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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]
Kanji, finally! Been ages. Kei.

This is 'Kei', which means 'enlighten' or 'state'. (That's the 'tell someone facts' state, not 'take someone's tax' state.)
The bottom square denotes an opening. The top sort of P-shaped element is one half of an elaborated carved temple gate. If you extended the side bar of the P all the way down to the bottom of the picture to form the arch, the square at the top and the line over it would be the carven temple gate. (The gate radicals are used in many kanji that connotate 'between' concepts). So, the two are a door, an open door.
The crisscrossy radical is an arm holding a sword, and denotes strength/power/force/coercion. Used here as a causative element: to throw open the temple doors. Over time the meaning broadened to just "open up," and eventually the figurative idea of 'enlighten' - to open oneself or someone else up to truth. 'State' is believed to have been associated later, from the idea of explain/inform.


I don't know if I ever told you, but a few years ago I used to carpool with a woman from Japan named Kyoko. I once asked her if people there learn the stories behind the kanji in school. She said they don't; kanji are taught as a brute memorization task. I suppose that's best if you have to learn to read at full speed, but it's still kind of sad. Kyoko seemed to think so too. Yes, if you know what the radicals stand for, and I'm pretty sure all Japanese do, you can figure out many of the stories, but surely not all of them.