The Kanji 合拾答塔搭今陰含吟貪念捻倉 Container (1)


We are going to look at kanji that originated from a lid over a container. In this post the kanji we are going to look at are: 合拾答塔搭 (containing  合) and 今陰含吟貪念捻 (containing 今) and 倉.

  1. The kanji 合 “to meet; put together; fit; mix”

History of Kanji 合In all three types of ancient writing (oracle bone style in brown, bronze ware style in green and seal style in red) for the kanji 合 it had a container with a lid on top. From the meaning of “a lid and the container fitting well,” it meant “to meet; fit.” The kanji 合 means “to meet; put together; fit; mix.” Of the two kanji that is pronounced as /au/ to mean “to meet,” the kanji 合 is used for things whereas the kanji 会 is for people.  <Composition of the kanji 合: and 𠆢 , 一 and 口>

The kun-yomi 合う /a’u/ means “to fit; meet” and is in  打ち合わせ (“staff meeting” /uchiawase/), 詰め合わせ (“assortment” /tsumeawase/), 言い合い (“argue; verbal fight” /iiai/), 間に合う (“be in time; to manage” /mania‘u/) and 歩合 (“percentage” /buai/). The on-yomi /goo/ is in 合計 (“total sum” /gookee/), 合意する (“to agree upon” /gooi-suru/) and 結合 (“bind; union” /ketsugoo/). Another on-yomi /gatsu/ is in 合作 (“joint work” /gassaku/) and 合唱 (“chorus” /gasshoo/).

  1. The kanji  拾 “to pick up; gather”

History of Kanji 拾The seal style writing of the kanji 拾 comprised “a hand” and 合 used phonetically for /shuu/ to mean “to pick up,” together signifying “a hand picking up a thing.” In kanji the left side became 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand.”  The kanji 拾 means “to pick up; gather.”  <Composition of the kanji 拾: 扌 and 合>

The kun-yomi 拾 /hirou/ means “to pick up” and is in 拾い物 (“find; windfall” /hiroimono/).  /-Biro/ is in 命拾い (“a narrow escape” /inochibi’roi/). The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 拾得物 (“lost-and-found item” /shuutoku’butsu/) and 事態を収拾する (“to get the situation under control” /ji’tai-o shuushuu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 答 “answer”

History of Kanji 答There is no ancient writing for the kanji 答. The writing on the left side is a brush writing from a later time and comprised 艸 “plants; grass” and 合 “to meet” used phonetically for /too/, together forming 荅 “answer.” One view explains 荅 to be two sides of a pea pod, fitting very well. Later the top was replaced by 竹, a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo.” A bushu takekanmuri often pertained to writing because bamboo writing tablets and writing brush had a bamboo handle. It may be the case that the takekanmuri replaced “plants” because writing an answer using a bamboo brush fit better to its meaning. The kanji 答 means “answer.”  <Composition of the kanji 答: 竹 and 合>

The kun-yomi /kota’e/ means “answer.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 答案用紙 (“answer sheet” /tooan-yo’oshi/), 回答 (“answer; response to a question” /kaitoo/) and 解答 (“work out; answer” /kaitoo/).

  1. The kanji 塔 “tower; monument”

History of Kanji 塔The seal style writing for the kanji 塔 comprised 土 “dirt; soil” and 荅 used phonetically for /too/. The writing 塔 was phonetic rendition of 卒塔婆 /sotoba/ from the Sanskrit “stupa,” which was a dome-like monument erected as a Buddha shrine. The kanji 塔 means “tower; monument.”  <Composition of the kanji 塔: 土 and 荅>

There is no on-yomi. The on-yomi /too/ means “tower; monument,” and is in 管制塔 (“control tower” /kanseetoo), 金字塔 (“monumental achievement” /kinjitoo/) and 象牙の塔 (“ivory tower” /zooge-no-too/).

