The Kanji 実貫慣賛鎖価賜唄- Cowrie (2)

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This is the second post on kanji that originated from precious cowries — the kanji 実(實)貫慣賛鎖朋価賜唄. We also touch upon ‘a strand of small cowries” in kanji, such as 小少朋豊.

  1. The kanji 実 “substance; nut; berry; reality”

History of Kanji 実The top of (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, was a house or a family mausoleum. The top of the inside, 毌, meant “small cowries pierced through and strung together,” and the bottom 貝 was “cowrie,” signifying valuable items or money. Valuable offerings at a mausoleum signified fullness of wealth having “substance” and wealth displayed, signifying “real; actual.” It also came to be used to mean “fruit; nut; berry.” The kyuji 實, (e) in blue, reflected (d) in seal style, in red. In shinji 実, the inside of the bushu ukanmuri was replaced by a much simpler shape that had no meaning attached. The kanji 実 means “substance; contents; fruit; nut; berry; contents; reality.”

The kun-yomi 実 /mi/ means “fruit; nut; berry; substance; ingredient,” as in 実がなる (“to produce a crop or fruit” /mi-ga-na’ru/). The verb 実る/mino’ru/ means “to ripen; show results.” The on-yomi /jitu/ is in 実は (“as a matter of fact; in truth” /jitsu’-wa/), 現実 (“actuality; a hard fact” /genjitsu/), 実現する (“to realize; materialize; come true” /jitsugen-suru/), 実務 (“practical business; administrative work” /ji’tsumu/) and 誠実な (”sincere; truthful” /seejitsu-na/). /Jit-/ is in 実際に (“really; truly; in practice” /jissai-ni/).

  1. The kanji 貫 “to pierce through; penetrate”

History of Kanji 貫The kanji 貫 was a component of the kyuji of the kanji 実 above, but the earliest writing appears to be in seal style. So I suspect that this kanji was derived from the kanji 實. (If that is the case it is a curious reverse process.) The top 毌 of the seal style writing came from two cowries pierced through, and was used phonetically for /kan/. With the bottom 貝 “cowrie,” they meant “to pierce through; penetrate; carry through.”

The kun-yomi 貫く /tsuranu’ku/ means “to pass through; pierce; keep (one’s faith),” and is in 貫き通す (“to stick with; follow” /tsuranukito’osu/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 貫通する (“boring through” /kantsuu-suru/), 初志貫徹 (“carrying out one’s original intention” /sho’shi kantetsu/). The word 一貫 (“consistency” /ikkan/) forms various compound word or phrase, such as 一貫教育 (“all-through education; education that has a unified program of elementary and secondary schools” /ikkan kyo’oiku/), 一貫作業 (“work in a continuous process; integrated linear operation of work” /ikkan sa’gyoo/) and 終始一貫して (“be consistent from beginning to end” /shu’ushi ikkan-shite/).

  1. The kanji 慣 “to become used to; familiar”

History of Kanji 慣The seal style writing of the kanji 慣 comprised扌, a bushu tehen “hand; an act that one does using a hand,” and 貫, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “linking things.” Together they signified “to accumulate.” Doing things many times makes one’s mind being accustomed to it, and in kanji the left side was replaced by忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 慣 means “to become used to; custom.”

The kun-yomi 慣れる /nare’ru/ means “to become used to; grow accustomed to,” and is also in 場慣れする (“to be used to a situation” /banare-suru/) and 耳慣れた (“familiar” /miminareta/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 習慣 (“(personal) habit; custom” /shuukan/), 慣習 (“(social) custom” /kanshuu/), 慣例 (“general practice; precident” /kanree/), 慣性 (“inertia” /ka’nsee/) and 生活習慣病 (life-style related disease” /seekatsu shuukanbyoo/).

  1. The kanji 賛 “to agree”

History of Kanji 賛The top of the kanji 賛 in seal style, (a), was used phonetically for /shin; san/ to mean “offer; present.” The bottom was 貝 “cowrie.” Together they meant “to present valuable goods at an audience or meeting.” The kyuji (c) had two 先 at the top, which in kanji was replaced by two 夫. The kanji 賛 means “to present; help; laud.”

Interestingly, despite of the shape at the top in (a), (b) in the green box, which came from a seal made during the Chin Han era, had two strands of small cowries, which signified valuable things. I would imagine that this might have been due to a decorative and creative element that a seal maker chose to make it more auspicious.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /san/ is in 賛成する (“to agree” /sansee-suru/), 賛同する (“to approve of; subscribe to” /sandoo-suru/) and 協賛会社 (“support company” /kyoosan-ga’isha.)

