NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/8/7


【墓】 Bo, Haka Grave

Jp En

In ancient China, corners of rooms were thought of as places where evil spirits can hide easily. Underground grave chambers of nobility are represented by the form 亜 (亞) indicating the four reeled off corners.
Ancient clan ‘insignia’ also had the standard form of 亞 with several inscriptions inside. As a rare example, among the inscriptions there also is an equivalent of the element 莫 (meaning ‘dark’). As in the later Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) style, however, the form 亞 which means ‘grave’ did not remain, here also the lineage of the common explanation as ‘natural’ (not underground) grave as is usual also in traditional grave geomancy will be introduced in the following.
墓 is usually categorized as picto-phonetic character, here it is regarded as a pictograph in the first line. The character combines the upper part 艸 ‘grass’ and 日 ‘sun’ with the lower part, 艸 ‘grass’ and 土 ‘soil,’ showing a state of freshly green sprouting grass. With its sunshine, the bright shining sun fills the grassy plain with vivid life. This shows the ideal of the corpse returning to the soil and to nature. According to Yin-Yang thought, there has to be a balance of the sun (Yang) and the earth or soil (Yin).
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【禮(礼)】 Rei, Reigi Etiquette, Courtesy

Jp En

The shortened character 礼 is in use already since the time of the Hàn dynasty. By erasing the right part of the original character nearly completely, however, the custom originally shown by this character can no longer be detected.
Ironically, from the standpoint of Kanji science, this maybe regarded as offending etiquette. By this change of character form, the original way of thinking that politeness and wealth are interrelated is now concealed.
The original function and meaning of the classification marker 示 is that of an altar for placing offerings, indicating a character related to religion. After the Yīn (Shāng) and the Zhōu dynasty, actually inappropriately, it came to be accepted as the main part of the character.
Meeting with Dr Shirakawa personally, on of the things I could learn was “The Bushu (classification markers) are often mistaken.” This may also be applied to this character as the original form consists in the right part only. The 示 marker was added much later. Of course, here, the lower 豆 does not represent a ‘bean,’ the other meaning of this character form; it shows a kind of tableware or vase for arranging 丰, a sort of millet. For the part 曲 there also is the linage that shows the pictograph of a musical instrument. Here, however, it shows the offering of two or three stalks of millet. Unnecessarily, by adding the classification marker 示, it became a stand or altar with a vase or tableware next to it. The character 豊 shows offering millet to the gods in a vase or tableware.
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2008/8/4


【独(獨)】 Doku, Hitori Alone

Jp En

The original character is 獨. 蜀 means a male animal. 虫 does not show an insect but the male genitals. As the male animal often separates from the herd, from this behavior of separation and acting alone resolutely and independently, it got the meaning ‘hitori: alone.’ The 犭 animal classifier was added later in the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal, after basic Chinese characters had been formed already in the Yīn (Shāng) and the Zhōu dynasty.
The works of Dr. Shirakawa also teach that in the realm of usage of Chinese characters since the period of the Yīn (Shāng) dynasty, the animal classifier was used as an expression of contempt and discrimination regarding other peoples or countries.
In Japan, before a unified German state came into existence, in the time leading to the opening of the country during the final years of the Tokugawa period, the characters 独逸 (abbreviated 独) were used for the German speaking people although the reading ‘doku’ does not fit the pronunciation at all. Early documents show that in 度逸 or 都逸, 度 and 都 were alternative characters also read ‘doitsu’ in combination with 逸, but the above version still is in use since 150 years. Regarding countries, however, the use of the animal classifier probably is not appropriate. Dr. Shirakawa has explained this as the ‘Superior Country In The Middle Ideology of the Japanese’ (‘Superior Country In The Middle Ideology’ is a term for the nationalist thought that China is situated in the middle of the world, its culture being superior to others). In the captions of his dictionaries for this character as well as comparable characters used for other countries, there generally is no recognition of such a usage for country names.
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2008/3/17


【誠】 Sei Sincerity

Jp En

This character cannot be seen among the tortoise plastron, bone, or bronze inscription characters but from the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script on. Certainly, it can be divided into a left and right part. It, however, would be too rash to jump to an A+B style mathematical explanation. Dr. Shirakawa summarizes: “The meaning is to realize an oath.”
Rather than a mere superficial interpretation like that of a 言 ‘kotoba: word’ that 成る ‘naru: realizes,’ one has to take the customs and religion of ancient China into consideration here. As was pointed out in the explanation of 信, the 口 of the lower part 言 is a vessel 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. It shows the form of an instrument, a needle with a handle for tattooing. Already this part 言 only has the meaning of words of oath to the gods.
The part 成 shows the form of the ritual of completion performed after the making of a 戈 ‘hoko: halberd’ is finished, adding a decoration. This means that the left and right character parts have their origin in religion.
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