It is a character combining the person-classifier and 言. In this combination, it appears for the first time in the so-called Old Script. 言, however, can already be seen in the tortoise plastron and bone characters. As already explained in the character explanations on 吉・哲・仁, its lower part 口 has the meaning of a receptacle for putting in prayer writings. The meaning of the upper part with its four horizontal lines is hard to understand from the form of the Common Use Kanji. Its original form and meaning has to be understood in the context of the tattoo and ritual body painting culture which was already introduced in the character explanation on 清. It shows the form of an instrument, a needle with a handle for tattooing. Therefore, 言 is not simply a word, but means to place the tattoo needle on the prayer receptacle and to accept the tattoo penalty in case one does not keep a promise or oath to the gods. Originally, this tattooing has the background of offending the gods and can be regarded as one of the corporal punishments as were usual in Chinese society. According to Shizuka Shirakawa’s research, in contrast to the general image of Confucius, Confucius was the natural child of a priestess or shrine maiden. The world of the gods Confucius seldom made a subject. Based on words like that of Analects Chapter 12, 顔淵 Yán Yuān and others, however, 信 ‘trust’ became to play a role as a notion in social politics. In Japan, the value of 信 ‘trust’ was pointed out anew by Itō Jinsai (1627-1705), the inaugurator of the ‘Old Meaning School.’ When asked which of the trio – food, army, trust – was the most valuable, Confucius answered that food is more important than the army, but that the trust of the people is an even more important, absolutely vital principle. Certainly, fasting of individuals or even a people for their belief can be seen in religious and political struggle.
- Editoral supervision: Dr. Christoph Schmitz, Researcher of Shirakawa Kanji Science, General and Japanese History of Philosophy and Thought