Kanji 48-66. Oracle, Person, Umbrella

This lesson will introduce three new elements, all of them consisting of two strokes: ‘oracle’ (卜), ‘person’ () and ‘umbrella’ (^).

The first of these, oracle, could be considered as two elements, ‘walking stick’ and ‘drop’, but this combination appears often enough in other kanji that it is worth thinking of it as its own element. To make the image more immediate and concrete, you can think of it as a magic wand (|) with a spark (‘) of magic. The orientation of the spark varies, but in general it points sideways when the magic wand is standing on a horizontal line, as in the kanji for ‘above’ () and it points downwards when there is no such line below it, as in the kanji for ‘below’ ().

The kanji for ‘person’ () is very common as a kanji in its own right, but it also features as an element in many other kanji. Some fonts draw this kanji symmetrically, but many fonts including the hand-drawn font underlying KSP, depict the left stroke as taller and leaning over the right stroke. When it appears as the left-hand element of a kanji, as in the kanji for ‘humanity’ (), the ‘person’ element had a characteristic abbreviated shape, with the left stroke adopting a short, high position and the right stroke adopting a long, vertical position. Note that the left stroke still leans over the right stroke in the abbreviated version.

KSP recommends that you choose the image of a particular person for the ‘person’ element and use it in all of your mnemonics. One popular choice is ‘Mr T’, partly because the abbreviated form of ‘person’ has a T shape, partly because he is a colourful character who instantly adds a unique flavour to mnemonics. Some people choose Chuck Norris. Choose someone who you find memorable and distinctive.

The ‘umbrella’ element is a simple, wide, inverted V.

Note that, by adding these 3 elements to our repertoire, we get access to 19 new kanji (shown below in red). This will be a recurring theme as you progress through the KSP series. Whenever you learn a new element, you will find that it combines with elements you already know to make new kanji, and those new kanji will often combine with other kanji you know to make more new kanji. In fact, the number of kanji you will learn by combining known elements will vastly outnumber the kanji you have to learn do novo, from scratch. That’s why it is useful to give common stroke combinations names and images, and why it is useful to tackle the kanji in a logical sequence.

These are the kanji we’ve met so far… And the 19 new kanji based on ‘oracle’, ‘person’ and umbrella.

Lesson 3
Lesson 4 廿 西
Lesson 5
+ oracle, person, umbrella →
Lesson 6


#48. A magic wand (ト) standing above the floor ().

In this and other kanji involving the ‘oracle’ element, a horizontal line below the oracle prevents the drop-like side stroke from sloping downwards. Compare , and with .


#49. A magic wand (ト) hangiing below the ceiling ().


#50. If you see a walking stick and a magic wand walking side by side on the floor, stop! There’s an evil spirit about.

If you are lucky enough to have been to Japan, you will have seen this kanji on all of the STOP signs.


#51. The kanji combines ‘oracle’ and ‘mouth’. It also resembles the kanji for ‘old’. That gives you two options for memorising the kanji:

Fortune-telling is using your mouth as a divining rod.
The fortune-teller waved his wand (ト), and then a prediction flowed forth from his mouth (): he told me I would meet my grave as an old () man, but I would be missing one arm.


#52. If you do it correctly, then after one () attempt you can stop ().


#53. In many kanji combinations, this kanji actually means ‘table’. The concept of being ‘eminent’ and the concept of ‘table’ could come together in an image of the king’s table, with all of the ‘eminent’ folk sitting around the table… But I see this as a pictograph of two stick figures at either end of a table-tennis table, with the sun kanji in the middle representing the table split by a net.
The most eminent table-tennis player in the world was missing one arm.


#54. This kanji began as a stylised pictograph of a walking person. The abbreviated form of ‘person’ is very common in other kanji, so choose a distinct personality to embody this element. Some use Mr T, others choose Chuck Norris or Captain Picard. You might prefer Slender Man, or Rick from Walking Dead… Or someone you know. Note that fonts differ in how symmetrically this character is drawn. It may resemble an inverted V or an inverted Y, and when it is like a Y (as in the KSP app), the left stroke overhangs the right.


#55. This character is easy to confuse wth ‘person'() but most fonts keep ‘enter’ () distinct by having the right line overhang the left, in contrast to ‘person’ where the left usually overhangs the right. You are unlikely to forget that the left overhangs the right in ‘person’, because the ‘person’ element is so common in other kanji, particularly in its abbreviated form (as seen in ‘humanity’ ).


#56. Humanity started with two () people ().


#57. Although some of the strokes resemble ‘below’, the correct stroke order is ‘one/ceiling’, ‘person’, ‘drop’.

From the ceiling, Mr. T (or your preferred character for the ‘person’ element) is hanging. His torturers ask him if he is going to talk. Spitting a drop of saliva in the torturer’s face, he says ‘Negative!’.


#58. Negate: to produce a negative () statement from your mouth ().

If you find yourself confusing negate and negative, remember that negate contains , which resembles a ‘gate’.


#59. A go-between is a person () in the middle ().


#60. You might think I am a lazy person (), however you will always find me up at daybreak ().


#61. Right up until Obama, it would have been a safe bet that the chief () of the world’s main superpower was a man () who was white ().


#62. This kanji combines ‘person’ () and a squared-off version of West (西). The ‘West’ element differs from the ‘West’ kanji because it contains two vertical lines within the whiskey bottle, in place of the human legs.

A person has a high value in the Old West when you see him in Wanted posters all over the place!

Take care not to confuse ‘value’ with ‘price’ (below).


#63. Modify according to the identity of your ‘person':

Imagine your ‘person’ () character insisting on knowing the price (of some suitable object) straight away! ().


#64. This has nothing to do with being an undertaker, but you might want to use the funeral image in your mnemonic anyway. It combines ‘umbrella’ with ‘stop’. To make the ‘umbrella’ more memorable, you might wan to use Mary Poppins as your image.

Mary Poppins floated down with her umbrella to undertake the job of stopping the children’s misbehaving.
The ‘Undertaker’ is a new comic book villain. He beats his opponent with an umbrella until they stop moving.


#65. Pornographic mnemonics abound for this kanji, but are best left as an exercise for the reader. You could also see it as a perspective picture looking into a mountain valley at the top, with the mouth kanji in the foreground showing you where the mouth of the valley is.


#66. Your ‘person’ character meets the vulgar (common) people of the valley and participates in their vulgar customs.

Don’t confuse this with ‘crude’.