The Kanji 食飯餓館飽飾飲餌養 – Food (1)


食と食へんThe new area of topics we are going to explore in the this and next several postings is around a kitchen, cooking, measuring, etc. We start kanji with a bushu shokuhen “eating; food” – 食飯餓館飽飾飲餌養. A bushu shokuhen has one stroke fewer than the kanji 食, as shown on the right. We shall also see that not all the kanji with a bushu shokuhen originated from 食.

  1. The kanji 食 “to eat; meal”

History of Kanji 食For the kanji 食, in (a), (b) and (c) in oracle bone style, in brown, it was “food in a raised bowl with a lid.” (b) had the dotted lines on both sides. I am unable to find the account for this in reference, but I am wondering if they signified that there was so much food that it was spilling over. It meant “food; to eat.” (d), in green, was in bronze ware style. In seal style (e), in red, some scholars analyze it as 皀 with 𠆢 — “a cover” (𠆢), “food” (白) and “a spoon; ladle” (ヒ). The kanji 食 means “to eat; food.”  <The composition of the kanji: 𠆢 and 良>

The kun-yomi 食べる /tabe’ru/ means “to eat,” and is in 食べ物 (“food” /tabe’mono/). Another kun-yomi 食う /ku’u/ has many uses — 食う (/ku’u/ “to eat” – a male speaker’s style; or used for an animal), 電池を食う (“to use up battery” /de’nchi-o ku’u/), 足止めを食う or 食らう (“to be prevented leaving” /ashidome-o-ku’u; kura’u/), 虫が食う (“to be eaten by worms” /mushi-ga-ku’u/), 食い止める (“to stop; hold back” /kuitome’ru/), 食ってかかる (“to go at someone; lash out at someone” /ku’ttekakaru/) and 食い違う (“do not match; go wrong” /kuichigau/). The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 食事 (“meal” /shokuji/), 朝食 (“breakfast” /chooshoku/), 食材 (“food; ingredients” /shokuzai/), 粗食 (“plain food” /soshoku/), 食料品 (“foodstuffs; groceries” /shokuryoohin/) and 給食 (“school lunch” /kyuushoku/).

  1. The kanji 飯 “cooked rice; meal”

History of Kanji 飯For the kanji 飯, in bronze ware style and seal style it comprised “food in a raised bowl with a lid,” and 反, which was used phonetically for /han/. Together they originally meant “cooked grains such as rice and millet.” The kanji 飯 means “cooked rice; meal.” <The composition of the kanji 飯: a bushu shokuhen and 反>

The kun-yomi 飯 /meshi’/ means (“mea” /meshi’/ by a male speaker), and is in 昼飯 (“lunch” /hirumeshi/ by a male speaker), 握り飯 (“rice ball” /nigirimeshi/) and 朝飯前 (“piece of cake; snap” /asamashima’e/). The on-yomi /han/ is in (お)赤飯 (“steamed sticky rice with red azuki beans” for a celebratory meal /oseki’han/ or /sekihan/), 炊飯器 (“(electric) rice cooker” /suiha’nki/), 五目ご飯 (“rice cooked with a few other ingredients” /gomoku-go’han/) and in the expression 日常茶飯事 (“daily occurrence” /nichijoosaha’nji/). /-Pan/ is in 残飯 (“leftovers from a meal” /zanpa’n/).

  1. The kanji 餓 “to starve”

History of Kanji 餓For the kanji 餓, the seal style writing comprised “food in a raised bowl with a lid,” and 我, which was used phonetically for /ga/ to mean “to starve.” The kanji 餓 means “to starve.” A few postings ago, we looked at another kanji that meant “to starve” – the kanji 飢. The kanji 飢 focuses on lack of food (such as in famine).   <The composition of the kanji 餓: a bushu shokuhen and 我>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 飢餓 (“starvation” /ki’ga/), 餓死 (“death due to starvation” /ga’shi/) and 餓鬼 (“imp” /ga’ki/; “young mischievous kid; brat” spoken by a male speaker” /gaki’/).