  1. The kanji 搭 “to load; board”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 搭. The kanji 搭 comprises 扌, a bushu tehen, “an act one does using a hand,” and 荅 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “an action.” The kanji 搭 is now used to mean “to load; board.”  <Composition of the kanji 搭: 扌 and 荅>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /too/ is in 搭乗券 (“boarding pass” /toojo’oken/) and 搭載する (“to load; be equipped with” /toosai-suru/).

  1. The kanji 今 “now; present time”

History of Kanji 今For the kanji 今 in all three ancient style it comprised “a cover with a stopper for a container or rice wine cask.” (The shape appeared in the top of the anceint writing of the kanji 飲 which we looked at in earlier post.) It was borrowed to mean “present moment; now.” Another explanation is that “the top was capturing the present moment.” The kanji 今 means “now; present time.” <Composition of the kanji 今: 𠆢  and ラ>

The kun-yomi 今 /i’ma/ means “now; present time,” and is in 只今 (“promptly” /tada’ima/) in a humble way. The expression one says when he comes home is pronounced as /tadaima/, an unaccented word.  The on-yomi /kon/ is in 今月 (“this month” /kongetsu/), 今週 (“this week” /konshuu), 今後 (“from now” /kongo/) and 昨今 (“up-date; these days” /sak’kon/). 今年 /kotoshi/ is also a customary reading. Another on-yomi /kin/ is in 今上天皇 (”the reigning emperor; His majesty” /kinjootenno’o/).

  1. The kanji 陰 “shadow; negative”

History of Kanji 陰For the kanji 陰 in the two bronze ware style writings the left comprised “mountains” (vertically placed), “something to cover” and “a cloud rising” underneath, together a mountain blocking the sun and a could under a cover signified “a dark area” or “a shadow.” The contrast between a sunny area and a shadowy area also is used for the contrast between “positive (陽) and negative (陰).” The seal style writing comprised the same components in more stylized shape. The kanji 陰 means “shadow; negative.” <Composition of the kanji 陰: 阝, 今 and 云>

The kun-yomi /ka’ge/ means “shade; dark area.” The on-yomi /in/ is in 陰影 (“shading; nuance” /in-ee-no-a’ru/) and 山陰地方 (“San’in region,” the northern side of the Chugoku region”  /san-in-chi’hoo/) and 陰性 (“negative” /insee/).

  1. The kanji 含 “to contain; include”

History of Kanji 含The seal style writing of the kanji 含 comprised “a cover with a stopper” (今) and “a mouth; box” (口) together signifying “putting something inside a mouth or container.” The kanji 含 means “to contain; include.” <Composition of the kanji 含: 今 and 口>

The kun-yomi 含む /huku’mu/ means “to include; contain.” The on-yomi /gan/ is in 含有量 (“content” /ganyu’uryoo/) and 含蓄のある (“signifying; suble; pregnant with meaning” /ganchiku-no-a’ru/).

  1. The kanji 吟 “to groan; chant”

History of Kanji 吟For the kanji 吟 in seal style the left one comprised 口 “mouth” and 今 “a cover with a stopper” used phonetically for /kin; gin/ to mean “muffling sound in a mouth.” The second one had 音 “sound” instead of 口. The kanji 吟 reflected the left one. From “a muffled voice in a closed mouth” the kanji 吟 means “to groan; chant.” <Composition of the kanji 吟: 口 and 今>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gin/ is in 吟味する (“to examine closely” /gi’nmi-suru/) and 詩吟 (“shigin; recitation of Chinese poem” /shigin/).

  1. The kanji 貪 “to covet; be greedy; devour”

History of Kanji 貪The seal style writing of the kanji 貪 comprised “a lid with a stopper” (今) and “a bronze ware vessel” (貝) to store valuables. Together they signified “stashing away greedily with a stopper.” The kanji 貪 means “to covet; be greedy; devour.”  <Composition of the kanji 貪: 今 and 貝>

The kun-yomi 貪る /musaboru/ means “to covet; crave.” The on-yomi /don/ is in 貪欲な (“greedy” /don-yoku-na/).

