143. The "Blood" Radical: 血

If you've ever sliced open a finger while preparing food, you know that "dish" and "blood" aren't so far apart. The same goes for these two kanji:

 (1307: dish, plate; a helping)

血 (270: blood)

Each shape doubles as a radical:

皿 (radical 108: "dish")

血 (radical 143: "blood")

Given that these differ by only a dot, it makes sense that the nickname "dotted dish" distinguishes  from 皿. But the official English name for radical 143 is "blood."

The blood kanji 血 carries the Joyo kun-yomi ち, which is the primary radical name in Japanese. It works for each of the Joyo kanji featuring this on-duty radical:

血 (270: blood)

衆 (705: the public; crowd; many)

The six-stroke 血 radical has no variants. As you can see, it retains its shape (but becomes shorter) when crowning a kanji, as in 衆. 

If 血 occupies the left side of a character, the radical name becomes ちへん. (To understand this nomenclature, go to Radical Terms, see the "Radical Positions" section, and read about Position 1, -へん.) That radical name works for these non-Joyo kanji in which 血 is on duty:

衂 (nosebleed)

衄 (nosebleed)

These characters are variants of each other. I love that there's even one kanji for a nosebleed, much less two! The first almost makes sense to me, combining "blood" with 刃 (blade; sword). But the second? I'm scratching my head because the non-Joyo 丑 can represent a zodiacal ox! Ah, Kanjigen says that in this case the 丑 originally meant "to bend one's hand (fingers) and grasp (something)," evolving to mean "soft and sticky" and making 衄 represent "sticky, soft nosebleed"!  

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

They certainly haven't held back with the blood-red theme of this sign and of the adjacent wall. Even if you didn't know 献血 (けんけつ: blood donation), you could almost figure out from the redness and the red cross just what that term meant!


I mentioned that blood and dishes aren't far apart conceptually, but let's see how that holds up etymologically:

血 (270: blood)

Henshall says in his newer edition that this character shows a bowl (皿) with blood in it (the dot), representing "a pledge." Later, 血 came to mean just "blood."

衆 (705: the public; crowd; many)

This shape bears no connection to blood. According to Henshall, the upper component may have meant "eye." 

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

A sign for an 居酒屋 (いざかや: pub) captures tipsiness in the very tilt of the big kanji! To understand the other words, however, one must be upright and alert.

The right-hand column contains our radical in the first term:

大衆 (たいしゅう: general public)

This conveys that the izakaya is for everybody. It serves 一品料理 (いっぴんりょうり: a-la-carte dishes).

On the left side we have an honorific 御- (ご-) followed by these terms:

宴会 (えんかい: party)

承ります (うけたまわります: we take (reservations))

The word 予約 (よやく: reservation) is implied. So you can book the place for large private gatherings.