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第4課: 空, 田, 竹, 心, 気, 上, 下, 犬, 夜, 朝, 馬, 牛, 金, 海, & 虫

With each set of Kanji that you learn, it will feel like you've become even less blind when looking at Japanese text. Some of the characters in this lesson have a lot of readings, and you're not expected to get them all down now, but you do need to be aware of that they exist. 

The top of this character is 穴 (hole), which is on top of 工 (construction). The 工 gives the sound of the character, but it is also re-enforces the concept of opening for construction opens a whole new world of man's architecture.

The modern meaning of "sky" is an extension on previous meanings because it would seem more obvious to think that there is some roof over a hole that has been dug. If you think about how old these basic characters are (as old as 6,000 years), you shouldn't be surprised that this would be a representation of early human dwellings, and similar structures still exist throughout Southeast Asia.

But, with the fact that there is still this concept of "opening", if there is open space but the space is contained, this would mean the space is "empty". This "emptiness" can lead to being used for contexts such as vanity, hollowness, and so on. However, the most important meaning "sky" came about from the fact that the central vaulted area in these early dwellings was extended to the sky. 

音よみ: クウ
くんよみ: そら, から, あ(く・ける), す(く), うつ(ろ), むな(しい), うろ ▽, あだ ▽

There are a lot of くんよみ, and as you can imagine, they hone down on specific meanings of 空 discussed above. そら is the word for sky. から mean empty, and the best word to remember this is 空手 because many of you already know that karate means empty hand.

あ(く) is a verb that has various means related to being "open/empty/vacant". あ(ける) is the transitive version of this verb, which means it would be used in contexts like "to empty something".

す(く) is similar and usually limited to expressions like being hungry. うつ(ろ) is an adjective that means "blank/vague". むな(しい) is an adjective that means "empty/in vain". うろ is a cavity in a something like a tree. Lastly, あだ is an adjective meaning "frivolous/vain", but this is pretty uncommon.

 空間 くうかん (Air) space 青空 あおぞら Blue sky
 空路 くうろ Air lane 空席 くうせき Vacant seat
 空頼み そらだのみ Wishful thinking 空箱 からばこ Empty box
 空夢 そらゆめ Fictituous dream 空(き)家 あきや Vacant house
 空(き)缶 あきかん Empty can 空き腹 すきはら Empty stomach 

This is a pictograph of rice paddy fields. 

音よみ: デン
くんよみ: た
 水田 すいでん Water-filled paddy fields 油田 ゆでん Oilfield
 田畑 たはた Fields 田舎 ● いなか Countryside

The character derives from a pictograph of the stems of small bamboo with poky leaves, and it eventually got expanded to refer to bamboo in general.

音よみ: チク
くんよみ: たけ

 爆竹 ばくちく Firecracker 竹の子  たけのこ  Bamboo shoot
 竹林 ちくりん Bamboo forest 竹刀 しない ● Bamboo sword

This comes from a pictograph of a heart, unlike ♥. When in other characters, it usually looks like the left side of 快 (pleasant). 

音よみ:  シン
くんよみ: こころ、うら ▽

  こころ refers to one's heart in an emotional sense. The physical/medical word for heart is in the word bank below. 

 心臓 しんぞう Heart 真心 まごころ Sincerity
 中心 ちゅうしん Center; core 心得 こころえ Hint; dos and don’ts
 心寂しい うらさびしい Lonesome; forlorn 心音 しんおん Sound of a heartbeat

気 used to be written as 氣 and is composed of 气 (vapor) and 米 (rice). This character means "spirit", but it's far more different than anything in English. This word happens to be used in hundreds and hundreds of idioms that you will learn over the course of your Japanese studies. This 'spiritual' force can refer to the source of one's life/vitality/consciousness/temperament/feeling/interest. 

However, in compounds it can refer more explicitly to vapor related things such as gas and breath. 

音よみ: キ、ケ

 天気 てんき Weather 電気 でんき Electricity
 空気 くうき Air 季節 きせつ Season
 寒気 さむけ Chill 火の気 ひのけ Heat of fire

This character used to be written like 二, but the upper stroke was as long and in the same location as the modern character, and the vertical line was added so that it would no longer be confused with 二. It's a good thing because students already have a hard time distinguishing 二 and ニ (ni in Katakana) from each other. 

This character means "above/up/top", and it sadly has a lot of readings that are for the most part all used rather frequently. 

音よみ: ジョウ, ショウ ▽
くんよみ: うえ, うわ-, かみ, あ(がる・げる), のぼ(る)

 上下 じょうげ Up and down; rise and fall 川上 かわかみ Upstream
 上人 しょうにん Holy priest 上り下り のぼりおり Ups and downs
 上る のぼる To ascend 上がる あがる To rise
 上げる あげる To raise 上着 うわぎ Jacket

This character once looked like 三 without the last line. It means down/below/under, but it is extremely difficult to know how to read because it has so many readings. You almost have to take each word at a time, and it's unluckily one of those characters that utilize all readings to a decent extent. Furthermore, you have to address exceptions and alternative readings in words meaning different things.  