  1. The kanji 念 “thought; pray; wish; ponder”

History of Kanji 念For the kanji 念 the bronze ware style writing and the seal style writing comprised 今 “a lid to keep something in” and 心 “heart.” Together they meant “a thought that one kept inside his heart for a long time.” The kanji 念 means “thought; pray; wish; ponder.”  <Composition of the kanji 念: 今 and心>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /nen/ is in 念じる “to pray; wish; hope” /nenjiru/), 失念する “to forget” /shitsunen-suru/), 念願の (“long-cherished” /nengan-no), 雑念 (“idle thoughts; distraction” /zatsunen/) and 念仏 (“to invoke Buddha; pray to Amida Buddha” /nenbutsu-o tonae’ru/).

  1. The kanji 捻 “to twist; bend”

History of Kanji 捻The seal style writing of the 捻 comprised “a hand” and 念 used phoneticallly for /nen/ to mean “twist.” Together they signified “to twist something with fingers.” The kanji 捻 means “to twist; bend.”  <Composition of the kanji 捻: 扌, 今 and 心>

The kun-yomi 捻る /hine’ru/ means “to twist.” The on-yomi /nen/ is in 捻出する (“to squeeze money; manage to come up with money” /nenshutsu-suru/) and 捻挫 (“sprain; ligament rupture” /nenza/).

  1. The kanji 倉 “storage; warehouse; vault”

History of Kanji 倉For the kanji 倉 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it was  “a grainer,” with “a cover to protect the grain from rain” at the top and “an opening to get the grain out” at the bottom, together signifying “storage of grain.” In seal style the top became a bushu hitoyane. The kanji 倉 means “storage; warehouse; vault.”  <Composition of the kanji 倉: 𠆢 , 戸 with another stroke and 口>

The kun-yomi 倉 /kura’/ means “storage; vault,” and /-gura/ is in 米倉 (“rice storage” /komegura/). The on-yomi /soo/ is in 倉庫 (“warehouse” /so’oko/), 穀倉地帯 (“farm belt” /kokusoochi’tai/).

There are a few more shapes that belong to the group of containers.  We shall continue with them in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko  [January 13, 2018]

The Kanji 阜降陟陽陰今雲隊陸ーこざとへん(1)


The name ko-zato-hen may appear to allude that it is “a smaller (小 /ko/) version of oo (大)-zato that was placed on the left side (扁 /he’n/).” Even though it is true that it is a left component and is usually written smaller than an oozato out of necessity (cramped space in the middle), the name misses the important point — its meaning. We know tha kozatohen is nothing to do with “village.” Then what did it mean originally?

The most reliable way to find out is to look at oracle bone style samples and earlier samples of bronze ware style. This is not that easy because the number of oracle bone style samples available to us is limited and it is hard to decide which writings were the precursors of kozatohen. We know that the kanji that is closest to a bushu kozatohen is 阜. We are going to see that there were three different origins for 阜 or kozatohen – (A) a ladder; (B) a mountains or hills that were placed vertically; and (C) a pack of dirt raised high.

  1. Three meanings of the kanji 阜 and bushu kozatohen

History of Kanji 阜 and bushu kozatohen白川The three different views on what a kozatohen originally signified can be summarized as follows:

[A. A ladder] For the kanji 阜 /hu/ and a bushu kozatohen, Shirakawa (2004: 767) gave three oracle bone style writings (a), (b) and (c), in brown, and one ten style sample (d), in red, as shown on the left. In his analysis all the kanji that had a kozatohen was explained as having “a ladder from which a god descended.” Other kanji scholars suggested it as a ladder, without reference to a god.

阜two shapes & meanings[B. A mountain or hills] This explanation was found in the account in Setsumon. It was the image of a mountain range or hills that was placed vertically. According to Ochiai (2014) there originally existed two different shapes and meanings, as shown on the right. (a) was a “ladder” and (b) was a “mountain,” but the distinction got lost later on. Ochiai has dealt with a large pool of oracle bone style writings, so I assume that he came to this conclusion based on them. Even though I was not able to find any example of (b) among oracle bone style writings that I collected from Akai (2010), some bronze ware style samples may be interpreted as (b).

