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.
A representative ethical notion in East Asian thought widely spread in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan Confucius’ teaching and Confucianism [the teaching of the person Confucius and what people have made out of it later are different things]. In Kanji science, however, the process before this character became a completely abstract notion is the main focus of interest. Actually, at the time of Confucius correct knowledge about the origin of Chinese characters had already been lost. In this sense, it was a character that could easily be manipulated or exploited. One can often hear the popular belief that it is the combination of the person-classifier at the left side and the number two at the right side. There also is the view that it was developed as a generalization of the notion ‘between two human beings,’ becoming one of the five basic tenets of Confucianism 仁 ‘Nin, Jin: humaneness,’ 儀 ‘Gi: rightness,’ 礼（禮） ‘Rei: propriety,’ 智 ‘Chi: wisdom,’ and 信 ‘Shin: trustworthiness.’ Certainly, the classifier is the person-classifier; here, however, the focus is on the interpretation of the right part.
Actually, from the standpoint of correct Kanji science, apart from the original number characters there is not even one case among Kanji with an element standing for an abstract number. It may look like this in the form of the present Common Use Kanji, which differs from the old character forms, but the idea that something abstract is incorporated as an element in Kanji always is characteristic for vulgar belief.
The part 五 appearing in 悟, for example, has no relation to the number 五 ‘five,’ but shows a double wooden lid firmly closing a ‘norito,’ i.e. ritual prayer receptacle. As a character that really shows two human beings there is the character 比 and others.
Basically, the elements appearing in Kanji are human beings and things. As they are things extant in ancient society, the person-classifier shows the form of a person who is about to sit down and the left part is the cushion at the sitting place. As this is the Orient, it is not a chair, but a cushion or mat. Thus a rather different way from there to the abstract ethical notion of humaneness becomes evident. In other words, it is the heart or mental attitude of offering a seating cushion to somebody. It means the mental attitude of consideration and feeling of hospitality towards guests or visitors. Originally, it is a notion for expressing such a warm feeling or attitude.
'Kan' (as in 環境 'Kankyo': environment, surroundings) has a form that shows a rather deep meaning. The upper part of the character is 'eye.' ○ means 'gem' or 'precious stone.' Apart from the character form made up of these three elements, there is also a character form with the 'gem' classifier. The 'gem' classifier (the character's radical on the left) takes the form of a 'cord' passing through three 'gems.'
Actually, 'Kan' is related to funeral customs and the belief in resurrection from death and faith. As the 'eye' above is open, it symbolizes resurrection from death. In antiquity, it was the custom to bury a dead person with his or her possessions. This character takes the form of a gem around the neck of the deceased's dress. As can be seen in the character 含, there also was a custom of placing a gem in the deceased's 口 mouth.
Dr. Shirakawa mentions, in works such as 'Koshiden: The Life of Confucius,' that Zhuang Zi (in 'The True Classic of Southern (Cultural) Fluorescence') often describes such customs as above. However, as is to be expected from a leading Daoist, he is rather critical and negative. For example, in Zhuang Zi's 'Miscellaneous Chapters, Esoteric Things,' he satirizes Confucians who retrieve gems attached to corpses following exact descriptions of the deceased's possessions in 'The Book of Odes,' which later Confucians have regarded as a moral authority. Dr. Shirakawa has pointed out that in the work of Nishida Kitaro, a representative philosopher of Japan, one can see good influence from Zhuang Zi, who, in a sense, has philosophized the world of Chinese characters. In this respect, Kanji have a dimension that connects the past with the present.
環境 'Kankyo: environment' is closely related to the fate of mankind. Wouldn't it be a really appropriate character to think about when maintaining a healthy environment?
Shizuka Shirakawa was a world-leading scholar of “kanji”, or Chinese characters.
Mr. Shirakawa was born in 1910 in Fukui Prefecture. He became fascinated with Kanji in his mid teens and subsequently worked voraciously to acquire more knowledge about the subject.
He published “Kanji”, a kanji dictionary in 1970, which established his unique viewpoint undermining commonly accepted theory in Kanji study.
Since then, he published “Shikyou”, “Kinbun no Sekai” and “Koushiden” all in which he introduced his original and innovative interpretation of Chinese philosophy and culture. “Jitou”, published in 1984, was a kanji etymology in which he studied the origin of letters. He pursued his unique approach to kanji study in which he found some magico-religious meaning in the composition of kanji. “Jitou” was followed by two more publications; “Jikun” and “Jitsuu”, all of which became highly influential as his trilogy on kanji studies.
In 1997, he was appointed the director at Institute of Letter and Culture. The following year, he was named as “Bunka Kourousha”, a recognition given to a person who has performed distinguished services in the field of culture.
In 2004, he received the Order of Cultural Merit, one of Japan’s highest honors. He passed away on October 30th, 2006, at the age of 96.
His insatiable quest in the universe of Kanji has influenced many scholars and his ideas are still being developed and advanced today.
Kunenan located in Kanzaki-machi, Saga Pref. is the villa and garden with an area of 68,000 square meters, which Yataro Itami, a very successful businessman in this prefecture, spent 9 years from 1892 in building. The villa has an Irimoya style (hip-and-gable) thatched roof, clay walls with sugi-koshibari (cedar boards to finish the lower part), renmado (windows with bamboo lattice), and nure-en (shallow veranda), which creates rustic atmosphere. The garden is known for its scenic beauty of the season. Azalea in spring and red leaves in autumn are outstanding but more exquisite is the mosses naturally growing all over. It looks as though a green velvet carpet is spread and creates the ambience of Wabi-sabi aesthetics. Kunenan is open to the public only for 9 days (November 15 to 23) when trees in the garden turn red. It was designated as a national asset in February 1995.
Taku Seibyo located in Taku City, Saga Pref. is a shrine dedicated to the worship of Confucius. It is the third oldest Seibyo (Confucius’s mausoleum) next to Ashikaga School (Tochigi Pref.) and Shizutani School (Okayama Pref.), but said to be the most gorgeous. The domain of Taku faced financial difficulties in the Edo period and the domain people became desperate. The 4th generation of the domain lord, Shigefumi Taku was worried about this and thought it necessary to educate people. He decided to build a Confucius’s mausoleum and school. This stately and gorgeous mausoleum was completed in 1708. The remnant of red urushi lacquer can still be seen all over the building. The style of building is Japan’s typical style of Zenshuuyou Butsudo Style (Buddhist hall in Zen style) but sculptures and pattern applied everywhere inside and outside of the building create Chinese taste. The bronze image of seated Confucius was designated as a city’s Important Cultural Property, and the Seigan (the case for the Confucius image) was as a national Important Cultural Property.