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It seems that one difference between the usage of 木 and 樹 is that while both mean tree, the former is also used to mean wood. My question is, is there a further distinction for living trees?

I'm reading 風の又三郎 and 宮沢賢治 uses both the characters 木 and 樹 for a living tree. For example in one passage

耕助(こうすけ)はうらめしそうに木を見上げました。

Then, 3 lines later, referring to the same tree,

耕助(こうすけ)は樹の下をはなれてまた別のやぶでぶどうをとりはじめました。

Is there some nuance I'm missing, or explanation for the choice of characters?

Update: (in case anyone is interested in why both were used in this text) naruto said in a comment below there is no reason to alternate between 樹 and 木, and pointed out only 木 appears in the 青空文庫 version. One possible reason for the use of both is that the manuscript was never finished by the author, and there were still inconsistencies in the original version, and that this is one of them (my version said it was minimally edited). Note this online 原文 uses both 樹 and 木 as I indicated above.

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When used alone, 樹【き】 is a literary expression mainly found in novels, lyrics and poems. For living trees, we use 木 in everyday writings.

And probably 樹 is mainly used to refer to a large and grown tree. I feel one-meter high tree is less likely to be called 樹.

  • Thanks. Do you have any idea why 宮沢賢治 would switch back and forth between these two characters? – Kimball Mar 19 '15 at 9:50
  • The version found in 青空文庫, which is based on 岩波文庫 version, uses 木 for both of these sentences. Is it possible that you are seeing a modified version for learners? Anyway, I don't think there is a good reason to use different kanji intentionally. – naruto Mar 19 '15 at 10:55
  • Huh, interesting. I am reading a ポプラ社文庫. I figured all versions were the same, with the possible exception of ふりがな, when I bought it. Though I just noticed there are some minor differences with the 青空 version (my version writes わあぃ instead of わあい, has more ふりがな and translations of some ズーズー弁, some paragraph breaks are different), but I don't know why a modified version for learners would substitute a simpler kanji with a more complicated one. – Kimball Mar 19 '15 at 11:50
  • In case you're interested, I checked the 原文 out of curiosity and it uses 樹 and 木 like in my version (see my update to the question), so I guess 樹 was edited out of the 青空文庫 version. – Kimball Mar 20 '15 at 14:14
  • @naruto Note that it says "新字新仮名" on the aozora.gr.jp page, which means that 仮名 and 漢字 have been updated to modern usage. 青空 seems to not have a version of 風の又三郎 faithful to the original. But if you look at 銀河鉄道の夜, there are three versions, one of which is labelled "旧字旧仮名" and corresponds to the original text. In any case, I think it is a fair question "why 宮沢賢治 would switch back and forth between these two characters". – Earthliŋ Mar 20 '15 at 16:14
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木 is the general term to design the tree in all its form.

樹 is a standing, living tree only. (emphases it is alive)

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