History of Kanji 阜 and kozatohen 赤井[C. A pack of dirt or soil raised high]  The third meaning is what the samples listed in Akai shown on the right signified — two oblong shapes stacked up. (The shapes (a), (b) and (c) appear in other kanji and are interpreted differently.  We will look at these shapes at a later time.) The Kanjigen dictionary by Todo and et. al. took the view that a kozatohen came from “round shaped dirt that were piled up.” In the Key to Kanji, I used this explanation in some kanji.

Now we are going to look individually at kanji with a kozatohen.

  1. The kanji 降 “to come/bring down; fall” and 陟 “to move ahead; progress”

History降rThe kanji 降 was discussed earlier in connection with two downward-facing feet (a right and left foot) [in One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来­ on July 5, 2014]. We revisit this kanji with a focus on a kozatohen here. This time I also came across a good companion kanji to tell a story of the kanji 降. History of Kanji 陟(frame)On the right side is the history of the kanji 陟 /cho’ku/, a kanji that is no longer used in Japanese, but meant “to climb up.” The right side of 陟 was 步, the kyujitai for 歩, which originated from two forward-facing (or upward-facing) footprints. In contrast the right side of the kanji 降 had two downward-facing footprints. So the difference is that one (陟) was two feet of a person climbing up the ladder whereas the other (降) was two feet of climbing down. I find this contrast very amusing. The kanji 降 has many meanings — please read the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 陽 “sunny; cheerful; positive”

History of Kanji 陽For the kanji 陽 in oracle bone style the left side was “mountains” (Kadokawa dictionary) or a ladder for a god (Shirakawa). In oracle bone style (a), the top of the right side 昜 was “the sun” and the bottom was a “raised altar table,” together signifying “the sun rising high.” Both sides together, “the sun rising high and hitting the mountains” meant “being bright with the sun.” In bronze ware style the line in (b) and the three slanted lines in (c) were the rays of the sun. In ten style (d), the left side became the stylized shape that appeared in all ten style kozatohen. In kanji (e), the kozatohen is squeezed into a narrower space, and the first two strokes become smaller than a oozato, thus ko-zato-hen. The kanji 陽 means “sunny; cheerful; positive.”

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. However, it is customarily used interchangeably with the kanji 日 in words such as 陽当たり (“exposure to the sun” /hiatari/) and 陽だまり (“sunny spot” /hidamari/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 太陽 (“the sun” /ta’iyoo/), 陽気な (“cheerful; jovial“ /yookina/), 陽性 (“testing positive; infected” /yoosee/).

History of Kanji 場The kanji 場 “place”: The component 昜 “to rise high” also appears in the kanji 場. The left side was a mound of soil or ground (土). 昜 was phonetically used. Both sides together they meant a place where the sun shined. The meaning of a sunny place became expanded to mean a “place” in general. The ten style of 場 is shown on the right. As we can see the kanji 陽 had oracle bone style and bronze ware style whereas 場 did not. It tells us that the kanji 場 was a kanji that appeared much later than 陽.

History of Kanji 傷The kanji 傷 “injury”: The kanji 傷 (/kizu/ “injury and /sho’o/ in on-yomi) is among the educational kanji, so let us look at it in connection with 昜. In ten style and kanji it consists of a ninben “person” and a cover on top of 昜 “rays of the sun; bright.” Many scholars view that 昜 was used purely phonetically and has no relation to its original meaning. On the other hand Shirakawa explained that 昜 consisted of a jewel placed on a table that emitted rays. The top of the right side of 傷 was a cover over the jewel. The cover prevented the power of the jewel to work in a religious rite, thus “harm; damage.” With a ninben, it meant an injury on a person.

