Peace and Tranquility

Hey folks, me here, back again with another blurb about kanji. Let’s have a learn of things and find out what the characters in these pics mean, and why I decided to scorch them.

Peace and Tranquility, we all need a little of that from time to time, so in traditional Japanese tradition of reading and writing from right to left let’s start with Tranquility (that’s the pic on the right – or if you’re viewing this on a tiny screen it’s the dark tree one).

Kanji - Peace Kanji - Tranquility

There are many different ways to express the concept of tranquility in the Eastern languages. In Japanese, for instance, the most literal translation would be ‘heisei’ which means tranquil, serene or undisturbed. We also have ‘tai hei’ which translates literally as ‘very balanced’ or ‘very peaceful’.

‘Seion’ is a Japanese-specific way to express ‘tranquility’, which utilizes a kanji peculiar to Japan.

Kanji - Tranquility

For this plaque, however, I have used an enigmatic kanji which appears in many compound words. On its own it has a wide range of possible meanings, including relaxed, quiet, rested, contented, calm, still, to pacify, peaceful, at peace, soothing or soothed.

This character, and its pronunciation, was borrowed from Chinese and absorbed into both Japanese Kanji and Korean Hanja. In all three languages it is pronounced as “an”.

The concept of peace, as we understand it, is a little more complex, so it needs two characters to express it. Together they say ‘hei wa’ which means ‘peace’. Individually they translate as ‘hei’ meaning ‘flat’ or ‘smooth’ (as in the surface of a lake, without ripple or splash, unperturbed by the wind from above or the fish’s tail from below), and ‘wa’ – another enigmatic kanji with a whole host of meanings.

Kanji - Peace

The origins of ‘wa’ date back to early Buddhism, and express such concepts as ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’, and also ideals such as ‘cooperation’ and ‘reconciliation’.

‘Wa’ is also an expression of Japanese-style, and as a prefix its use is without limit. Something regarded as ‘wa’, such as wa-music or wa-fashion, is given value and meaning by the inclusion of ‘wa’.

Peace, whether that of the inner self, or of the whole world, is a state to be valued and treasured, and thus the word peace has ‘wa’ incorporated into its structure.