4. The kanji 館 “building; large house”

History of Kanji 館For the kanji 館, the seal style writing had “food in a raised bowl with a lid” (食), and 官 “a place where military officers stay,” which was used phonetically for /kan/. Together they originally meant “a place where many people gather and eat.” The kanji 館 means “a large building; mansion.”  <The composition of the kanji 館: a bushu shokuhen and 官>

The kun-yomi 館 /yataka/ means “a mansion; a large house.” The on-yomi /kan/ is in 旅館(“Japanese-style inn” /ryokan/), 会館 (“hall; clubhouse; building” /kaikan/), 図書館 (“library” /tosho’kan/), 大使館 (“embassy” /taishi’kan/) and 水族館 (“aquarium” /suizoku’kan/).

  1. The kanji 飽 “to grow tired; weary; be fed up; full”

History of Kanji 飽For the kanji 飽, in Old style the left side of (a), in purple, had “a covered bowl of food.” The right side had “a hand” over “a baby.” Together they meant “feeding a baby to full stomach.” The top of (b) is not clear, but it could be two doors to an altar, and (b) means “to offer food to satisfy a god.” In seal style in (c) the right side was replaced by 包 “to wrap up completely,” from a baby in mother’s womb, and was used phonetically for /hoo/ to mean “full.” After eating much food one’s stomach was full. With too much of anything one gets weary of. The kanji 飽 means “to become tired of; be saturated; weary; full.”  <The composition of the kanji 飽: a bushu shokuhen and 包>

The kun-yomi 飽きる /aki’ru/ means “to grow weary of; become tired of.” It is in 飽きが来る (“to grow tired of” /aki’ga-kuru/), 飽き足らない (“unsatisfying” /akitaranai/), 聞き飽きた (“I got tired of hearing it” /kikia’kita/) and 飽くまで (“to the bitter end; to the last; stubbornly” /aku’made/). The on-yomi /hoo/ is in 飽和 (“saturation” /hoowa/).

  1. The kanji 飾 “to decorate”

History of Kanji 飾For the kanji 飾, the left side of the seal style writing had 食 “food in a raised bowl with a lid” and 人 “person” on the right top, and 巾 “cloth” at the bottom. Together they meant “a person in front of a bowl of food wiping the bowl with a piece of cloth.” It meant “to make it clean or pretty.” The kanji 飾 meant “to decorate; embellish.”  <The composition of the kanji 飾: a bushu shokuhen, a short ノ, 一 and 巾>

The kun-yomi 飾る /kazaru/ means “to decorate,” and is in 髪飾り(“hair accessory” /kamika’zari/), 飾り付け (“decoration” /kazaritsuke/) and 着飾る (“to dress up” /kikazaru/). The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 修飾語 (“modifier” in grammar /shuushokugo/), 服飾デザイナー (“dress designer” /hukushoku-deza’inaa/) and 粉飾決算 (“fraudulent account; window dressing settlement” /hunshoku-ke’ssan/).

In the next three kanji – 飲餌養, the bushu shokuhen originated from something other than “food in a raised bowl with a lid.”

  1. The kanji 飲 “to drink; swallow”

History of Kanji 飲For the kanji 飲, in oracle bone style (a) had “a person trying to drink wine from a large wine cask.” If we look at (a) closely, the tongue was a forked shape, as was in the ancient writings of the kanji 舌 “tongue,” indicating eating. It meant “to drink (wine).” (b) in oracle bone style was a large wine cask (酉) with a stopper at the top. The left side of (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style had a wine cask with a stopper. The right side was a person trying to drink or opening his mouth wide. In the kyuji 飮, (f) in blue, the cask was replaced by a bushu shokuhen “to eat; food.” The reason could be that a bushu 酉 was primarily used for fermented liquid and the kanji 飲 is more inclusive of liquids and food that one drinks or swallows without chewing. The kanji 飲 meant “to drink; swallow.”  <The composition of the kanji 飲: a bushu shokuhen and 欠 >

