The Kanji 則側測賊 and 墳噴憤 – 貝(4) 


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain the shape 貝. In the first two postings, we explored the shape 貝 related to a “cowrie” that signified “money; value.” In the third posting we explored the shape 貝 related to a “three-legged bronze vessel.” In this posting we are continuing with a three-legged bronze vessel – the kanji 則側測賊. I have realized this week that there is another shape, 賁, that contains 貝 and can be explained as a cowrie. The 墳噴憤 are added to conclude our exploration of the shape 貝.

  1. The kanji 則 “rule; law”

History of Kanji 則For the kanji 則, we have three writing samples in bronze ware style, in green, here. (a) had two three-legged bronze ware vessels whereas (b) and (c) has just one vessel. The right side was a knife. The knife next to the vessel has been given different accounts — It was a knife used as a utensil for eating food that was cooked in the vessel. Sacrificial animal meat and other food that was offered to a deity was also shared by participants in a religious rite. Something that always accompanied the vessel signified “the rules always to be abided by.” Another account is that a knife signified inscription on the vessel [Shirakawa]. What was inscribed on a bronze ware stayed for a long time and was to be abided by — thus “rules; laws.” The double vessels in (a), and (d) in Old style, in purple, are explained by Shirakawa as signifying the fact that important contracts were inscribed in two vessels for each party to keep as proof. In kanji the knife became刂, a bushu rittoo “a knife placed vertically.”

In the last post in discussing the kanji 敗 we touched upon ambiguity of interpreting 貝 as a cowrie or a three- or four-legged bronze vessel. We can see that the kanji 則 is another example. Kyoshin (許慎 Xu Shen), the compiler of Setsumon Kaiji at the turn of the second century A.D., took them (in (d) in 則, I believe) as cowries.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 規則 (“rules; bylaw; statutory instrument” /ki’soku/), 法則 (“law; principle; rule” /hoosoku/), 鉄則 (“ironclad rule; inviolable rule” /tessoku/) and 変則的な (“irregular” /hensokuteki-na/).

  1. The kanji 側 “close by; side; aspect”

History of Kanji 側For the kanji 側, the bronze ware style writing, and the seal style writing, in red, had a “person” (イ), a “three-legged bronze ware vessel” (貝) and a “knife” (刀).  則 was used phonetically for /soku/. A person standing next to the vessel meant “by the side.” The kanji 側 means “close by; side.”

The kun-yomi /-kawa; -gawa/ is in 向こう側 (“opposite side; the other side” /mukoogawa/), 裏側 (“behind; the back side” /uragawa/) and 片側 (“one side” /katagawa/). The on-yomi /soku/ is in 側面 (“aspect; side view; profile; flank” /sokumen/) and 側近 (“close adviser; member of one’s entourage”).

  1. The kanji 測 “to measure”

History of Kanji 測The seal style writing of the kanji 測 comprised “water” and 則, which was used phonetically for /soku/ to mean “standard.” Together they signified measuring the depth of water or in a more general sense of “to measure.” The kanji 測 means “to measure.”

The kun-yomi 測る /haka’ru/ means “to measure. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 測量 (“location survey” /sokuryoo/), 推測する (“to guess; presume; speculate” /suisoku-suru/) and 目測 (“eye-estimation; measurement with the eye” /mokusoku/).

