Kanji Disassembled #156: 秋 “Autumn”

Kanji for "autumn"  Kanji for "autumn," focus on the left part.Kanji for "autumn," focus on the right part.

Autumn is  that magical season where leaves turn gold and smell of dead leaves mingled with fresh rain is probably as close as you could get to a heaven. This word is represented by a single kanji 秋・あき or “aki.” As shown in the image above, this kanji has a clear two distinct parts as its components.

A rice plant.The first part, the left part, came from a pictograph of a “rice plant.” As you can see for yourself, the resemblance is quite an obvious one. Generally, if you came across this symbol in a kanji, it usually has a connected meaning with a “rice plant” or “plant” in general.

The second part, the right part, stand on its own as a kanji for “fire” (火・ひ or “hi”) as it resembles a burning bonfire.

If we were to combine, “plant” and “fire” would always result in a “burned plant.” This “burned plant” then, in turn, would invoke an image of yellow and red, the colour of fire, colours that were, not coincidentally, often associated with “autumn.”


Cultural Note: If Summer has 花火・はなび・hanabi or “fireworks,” Spring has 花見・はなみ・hanami or “flower viewing,” Autumn has 紅葉・こうよう・kouyou or “leaf viewing” where you would go to temples, parks, or mountains to see the magnificent colour of leaves on autumn. The kanji for this activity, 紅葉 literally means “crimson leaf.” Not just a simple red, but crimson.

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