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; link; to shut down”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, the left side of the seal style writing was 金 “metal.” The right side comprised small shells at the top (小) and 貝 at the bottom, and was used phonetically for /sa/. Together small metal things linked together meant “chain” and “to lock down.” The top right component小flipped upside down and became a shape called sakasashoo “flipped 小.” (This flipping of 小 in shinji happened in other kanji such as 消.) The kanji 鎖 means “chain” and “to lock.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 鎖国 (“national isolation; national seclusion” /sakoku/) and 閉鎖する (“to shut down” /heesa-suru/).

Notes on the origin of the kanji 小 and 少

History of Kanji 少For a long time I treated the origin of 小 as just small markers, rather than having a specific origin. But after going over kanji such as 貫, 鎖, 朋 in the context of cowries that ancient people valued, the account by Shirakawa, which explains that those were small shells, makes some sense to me now. History of Kanji 小 In the bronze ware style writing (b) for the kanji 少, shown on the left, the last long stroke of the kanji is viewed as a string that would have linked the small cowries. The history of the kanji 小 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 朋To have a better image of the small cowries that were made into strands, the history of the kanji 朋 shown on the right may be helpful. The kanji 朋is not a Joyo kanji but we are familiar with it because it is used in a given name. In the kanji 豊 “abundance” might have had two strands of cowries that were among offerings on an altar table (Ochiai 2014: 236).

  1. The kanji 価 “value”

History of Kanji 価For the kanji 価, the right side in seal style had “person.” The right side 賈 comprised “cover” (襾) and “cowrie” (貝), and was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to sell and buy.” A value is something people apply. The kyuji 價 was replaced by 価. The kanji 価 means “value; price.”

The kun-yomi /atai/ means “value.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 価値 (“value” /ka’chi/), 価格 (“price” /kakaku/), 定価 (“fixed price; manufacturer’s suggested price” /teeka/) and 地価 (“land value; land price” /chi’ka/).

  1. The kanji 賜 “to bestow; confer”

History of Kanji 賜The kanji 賜 is not a daily kanji that we would need at all. It describes an act of giving by royalty. (a) in oracle bone style had a rice wine pitcher pouring wine in a wine cup. An emperor giving a cup of wine out of a wine pitcher called shaku (爵) personally meant “to confer; bestow.” (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style was for 易. The origin of 易 could have been the sun’s ray and a lizard on the right, but the association is not clear. In seal style (e), 貝 was added to mean a valuable thing.  The kanji 賜 means “to bestow; confer.”

The kun-yomi 賜る /tamawa’ru/ means “to bestow; confer by a king.” The on-yomi /shi/ is in 賜杯 (“trophy given by an emperor” /shihai/) and 恩賜財団 (“royal endowment foundation” /onshiza’idan/).

  1. The kanji 唄 “folk song; song”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 唄. The kanji is comprised of 口 “mouth; speaking,” and 貝, which is used phonetically for /bai/. It was a phonetic rendition of a Sanskrit word pathaka, which meant chanting in praise of Buddha’s virtues. In Japanese it is used for “popular song.”  The kanji 唄 means “folk song; song.”

The kun-yomi 唄 /uta’/ means “song; folk song.” There is no on-yomi.

The ancient writings for 貝 and 鼎 looked very much like each other, and sometimes they appear to be mingled. In the next post, we shall be exploring kanji that originated from a bronze ware cooking pot with three or four legs that was used to cook sacrificial animal meat for an offering in ancestral worship. Thank you very much for your reading.  — Noriko [June 24, 2017]

The Kanji 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録-かねへん(2)

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This is the second post on kanji that have a bushu kanehen 金 “metal.” We are going to look at the kanji 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣監鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録.

  1. The kanji 鈴 “bell; chime”

History of Kanji 鈴For the kanji 鈴, the bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b) in green, in ten style writing, (c) in red, had 金 “metal” on the left. On the right side was a person under a roof bending his back low or kneeling, which would become the kanji 令 “order,” used phonetically for /ree/. (a) had a prayer box in front of this person, suggesting that he was praying. A metal object that called for a god was a “bell.” The kanji (d) is in Mincho style whereas (e) is in textbook writing style. In the last post we also looked at another kanji that meant “bell; chime” – the kanji 鐘. The kanji 鐘 /kane/ is a bigger bell and 鈴 /suzu/ is a small bell, both of which called for the attention of a god.

The kun-yomi 鈴 /suzu/ means “(small) bell.” The on-yomi /re’e/ is in 予鈴 (“first bell; warning bell” /yoree/). Another on-yomi /ri’n/ is in 風鈴 (“wind chime” /huurin/), 呼び鈴 (“bell (to get an attention); doorbell” /yobirin/).

