Posts tagged kanji

Kickstarter Post Linkdump

So, it’s been a year since my Kickstarter funded, and it’s been wrapped up for a bit. I’ve got some new stuff to talk about here, but first, for the record, I wanted to link to some of my Kickstarter posts that might be generally interesting.

Resource: Electronic Kuzushiji Dictionary Database

Translating historical Japanese manuscripts can be challenging for a variety of reasons. One is that, despite the thousands of characters Japanese has to start with, historical writers weren’t content to just write them clearly. Japanese cursive uses “kuzushiji” (崩し字), or broken characters, hiragana or kanji that have been heavily stylized in any number of different ways. Since strokes blend together and shapes get simplified, it can be difficult to figure out the original character from the stylized form.

I just found a very useful resource for piecing apart these texts: the Electronic Kuzushiji Dictionary Database (page in Japanese). It lets you put in a character and see historical cursive versions of that character, with dated citations going back at least as far as the 16th century. While this isn’t super-useful if you’re totally uncertain, it can really help confirm guesses and narrow down possibilities for characters in manuscripts, and electronic dictionaries are nice and quick to search.

Hat tip: Naruhodo なるほど‘s “Introduction to kuzushiji 崩し字”, which is also a good overview of Japanese cursive characters in general.

Names and Variation

Unlike English heraldry, which had an ornate system for describing heraldic devices that became divorced from the normal language, Japanese mon are named using simple phrases using reasonably standard Japanese for the time.1 The mon is named as its primary element, possibly prefixed with modifiers indicating its count, enclosure, style, or other characteristics. In some cases, the enclosure or style may itself has modifiers. Here is an example of a mon used by Inaba Masanari in the late 16th century: 隅切り角に三の字 or “sumi-kiri kaku ni san no ji”, which translates to “in a corner-cut square, the character ‘three’ ”.(SH:54)

These descriptive names lead to two ways mon can differ: they can have different names, or they can have the same name but be drawn differently acheter viagra allemagne. Different members of a family might use minor variations on the family mon, and different families that happened to use the same mon (say, in different provinces) ended up having slight differences due to artistic chance. These minor differences might not be expressed in the simple language of mon names, and would not be great for recognition in the heat of battle, but were in some cases taken seriously as a means of distinction. When a variant became well-known enough, it got its own name of the form “Family Charge”; e.g., the “Aoyama Coins”2, to distinguish it from other identically-named mon. Here are several different bellflower mon: the plain bellflower, two slightly-different but identically-named bellflowers in a circle enclosure, and a ‘shadowed’ or outline bellflower.

This gives you a taste of what common samurai mon might look like. We’ll go into more of the history and possible elements for mon next time.

Footnotes »

Sealed Away

A while back, I mentioned a toy I made for drawing Japanese seals. So, what’s the deal with Japanese seals, anyway? Seals, called Inshō (印章), were used for means of authentication throughout Japanese history, in similar ways to how they were used elsewhere. They were generally made of stone, with a flat, generally square face where the seal is carved and a handle end that can be carved decoratively. Instead of being used with wax, Japanese seals, like seals in other East Asian countries, were used as stamps with ink to sign documents, from official proclamations and contracts to works of art.(en.wp:Seal (east Asia))
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