The kun-yomi 飲む /no’mu/ means “to drink; swallow,” and is in 飲み込む (“to swallow; understand” /nomiko’mu/), 飲み込みがいい (“quick to comprehend” /nomikomi-ga-ii/), 飲食店 (“restaurant” /inshoku’ten/), 飲料水 (“drinking water” /inryo’osui/) and 誤飲 (“drinking or swallowing by mistake” /goin/).

  1. The kanji 餌 “bait; feed”

History of Kanji 餌For the kanji 餌, the two seal style writings, (a) and (b), had totally different shapes. (a) was “a vessel to keep grains” (鬲) with 耳 on top, which was used phonetically for /ji/ to mean “flour dumpling.” Together they originally meant “steamed dumpling.” (b) had “food on a raised bowl with a lid” on the left side, and 耳 “ear,” which was used phonetically for /ji/. The kanji 餌 means “animal feed; bait; lure.”  <The composition of the kanji 餌: a bushu shokuhen and 耳>

The kun-yomi 餌 (“bait; lure; animal feed” /esa’; e’/), and is in 餌付ける (“to feed (to domesticate)” /ezuke’ru/) and 餌食になる (“to become a victim” /e’jiki-ni-naru/). The on-yomi /ji/ is not on the Joyo kanji list.

  1. The kanji 養 “to support; nourish; foster”

History of Kanji 養For the kanji 養, (a) in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had a sheep on the left, which was used phonetically for /yoo/ to mean “to feed.” The right side was “a stick held by a hand,” signifying “action.” Together they signified sheep farming. The right side would have become 攴 in kanji, but in seal style, (d), the kanji 食 “to eat; food” replaced it. The kanji 養 means “to support (by providing food); nourish; foster.”  <The composition of the kanji 養: 羊 with a short last stroke, 八 and 良>   (P. S. — Actually (a) was “a cow; ox,” judging from the shape of the horns. August 20, 2017)

Other kanji such as 飼 “to keep animal,” 飢 “to starve” and 餅 “rice cake” do not have ancient writing and are phonetic-semantic kanji, in which a bushu shokuhen signified “food.”

In this posting we have seen in all the kanji that a bushu shokuhen, which is one stroke fewer than the kanji 食, pertains to food, eating or drinking.  Some kanji even did not contain 食 in earlier writings, but for the meaning of “food; eating” a bushu shokuhen took over as a semantic feature.  We shall continue exploring the topic around food preparation and eating in the next several postings. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [August 19, 2017]

The Kanji 欠吹次姿資歌飲 – Posture (5) あくび


In this post we are going to look at a person with his mouth wide open, 欠, which is called bush akubi or kentsukuri.

(1) 欠 “to lack; want of”

History of Kanji 欠The current use of the kanji 欠 had two different shapes, 欠 and 缺, in its development. On the left, we have three samples of oracle bone style for 欠, in brown, – a standing person facing left, a kneeling person facing left, and another kneeling person facing right. All of them were viewed from the side and had a mouth that was open wide and was tilted slightly upward. It signified a person “exhaling or inhaling air,” and a posture that was related to singing (as in 歌) or drinking or swallowing (as in 飲). In ten style, in red, the head became three hooked lines and the bottom had arms and a torso and legs that were kneeling, which in kanji became the shape 人. How did the meaning “exhaling or inhaling air” come to be the current meaning of “lack of; want of”? The answer lies in the kyujitai 缺, which was not related to 欠 in meaning or shape. The development of 缺 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 缺 (欠)The kyujitai 缺 for 欠: In the ten style of 缺, the left side was clayware or earthenware, which was easily chipped. The right side had a weapon at the top and a hand at the bottom and it signified “to break.” Together chipped or broken earthenware or just stuff in general meant “not complete” or “not sufficient.” The kyujitai, in blue, reflected the ten style shape. In shinjitai, however, the kanji 缺 was replaced by the phonetically same 欠, even though the two kanji 缺 and 欠 did not share the same origin. The meaning that the shape 欠 originally had, which was kept in the component of other kanji (“opening one’s mouth open to take in air, food or drink”), overlapped the meaning of “want of; to lack” that the kanji 缺 had. In shinjitai, the simpler shape must have won over, making 缺 a shape of the past.

