54. The "Long Stride" Radical: 廴

I am often surprised when a radical turns out to be an autonomous, non-Joyo kanji, but this one takes the cake:

廴 (イン: walk far; extend) 

How can 廴 ever have stood alone without something to enclose, a component sitting on its flowing "tail"? The radical looks much better with that space filled, as in the three Joyo kanji in which it is on duty:

建 (473: to build; establish)

延 (814: to extend; postpone; total)

廷 (1610: court)

Seeing the group lined up like that, I realize how easy it would be to confuse the latter two characters. But whereas 延 is common, 廷 is not, so that takes care of that problem.

The イン yomi of the 廴 kanji plays a role in a Japanese name for this radical:



As for えん, that comes from the Joyo on-yomi of 延 (814). 

The -にょう is the position name for a radical that goes down the left and swoops underneath a character. (To learn more about this, see Radical Terms and look at the "Radical Names" section, then at Position 7.)

In English, the 廴 radical is called "long stride" and "stretching." I'm not sure of the rationale for "long stride"; perhaps that's what one needs when walking far (which we saw as a definition of the 廴 kanji). "Stretching" relates to what 延 (to extend) represents.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

What a gorgeous example of 廴! Look how it extends under 延, as if underlining the importance (and meaning!) of that kanji. And it is important here; 延命 (えんめい) means "prolonging life," and 地藏菩薩 (じぞうぼさつ: Jizo Bosatsu) is the general word for a bodhisattva who cures those who suffer. In particular, 延命地藏菩薩 is thought to save and extend lives, as well as protecting newborns.

Of the characters on the stone, only 地 is in the Joyo set.

This stone appears at Mayasan Tenjo-ji, a temple high in the Rokko Mountains in Hyogo Prefecture on Honshu. The temple was founded by the semi-mythical monk Hodo, who cured the Japanese emperor of an illness. The emperor then commanded Hodo to establish several Buddhist temples, and he supposedly built this one in 646.

Photo Credit: Christopher Acheson

This segment of a Tokyo subway sign features 遅延 (ちえん: delay), which not only provides us with ample warning (so that we can do nothing, I suppose!) but also supplies a great visual contrast between two look-alike radicals. The one on duty in 遅 is 辶, radical 162 (the "movement" radical), which sometimes resembles a 3 more than it does here.

Both radicals have three strokes and enclose the left sides of characters. Furthermore, both indicate movement. Their Japanese names are even similar; one reads 辶 as しんにょう.

What 廴 Means in Various Characters

In investigating the histories of 建, 延, and 廷 in Henshall's newer edition, I discovered that 廴 was not originally in any of these characters. In two etymologies I also saw that 廴 means "road, go" or "crossroads; go" and was once the variant of 彳, which was itself the abbreviation of 行 (to go). 

Here's what Henshall says about all three characters filed under radical 54:

建 (473: to build; establish)

Instead of 廴, this character originally featured either (1) a radical consisting of 彳plus 止, with that combined shape meaning "move slowly," or (2) 辵, the full form of the "movement" radical, which symbolized "go, move forward" in that context. Someone compiling a dictionary in ancient China mistakenly substituted 廴. In any case, 建 as a whole represents "move writing brush." Henshall notes that because the brush (聿) is held upright for writing, the usage later extended to "hold/stand timber (etc.) upright/erect," which further extended to "build." 

延 (814: to extend; postpone; total)

The bronze form included 彳in place of 廴. In fact, similar to the evolution of 建 (473), what is now 延 first featured 彳plus 止, as well as ノ atop the 止. Scholars see these parts as combining to mean "walk a long way" or "advance a long distance." Either way, the sense became just "long" or "extend."

廷 (1610: court)

The left side was originally an L shape, representing the "corner of a courtyard." By the seal-script stage, our radical appeared and either abbreviated 行 (crossroads; go) or meant "extend." But, says Henshall, the "seal form is erroneous in shape"!