Here we meet six simple pictographs, each of which will be widely re-used in other kanji. A couple of these do not look particularly like the thing they represent. The water kanji, for instance, is supposed to represent turbulence in flowing water, but it is not all that helpful to think of it as a picture. The kanji for soil may represent cracks in dry earth, but looks a lot more like a plus-or-minus symbol. The rice paddy kanji is not bad as a pictograph, as shown in this animation. Don’t worry, you will draw these so often in other kanji you are not in danger of forgetting them.
#111. This kanji represents a central peak flanked by two smaller peaks. It will often appear at the top of a kanji, and you could take this as its default position. When it occurs as the lowest element of a kanji, just imagine that whatever appears above it is on the very top of a mountain.
Make your exit between two mountains.
A hermit is usually a person living alone in the mountains
峠 mountain pass
A mountain pass is the part of the mountain (山) where the track turns from upwards (上) to downwards (下).
Heisig, in his book ‘Remembering the Kanji’ assigned this kanji the keyword ‘mountain peak’, but later he said he wished he had called it ‘mountain pass’.
The kanji for water is a beautiful, balanced kanji, which is why it was chosen for the Kanji Sketch Pad app icon, and for the lesson on stroke order.
Mnemonics are unlikely to be useful for the water kanji, but some see it as a combination of 7 and K. The problem with the 7K mnemonic is that it does not indicate the stroke order – in practice this is not a problem because you will draw it so often. The kanji also follows the standard rule for symmetrical kanji: start with a central vertical if possible.
Imagine swimming 7 K’s through water.
Like water, but with an extra drop to indicate the dotted i of icicle.
It would take an eternity to count all the drops of water in the sea..
It only takes one drop of water from the fountain of youth to live for eternity.
Don’t confuse this with spring, the season, which has the keyword ‘springtime’. It refers to a source of water.
Picture a sparkling rush of pure white water coming from a spring.
I took my white towel to the Japanese hot spring and relaxed in the water.
A pictograph of a flowing stream between two banks.
Picture 3 little islands in the stream who set themselves up as independent states.
田 rice paddy
This is a pictograph of a rice paddy, with the characteristic ridges between the planted sections.
What’s the reason you left a pole sticking out the midle of the rice paddy?
As an element within other kanji, many people take this to mean sprout.
This is a pictograph of an old-fashioned carriage, view from above. It looks a bit like rice paddy with a ten (十) at either end, but it can be actually constructed by drawing ‘span’ (亘) and then adding a walking stick (|) through the middle. That gives us two choices for making a mnemonic:
My car went off the road and ploughed through ten rice fields in ten minutes.
I tried to walk the span from horizon to horizon with nothing but a walking stick… but I got so tired I just took a car on the return journey.
The produce from the rice paddy (田) sat in my stomach overnight, digesting, while the moon (月) was out.
Pictograph of a fire.
Disaster insurance needs to cover both flood (川) and fire (火).
Inflammation feels like fire on fire
The first step in creating a farm is burning (火) out the land to clear it, then the next step is sowing the fields (田).
This is supposed to represent cracked earth, as shown in this animation…
If this doesn’t work well for you as a pictograph, you are not alone. Try seeing it as a sword plunged into the soil.
King Arthur pulled the magical sword Excalibur from out of the hardened soil.
This kanji can be read as ‘gentleman’ or as ‘samurai’. See it as a plus-shaped stick figure standing on the ground.
It differs from soil in that its upper line is longer, emphasizing the samurai’s broad chest.
Every important samurai should have a person who stands next to him, attending to his needs.
What comes out of my mouth (口) and ends up on the soil (土)? My spit.
圭 squared jewel
The notion of a squared jewel is evoked by the image of multiple squares of jade (the horizontals) suspended on a string (the vertical). As an element within other kanji, this pattern can mean ‘ivy’, and it vaguely resembles the branching lines of ivy climbing up a wall. It is easiest to remember it as a soil kanji on top of another soil kanji.
Squared jewels are formed deep in the Earth from the pressure of soil piled upon soil.
If you want to stop someone stealing your favourite squared jewel, hide it under two piles of soil – and then plant some ivy so you can find it later.
吉 good luck
The samurai’s wife uses her mouth to give him a good-luck kiss before battle.
里 parent’s house
#135. This kanji can mean a number of things, but one of them is House of the Parents. It looks quite like a desktop computer, which is useful for making mnemonics. Heisig called it ‘ri’, which is a Japanese measure of area.
Whenever I visit my parent’s house, I am asked to fix their computer. The usual problem is that they have come in from the fields (田) and let dirt (土) get into it.
Picture a tiny cottage – the roof the size of an umbrella, a dirt floor, and room for only one mouth.
What am I thinking of? It grows in the dirt (土), and it can be used to span (亘) across things like a fence.
This is like a car, but it has a heavy shield at the front and back, probably for driving through zombie hordes.
I got sick of fixing the computer at my parent’s house, so I buried it under a pile of soil.
桂 Japanese Judas-tree
A tree (木) covered in poison ivy (圭) will quickly betray you, so let’s name it after the famous traitor, Judas.