The kun-yomi 欠く /kaku/ means “to lack; to chip; nick.” It is in phrases such as 欠くことができない (“indispensable” /kakukoto’-ga deki’nai/), 欠けている (“is chipped; lacking” /kaketeiru/). The on-yomi /ke’tsu/ is in 欠席 (“absence” /kesseki/), 欠点 (“fault; shortcoming; defect” /kette’n/) and 不可欠な (“indispensable; essential” /huka’ketsu-na/). The original meaning of 欠 is also used in 欠伸 (“yawning” /akubi/). (Please note that 欠く /kaku/ is an unaccented word whereas 書く /ka’ku/ “to write” is an accented word.)

(2) 吹 “to blow”

History of Kanji 吹This kanji has the shape 口 added to the shape 欠. In the two samples of oracle bone style, the kneeling person was placed on the left, each facing an opposite direction, and had 口 on the right side. In bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, a person and 口 were placed  in front of a person. It meant a person opening his mouth big and blowing air. That has been the traditional explanation. Shirakawa treated 口 as a prayer box throughout his books. Was the shape 口 just an emphasis of a mouth or a prayer box? Let us leave that question unsolved here. The kanji 吹 means “to blow; puff.”

The kun-yomi 吹く /hu’ku/ is used in 風が吹く(“the wind blows” /kaze-ga hu’ku/), 口笛を吹く (“to blow a whistle” /kuchibu’e-o hu’ku/) and 吹き出す (“to spout; puff; to burst into laughter” /hukida’su/). It is also used for the word 吹雪 (“snow storm; blizzard” /hu’buki/). The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 吹奏楽 (“wind instrument music” /suiso’ogaku/).

(3) 次 “next; following”

History of Kanji 次For the kanji 次, there are a couple of different interpretations. One view is that it is a person breathing out (two lines on the left signified breath) and lamenting, which signified asking the god’s will (which are in the kanji such as 諮 “to consult”). ニ was phonetically used to mean “secondary; again” and “following; next.” It meant “to lament; following; next.” Another view is that ニ was phonetically the same as 止 “to stop” and 欠 signified resting and yawning. Together they meant a traveler resting for the next move. It meant “next.” So either view seems to work all right.

The kun-yomi 次 /tsugi’/ means “next; following,” and is in 次に (“next; after this” /tsugi’-ni/), 相次いで (“one after another” /a’itsuide/), 次々に (“one after another” /tsugi’tsugi-ni/). The on-yomi /ji/ is in 次回 (“next time” /ji’kai/) and 目次 (“table of contents” /mokuji/).

(4) 姿 “appearance; figure”

History of Kanji 姿The kanji 姿 consists of two shapes 次 and 女. In ten style the top left had two lines ニ, and the bottom was 女 “woman.” The right side was 欠. Together a woman preparing herself in good order meant “figure; form; appearance.”

The kun-yomi /su’gata/ means “appearance; figure; form” and is in 晴れ姿 (“appearance in one’s shining moment” /haresu’gata/) and 後ろ姿 (“appearance from behind” /ushirosu’gata/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 姿勢 (“attitude; posture” /shisee/) and 容姿 (“appearance” /yo’oshi/).