  1. The kanji 賊 “damage due to a robbery; thief”

History of Kanji 賊In the bronze ware style of the kanji 賊. we see a halberd (戈) on the top right and a three-legged vessel (貝) underneath. But what was the small piece on the left side of the vessel?  Was it a “knife” or a “person”?  As I mentioned in earlier posts, a knife and a person looked so alike in bronze ware style that they caused some confusion. History of Kanji 戎(frame)Then when I looked up the ancient writing for 戎 (“soldier; weapon” /e’bisu; kai/), which was the right side of the kanji 賊, it became clear that it was a shield or armor (The history is shown on the right). The kanji 戎 had a halberd (戈) and a shield, making up the meaning “weapons.” So, the kanji 賊 comprises 貝 “three-legged vessel” and 戎 “weapons; soldier.” Together they meant scraping an inscription of an oath out of bronze ware to revoke it. It was also used to mean injuring a person. The kanji 賊 means “to damage; damage due to a robbery; robber.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zoku/ is in 賊が押し入る (“a robber breaks into it” /zoku-ga-oshiiru/), 海賊 (“pirate” /kaizoku/), 海賊版 (“pirated edition” /kaizokuban/), 盗賊 (“robber; thief” /toozoku/), 盗賊の一味 (“a pack of thieves” /toozoku-no ichi’mi/) and 賊軍 (“rebels; rebel army” /zokugun/).

History of Kanji 賁(frame)We leave the exploration of the kanji that originated from a legged bronze ware vessel here. The last shape we are exploring in this group of four posts is the shape 賁. The kanji 賁 /hi; hun/ is not a Joyo kanji but we have the history shown on the right side. The bronze ware style was richly decorated ornament. In seal style a cowrie was added to indicate decoration with cowries. The kanji 賁 means “to decorate colorfully,” and when it is used as a component it meant “to burst out.”

  1. The kanji 墳 “burial mound”

History of Kanji 墳The seal style writing of the kanji 墳 comprised 土 “soil; dirt” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “causing something to swell; rise.” Together they meant a burial mound of ancient times. In kanji 土 became a bushu tsuchihen “ground; dirt.” The kanji 墳 means “burial mound.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hun/ is in 古墳 (“ancient burial mound; ancient tomb” /kohun/), 古墳時代 (“tumulus period; Kofun period” /kohunji’dai/) and 墳墓 (“tomb; grave” /hu’nbo/).

  1. The kanji 噴 “to spout out; erupt; blow out”

History of Kanji 噴The seal style writing of the kanji 噴 comprised 口 “mouth; opening” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “to burst out; gush out.” Together they meant “to gush out.”

The kun-yomi 噴き出す /hukida’su/ means “to spout out; erupt; blow out.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 噴出 (“to gush out; eject” /hunshutu/), 噴水 (“fountain” /hunsui/) and 火山の噴火 (“volcanic eruption” /kazan-no hunka/).

  1. The kanji 憤 “to anger; outrage; indignation”

History of Kanji 憤The seal style writing of the kanji 憤 comprised “heart” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/to mean “to burst out.” Together a heart gushing out with emotions meant “to anger; rancor ; outrage; indignation” In kanji, a heart became 忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 憤 means “anger; rancor; outrage; indignation.”

The kun-yomi 憤る /ikidoo’ru/ means “to be furious about; seethe with anger.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 憤慨する (“to get very angry; feel indignant” /hungai-suru/), 義憤 (“righteous indignation” /gihun/) and 憤激する (“to flare up; explode with anger” /hungai-suru/).

We shall move to another topic in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [July 8, 2017]

The kanji戦賊蔵歳戯賦・幾機畿- 戈 “halberd” (3)


This is the third post on kanji that contain the shape. We are going to look at 戦賊蔵歳戯武賦 and 幾機畿.

  1. The kanji 戦 “battle; to fight”

The kanji 戦 is comprised of two components, which are also kanji — 単 and 戈.  So, let us look at the kanji 単 first.

history-of-kanji-%e5%8d%98The kanji 単—For the kanji (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, was a shield with a two-pronged spear at the top. It was borrowed to mean “single; only.” The top of (c) in seal style, in red, and kyujitai (d), in blue, was simplified to a truncated katakana ツ shape in shinjitai (e). The kanji 単 meant “single; only.”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%a6rNow the kanji 戦. In oracle bone style (a) was two halberds whereas (b) was two shields. In bronze ware style the left side of (c) was a shield and the right side was a halberd. Together they meant “battle; war; to fight.” The kanji 戦 meant “war; battle; to fight.”

