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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]
kanji 101: karasu

As requested by lumiere, who always has cool requests, this is karasu, crow/raven.

I would love to wax rhapsodic about the etymology, but it's pretty simple. This is a modification of a pictograph of a bird. The arched piece at the bottom, with the somewhat feather-shaped bits below it? Wing. Head and beak at top.

Message 1077:
Date: Fri Jun 7 12:19:28 2002 PDT
From: Rigel (#2248)
To: corvi (#2211)

there is a crow fledgeling in trouble by the tennis courts at Hansee, I have
to run to class, but ameila knows where it is. We thought you might be able to
help. ping! r.

So, yesterday I met a crow fledgeling. Amelia and I went poking around in the grass where she'd seen it, until the parents alerted us by screaming overhead, and Amelia backed off, which quieted them a little, but not entirely. I was within a few feet of the miserable, damp, bedragged fledgeling in the bushes when the wind picked up, and snapped my duster out behind me, sweep of black hawk's wings. The fledgeling bolted, through a fence and onto a sidewalk. I went around the fence, stripped off the trenchcoat, and shoved it into Amelia's arms. And then ran in front of a moving car to scoop up the crowling and get out of the street.

He was very warm to the touch, shivering. Tufts of black feathers slicked aside to reveal disheveled gray down beneath. Beak and legs full-sized, but rest of the body small enough that the long legs gave a froglike effect. Was quite panicked when I picked him up, and my heart lurched in sympathy, trying without any sucess whatsoever to match the speed of his. Huge silver-blue eyes. Ugly/cute in the way all baby birds are, gangly and clumsy and feathers rain-slicked into bizarre arrangements.

Normally, when I interact with a crow, it is perched upon my sleeved arm. Holding one was so much crowness that I expected my hands to turn red, painless burn, where he touched me, the heat of his body, his heartbeat, his shivering, the brush of down. Named him simply 'karasu' - Japanese for crow. 'Karasu' also has an undefined, shifting quality to it: yogarasu (night crow), miyamagarasu (mountain crow), legarasu, oogarasu. Made sense for an unfinished, awkward crowling.

Sent Amelia upstairs to call a local shelter, and checked him out myself. No visible damage, no signs of illness, no signs of brain damage. Hungry, though; I could feel the pulse in the veins that run along the breastbone through his empty crop. So we put him back. Or that was the idea, anyway. I knelt in a somewhat safer area of the bushes, and opened my hands. No result. Shoved him with my thumb, and he gave me a hurt look. Finally did that thing you do where you pry a toy away from a toddler by opening one finger at a time, and dumped him unceremonially on the ground. Turned and walked off. He watched me until I was around the corner, and hopped after me once. I suspect it was very cold, not being cuddled against a mammal.

I'm worried, of course. There are many feral cats on campus, and while his parents did a good job defending him, he needs to be fed.

So the kanji above is him. Awkward, splayed, incomplete wing, the feathers sprawled in slightly wrong directions. The feather farthest from the sweep-edge of the wing is drifting, having fallen off entirely.

Does anyone know where I can get more rice paper in the Seattle area? I'm getting kinda low, low enough that I'm reusing sheets, which is a wierd experience - I'm aware of the ink already on the page, and it's harder to focus on the new stuff. Does Uwajimaya carry it?

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: The Cure - Burn

Wow... while I do/did know the kinds of expressive power that kanji has, the full ability to express things in pictograph-derived language somehow never hit me until now. That's really amazing -- it makes an already beautiful kanji that much more dense and meaningful.

"karasu" looks just like "tori" to me -- am I missing something? Jeffrey's Kanji Server gives a more obscure kanji for it as well (fourth one down).

Last time I was at Uwajimaya, they did have rice paper for calligraphy, in sheets and rolls both. If I remember correctly it's back in where the furniture/ceramics/etc are, behind the registers.

Oops, of course, "tori" has the extra stroke through the head.

Karasu was the first kanji I learned (as opposed to mindless copying, which I did for quite a while), and when I learned 'bird' later, I got rather nervous, and double-checked karasu in as many sources as I could get my hands on. I think I've got them both right, but one stroke doesn't seem like much.

Both forms of "karasu" are listed as "rare", and neither are in my main kanji reference, so it threw me a little. But Jeffrey's Kanji Dictionary is pretty authoritative.

Out of curiousity, what is your main kanji reference?

NTC's New Japanese-English Character Dictionary, edited by Jack Halpern. Extremely easy to use, thorough, and feature-filled: it provides the corresponding Chinese characters, the cursive and grass calligraphic forms, the stroke order, alternate and archaic forms, and provides a reference to each character not only at its "proper" location but at locations where you might mistakenly expect to find it as well. It has all the Joyo Kanji, all the approved kanji for names, and a smattering of other common characters, but it's definitely on the light side if what you want is a dictionary with lots of obscure characters in it. For beginning and intermediate Japanese, though, it's absolutely perfect.