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【県, ken, prefecture】--- from owl head

Submitted by Maki_00000 on ven, 03/16/2012 - 01:44

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We have a Chinese character which looks like 県, meaning a prefecture in Japan. The word prefecture, also used in France and ancient Roman Empire, is an area where one governor rules, similar to a state in the U.S. in regard to their territory. How was this Kanji built? What was an initial image like? I'll explain to you.

According to Kanji no Hon 3 nensei (Kanji Book for third graders), published in Japanese, the first image shows a dead owl, whose head is hung upside down with the tree. The bird was considered ominous because it gobbled up its mother bird, so people publicly displayed the dismembered heads.

Why does the owl head linked to 県? Because formerly 県 used to mean "to connect" or link, yet, in modern days it changed into today's prefectures, a certain area connecting to the central city or capital. Today, we say 県 following a certain place name. Examples are 新潟県 (Niigata ken) where I live, 山口県 (Yamaguchi ken), and so forth.

There are 47 prefectural and city governments in Japan. The system is called "To dou fu ken (都道府県)." Each Kanji comprises Tokyo-to (東京"都"), Hokkaidou (北海"道"), Osaka-fu (大阪"府"), Kyoto-fu (京都"府") and other 43 prefectures (Something-県).

In addition, 県 belongs to the grouping of eye (目). If you know groups in Kanji characters, it will be easier to learn connections with others.