The kun-yomi 戦う /tatakau/ means “to fight.” Another kun-yomi 戦 /ikusa’/ means “war; battle,” and is in 勝ち戦 (“successful war; victory”/kachii’kusa/.) The third kun-yomi /onono’ku/ “to shudder; quiver” is not in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 戦争 (“war” /sensoo/), Aと対戦する (“to fight against A” /A to taisen-suru/), 作戦 (“strategy” /sakusen/) and 戦々恐々とする (“with fear and trembling; be panic-stricken” /sensenkyookyoo-to-sursu/).

  1. The kanji 賊 “robber; thief; to damage”

history-of-kanji-%e8%b3%8aFor the kanji 賊, in the bronze ware style writing under a halberd the bottom left was a person standing next to a three-legged bronze vessel. Together someone damaging a bronze vessel with a weapon meant “to damage” and a villain who robbed or damaged with a weapon. In seal style a person was placed under a halberd. The kanji 賊 meant “to damage; steal; robber”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zoku/ means “robber; rebel,” and is in 海賊 (“pirate” /kaizoku/), 盗賊 (“thief; robber” /toozoku/) and 賊が押し入る (“a robber breaks into it” /zoku-ga-oshiiru/).

  1. The kanji 蔵 “vault; to store away”

history-of-kanji-%e8%94%b5For the kanji 蔵, the bronze ware style writing was a vessel for treasure hidden in a house. 爿on the left of the vessel was used phonetically for /zoo/. In seal style, the top was a bushu kusakanmuri “grass” – adding the sense of hiding in tall grass. The bottom had 爿, and the vessel changed to the watchful eye of retainer’s with a halberd. Together they meant to store something valuable away in a secure place. From that the kanji 蔵 meant “vault; to store away.”

The kun-yomi /kura’/ means “vault; storage,” and is in 米蔵 (“rice granary” /komegura/). The on-yomi /zo’o/ is in 秘蔵品 (“treasured article” /hizoohin/), 無尽蔵な (“inexhaustible” /muji’nzoona/) and お地蔵さん (“guardian image” /ojizoosan/)

  1. The kanji 歳 “year; age”

For the kanji 歳, in bronze ware style (a) was an axe with a long handle to dissect a sacrificial animal for a harvest festival, and (b) had a pair of footprints added. A pair of footprints from a right foot (above the line) and a left foot (below) signified someone walking, as in the kanji 歩 “to walk; step.” They may have added the sense of the passage of time.  The cycle of a harvest is once a year. The kanji 歳 meant “year; age.”

The kun-yomi /toshi// means “age; year.” The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 何歳 “how old” /na’nsai/), 歳入 (“annual revenue” /sainyuu/), 歳末 (“end-of-the-year” /saimatsu/), 歳月 (“years; time” /saigetsu/). Another on-yomi /se’e/ is in お歳暮 (“end-of-the-year gift” /oseebo/).

  1. The kanji 戯 “to play; joke”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%afFor the kanji 戯, in bronze ware style the left side was a person with a tiger headgear for a play on sitting on a tall stool. It was used phonetically for /ki; gi/. The right side was a halberd. Together they meant someone playing a votive dance before going into battle.  Seal style and kyujitai kept all three components 虍 “tiger” and 豆 “tall stool; something tall” on the left and 戈 “halberd” on the right. In shinjitai 虚, a kanji that had no relation with the original meaning, replaced the left side. The kanji 戯 meant “to play; joke.”

The kun-yomi 戯むれる /tawamure’ru/ meant “to be playful; jest.” The on-yomi /gi/ is in 戯曲 “drama; play,” 遊戯 (“play; playing” /yu’ugi/) and 子供の遊戯 (“dancing’ romping” /kodomo-no-yu’ugi/).

