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I'm curious about the word 平安 【へいあん】, does it sound weird to a native speaker's ears to be used in other situations other than the Heian Period, or is it normal in everyday use?

I've seen these examples from Tofugu, but I'm still unsure.

平安じだいはいつですか。

When was the Heian period?


ブリティッシュコロンビアの古の森を歩く時、心に平安を感じる。

Walking through the old growth forests in British Columbia was so peaceful.

  • Note: I changed the accepted answered to mackygoo's because it went into much detail especially after I could fully understand with the English. Apologies to those affected, thank you everyone for your answers! They all had their good points :) – knowledge_is_power Aug 10 '17 at 4:57
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平安

「へ・い・あ・ん」という発音{はつおん}を聞{き}いた多{おお}くの日本人{にほんじん}は、「?」と感{かん}じると思{おも}います。
「平安」という漢字{かんじ}を見{み}たときは、「平安[時代]{じだい}」なら問題{もんだい}ありません。また、「平安な*** peaceful...」でもそれほど問題はありません。しかし、理解{りかい}するのに、ほんの少{すこ}しだけ時間{じかん}が掛{か}かります。それは、日本人が「平安」という言葉{ことば}をふだん余{あま}り 見聞{みき}き していないからだと思います。

Many Japanese people who hear the sound of "he-i-a-n" might feel "What?"
There is no problem when you see kanjis of "平安" in "平安時代 Heian period". Also, there is not much problem when see "平安な~ peaceful ...". However, in the latter case, it takes just a little more time to understand its correct meaning than it does in the previous case. That's because the Japanese do not usually hear or see the word or phrase like "平安~" "平安な~" other than "平安時代".

ヒーロー(hero)に対{たい}する「ヒロイン(heroine)」と麻薬{まやく}(drug)の「ヘロイン(heroin)」に関{かん}するpsosunaさんのコメントを見て、「へいあん」の同音異義語{どうおんいぎご}(hononym)を探{さが}しましたが全{まった}く見{み}つかりません。

After I saw psosuna's interesting comment on "hero - heroine" vs. drug "heroin", I looked for homonyms of "へいあん", but I could not find anyone at all.

では何故{なぜ}「平安 peace of mind」が日常{にちじょう}、特{とく}に話{はな}し言葉{ことば}として使{つか}われないのかその理由{りゆう}を考{かんが}えてみました。以下{いか}に述{の}べることは、全{まった}くの私見{しけん}(personal opinion)ですので参考{さんこう}としてご覧{ご}ください。

So why isn't "平安 peace of mind" frequently used in everyday life, especially in a speech or conversation? What is written below is absolutely my personal opinion, so please take a look as mere a reference.

  1. 「平安」という漢語{かんご}(words of Chinese origin)に比{くら}べてほぼ同{おな}じ意味{いみ}を持{も}つ「安{やす}らか」という和語{わご}(native Japanese words)の方{ほう}が、peace of mind(心{こころ}の平和{へいわ})をより良{よ}く表現{ひょうげん}できるように感{かん}じます。これには理屈{りくつ}がありません(I feel so without any reason)。
    同様{どうよう}のことは、「平安」と似{に}た言葉{ことば}である「平穏{へいおん} being peacefully quiet」についても言{い}えます。すなわち、「平穏」より「穏{おだ}やか」という言葉{ことば}の方{ほう}が、being peacefully quiet という気持{きも}ちを表現{ひょうげん}するのに一層{いっそう}ふさわしいと感じます。

I think "安{やす}らか" that has almost the same meaning as "平安{へいあん}" could express the meaning of "peace of mind" better; where "安{やす}らか" belongs to 和語{わご} a native Japanese word and "平安{へいあん}" belongs to 漢語{かんご} a word of Chinese origin. Why I feel so is quite difficult to explain. I feel so without any reason.
The same thing could be said for a 漢語 of "平穏{へいおん} being peacefully quiet" which is similar to the meaning of "平安". In other words, I think a 和語 of "穏{おだ}やか" rather than "平穏" is more expressive in explaining the feeling of "being peacefully quiet".

  1. 一方、「平安」に似た言葉に「平和{へいわ} peace」という言葉があります。これは日本人の誰{だれ}もが知っていますが、それを和語で簡単{かんたん}に言{い}い換{か}える方法{ほうほう}を知りません。「平和」とは「戦争{せんそう}をしない状態{じょうたい}」と言えるのかも知れません。この言い換えた表現を見ると、明{あき}らかに人間の心{こころ}の状態を表現する言葉でないことが分かります。つまり、「平和」は、「平安」や「平穏」とは違{ちが}う分野{ぶんや}の言葉ですから、漢語としての「平和」をそのまま使っているのでしょう。

On the other hand, there is a word "平和{へいわ} peace" that is also similar to "平安". Every Japanese knows the word of 平和, but I don't know how to easily translate it into 和語. "平和" could be said to be "a state where there is no war or no one is waging war". Looking at this paraphrased expression, you can see that it is clear "平和" is not a word expressing the condition of the human mind. In other words, "平和" is a word belongs to a field that is different from "平安" or "平穏", so our Japanese will use the 漢語 of "平和" as it is.