This account is typical of Shirakawa’s study which is deeply rooted in occultism or magic arts that he believed was pervasive in the time when kanji originated. According to Ochiai, occultism or magic arts were performed in some religious rites in the ancient times, but whether they were pervasive as Shirakawa claimed remains to be proven.

4. The kanji 陰 “shadow; shade; gloomy; wily”

History of Kanji 陰The kanji that makes a contrast with 陽 is the kanji 陰. The two kanji make up the widely recognizable phrase, even in the west, “ying and yang” 陰陽. We notice that both have a kozatohen. The history of the kanji 陰 is shown on the left. In the two bronze ware style samples the left sides showed very different shapes of a kozatohen. The right side consisted of a “cover” above a “cloud.” With mountains on the left side (kozatohen), 陰 meant the dark side of mountain where clouds covered. It means “shadow; shade; gloomy; wily.”

The kun-yomi /ka’ge/ means “shade; shelter; the back; shade; background.” The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 陰気な (“gloomy; dreary; dark”/inkina/), 陰影のある (“having shading; nuance”/in-eenoa’ru/) 陰険な (“tricky ; wily; underhand” /inkenna/)

History of Kanji 今(frame)The kanji 今 and 雲 () The right side of the kanji 陰 consisted of two kanji, 今 and cloud 云. The kanji 今 means “present time” now, but it was borrowed from the shape that was “a cover or stopper/plug of a bottle”.

History of Kanji 雲(frame)For the kanji 雲 “cloud,” the two oracle bone style samples shown on the right were the mirror images of each other in which a cloud was rising. The shape in gray on the right was given in Setsumon as a 古文. In ten style, a bushu amekanmuri “rain; meteorological phenomenon” was added. The kanji 雲 means “cloud.”

  1. The kanji 隊 “band of people”

History of Kanji 隊For the kanji 隊 in bronze ware style, (a) had a kozatohen, while (b) did not. The right side was a fat pig with big ears. Shirakawa viewed that the pig was a sacrificial animal placed in front of a ladder for a god. He cited that in Setsumon there was no 隊 but 墜 was used. 墜 had soil (土) at the bottom and meant “falling from a high place to the ground.” In other views, including the Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen, a pig was used phonetically and meant something bulky and heavy like a pig. A “band of people” was an extended meaning.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 軍隊 (“military” /gu’ntai/), 隊長 (“leader of a party” /taichoo/), 入隊する (“to join the military/band” /nyuutaisuru/), 捜索隊 (“search party” /soosakutai/).

  1. The kanji 陸 “land”

History of Kanji 陸For the kanji 陸 we have three samples of bronze ware style here. The shapes of a kozatohen in (a) and (b) may be appropriate to view as mountains or hills (placed vertically), whereas in (c) it is hard to see mountains in the shape. In (b) the mountain shape appeared on both sides. Then what was the right side in (a) and (c) or the middle in (b)?  In The Key to Kanji I treated them as “two tent-like structures and a mound of earth.” I based this on (c) with Shirakawa’s account in mind. In the absence of a better explanation, we can leave it as it is. The kanji 陸 means “land.”

There is another explanation for the right side given by Kanjigen. The right side is treated as a semantic composite of 土 “two soils” and 八 “to spread.” Together with a kozatohen, 陸 meant “a continuous land.” This explanation would have an appeal if you only looked at the kanji, but it does not explain any of the bronze ware style samples we have here. This is one of the reasons I have not used Kanjigen as primary source for so far. Their basic premise of etymology seems to be in the earlier pronunciation but not that of the ancient times. Their explanation sometimes does not go farther back to the time of oracle bone style or some of bronze ware style, which we are interested in our exploration.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /riku/ is in 陸 “land” 大陸 (“continent” /tairiku/), 着陸 (“landing; touchdown” /chakuriku/), 離陸 (“aircraft taking off” /ririku), 陸橋 (“bridge over railroad or roadway” overpass” /rikkyoo/).

It is already page 3 now. I had better stop here because there are more kanji with kozatohen. We will see how the rest goes in the next post. [November 14, 2015]