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]

Year of the Sheep 美義養祥詳善様 – 羊ひつじ(2)


We continue the story of kanji that contain 羊.

 (1) The kanji 美 “beauty; aesthetic”

History of Kanji 美Different interpretations on the origins include: (a) The combination of 羊 “sheep,” which had a pretty appearance, and 大 “a person” meant “beautiful”; (b) sheep (羊) that is mature and large (大) looked impressive, thus “beautiful”; or (c) viewing the whole as a single image of a sheep, with its head and front and hind legs, that looked pretty. The three ancient writings are shown on the left. In oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green), and ten style (red.) In the Key to Kanji I took view (a) but now that I have spent some time looking at the sample photos of oracle bone style and bronze ware style, treating the image as a single image (view (c)), rather than being made up of two separate meanings, is more appealing to me.

The kun-yomi is 美しい (”beautiful” /utsukushi’i/). It is used more in literature than in conversation. The on-yomi /bi/ is in 美 (”beauty; aesthetics”/bi’/), 美人 (“beautiful woman” /bijin/), 美男子 (“handsome man” /bida’nshi/), 美術 (“fine art” /bi’jutsu/), and 美談 (“moving story” /bi’dan/.)

(2) The kanji 善 “good; virtue”

History of Kanji 善In Akai (2010) there are as many as 12 bronze ware style samples included. All except one looked very similar to the one shown, in green, on the left. It had a sheep at the top and two 言 “word; language” at the bottom. Why did it have two 言? One view is that “two” meant many, and it meant many people praising with words. Another is that “two” meant two parties in a court that would be judged which side was right, based on the behavior of a sacrificial sheep (Shirakawa). In ten style it had only one 言, but then in the orthographic style (正字), shown in gray here, two 言 returned. In shinjitai, 羊 and the top of 言 coalesced, and口 was kept at the bottom. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ze’n/ means “good; virtue,” and in 善良な (“good-natured” /zenryoona/), 善戦する (“to fight bravely” /zensen-suru/), 善処する (“to take the appropriate steps” /ze’nsho-suru/).

 (3) The kanji養 “to support; foster; nutrient”

History of Kanji 養In oracle bone style for the kanji 養, the left side was a sheep, and the right side was a hand holding a stick. Together it signified sheep farming. Sheep provided good meat. In ten style, the top was a sheep and the bottom was food in a bowl, which was the precursor to the kanji 食 “to eat.” In kanji, the bottom is the kanji 食, except that the top two strokes do not meet. It meant “to support (by providing food); foster.”

The kun-yomi 養う/yashina’u/ means “to support (by providing food); foster.” The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 養分 (“nutrient; nourishment” /yo’obun/), 栄養 (“nutrition” /eeyoo/), 休養 (“rest” /kyuuyoo/) and 養子 (“adopted child” /yooshi/).

 (4) The kanji 祥 “auspicious”

History of Kanji 祥In ten style, the left side was an altar table, and the right side was used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “a sign in divination.” The words of the gods were a good, favorable omen. From that it meant “auspicious; show of future success.” The kyujitai reflected the ten style writing. The left side示 (“to reveal; demonstrate” /shimesu/) was originally from “the god showing a sign an altar table,” so it meant “religious matter.” In shinjitai it got replaced by ネ a bushu shimesuhen, the shape that was similar to a katakana /ne/. (A katakana /ne/ was taken from the left side of the kanji 袮 from 禰).

The kanji 祥 is  in 吉祥 “good omen” and 発祥の地 (“birthplace” /hasshoo-no-chi’/) and 不祥事 (“scandal” /husho’oji/).

 (5) The kanji 詳 “detail; to clarify”

History of Kanji 詳The ten style of the kanji 詳 had a bushu gonben “word; language.” It shared the same sound /sho’o/ with the kanji祥 above that meant “auspicious.” With a gonben, it originally meant “to explain the god’s good words.” Now the religious flavor was dropped and it meant “details: to clarify.” The kun-yomi 詳しい /kuwashi’i/ means “in detail; knowledgeable.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 詳細 (“details” /shoosai/).

(6) The kanji 義 “morality; significance”

History of Kanji 義In oracle bone style, a long bar in the middle had a sheep’s head, and the middle was a saw. In bronze ware style the sheep was separated at the top, and the bottom was a more elaborate halberd that had saw-like blades. Together they meant cutting a sacrificial sheep with a saw to prepare it as offering to the god. Something suitable for the god meant “morality; just.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gi/ is in 正義 (“justice; right” /se’egi/), 義務 (“obligation” /gi’mu/), 義理 (“moral obligation; indebtedness” /giri’/), 意義ある (“significant; meaningful” /i’giaru/).

The kanji 義 made up a few more kanji. When a bushu gonben “word; to speak” was added to 義, it created the kanji 議 “to discuss what is just” or “to discuss.” When a bushu ninben “person” was added to 義, it created the kanji 儀 “protocol; propriety,” as in 礼儀 (“courtesy; etiquette” /reegi’/), When a bushu ushihen “cow; animal in general” was added, it made the kanji 犠 “sacrificial; victim,” as in 犠牲者 (“victim” /gise’esha.)

(7) The kanji 様 “appearance; manner: honorific form of address”

History of Kanji 様For the kanji 様, the left side of the ten style writing had a tree 木and the right side, the combination of 羊 and 永, was used phonetically and meant a sawtooth oak.


Ten 永

The kanji 永 “very long time” came form an image of tributaries, as shown on the right. The account in the Setsumon Kaiji was that it was an acorn of a kunugi tree “sawtooth oak.” A kunugi tree is native to the Far East. I gather from various articles that sawtooth oak trees have been spreading fast in the United States as a source of food for wild life because they mature fast and have a heavy crop of acorns. The kanji 様 meant “appearance; manner.”

Sawtooth Oak-Bark and Acorns

Sawtooth Oak: Bark and Acorns

Having seen a number of photos of kunugi trees in Japan and the U. S., two characteristics have intrigued me. First, the thick cork-like bark has deep ridges that run like the ancient writing for “tributaries” (永.)  Second, a round acorn is in a cup-shape receptacle that looks like, well, a wig, rather than a smooth surface (two photos on the right.)  Could the image, such as the one on the right, have been the reason for choosing 羊 that had many lines?  I think it is reasonable to think that in making up a new 形声文字 “semantic-phonetic composite writing,” creators of ancient writing had some sort of semantic association in mind in addition to phonetic use, rather than choosing randomly. Using your imagination based on what you know is a part of the fun in thinking about the etymology of kanji.  The kyujitai 樣, in blue, reflected the ten style writing. In shinjitai, 永 has been simplified.

The kun-yomi /sama/ means “appearance; state; manner” and is in 有様 (“state; condition” /a’risama/) and 様になる (“to start looking appropriate” in casual style /sama ni na’ru/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 様子 (“appearance; look” /yoosu/), 同様に (in a similar manner” /dooyoo-ni/), 模様 (“pattern” /moyoo/). Additionally two different uses were added in Japan. One is 様 /sama/ as a polite form of addressing someone. Another use is in adverbial phrase 〜の様だ (“it appears or looks X” /X no yo’oda/).

This post ended up long again, because there are so many kanji that have 羊 and we regularly use them in daily life. With the versatile usefulness of sheep to people’s daily life as well as in religious life in ancient times, the kanji 羊 brings us all around goodness. [January 17, 2015]

Photos: (1) the bark of a kunugi tree and (2) the acorns of  a kunugi tree taken in Kanagawa Prefecture by Mr. Jugemu.