Wednesday, April 2, 2008

和 - JAPAN, the Land of Rice and HARMONY

Readings & Meanings:



peace, sum, Japan

Common Usage:










The first article of Taishi Shotaku's 17 articles began with "Harmony should be respected."

During this health-food craze, the benefits of Japanese food are being reexamined.

He lives a balanced, peaceful life.

We visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum.


口, the Kuchi radical, is on the right, here.

禾 means rice. This has an awesome Shell-and-Bone pictograph, of a "pendent ear" of rice:

Rice has to be polished to be smooth. So also do rough situations have to be polished with well-chosen, calming words, to get to a state of peace.


Why is this the character for Japan?

I know, 日本 is kind of obvious (land of the (rising) sun). But this one is less so. Its history is a bit sordid, but that's the best kind.

Japan's history with China is long and complex. Forever ago, China regarded Japan as a nation of barbarians. I mean, they didn't even use chopsticks back then! Heavens.

So China's word for Japan was 倭. You may recall hearing "Yamato" as another name for Japan. That's 倭, and it's still used, I believe, to refer to ancient Japan.

Note the use of 禾 again. This time, the meaning of 倭 is not so nice. It means "dwarf."

So what did the Japanese do? They switched the kanji with another that sounds the same (in Japanese pronunciation). 倭 and 和 both are pronounced わ in Japanese. But 和 has a really nice, pleasant, feel-good feeling about it. The land of peace. Much better than the previous name.


You might know that the current Japanese calendar and era is in the Heiwa period. Please note that Heiwa is the same word as "peace" and is written as 平和. Showa, the previous era which was the reign of Emperor Hirohito, is written 昭和.


1 comment:

Y-Maeda said...

Hello nice to meet you.
KO-N-NI-CHI-WA (^_^)v
I am Japanese.
I saw your wonderful site.
Please link to this site !