Thursday 23 April 2015

蔵, Kanji of the Week

In Japanese, 蔵 means a "storehouse" of some kind (possibly a cellar, granary, treasury, etc., and possibly used in an abstract sense).  The strange thing is that, underneath the plant radical at the top, the basic framework of the character comes from a word meaning "to kill" (and still used in Chinese as such, if rarely: 戕害, qiāng hài).  Added to this is the familiar glyph for an overseer (or government official of some kind).  Incongruously, the combination of these two results in a character meaning "happy", or, sometimes, "skillful".  Although this is presumed to be arbitrary (or "merely phonetic"), the ominous tone of the etymology here is not entirely unique: the correct origin of 幸 (in shiawase, "happiness" & xìng, "good fortune") is similarly macabre.