Just now in the chat room we came across a reading of the kanji 閉 that seems to be either rare or erroneous.

In the English Wiktionary's entry for 閉 there is the following "Readings section":

  • On: へい (hei), へつ (hetsu)
  • Kun: とじる (tojiru), しめる (shimeru), とざす (tozasu)

None of us in the chat room at the time could come up with anywhere the へつ is used?

Is it a correct reading? What is/was it used for?

  • It's not listed in the dictionaries I own, but it is listed in the Unicode database in the kJapaneseOn field: unicode.org/cgi-bin/GetUnihanData.pl?codepoint=%E9%96%89 (I don't know anything about the readings data in Unicode, but others here might.) – snailplane May 5 '14 at 9:09
  • Does that rule it out as being an error in the Unicode database, or in the source that Unicode used when compiling its database? Unicode certainly hasn't proven to be free of errors otherwise. – hippietrail May 5 '14 at 9:36
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    Never heard of it, nor can I find it in any dictionary. +1 for an error – Enno Shioji May 6 '14 at 0:29
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    閉 has got the Shift-JIS code 95C2. 蔽 is close with 95C1, and these two kanji are next to each other on a typical codepage chart. Some dictionaries, eg 新漢和林, list the reading へつ for 蔽. So perhaps somebody working at Unicode with a JIS chart (and not too familar with Japanese?) confused these two kanji. – blutorange Nov 18 '14 at 17:57

I found this in a kanji dictionary from 1920s.

http://kindai.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/936724 (set コマ番号 to 866 and you see the page)

It lists four sounds for 閉, but none of the following 熟語 has a sound other than ヘイ. I guess this kind of description (ヘツ、ヘチ。方結切。屑。) originally originates in classical Chinese hanzi dictionaries like 廣韻 or 康煕字典.

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    As far as I know, what 方結切 means is; take the initial consonant from 方, vowel and final consonant from 結, then combine them and you get the sound. Of course it has to be done in Old Chinese (something like pang + kiet -> piet or similar). – isayamag Nov 19 '14 at 8:42

This is not an error, as some of the other answers may suggest.

The Kangxi Dictionary records the following additional definition under「閉」:


Guangyun, Fanqie rime [方]{ほう}[結]{けつ}; Jiyun and Yunhui, Fanqie rime [必]{ひつ}[結]{けつ}; Zhengyun, Fanqie rime [必]{ひつ}[列]{れつ}. Same sound and meaning as「[鼈]{へつ}」.

What's going on here is that「閉」, in some Chinese texts, was used as a phonetic loan for「[鼈]{へつ}」, and this usage was recorded in Middle Chinese rime dictionaries like Guangyun and Jiyun. Japanese on'yomi largely corresponds to the phonology in these dictionaries and thus may inherit these rare readings/usages.

The readings are there for advanced Chinese literature study if you consult a dictionary, for completeness purposes. There are a lot of obscure on'yomi that you may find in dictionaries which come from this kind of phonetic borrowing in characters (this is practically the Chinese version of ateji), and most of the time you can safely ignore them.

On'yomi given are for Kan'on readings.

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    I think what you are saying is that it is an obsolete reading which is not used in Modern Japanese. Am I correct in assuming this? – kandyman Oct 5 '18 at 17:58

As others have noted, the reading へつ is not listed in other dictionaries, such as デジタル大辞泉. But that could be a measure of the lexicographer's rigor. So at this point, maybe it's an error, maybe it's not.

Additional evidence is found in the corresponding Chinese reading of . The coda /-tu/ typically corresponds to Middle Chinese coda /-t/, which would be preserved in modern Cantonese. However, 閉 in Cantonese is /bai3/. So へつ is likely an error.

But looking at Baxter & Sagart's Old Chinese reconstruction (2011), has the following forms (bearing in mind the well-documented /p/ to /h/ lenition in Japanese):

MC: pejH

OC: *pˁit-s {*pˁi[t]-s}

An important note on time periods: Old Chinese (OC) was around 1200 ~ 300 BC, which makes for an extremely unlikely candidate for borrowing into Japanese. (音読み are generally borrowed from around 700 AD and later.)

My e-dictionary lists the commmon 漢音 reading of へい, and a rarer (and older) 呉音 reading of はい. No 唐音 reading listed.

So we can say with some degree of confidence that へつ is unlikely to be an 音読み for . Although, I guess it's always possible that was anachronistically used as ateji for へつ in some obscure piece of literature.

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    Those reconstructions are a little out of date. They were updated in September with the release of the book. (A must read for those interested.) The latest are available here: ocbaxtersagart.lsait.lsa.umich.edu . – Dono Nov 19 '14 at 11:08

The 『デジタル大辞泉』 does not list the reading へつ, so I'd call it an error. http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/197949/m1u/%e9%96%89/

The dictionary 学研漢和大辞典 does not list any words with this reading either.

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