火 - Meaning and history | Japanese Kanji

JLPT N54 strokes
fireflameblaze

Kun readings 🇯🇵

-びほ-

On readings 🇨🇳

Like many kanji that refer to natural elements, () also takes the shape and form of the element to which it refers: the flame of the fire.

fire
The fire pictogram evolves and generates the kanji 火

The Fire element in words

The fire element is on the day of the week Tuesday: ()(よう)().

The planet Mars is ()(せい).

In all kanji that have to do with fire, with its action, or with elements that lead back to it, we find (). Some examples are:

  • (ふん)() is the volcanic eruption
  • (しょう)() is extinguishing the fire
flame
炎 combines the two fire kanji and it represents the flame
  • The volcano is ()(ざん) which associates the kanji of fire to that of mountain
  • The fireworks are (はな)() which associate fire with flowers, for their artistic effect
  • The conflagration is ()() combines the concept of fire with (こと) which means fact, thing, event

Fire like inflammation, irritation

We find the kanji of 炎 flame in the word (えん)(しょう) which means inflammation and irritation of a part of the body.

  • ()(えん) the otitis, (みみ) the ear
  • ()()(えん) the dermatitis; ()() the skin
  • ()(えん) the gastritis, () the stomach
  • (かん)(えん) the hepatitis, (きも) the liver

() in Japanese cuisine

In Japanese culinary culture we find various dishes whose ideograms feature ().

(やき)(にく) yakiniku, the grilled meat, where:

  • 焼 refers to grilling or grilling
  • 肉 indicates meat

As radical within other kanji we find () in its original form, but we also have the variant as for kanji:

  • (ねつ): heat, temperature
  • ()る: enlighten
  • (はげ)しい: furious, burning

Returning to the theme of cusine and methods of cooking food ()す is the verb for stew cooking and ()る for boiling.

yakitori
焼鳥, the skewers in Japanese cuisine

Surely you will know Cantonese Rice, also present in Japanese cuisine under the name of ()(めし) yakimeshi, sauteed rice also called, using the term that recalls the Chinese word 炒饭 chǎo fàn which in Japanese becomes チャーハン chāhan

yakimeshi
Yakimeshi 焼き飯, sauteed rice with vegetables and accompanied by a light soup

Fire in the O-bon festival

O-bon(ぼん) is one of the oldest festivals in Japan, linked to memory and ancestor worship, which takes place from 13 to 16 August.

As in other cultures, elements such as water (みず) and fire () are omnipresent. They are represented and expressed in various ways, depending on the sensitivity, history and tradition of the place.

  • (むか)() the welcoming fire, are the fires that welcome souls and help them find their way back home
  • (おく)() the accompanying fire, are instead the fires that light up at the end of the party and accompany the souls back to their dwells in the afterlife
  • (とう)(ろう) tōrō, another word that contains as a radical the fire element (), indicates the lanterns. During the closing ceremony of the O-bon, the lanterns are lit and placed in a stream that takes them far away. It is a very breathtaking ceremony and is called (とう)(ろう)(なが)し where 流 represents the verb flow
lantern ceremony
灯篭流し the lantern ceremony

Do you know the Japanese ()(たつ) kotatsu?

The kotatsu is found in many Japanese homes and is a heated coffee table.

The structure is that of a low table on which a futon, a duvet or a very thick blanket is placed; under the kotatsu there is a heater, a source that diffuses the heat retained by the futon.

The word kotatsu is made up of two kanji that contain fire as radical:

  • () the torch
  • (たつ) the foot warmer
kotatsu
Kotatsu

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