  1. The kanji 銘 “to inscribe”

History of Kanji 銘For the kanji 銘, in bronze ware style and ten style the left side was 金 “metal.” The right side was 名 “name” and was used phonetically for /me’e/. From “name inscribed in bronze” it meant “to inscribe.” What was inscribed in metal/bronze was important names and words, and in Japanese it also means “famed.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 銘柄 (“brand; stock issue” /meegara/), 感銘 (“profound impression” /kanmee/), 正真正銘の (“true; genuine; authentic” /shooshinshoomee-no/) and 肝に銘じる (“to engrave advice on one’s heart; take to heart” /kimo’-ni meejiru/).

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; links”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, in ten style the left side was “metal” and the right side was small cowry shells (貝) strung together (the top), and was also used phonetically for /sa/. Together they meant “chain” and “being closed by a chain.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain; link.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 連鎖 (“chain; links” /rensa/), 封鎖 (“blockage” /fuusa/), 閉鎖 (“closing; chutdown” /heesa/) and 鎖国 (“national seclusion” /sakoku/).

  1. The kanji 鋭 “sharp”

History of Kanji 鋭For the kanji 鋭, the ten style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically. Setsumon also gave the left one, in purple, as its old writing, 古文 /kobun/. The left writing was a scene of a fire burning high in a kiln or furnace (on the left) to make a sharp sword or knife. The kanji 鋭 means “sharp.”

The kun-yomi 鋭い /surudo’i/ means “sharp.” The on-yomi /e’e/ is in 鋭利な (“sharp” /e’eri-na/), 鋭角 (“acute angle” /e’ekaku/) and 精鋭 (“the best pick of; elite” /seeee/).

  1. The kanji 鈍 “blunt; dull; slow”

History of Kanji 鈍For the kanji 鈍, the left side 金 was “metal,” and the right side 屯 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 純屯 came from a fringe of woven fabric that was tied in a knot. We can see what 屯 looked like in bronze style writings of the kanji 純 “pure”(from tufts of pure silk) shown on the right. The roundness of a knot signified “not sharp.” Together they meant “dull; blunt; slow.”
The kun-yomi /nibu’i/ means “dull.” The on-yomi /do’n/ is in 鈍感 (“insensibility; thick-skinned” /donkan/), 鈍行 (“a slow train; local train” /donkoo/), 鈍化する (“to become blunt; slow down” /do’nka-suru/) and 鈍器 (“blunt object” /do’nki/).

  1. The kanji 釣 “to fish; change”

History of Kanji 釣For the kanji 釣, the right side was 勺. 勺 was a “ladle,” something that scooped up (the dot was what was scooped up), or was a hook shape. 金 “metal” and 勺 “to scoop out; hook” together meant “to fish.” The kun-yomi 釣る /tsuru/ means “to fish; lure,” and is in 釣り (“fishing” /tsuri/) and 釣り合う “to match; equilibrate.” It is also used in words お釣り (“change money” /otsuri/) and 釣り銭 (“change money” /tsurisen/). お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment and how it came to be used for this meaning is not clear. お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment.

  1. The kanji 鑑 “model; mirror” and 監 “to observe; monitor”

The kanji 鑑 consists of 金, a bushu kanehen, and the kanji 監. So, let us look at 監 before 鑑.

The kanji 監 “to watch carefully; observe; monitor”

History of Kanji 監The oracle bone style writing for the kanji 監 was a vivid description of a person with a watchful eye kneeling down over a basin. In bronze ware style it became clearer that the basin had water – the extra short stroke right below the eye indicated water. Together they signified someone looking at himself carefully in the reflection of water. From that the kanji 監 meant “to watch carefully; observe; monitor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 監督 (“manager; supervisor; supervision” /kantoku/), 監視カメラ (“surveillance camera” /kanshika’mera/) and 監獄 (“prison; jail” /kangoku/).

History of Kanji 鑑Now let us look at the kanji 鑑. The bronze ware style writing (a) was the same as 監 above, whereas in (b) “metal” was added. Together metal and one looking at one’s own reflection meant “mirror.” It also meant something that one heeded as a shining model.

The kun-yomi 鑑 /kagami’/ means “mirror; model,” as in the expression ~を鑑とする (“to take ~ as one’s model” /~o kagami’to-suru/) in one’s ethics and action. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 鑑別する (“to discriminate; differentiate” /kanbetsu-suru/), 鑑定 (“expert judgment; appraisal” /kantee/) and 年鑑 (“yearbook; almanac” /nenkan/).