音よみ: カ, ゲ
くんよみ: した, しも, もと, さ(がる・げる), くだ(る・す), お(りる・ろす),  

 地下 ちか Underground 下さい ください Please
 下車 げしゃ Getting off a train 下 した Under/below
 風下 かざしも Leeward 法の下 ほうのもと Under the law
 下手 へた ● Bad at 下りる おりる To descend
 下す くだす To make a decision 下がり目 さがりめ Drooping eyes

This comes from a pictograph of a dog, and obviously millennia of years have done a number on it. 

オンヨミ: ケン
くんよみ: いぬ

 Word Reading Meaning Notes
 子犬 こいぬ Puppy Also spelled as 仔犬.
 犬小屋 いぬごや Kennel 
 番犬 バンケン Watch dog 
 盲導犬 モウドウケン Guide dog 盲導 = Leading the blind
 犬死にする いぬじにする To die in vain 

Note: いぬ in a derogatory and wild sense can be written as 狗; when referring to the Zodiac of the Dog, use the character 戌.  

This character used to more clearly show a form of moon with a variant of 亦 (again). The character means night.

音よみ: ヤ
くんよみ: よる, よ 

 夜景 やけい Nightscape 今夜 こんや Tonight
 夜 よる Night 夜明け よあけ Daybreak
 夜昼 よるひる Day and night 夜中 よなか Middle of the night
 夜空 よぞら Night sky 十六夜 ● いざよい 

朝 used to be , and if you were to go back in time far enough, you would see that the right-hand side is actually not a moon, but it's a representation of a river. This gave meanings that would eventually be retained in 潮 to mean "tide", adding water for clarity as the right-hand radical did become interpreted as the moon later on, which lead to its use to refer to the Imperial Court.

              This character, though, typically means day because people speculated in ancient times that the sun and moon were the sources of light, and if you look closely in the left-hand part of it, you'll see that sun 日 is springing through plants, which you typically see connected horizontally but in this case is bifurcated vertically by another radical. 

音よみ: チョウ
くんよみ: あさ 

 朝日 あさひ  Morning sun 朝廷 ちょうてい Imperial court
 朝刊 ちょうかん Morning edition 朝市 あさいち Morning market
 朝礼 ちょうれい Morning assembly 朝夕 あさゆう Morning and evening

This comes from a pictograph of a horse, but it may help to think of it as a carriage with the four dots as horse feet.

音よみ: バ
くんよみ: うま, ま, め

The くんよみ actually ultimately come from Chinese, and this has only been realized nowadays. 

 馬 うま Horse 馬乗り うまのり Horse riding
 馬鹿 ばか Idiot 河馬 かば Hippopotamus
 馬力 ばりき Horsepower 競馬 けいば Racehorse
 駿馬 しゅんめ Swift horse 絵馬 えま Votive picture
 馬銜 はみ ● Bit mouthpiece 馬草 まぐさ Fodder

This character comes from the pictograph of a cow's head with horns. This is cow. Muu!

音よみ: ギュウ
くんよみ: うし 

 牛肉 ぎゅうにく Beef 牛乳 ぎゅうにゅう Milk
 牛 うし Cow 和牛 わぎゅう Japanese beef

The roof and the top horizontal line represents some sort of covering element, and below is 土 (ground) plus dots meant to represent golden nuggets. This character, then, as you can imagine means "gold", but it has also been widened in meaning to mean money and metal in general. After gold is the money that most people would rather have, and it is a metal. 

音よみ: キン, コン
くんよみ: かね, かな-

The latter 音よみ is not as common. 

 金  きん Gold (お)金 (お)かね Money
 金色 きんいろ・こんじき Gold (color) 金網 かなあみ Wire netting
 金曜日 きんようび Friday 金持ち かねもち Rich person

Japan is surrounded by the sea. The left side of the character has the 三水 radical, which adds the meaning of water. In this instance, it seems to try to capture all the drops of water in the sea. The right hand side means "every", and it also happens to be the phonetic element of the character.
音よみ: カイ
くんよみ: うみ
 日本海 にほんかい The Sea of Japan 海がめ うみがめ Sea turtle 
 海辺 うみべ Seaside 海軍 かいぐん Navy
 海月 くらげ ● Seashell 海原 うなばら ● The deep
 海象 せいうち ● Walrus 海女 あま ● Woman shell diver

This character means insect/bug, but it used to be 蟲. 虫 existed, but it was a different character with different readings. 
虫 comes from a pictograph of a snake and specifically referred to a pit viper, which is now expressed with 蝮. Its reading was キ. 蟲 started out as referring to all living things. Its reading has been チュウ, and unsurprisingly, this original meaning can be found. Over time, the two characters got confused with each other and eventually ended up being narrowed mostly to insects. However, many people still view it as meaning anything that's not an animal, bird, or person. This is why this character is the radical for many reptiles and fictional beasts.
音よみ: チュウ
くんよみ: むし 
むし also has other meanings in Japanese. There are expressions like 虫がらせる that means "to forebode" in which the word refers to something inside someone controlling the emotion/mental state of the individual.   
 昆虫 こんちゅう Insect 虫歯 むしば Decayed tooth
 虫けら むしけら Worm 害虫 がいちゅう Harmful insect
 寄生虫 きせいちゅう Parasite 爬虫類 はちゅうるい Reptile

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