Re: Han character names?

From: Jon Babcock (
Date: Wed Jul 12 2000 - 03:36:04 EDT

Thomas Chan wrote:

> I was interested in seeing an example of a Han graph that has no
> documented pronunciation because I was under the impression that such
> a graph doesn't/cannot exist.

> The "beikao" chapter (pp. 1585-1631) of the _Kangxi Zidian_ would be one
> place to start for those unconfirmable that have pronunciations but no
> meanings or having neither. e.g., 1585.9 (two U+4E36's, one over the
> other, and all that overlaid across the leftmost stroke of U+4E43) and
> 1593.23 (U+5B80 above U+4E43), both of which have no pronunciation/meaning
> information documented in Morohashi or _Hanyu Da Zidian_ either.

Those with the Kodansha reprint of the Biaozhu Dingzheng Kangxi Zidian
(ISBN4-06-121033-5), will find the 'beikao' chapter on pages 3533 -
3602, the last chapter in the book. The first example above is the 9th
character in the chapter. The second example is the first character
under U+5B80 as a classifier (i.e., Kangxi classifier #40, 'sheltered,
under a roof, thatch') p. 3545.

Thanks for calling attention to the 'beikao' chapter of Kangxi Zidian.
Very instructive. I noticed in the first 600 or 700 entries listed in
this chapter, that these two characters are the only examples where
both the pronunciation and meaning are said to be totally
missing. (Both characters seem to have been created at the same time
(AD 841 - 846)). But within this same range of entries, there are at
least four more cases where both the pronunciation and meaning are
said to be 'not yet clear'. If this rate of discovery holds
throughout the chapter (there seems to be about 4000 - 5000 entries in
all), we would expect to find around 40 characters that either totally
lacked documented pronunciation or for which the pronunciation was not
clear or was questionable at the time of compilation. Certainly
proves that such critters exist.

It is also interesting that all the other entries that are not listed
as mistakes for proper characters or as allographs, and which must
number a couple thousand or more, are listed as having pronunciation
but no known meaning. Oh, how rudely out of character for a script
persistently characterized as "ideographic"...


Jon Babcock <>

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