Saturday, January 30, 2010

Etymology and Calligraphy for kanji Ju - 柔

kaisho style

柔 - pronounced 'ju'  1. Softness; gentleness; weakness

I have an interesting relationship with Japanese characters. By no means am I even remotely fluent in Japanese. Indeed, the symbols hold an air of mystery like magic images. The calligraphers I trained with in Japan believed the symbols contain 'ki' vital energy. I believe the energy from one man's mind transmits through a brush and is captured on paper until it is studied closely by the right person to receive it.

草書, sōsho - cursive

So today I gaze towards the mysterious symbol that is 柔 'ju' softness in order to gleam some of the deeper lessons it may offer into my studies of judo and jujutsu.

Diverse writing styles
 Stroke Order (click this link to see how it is written)

The character is made up of two parts, each actually its own separate stand alone symbol. The top part is a pictographic image of a halberd or spear. The bottom of the symbol is the character for tree.

On my favorite Chinese etymology site they write about the imagery in the symbol for softness柔: a tree 木 soft enough that it can be cut by a stone saw 矛 - soft

Dave Lowry writes a different version of the etymology.

"The character for spear rests atop that for tree to create the kanji for ju. The etymological implication is that the growth of the tree has the power of a spear thrust. Ju--and this is the familiar prefix of judo and jujutsu--refers to the forces of pliancy. Ju is flexible strength, gentle potency. It is tenacity of a sort that embraces malleability. It bends to endure. Ju is durably soft; it receives in order to resist."
tensho - seal style

In ancient China there was no standardization for the writing of letters. So there was quite a bit of variation. Here is what I could dig up.  Tensho style.

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