 (5) 資 “resources; capital”

History of Kanji 資Another kanji that contains 次 is 資. In ten style the bottom left was a cowry. A cowry came from the southern sea in a far away place. It appeared in a number of kanji signifying something valuable. History of Kanji 貝(frame)The development of the kanji 貝 “shell,” starting from an image of a cowry, is shown on the right. A cowry was not a bivalve (二枚貝 /nima’igai/) but a snail (巻貝 /maki’gai/). The image captured in oracle bone style had an opening. (Because this shape is so important to other kanji, it deserves its own posting later on.) The shape 次 was used phonetically here. The kanji 資 meant “resources; capital.”

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo-kanji. The on-yomi /shi/ is in 資本 (“capital”/shihon/), 資格 (“qualification; license” /shikaku/) and 資料 (“data; material” /shi’ryoo/).

(6) 歌 “to sing; song”

History of Kanji 歌rIn the bronze ware style of the kanji 歌 the left side was the old form of 言 “word; language.” The right side was 可. History of Kanji 可We have a fuller picture of the history of 可, shown on the right side.

The kanji 可: The oracle bone style of 可 had a bent shape and 口. For simplicity we take 口 here as a mouth. A bent shape signified that voice did not come out straight and was forced. Singing a song was one voicing words with some effort.

Back to the left side of 歌. As the ten style writing of 歌, Setsumon showed two shapes (a) and (b). The writing (a) had “words” on the left and 哥, two 可, on the right. In (b), 哥 “forced voice” was placed on the left and the right side became 欠 – “someone opening his mouth wide open.” Together they meant “to sing.” I wonder which composite shape of (a) and (b) would represent better to mean “to sing; song.” You decide.  

The kun-yomi 歌う /utau/ means “to sing” and 歌 /uta’/ is “song.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 歌手 (“singer” /ka’shu/), 国歌 (“national anthem” /ko’kka/), 演歌 (“enka song” /e’nka/), 歌謡曲 (“popular song” /kayo’okyoku/), and 歌曲 (“song,” usually classical song. /ka’kyoku/).

(7) 飲 “to drink; swallow”

History of Kanji 飲The last kanji we look at in this post is 飲. The kanji 飲 had humorous images of writing in the beginning. In oracle bone style, the left side had a sake or rice wine cask that had a stopper at the top, and the right side was a person drinking rice wine out of it. From the way he was leaning over the cask, he must have been enjoying drinking very much! I always like oracle bone style writing because you can have a glimpse of a real person in ancient times. In bronze ware style, the left sample only had the wine cask whereas the right side had a person with his tongue out signifying that he was not just standing next to it but drinking. The left side of the ten style writing consisted of a lid (今) at the top and rice wine cask 酉 below, and the right side was a person 欠. Together they made a good story. However, in kyujitai, the left side was replaced by a totally different shape, the old form of a bushu shokuhen.

History of Kanji 食(frame)The kanji 食: To see that the bushu shokuhen came from the origin that was totally different from 飲, I am showing the development of the kanji 食 “food; to eat” on the right side. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was food heaped on a dish with a lid on top. In ten style the bottom took the shape that was the same as a person that we looked at in the last two posts. We saw that in ten style that shape had the meaning of “person; spoon; ladle.”

Now back to the kyujitai 飮, in which the bottom has two lines. I imagine that this was the remnant of the ten style writing of 食 at the bottom. In shinjitai, the bushu shokuhen has a short stroke at the end.

The kun-yomi 飲む “to drink, to swallow” is also used in 薬を飲む (“to take medicine” /kusuri o no’mu/), 飲み物 (“drink, beverage” /nomi’mono/) 飲み食い (“eating and drinking” /no’mikui/). On-yomi /i’n/ is in 飲食店 (“restaurant; eatery” /insho’kuten/), 飲酒運転 (“drunken driving” or “driving under the influence of alcohol.”) and 飲用水 (“drinking water” /in-yo’osui/).

Our exploration of kanji that originated from the posture of one’s whole body continues in the next post. [April 11, 2015]