Kanji Clinic #73, The Japan Times, September 20, 2005
"Seeing double: Twin-component kanji a snap to master"
If you are a kanji learner aspiring to literacy in Japanese through mastery of the 1,945 general-use characters, you have no doubt discovered the importance of developing the ability to analyze kanji components.
Dissecting kanji may have been a relative breeze in your early studies-- when you learned, for example, that gtwo treesh (Ų, ki) make a gforesth (Ń, hayashi) -- but it may now be proving increasingly challenging as you tackle evermore visually complex characters. Take heart in the fact that all kanji, even the multi-stroked monster variety, can be systematically divided into their parts, and a surprisingly large number of them like Ń are comprised solely of, or at least include, gtwinh (i.e., repeated) components.
Predictably, the kanji meaning ga pair,h o (as in oq, futago, gtwins,h and oį¾, sougankyou, gbinocularsh), is comprised of twin components: two ghandsh () working in tandem. ń (grotate,h mawa-ru) features a pair of nestled boxes, and evolved from a symbol of a spring, representing rotational motion, while three stacked-up boxes (i HIN) are "goods."
One fire (Ī, hi) piled upon another is written , and means gflameh (honou), while | (take, gbambooh) depicts two delicate bamboo stems with spiky leaves. The two [ (geveningsh) in ½(oo-i) originally signified goftenh and eventually came to mean gmany.h Keep your eye out for non-general use characters like ų (kushi, gskewerh)-- comprised of one (naka, gmiddleh) skewered on top of the other-- on the menu at your local yakitori shop.
£ (kiso-u, gcompeteh), the king of twin-component kanji, features not one but two sets of double components. Look for two elder brothers (Z, ani) standing (§, ta-tsu) up to each other for a round of sibling fisticuffs.
Twin-component kanji H (hane, gwingsh) is a pictograph of a birdfs feathered wings, while look-alike ć (yowa-i, gweakh) is comprised of bending bows (|, yumi) and hairs (i.e., something so weak it can be bent as easily as a hair). Donft confuse the shapes of ä (kura-beru, gcompareh) and k (kita, gnorthh). ä illustrates a pair of near-identical figures sitting next to each other for comparison purposes, while k shows a duo sitting back to back: In the minds of the originators of Sino-Japanese characters, turning onefs back expressed the idea of fleeing in the coldest direction, the north.
Like k, other twin-component kanji feature near mirror-image components. å (MON, ggateh), for example, is a pictograph of a double-doored gate. From the biological world, find the two sacs of frogspawn in (tamago, geggh), and turtle shell cracks, used for divining the future in ancient China, in (kiza-shi, gomenh).
In some cases, a bit of elementary kanji detective work is necessary to see twin-kanji components: Look for the side-by-side short gstringsh ( ) at the top of ō (iku-, ghow manyh), a character originally designed to represent a loom. And if you divide Ą (nara-bu, gline uph) straight down the middle, youfll see it is actually comprised of two identical characters -- §, (ta-tsu, gstandh)-- pressed together and standing in a line.
With devoted practice, the ability to see even the most complex kanji as a logical construction of parts should become second nature to you. Today, test your ability to discern twin- (or triplet-) components within kanji with the following quiz.
What twin- (or triplet-) components are found within each of the following kanji?
Example: 1. š (REKI, ghistoryh) = b. forest (2 trees)
1. š (REKI, ghistoryh)
2. (YOKU, gnexth)
3. ę (DAI, ggradeh)
4. @ (KI, gdeviceh)
5. ¦ (TOU, gescapeh)
6. (SOU, gseaweedh)
7. ¬ (KON, gmixh)
8. ³ (KAN, gbe illh)
9. ¦ (KYOU, gcooperationh)
10. ^ (SAN, gpraiseh)
11. ^ (kaeru, gfrogh)
12.æ (SHITSU, gqualityh)
a. 2 short strings b. forest (2 trees) c. 2 axes d. 2 husbands e. skewer (2 middles) f. bamboo (2 stems) g. 3 strengths h. goods (3 boxes) i. omen (2 cracks) j. 2 soils k. compare (2 seated figures) l. wings (2 wings)
1. b 2. l 3. f 4. a 5. i 6. h 7. k 8. e 9. g (Ķ) 10. d (v) 11. j (y) 12. c (Ņ)
Can you guess the meanings of these non-general use kanji? 1. (3 vehicles) 2. (3 women) 3. } (3 hairs)
1. "boom" (todoro-ku)
2. "boisterous" (kashima-shii). Also, "seduce," "assault" (kan-suru)