Turning now to Chinese characters: We are learning them again at last, and many make me pleased. The character for “to endure” is a knife held to a heart. A tomb is required to draw “antique.” There are other things, too, of course: the local glyphic idea of “peace” is a woman in a house, while that of “family” is a pig in a house. This surely explains either less or more than it purports to.
Like most people, I too struggle to give more or less apocryphal interpretations to kanjis in order to make them more memorable. Some of my findings are quite far-fetched. Yet, this particular set never occurred to me before (as usual: mouse-over to get kanji pronunciation and meaning):
- 忍, as in 忍ぶ, is made of 心 and 刃
- A woman (女) under a “roof” (宀), becomes 安… Though in japanese, the 安 character doesn’t really hold the meaning of “peace” as in “war and peace” (usually written 平和), but rather a “spiritual, inner, peace” (安心). Interestingly, it is frequently used to indicate “cheapness” or “easiness” (安い).
- A “pig” (豕) under a “roof” (宀), becomes a “house” (家) and by extension: a “family” (家族).
Funny how the semantic oddity has been perfectly preserved in the transition from Chinese to Japanese (commonplace, indeed, but certainly not the all-encompassing rule).
Of course, there are hundred of these observations to be made, and I could probably come up with stories for nearly every kanji I know, but to stay with the farm theme, there is this one classic I really can’t get over:
Japanese kanji for “beauty” (美) is none other than a combination of “big” (大) and “sheep” (羊): makes way for all sorts of weird thought processes when a friend points out a 美人 in the street…