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As noted in the question comments, the kanji 円 was originally 圓. The nutshell version of the article Yang Muye linked is that monks developed a shorthand version of 圓 that looked like a box with a vertical line through it: . Over time, the shape of the surrounding box changed, likely due to the same anatomical and mechanical processes that inform any ...


2

Turning comments into an answer. Credit should go all to the commenters on original question! Choko: 「さざれ石(=細かい石)が巌【いわお】(=大きな岩)になって、(それに)苔【こけ】が[生]{む}す(=苔が生【は】える)まで。」って意味です。 jogloran: Is the fact that が=の in this text commonly known to ordinary Japanese speakers? Choko: 私学の中高に通っていた大学生は結構知らなかったりしますね・・・ College students that went to ...



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