  1. The kanji 鏡 “mirror”

History of Kanji 鏡For the kanji 鏡, the right side 竟 was used phonetically for /kyo’o/ to signify “shape; scene.” With the left side 金 “metal” together, they meant “mirror.”

The kun-yomi /kagami’/ means “mirror.” The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 双眼鏡 (“binocular” /soogankyoo/), 老眼鏡 (“reading eye glasses” /roogankyoo/). Customarily a pair of eye glasses /me’gane/ is written as 眼鏡. The expression おめがねに適う (お眼鏡に適う) /o-megane-ni kana’u/ means “to suit your discerning eye or taste.”

  1. The kanji 釜 “rice cooker; pot”

History of Kanji 釜The kanji 釜 looks a little strange. It looks like the kanji 父 “father” and 金 “metal” coalesced into one. In bronze ware style, (a) had metal on the left. The right side was a hand holding a stick, which originally signified a “measuring tool.” What the left side of (b) signified is not clear to me. Setsumon gave two writings (c) and (d). (c) reflected the bronze ware style, which also became the kanji (e). The left side of (e) was a cooking pot or food storage, and the right side was used phonetically. The kanji 釜 meant “iron cooking pot.”

History of Kanji 父父 and 釜 — The kanji 釜 does not appear to be related to the meaning of “father” (父). On reflection, however, the origin of the kanji 父 also came from “a hand holding a stick to lead the family,” as shown on the right. So it looks like that both  父 and 釜 had “hand holding something” in their origins.

The kun-yomi 釜 /kama/ means “cooking pot: rice cooker,” and is in 茶釜 “an iron teakettle (used in the tea ceremony)” /chagama/) — a rather specialized object, nonetheless an important object in Japanese culture.

  1. The kanji 鎌 “sickle” and 兼 “to serve both”

The kanji 鎌 consists of a bushu kanehen 金 and the kanji 兼. So, let us look at the kanji 兼 first.

History of Kanji 兼The kanji 兼 — The ten style writing of 兼 had “two rice plants” (禾) held by “side-way hand” in the middle. Holding two in one hand meant “to have both.”

The kun-yomi 兼ねる /kane’ru/ means “to combine two things; possess both; serve both.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 兼任 (“holding two offices” /kenning/) and 兼用 (“serving both purposes” /ken-yoo/).

History of Kanji 鎌Now let us look at the kanji 鎌.  In ten style the left side 金 “metal” and the right side 兼 “two rice plants held by hand.” Together they signified a metal tool that one used to cut rice plants, a “sickle.”

The kun-yomi /ka’ma/ means “sickle.” The on-yomi /re’n/ is not commonly used in Japanese. Did you notice that the two word were different in the location of the word accent?  They are pronunced as 釜がある /kama-ga a’ru/ “There is a rice cooking pot.” and 鎌がある /ka’ma-ga aru/ “There is a sickle.”

Other Joyo kanji that contain 兼 include 謙 as in 謙譲語 (“humble style word” /kenjoogo/) and 嫌 “dislike” as in 嫌い (“to dislike” /kirai/).

  1. The kanji 鉱 “ore”

History of Kanji 鉱The kanji 鉱 had the kyujitai 鑛, and the right side was used phonetically for /ko’o/. In ten style the left side was 石 “rock” rather than 金. In the kanji 礦 it has 金. 礦 and 鑛 were used interchangeably before for “ore,” –a solid rock from which metal is extracted. The writing in purple on the left is interpreted as two persons protecting an area that had valuable ore. The kanji 鉱 means “ore.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉱石 (“ore; mineral” /ko’oseki/), 炭鉱 (“coal mine” /tankoo/) and 溶鉱炉 (“smelting blast furnace” /yooko’oro/).

  1. The kanji 録 “record”

History of Kanji 録The right side of the kanji 録 was used phonetically for /roku/. Setsumon explained it as “the color of bronze (金の色),” which was bluish green. (Related to this, the kanji 緑 “green,” whose on-yomi is /roku/ or /ryoku/, shared the same right side component.)  The inscription on bronze ware gave the meaning “to record” (Shirakawa).

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ro’ku/ is in 記録 (“record” /kiroku/), 議事録 (“minutes of a meeting” /giji’roku/), 録音 (“sound recording” /rokuon/) and ビデオ録画 (“video recording” /bideoro’kuga/).

There are several more Joyo kanji that contain a bushu kanehen, including 錯 “to mix; error,” 錦 “brocade; pretty cloth,” 錬 “to refine; kneed,” 鍋 “cooking pot” and 銃 “firearms; gun.”

With this post we leave the topic of inanimate objects in nature. In the next post we will start looking at kanji that originated from animals and plants in nature. Thank you for your reading. -Noriko [July 2, 2016]