31 December 2011

Kanji Lesson 13

By Joi (Flickr)
CC BY 2.0
This kanji is a picture of a pair of bamboo trees. The "pair" emphasize the characteristic of bamboo that grows very fast through rhizomes. A clump of bamboo trees usually come from the same rhizome. The vertical lines represent the thin & tall culm (stem). The upper strokes represent the branches and the leaves, and also represent the fact that unlike most other trees, a bamboo plant will not branch and grow leaves until its culm reaches a full, mature height. The hook of the last stroke represents a bamboo shoot just emerging above the ground. Bamboo shoots of many species are edible, and widely used in Asian dishes.

  • 竹の子 (たけのこ) Bamboo shoots

By Sam Howzit (Flickr)
CC BY 2.0
Consists of the kanji for "soil" (土) and four additional strokes. The 土 kanji represents clay soil, which is widely used to make pottery. The leftmost & rightmost additional strokes represent fire (from the kanji 火), and the two middle strokes represent a structure made to burn the clay pots (a primitive kiln). The color of burned clay depends on the burning temperature and its mineral composition, but mostly, it will be in various shades of red.

  • 赤ちゃん (あかちゃん) Baby
  • 赤十字 (せきじゅうじ) Red Cross

Street, City block, Counter for blocks of something, Counter for guns & tools
By Tomasz Sienicki
CC BY 3.0
This kanji is actually a pictogram of a nail (fastener). While this kanji does not by itself have the meaning of "nail", a nail lends its shape to the meaning of this kanji. Most nails consist of a straight, cylindrical body, and a head perpendicular to the body. A bent nail is as useless as the one with a tilted head. It's this straight & perpendicular characteristic that gives the base for the several meanings of this kanji. Streets are ideally straight, and perpendicular to each other at junctions, which will form blocks of residential areas in between (city block). Block of things, for example, blocks of tofu, are cut in a straight and perpendicular manner (to form rectangular shapes). Guns and tools (scissors, saws) are required to be precisely straight in certain parts.

  • 丁目 (ちょうめ) District of a town, City block

Town, Street
Consists of the kanji for rice field (田) and street (丁). A town is actually an evolution of an agricultural village. Initially, people start to live together and work on the (rice) field to provide them food. They build paths between fields as a way for them to commute. As the population grows, they start to build more and more shelter on their land, and the rice fields are getting smaller and smaller. Eventually, most if not all the rice fields are turned into blocks of settlement areas (houses), and the paths between them now become the streets.

  • 下町 (したまち) Low-lying part of a city (usually containing shops, factories, etc.), Shitamachi (low-lying area of eastern Tokyo)

Sound, noise
Consists of the kanji for standing (立) and Sun (日). "Standing Sun" is another name for a solstice. A solstice is a period where the Sun is at its northernmost/southernmost position (as seen from earth) and appears to be staying still ("standing", referring to the tendency of its position to move a bit to the north or to the south along the year). A solstice happens twice in a year, once in the summer where daytime is the longest, and once in the winter where nighttime is the longest. Some cultures consider that the Sun is "missing" in winter solstice (because of the short daytime), and therefore make a loud (noisy) celebrations to "call" the Sun back. This might sound familiar if you've ever heard the story of Amaterasu, the Japanese Sun goddess.

  • 本音 (ほんね) Real intention, Motive

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