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214 minus 14

Home > Blog > Post 6
214 minus 14
Home > Blog > Post 6
May 6, 2014

The table of radicals in JiShop contains as many as 632 components of kanji characters. This is almost three times more than the 214 classical radicals used in most kanji dictionaries, either paper or electronic. Some people express their perplexity about this. Indeed, why do we need so many? Aren't 214 enough?

It's time to explain. As a matter of fact, the JiShop table is not just a threefold extension of the classical list. In a way, it's a different set. What's most interesting is that it didn't include all those 214 radicals. Some were omitted!

Have you ever thought about these 214 radicals you see in most kanji dictionaries? Who selected them for kanji search, where and when? You will probably be surprised to know that this system originated in China during the late Ming Dynasty (the beginning of the 17th century). That's when the dictionary named Zihui was published on its 14 scrolls, containing 33179 Chinese characters (hanzi). A hundred years later, the Japanese adopted this system for kanji, without any changes. Since then, rolls were replaced by printed books, and printed books started to be replaced by computer programs — but this medieval system mysteriously survived everything!

Does it mean that it is a good system? No, it doesn’t. Perhaps it was good for the medieval Chinese, but it definitely doesn’t fit the modern Japanese.

Let's have a closer look at these 214 radicals (Bushu, as they are called in Japanese). Of course, they include all the popular key radicals like Earth, Tree, Thread, Metal, Heart, Woman and others. No doubt, these radicals should be enlisted in any list, either short or long.

Also, we find radicals there which are far less useful for indexing: Thousand, Tusk, Color, Face or Yellow. These radicals are included in the 214 mainly to index themselves (i.e. the kanji "Thousand", the kanji "Tusk", etc.) because these kanji can’t easily be decomposed into smaller parts. This is a sound reason for including these radicals, which we also do in JiShop.

Finally, there are several radicals which are neither useful for indexing, nor difficult to decompose. For example, there’s a radical (no. 189, High), which indexes only itself and a very rare character . Why should we have as a separate radical, instead of indexing both these kanji with Lid ?

Below you can see the full list of 14 radicals included in the classical list of 214 “bushu”, but omitted in the JiShop table:

136.    Dancing feet–›     夕
150.Valley–›     八 ,  人 ,  口
174.Blue–›     月
186.Aroma–›     禾 ,  日
189.High–›     亠 ,  口 ,  冂
192.Fragrant liquor      –›     匕
193.Tripod–›     一 , 口 ,  冂
199.Cereals–›     來 ,  夂
200.Hemp–›     广 ,  木
204.Embroidery 
207.Drum–›     支
208.Rat–›     臼
209.Nose–›     自 ,  田 ,  廾
214.Flute–›     人 ,  一 ,  口

Only one radical of these fourteen, , cannot be easily decomposed into smaller parts. It’s not included in JiShop table because it indexes just two extremely rare kanji: and (both designate special embroidery patterns on the back of a ceremonial dress in ancient China).

The remaining thirteen radicals can easily be replaced by one or more of their parts, as shown above. Only the decomposition of Rat is not immediately obvious. The omission of this radical is disputable.

But still: why is the JiShop table of 632 radicals so big compared to the classical 214 list? It omits 14 radicals but introduces 432! Why so many?

Let’s talk about it in our next blog post.

Vadim Smolensky


From monsters to animals

Home > Blog > Post 5
October 10, 2013

Animals not found in Japan or China seldom have kanji in their names. Most often, their names are katakana transcriptions:

Skunk:  スカンク  [sukanku]
Opossum:  オポッサム  [opossamu]
Kangaroo:  カンガルー  [kangaru:]

Kanji come out when, for example, a Western name is translated word by word:

Anteater:  蟻食い  [arikui]  (蟻 ‘ant’ + 食 ‘eat’)
Platypus, duckbill:  鴨嘴  [kamonohashi]  (鴨 ‘duck’ + 嘴 ‘bill’)

There are also several made-up words, without exact prototypes in other languages:

Zebra:  縞馬  [shimauma]  (縞 ‘stripe’ + 馬 ‘horse’)
Racoon:  洗熊  [araiguma]  (洗 ‘wash’ + 熊 ‘bear’)

But today we talk about the few miraculous cases when a newly discovered animal adopts a name of a mythical creature!

Here are three examples.

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Three weird kanji

Home > Blog > Post 4
June 12, 2013

In the old layout of our webpage, we had a section called "Kanji of the day", with a screenshot of a JiShop kanji entry, one of 31 randomly selected. Some user critisized us for having selected too common characters known to everybody and suggested to consider a Weird Kanji of the Day!

I liked the idea. When the time came to redesign the site, I decided to introduce such a section and made a selection of weird characters. Unfortunately, the layout turned out to be overloaded and I gave up this idea. But now we have a blog where I can show you some weird kanji from that selection and explain why I find them fascinating.

Read more...

WKS review: compounds & cursive

Home > Blog > Post 3
May 22, 2013

After I wrote in my previous blog post about the common habit of drawing kanji rotated counter-clockwise, some user suggested that JiPad should be provided with a grid. Several vertical and horizontal dotted lines would be a reminder for everybody to draw kanji at proper angles. This seems to be a sound idea, so JiShop 7.3 for Windows will definitely have such a grid (of course, with the option of hiding it).

Angles are not the only problem. Some users want JiPad to recognize not only single kanji but compound words, too. When it doesn't, they complain:

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WKS review: angles

Home > Blog > Post 2
May 15, 2013

Every day I receive WKS files ("written kanji structure") from people who are not happy with the recognition of what they draw in JiPad. Sometimes these signals are very helpful, pointing out serious shortcomings of the algorithm, when a particular combination of strokes definetely should have been recognized. Other reports are more disputable. The most common case of recognition fault is a wrong angle of the picture. For example, look at these screenshots from mobile phones:


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Welcome to the blog!

Home > Blog > Post 1
May 8, 2013

Hello, mina-san!

Today we have three pieces of important news. We have introduced a new design of our website, released a new minor version of JiShop for Windows, and launched a blog! What you are reading now is the first post of this blog.

Our website is now better structured (two menus, bread crumbs, etc.) and contains new features. You can, for example, try our demo that shows you the main features of the program in animation. It demonstrates how to use JiShop on Windows, but on other platforms everything works in a similar way. This demo might even surprise you with some features you didn't know about so far! We are planning to add more demos later, with concrete examples of looking up kanji and words.   Read more...