The Kanji 雨雲曇雪霜霧露—あめかんむり(1)


In this and next posts, we are going to look at kanji that have a bushu amekanmuri (雨). It means “rain” and also pertains to atmospheric phenomena.

  1. The kanji 雨 “rain; rainfall”

History of Kanji 雨For the kanji 雨, the oracle bone style writing, (a) in brown, consisted of two parts– The top was “cloud” or “sky,” and the bottom was “rain drops.” Together water droplets coming down from the clouds or sky meant “rain.” In bronze ware style (b) and (c), in green, two water droplets were placed inside each of the two halves with a vertical line in the center. The ten style writing, (e) in red, took the bronze ware style, which became the kanji 雨 (f). Setsumon also gave (d) as its earlier style, which does not have a dividing vertical line in the middle.

The kun-yomi 雨 /a’me/ means “rain,” and /ama-/ is in 雨具 (“raingear” /ama’gu/), 雨水 (“rainwater” /ama’mizu/) and 雨垂れ (“raindrops” /amadare/). The on-yomi /u/ is in 雨天 (“rainy weather” /u’ten/) and 降雨量 (“amount of rainfall” /koou’ryoo/). There are a few traditional usages that are neither kun-yomi nor on-yomi — 春雨 (“fine rain in spring” /harusame/), 時雨 (“late-autumn or early winter shower; occasional shower” / shigure/), 五月雨 (“early summer rain” /samidare/) and 梅雨 (“rainy season rain” /ba’iu/ or /tsuyu/).

  1. The kanji 雲 “cloud”

History of Kanji 雲For cloud, originally it only had the bottom 云, which was “cloud.” Shirakawa explained that a dragon, an imaginary powerful animal, was believed to be inside clouds and that the oracle bone style writing (a) had a dragon in the cloud with its tail curled up. Setsumon gave (b) and (c) as earlier writings. The ten style writings got 雨 /ameka’nmuri/ on the top together with (b) for (d), and (c) for (f). The kanji 雲 means “cloud.”

The kun-yomi 雲 /ku’mo/ means “cloud,” and is in 雲行き (“the movement of the clouds; the turn of events” /kumoyuki/). /-Gumo/ is in 入道雲 (“thunderhead” /nyuudoogu’mo/). The on-yomi /u’n/ is in the phrase 雲泥の差 (“a big difference; world of difference” /undee-no-sa/) – 泥 means “mud.”

The kanji 曇 “cloudy”

When the sun 日 is placed on top of 雲, it makes up another Joyo kanji 曇. The sun blocked by clouds means “cloudy.” The kun-yomi 曇り /kumori’/ means “cloudy; cloudy sky,” and is in 曇る (“to become cloudy; become dim” /kumo’ru/), 曇りがち (“tending to be cloudy; broken clouds” /kumorigachi/). The on-yomi /do’n/ is in 曇天 (“cloudy sky” /donten/).

  1. The kanji 雪 “snow”

History of Kanji 雪For the kanji 雪, the oracle bone style writings (a) and (b) had a cloud at the top and the bottom showed lightly falling flakes coming down from the sky, which meant “snowfall; snow.” The ten style writing (c) had different components. The top was the same, something that falls from the sky. The middle had two brushes or brooms, and the bottom had a hand — together they signified a hand holding a broom to sweep or clean. Snowfall blankets the earth as if cleansing everything on the ground. It meant “snow.”

The kun-yomi 雪 /yuki’/ means “snow,” and is in 大雪 (“blizzard; big snowfall” /ooyuki/), and 雪かき (“snow shoveling; snow removal” /yukika’ki/). The on-yomi /se’tsu/ is in 新雪 (“new snow” /shinsetsu/) and 残雪 (“lingering snow on the ground” /zansetsu/).

The kanji 霰 and 雹– Other kanji regarding something that falls from the sky include 霰 (“small-sized hail” /arare/) and 雹 (“hail” /hyo’o/). Technically hail under 5 mm is 霰, but who is measuring? /Arare/ falling is something we can enjoy looking at, but if it is /hyo’o/ we probably start to worry about possible damage. Neither kanji is a joyo kanji, but you do see them used, possibly with phonetic katakana accompanying them.

The bushu amekanmuri pertains not only to something that falls from the sky but also to something atmospheric. Moisture in the air creates all kinds of phenomena. Among other Joyo kanji, in 霧, 霜 and 露 the bottom components are all used phonetically.  We look at those kanji now.

  1. The kanji 霜 “frost”

History of Kanji 霜When moisture becomes frozen on the surface or in the ground, it becomes frost. The ten style of the kanji 霜 had a bushu amekanmuri “atmospheric phenomenon” and the bottom 相 was used phonetically for /so’o/. It meant “frost.” The Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen explained that 相 “to face each other” gave the meaning of moisture in the ground forming columns, as in 霜柱 (“frost column” /shimoba’shira/).

The kun-yomi 霜 /shimo/ means “frost,” and is in 霜降り肉 (“marbled meat” /shimohuri’niku/), 霜取り (“defrosting in freezer” /shimotori/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 星霜 (“years” /seesoo/), which is only used in literary phrases, such as 十年の星霜を経て (“after long ten years”).

  1. The kanji 霧 “haze; fog; mist”

History of Kanji 霧When the moisture is suspended in the air as tiny water droplets it becomes fog. The ten style of the kanji 霧 consisted of 雨 “atmospheric phenomenon” and 務, used phonetically for /mu/ to mean “something unclear.” An atmospheric phenomenon that hampered visibility due to tiny water droplets in the air was “fog.” The writing in blue is in Large ten style 大篆 /daiten/, which preceded Small ten style 小篆 /shooten/ (what we are using as ten style in this blog.)

The kun-yomi 霧 /kiri/ means “fog; mist,” and is in 霧吹き (”spray; sprayer” /kirihu’ki/). /-Gi’ri/ is in 夜霧 (“night fog” /yo’giri/). The on-yomi /mu/ is in an expression 五里霧中 (“to be lost in a fog; be at sea” /go’ri muchuu/).

  1. The kanji 露 “dew: to expose”

History of Kanji 露When moisture in the air becomes water droplets on the ground, it is dew. The ten style of the kanji 露 consisted of 雨 “atmospheric phenomenon” and 路, used phonetically for /ro/. The dew covers everything outside. From that 露 also meant “to cover; expose.”

The kun-yomi 露 (“dew” /tsu’yu/) is in 夜露 (“night dew” /yo’tsuyu/) and 雨露 (“rain and dew; outside weather” /a’metsuyu/), which is used in phrases such as 雨露にさらされる (“to be exposed to the elements; to be open to the wet” /ametsuyu-ni sarasareru/). The on-yomi /ro/ is in 露見する (“to come to light” /roken-suru/), 露出 (“exposure” /roshutsu/) and 暴露する (“to reveal or expose a secret intentionally” /ba’kuro-suru/).

In the next post we continue with more kanji that have a bushu amekanmuri and a few related kanji.   [March 27, 201]

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]