夕 is now regarded as the classifier of 夢. Actually, however, it is strongly related to the institution of the 媚 ‘miko: female shaman.’ As in 蔑, the upper part also shows a female shaman with eyebrow decoration. In antiquity, dreams were regarded as something mystical and thought of as being brought about by female shamans.
夕 points to the form of the moon at night. The early tortoise plastron and bone character has no 夕, but instead a 爿 showing the bedstead. Interestingly, all characters including 爿 are not displayed horizontally, but vertically.
In ancient China, a construction method called 版築 ‘hanchiku: board construction’ using boards existed for making clay walls. 爿 and 片 show such boards. Probably because such a board very much resembles a bedstead, in the early tortoise plastron and bone characters also a vertical 爿 board is contained as an element.
Among the tortoise plastron and bone writings a lot of examples of divination by means of dreams can be seen. The answer always took the form of an ‘auspicious’ - ‘inauspicious’ judgment. Among them a great number asks for the meaning of the appearance of deceased persons in dreams.
As a classic of dream interpretation based on ‘auspicious’ - ‘inauspicious’ judgment, ancient China has produced the 周公釈夢 ‘Zhōu Gōng Shì Mèng: Duke Zhōu’s Explanation of Dreams,’ which later also came to Japan and was widely read in the Edo period.
Until Shirakawa Kanji science became known, the 口 of 石 was traditionally explained as a piece of stone lying below a cliff. The tortoise plastron and bone characters, however, show that 口 is a sacred receptacle for putting in prayer writings. As was introduced in the explanation of 暦 ‘koyomi: calendar,’ 厂 shows the form of a steep cliff, and cliffs were regarded as places of strong spiritual power and were used for various religious services, worship and rituals. Other characters showing the relation between stones and spiritual power are 宕 and 祏. 宕, which shows a mausoleum, has 石 below 宀 a mausoleum roof. 祏, which means an ancestor tablet, combines the 示 altar classifier with 石. From 石 appearing in characters related to rituals and worship, it may be inferred that stones also functioned as altar.
Not only in antiquity, but also in the present, people with strong spiritual sense warn to take stones away from nature and bring them home as one pleases as spirits can easily dwell in these basic elements of nature. In Japan, especially in shrines, worship of stones can often be seen.
In common with 婦, the basic character of 掃 is 帚. The 扌 hand classifier was only added considerably later. The first form in the tortoise plastron and bone characters is extremely simple; it clearly is just the form of a 箒 ‘hôki: broom.’ As the tortoise plastron and bone characters were created by a group of ancient clerics the cleaning this character originally refers to should be imagined as a sacred act or duty. It was humbly conducted in the mausoleum for worshiping the ancestors. Besides using the broom for sweeping as is done in the present, it was established etiquette to sprinkle well-smelling liquor with the broom for exorcising and purifying the mausoleum. It may be compared to the present burning of incense for the ancestors.
The upper part of the unabbreviated character 帚 shows a hand, and the middle line extending to the right shows the part of the hand including the joint which is especially important when sweeping. In the shortened character form of the Common Use Character, however, nearly only the fingers remain. 帚 also appears in 歸, the older character of 帰 ‘kaeru: return.’ It shows military returning from war at the ritual of reporting at the mausoleum bringing worship meat. At this time, there also was the custom of exorcising and purifying the mausoleum with a broom and liquor.
The meaning originally shown by the character 德 originally is not the ethical notion of virtue attributed to it in later times. For its understanding one has to go back to the world of early animism and curse magic.
The character 行 shows a crossroad and 彳. The classifier of 徳 is its left half and means a junction. As place where a lot of people pass, it is an important spiritual place, too. Naturally, accidents occur more frequently there, which is why it becomes an object for the exorcism of evil spirits.
As in the case of 蔑 or 省, the 目 (including the strokes above) which is seen in horizontal position in the right upper part of the character shows curse decoration. 省 means to show military power towards a region or country. Its upper part and the upper right part of 徳 has the common origin of patrolling with eyes that have curse power. What concerns the character 徳, from containing the element 彳 the objects of patrol conducted by eyes with curse decoration are the evil spirits at crossroads and junctions; it shows them being exorcised and ‘tadasu: put right’ again.
Previous character forms are often close to that of antiquity. Here, 徳, the form of the Common Use Characters since 1948 has one stroke less than its previous form 德 and is a form close to that of the bronze inscriptions.
