and 冊>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 柵 /saku/ means “fence” and is in 鉄柵 (“iron fence” /tessaku/)

扁: In the next three kanji 偏編遍, what is common is 扁. One view of the origin is “a screen; mesh” in a part of a single swing door (扁); another view is that it was a bound book.

  1. The kanji 偏 “to become lopsided”

History of Kanji 偏The seal style writing of the kanji 偏  comprised イ “an act one does” and 扁 “a screen door” used phonetically for /hen/ to mean “one side (of the two),” together signifying “to lean to one side.” The kanji 偏 means “to get lopsided; one side; bias.” <Composition of the kanji 偏: イ, 戸 and 冊 without the horizontal line going through >

The kun-yomi 偏る /katayo’ru/ means “to become lopsided; become biased.” The on-yomi /hen/ is in 偏と旁 (left side component and right side component in kanji), 偏食 (“deviated food habit; unbalanced diet” /henshoku/) and 偏向 (“inclination; leaning; bias” /henkoo/).

  1. The kanji 編 “to compile; edit; knit; braid”

History of Kanji 編The seal style writing of the kanji 編 comprised 糸 “a skein of thread” and 扁 for /hen/ phonetically. 扁 comprised 戸 “door; family” and 冊 “bamboo or wooden tablets tied together for record keeping,” signifying “family registry record; to compile documents; edit.” Together they also meant “to knit (yarn); braid.” The kanji 編 means “to compile; edit; knit.” <Composition of the kanji 編: 糸 and 扁>

The kun-yomi /a’mu/ means “to knit” and is in 編み物 (“knitting” /ami’mono/), 三つ編み (“braid” /mitsuami/), 編み出す (“to invent; forge; contrive” /amida’su/). The on-yomi /hen/ is in 編集 (“editing” /henshuu/), 再編成 (“reorganization; reshuffle” /saihe’nsee/) and 長編小説 (“long novel” /choohen sho’osetsu/).

  1. The kanji 遍 “to go around; universal; time”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 遍. The kanji 遍 comprises 辶, a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” and 扁 used phonetically for /hen/, together signifying “to go around,” and further “everywhere; widely; extensively; far and wide.” “Making a round in a circuit” also gave the meaning “once; time.” The kanji 遍 means “to go around; far and wide; time.” <Composition of the kanji 遍: 扁 and 辶>

The kun-yomi 遍く/amane’ku/ means “everyplace; all over; extensively.” The on-yomi /hen/ is 普遍的 (worldwide; universal; general” /huhenteki/). /-Pen/ is in 一遍 (“once; one time” /ippen/) and 一遍に (“in one sitting; all at one” /ippe’n-ni/). /-Ben/ is in 何遍も (“several times; repeatedly” /na’nben-mo/).

History of Kanji 侖The third shape 侖 has the history shown on the right. (a), (b) and (c) had writing tablets that were linked with straps as a book rolled up for storage under a roof. From “bound writing tablets rolled up” 侖 signified “things in good order in a circular shape.”

  1. The kanji 論 “logic; argument”

History of Kanji 論For the kanji 論 the bronze ware style writing was things in good order bound together in a circular shape (侖). The seal style writing comprised “word; language; to say” was added. Words that were arranged in good order meant “logic; argument.” The kanji 論 means “logic; argument.”  <Composition of the kanji 論: 言 and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ron/ is in 論じる (“to discuss” /ronjiru/), 議論 (“argument” /gi’ron/), 論争 (“dispute; controversy” /ronsoo/), 論文 (“article; dissertation; thesis” /ronbun/), 異論を唱える (“to object to” /iron-o tonae’ru/) and 世論 (“public opinion” /yo’ron/).

  1. The kanji 輪 “wheel; circle; loop”

History of Kanji 輪The seal style writing of the kanji 輪 comprised 車 “a wheel” and 侖 used phonetically for /rin/ to mean “many arrows arranged in a circular shape.” Together they meant “wheel; circle; loop.” <Composition of the kanji 輪: 車 and 侖>

The kun-yomi 輪 /wa/ means “a ring,” and is in 輪ゴム (“elastic band” /wagomu/) and 内輪話 (“inside information; private talk” /uchiwaba’nashi/). The on-yomi /rin/ is in 車輪 (“wheel” /sharin/), 三輪車 (“tricycle” /sanri’nsha/), 両輪 (“two wheels; both wheels” /ryoorin/) and 輪郭 (“contour; outline; profile” /rinkaku/).

  1. The kanji 倫 “ethics; principle”

History of Kanji 倫The seal style writing of the kanji 倫 had a “person; an act that one does” and 侖 used phoentically for /rin/ to mean “things ordered in good order.” Together “what a person should observe” means “ethics; principle.” The kanji 倫 means “ethics; principle.” <Composition of the kanji 倫: イ and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /rin/ is in 倫理 (“morality; ethics” /ri’nri/) and 人倫 (“human relations; morality” /jinrin/).

Even though the three shapes 冊, 扁 and 侖 have different meanings, they share the underlying meaning “writing tablets or stakes linked together in an orderly manner and it can be rolled up.” I believe that we still need to have another post on the topics of objects next week. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 24, 2018]