  1. The kanji 武 “military; warrior”

history-of-kanji-%e6%ad%a6For the kanji 武, the oracle bone style writing (a) had a halberd and a footprint. Advancing with a halberd meant “military; warrior.” In bronze ware style (b) had a footprint under a halberd, and (c) had a king’s axe added. In kanji (e) the stroke that crosses the stick was lost. Instead an additional short line was added at the top. The kanji 武 meant “military; warrior.” The kanji 武 is in contrast with 文 in the sense of “civil; literary.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /bu/ is in 武士 (“samurai; warrior; military class” /bu’shi/), 武器 (“weapon; arms” /bu’ki/) and 武力 (“military power” /bu’ryoku/). Another on-yomi /mu/ is in 武者 (“warrior” /mu’sha/) and 武者震い (“shaking with anticipation” /mushabu’rui/).

  1. The kanji 賦 “to collect levy; tribute; to allocate”

history-of-kanji-%e8%b3%a6For the kanji 賦, in bronze ware style the top was a halberd and a footprint (together signifying “army advancing”), and the bottom was a cowry, signifying money and valuable things. Together they meant valuable things that were sought by force. From that it meant “to collect levy; impose labor.” A ruler expected to be given a tribute and it meant “tribute.” An interesting point is that it also included the flip side of collecting – “to allocate; distribute.” I find it a little puzzling about having both directions of giving and getting, but this reminds me of the kanji 受 “to receive.” It originally meant both “to receive;” and “to give,” until another kanji 授 was created to mean “to give.” There may be other example like this.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in賦役 (“compulsory labor” /hueki/) and 賦与する (“to endow” /hu’yo-suru/), and /pu/ is in 月賦払い (“monthly installment payment” /geppuba’rai/) and 天賦 (“endowment” /te’npu/).

The next three kanji 幾機 and 畿 share the same component.

  1. The kanji 幾 “a few; how much”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b9%beFor the kanji 幾 the two bronze ware style writings had two short threads (幺) on the top left, a halberd on the right side and something else, possibly hanging threads or a person, on the bottom left.  The interpretations of its origin differ among kanji scholars – (1) it was a halberd with spiritual decoration to ward off evil, and it was probably used to interrogate. From that it originally meant “to detect fine points,” and from that it meant “small; nearly” (Shirakawa); (2) The two short threads signifying “to weave” and 戍 “halberd” used phonetically together meant “to stop weaving thread,” and later on it came to be used to mean “sign” (Kadokawa dictionary); (3) The two short threads for “a little” and a broad-blade halberd (戈) and a person (人) together signified a halberd reaching nearly to a person’s neck. The short distance from a halberd to the neck meant “small; little” (Kanjigen). I do not have a view on which is the most acceptable history.  It is also used as an interrogative word. The kanji 幾 meant “a few; some; how much.”

The kun-yomi /iku/ is in 幾つ (“how many” /i’kutsu/), 幾つか (“some; few” /i’kutsuka/), 幾多の (“many: /i’kutano/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 機微 (“fine points; subtleties; niceties” /ki’bi/) and 幾何学 (“geometry” /kika’gaku/).

  1. The kanji 機 “machine; moment; change”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a9%9fFor the kanji 機, the left side 木 “wood” signified the wooden frame of a loom. The right side 幾 had many short threads cut by a knife. Together they meant a mechanical device or machine.” It means “moment; change.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki is in 機械 (“machine” /kika’i/), 機会 (“opportunity” /kika’i/), 好機 (“golden opportunity” /ko’oki/), 機関 (“organization” /ki’kan/), 機嫌がいい (“in good humor” /kigengaii/), 飛行機 (“aircraft” /hiko’oki/), 機密 (“top secrerecy” /kimitsu/) and 機敏な (“smart; shrewd; prompt” /kibin-na/).

  1. The kanji 畿 “area near a capital”

history-of-kanji-%e7%95%bfThe seal style writing of the kanji 畿 had rice paddies (田), which signified a territory or area. The kanji 畿 meant “an area which an emperor rules.”  In Japan 畿 is used for the name of the area that included the old capital 京都 where an emperor was situated. The kanji 畿 meant “an area under the direct control of the emperor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 近畿地方 “Kinki region,” and  畿内 (“an area near Kyoto” /ki’nai/).

We will continue to explore more kanji that contain 戈 “halberd” in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  –Noriko  [January 15, 2017]