Later, 心 was added to the character form for the first time on the bronze vessel 大盂鼎 ‘Dà Yú Dĭng: Big Tripod (made by) Yú’ in a long inscription amounting to 290 characters from the early period of the Western Zhōu dynasty, directly after the Yīn (Shāng)-Zhōu revolution. From this time on, the meaning of 徳 changed from referring to the curse power of the eyes toward the mental inner virtue as existing in the mind.
The character 親 ‘parent(s)’ shows the custom of ancestor commemoration for the repose of the soul of special deceased, the parents. East Asia has the custom of writing the name of the deceased on a wooden ancestral name tablet. The left part of this character consists of 辛 and 木, with 辛 showing a needle with handle. I was a custom to go into the forest to elect the wood for the coffin or memorial tablet, throwing the needle for electing the wood in what is a kind of divine judgment. The right part 見 is the form of a human being worshipping the soul dwelling in the ancestral tablet in respect and deference. The 目 of 見 is the head of a human being with mainly the eyes and 儿 shows the legs.
This character teaches that in China and in East Asia, in addition to the grave itself, from ancient times on, the souls of ancestors were revered in the form of memorial tablets, thus becoming a spiritual place of support for one’s heart. In ancient China, there were several discussions about the right way of holding funerals among the various schools of thought and philosophy; however, no school ever advocated the abolition of memorial tablets.
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.
無 is the first character form of 舞 ‘dance.’ When following the classification of the traditional ‘Six Categories or Scripts of Characters,’ 無 is regarded as a ‘loan character’ which shares the same on-reading with another character. As, however, the classification method if the ‘Six Categories or Scripts of Characters’ was created to analyze the corrupt forms of the Chinese characters a thousand years after their origination, to think they were invented along these guidelines is a mistaken conclusion.
As the very first stage of Kanji is pictographic, it is obvious that on this stage the meaning ‘nothing’ cannot be expressed. With thought becoming more abstract in later times, therefore, ‘loan characters’ were very useful. Rather than naturally developing, however, ‘loan characters’ are a group of characters that receive their meaning by convention and custom. That 無 is the first character form of 舞 can be known from the tortoise plastron and bone characters. There, it actually is the form of a dancing human being with decorations hanging from both sleeves.
The Lun Yu of Confucius, Chapter 12, has “ … went to the 舞雩 ‘rain altar.’ ”
雩, read ‘u’ in Japanese, means a place for rain dance rituals or sacred music. The meaning ‘nothing, not’ can also be regarded as having its origin in the state of having ‘no rain.’ If understood this way, there is no need anymore to rely on the notion of ‘loan character’ for 無.
Anyway, explanations like “It shows a house burning down thus resulting in the meaning ‘nothing at all’,” which the author once heard in China, are misleading.
This character is the form of a crack deliberately added on a tortoise plastron or animal bone in order to divine before the tortoise plastron and bone characters are inscribed. The backside of the tortoise plastrons or animal bones being the divination material is dug and made flat, creating a hole to which an iron stick is applied. The character form shows the figure of the crack appearing on the opposite side.
Among the variant forms of 卜, this form is regarded as lucky or auspicious. The traditional name of the vertical line is 千里 ‘senri: thousand Ri (1 Ri is 3.9 km)’ and the horizontal line is called 坼 ‘taku: split, crack.’ When the ‘taku’ line is crooked halfway, it gets the meaning of ill (bad) luck. 卜 also is one of the characters indicating that the luck – bad luck alternative is a central way of thinking in Oriental culture. Among the animal bones the shoulder blades of oxen, the horns and skulls of deer, the rips and others of female rhinoceroses and the skulls of prisoners of war were used. Regarding tortoise plastrons there are two, the belly plate and the carapace; 甲, the character of the belly shell or plastron shows the flat, square belly plate, the plastron. As the back shell or carapace was seldom inscribed, this can rarely be seen. As the back shell is round and very hard, it is quite difficult to dig a hole in it for producing a divination crack.
As in ‘Western’ Kanji research not the correct ‘tortoise plastron and bone writing,’ but generalized wording like ‘tortoise shell or carapace’ not naming the plastron is used for the translation of 甲骨文 ‘Kōkotsubun,’ the original form or correct image usually is not conveyed clearly. One reason for this is that the character 甲 which originally shows the tortoise plastron is mainly used in compounds like 甲羅 ‘Kōra: tortoise shell’ and 亀甲 ‘Kikkō: tortoise shell, carapace.