Hidden Meanings in Kanji Chinese Characters

I heard about this from my barber a while ago.

I came into his shop, he welcomed me to the chair, and I asked what most people ask when it’s not about the weather.


(さいきん、いそがしい?/ Saikin isogashii?)

“You been busy lately?”

“Hey Zac, did you know what isogashii (busy) really means???”

No. What do you mean?”

“Do you know the kanji (Chinese character) for isogashii?”

Yeah, it looks like this: 忙し”

“That’s right. But do you see the characters inside? What does this mean: 亡?

Wow, that means to lose someone (to have someone die)… nakunaru, 亡くなる…”

“That’s right. And do you see the character on the left, the stick with two small dot lines on the side? Do you know what that means?”

“Doesn’t it mean that the character is related to people?”

“Yeah, kind of. It’s one way of writing heart when you connect it to another character (heart, kokoro, 心)”

“Wow, really?”

“Yeah, so if you’re busy, it really means that you’re heart is dead. Or like, if you’re feeling busy, then your heart is dead. So the term “busy” really has kind of a negative meaning.”

“Damn! I had no idea.”

“Yeah, you can see the same thing in wasureru, ‘to forget’. Do you know the Chinese character for ‘forget’?”

“Yeah, it looks like this: 忘れる.”

“See? It’s the same characters: the character for ‘death’ on top (亡) and ‘heart’ on the bottom (心).”


“So these terms really aren’t that good, although we’re accustomed to using them in everyday life…”


He then told me some more accurate examples of ways of asking if you’re busy, or if you forget something, that don’t have such an inherent negative meaning … but I can’t remember them … I forgot!!!

We’re not just accustomed to using these in everyday life, we’re expected to live by them. In Japan at least, most conversations start with the phrase, “You been busy lately?” and usually they’re answered by, “Yeah, so so so busy.” And that’s usually answered by a smile and, “Oh, that’s great.”

I get the feeling of it, if we’re busy and not idle, we’re making good use of our life, making money, and getting things done. This can be a very positive and a very good thing. But maybe we’re working a little too hard. Maybe we’re a little too busy. If we’re talking about Japan, this could easily be the case. If we’re too busy, perhaps we’re losing a part of our heart, like the Chinese characters imply.

And what about forgetting? “Did you …..” “Oh no, I totally forgot!” Whatever it was we were supposed to remember, that something worth remembering which should be kept in our hearts, is lost. That’s going a bit far, perhaps. How many times have we honestly forgotten something? Far too many to count for sure. But for the stuff that’s really important, the stuff we keep close to our hearts, we don’t forget those do we? Why should we have things that aren’t close to our hearts? Life in every moment, right? Especially in our age of information, people staring at screens and news and smartphones and internets and commercials and whatnot … we have so much to remember that is so far from our hearts … don’t you feel a little dead?

How about in relation to the bow? It is these kinds of things I think archers are particularly interested in. By pulling the bow we seek a deep level of concentration and in doing so analyze our conditions thoroughly. Certainly being busy and forgetting things are contrary to successfully pulling the bow.

When do we feel “busy” when we are shooting arrows?

I feel “busy” when I’m obsessed with a certain technique. I want to shoot tons and tons of arrows focusing only on this one little aspect. Well, when I do this, I feel like I can’t shoot enough, and so I start rushing other parts of my form. My form is rushed, unconcentrated, unbalanced. I start getting irritated with others around me for whatever reason I can find. And finally I can’t leave the dojo in peace.

I also feel busy when I feel controlled by others when I shoot. Like there is some outside reason for shooting, shooting to hit, shooting to impress, shooting to appease, shooting to defeat. All of these take me off center and make me feel “busy”.

When do we “forget” things in kyudo?

Usually this happens in things like giving proper greetings, setting up my things in the right order, retrieving arrows at the right time, or even entering the shooting bank while others are shooting! My mind is a million worlds away, and so my heart is left lonely to rot and die.

I also forget to focus on certain techniques in my form while focusing too much on others. This is bound to happen, but it’s not necessarily good. I imagine master archers don’t forget any details, because they’re not focusing too much on any one part, and somehow naturally remembering everything as one.

So while you’re busy or forgetting, perhaps your heart is being left behind. Without such nourishing attention, what else has it to do but die?

Well, that may be a little far, but maybe this will help you take a look at these two phenomenon in your life a little closer.

Thank you ancient Chinese characters.

I knew there was some reason to studying your perplexing complexity.


2 thoughts on “Hidden Meanings in Kanji Chinese Characters

  1. Excellent post, Zacky. What a wonderful observation and practical application to Kyudo… And to life in general as you’ve mentioned.

    This is excellent teaching material.

    I’m sure to remember this in my next practice session and try to apply it.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! And please do pass it on. The best diamonds are passed between people, although I never thought I’d find one of the most interesting from my barber. Good luck with it! Ganbarou.

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