  1. 次に、比較的良く使われる「平穏」と余り使われない「平安」の違いを考えてみます。

Next, let's consider the difference between "平穏" which is used relatively often as I said before and "平安" which is not used much.

1) 「へ・い・・ん」と「へ・い・・ん」とでは音の違いがあります。quiet, tranquil, peaceful などの主{おも}に心の様子を表現するときに「おん」という発音は「あん」より静{しず}かで、落{お}ち着{つ}きがあるように感じます。同様{どうよう}の現象{げんしょう}は、陰陽という漢字に対しても言えます。陰陽には、「んよう」と「んよう/んみょう」という2系統{けいとう}の発音{はつおん}がありますが、「おんよう/おんみょう」の方が何故か「華{はな}やいだ感じ」の逆{ぎゃく}である「落ち着き」や「重々{おもおも}しさ」を感じます。日本人にとって、きっと「おん」という発音あるいは響{ひび}きにはそのような性質{せいしつ}があるのでしょう。

There is difference in the sound between "平穏 he-i-o-n" and "平安 he-i-a-n". I would perceive the sound of "on" to be quieter and calmer than that of "an", so I think "on" sound is more appropriate when expressing the state of the mind mainly such as quiet, tranquil or peaceful. The same phenomenon can be said for the word of 陰陽. There are two kinds of pronunciations "in-yoh" and "on-yoh / on-myoh" for 陰陽. I don't know the reason but I feel "calm" and "gravity" for the sound of "on-yoh / on-myoh" more than that of "in-yoh". For Japanese people, I definitely believe that such kind of characteristic exists in the sound of "on".

2) 「平穏」には「平穏無事{へいおんぶじ} peaceful and uneventful」という四字熟語{よじじゅくご} yojijukugoがあります。「平穏無事に暮{く}らしております あるいは 平穏無事に過{す}ごしております Living in peace and quiet or Living without particular trouble」のように、丁寧{ていねい}な手紙文{てがみぶん}や電話{でんわ}の挨拶{あいさつ}などで普通に使われております。すなわち、「平穏」という言葉はそのままの形{かたち}ではありませんが、我々{われわれ}には慣{な}れ親{した}しんだ表現だと言えます。一方{いっぽう}、「平安」にはそのような熟語{じゅくご}が無{な}いように思います。従{したが}って「平安」という言葉が「平穏」より余り使われていないのだと思います。

"平穏" used often as an idiomatic phrase of "平穏無事 peaceful and uneventful", which is termed "four character idiom" or "yojijukugo".
平穏無事 is commonly used in greetings etc. like "平穏無事に暮{く}らしております or 平穏無事に過{す}ごしております We are living in peace and quiet or We are living without particular trouble" in a polite letter or a telephone call. In other words, we are familiar with "平穏" though it is not used as the form as it is.
On the other hand, "平安" does not have an idiomatic phrase such as "平穏" has. Therefore, I think that the word of "平安" is less used than "平穏".

3) psosunaさんのコメントにあったように「平安」という漢字には、Heian period という意味が「厳然{げんぜん}として(as authoritatively / in a majestic manner)」あります。従って、peace of mind の意味で「平安」が使われても、誰{だれ}もが、まず Heian period という意味かどうか確認{かくにん}したあとで、 peace of mind という意味だと解釈{かいしゃく}します。普通なら、そのような面倒{めんどう}な言葉をわざわざ使う前に、「安らか」とか「平穏」とか問題のない言葉に言い換えて自分の peace of mind を表現するのが自然{しぜん}だと思います。従って、peace of mind と言う意味で「平安」があまり使われていないのだと思います。

As is written in the question of OP, there is a meaning of "Heian period" authoritatively or in a majestic manner in kanjis "平安". Therefore, even if "平安" is used in the sense of "peace of mind", everyone interprets it as the intended meaning at last after confirming it does not mean Heian period. Ordinarily, it is natural to express your "peace of mind" in other words such as "安らか" or "平穏" without using the troublesome word of "平安".
Therefore, I think that "平安" is not used much in the sense of "peace of mind".

  • 1
    よく読めるんだけど、もしかして英語も書いてもいいですか?とても面白いなのに、まだ全部よくわかりません。本当にありがとうございます。 – knowledge_is_power Aug 9 '17 at 2:18
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    でも、日本語で書いてくれてありがとう。私はもっと日本語の練習したいだから。 – knowledge_is_power Aug 9 '17 at 2:20
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    @GabbyQuattrone: 英語でも書きました。「平安」に関{かん}する質問{しつもん}は大変{たいへん}良{よ}い質問であったと思{おも}います。 – mackygoo Aug 10 '17 at 4:52
  • 分かりました。 またありがとうございます! – knowledge_is_power Aug 10 '17 at 4:55
  • Excellent answer @mackygoo. Way to incorporate all the deliberation! I would add that instead of 平安 and 平和 I tend to use 穏やか and 安らか much more in speech and even in writing unless discussing the broader topic of "peace" such as not being in war. – psosuna Aug 11 '17 at 18:37
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平安 can be used for the both meaning because they are in every Japanese dictionaries.

However, I agree with your doubt.

In today's Japan, "peace" is translated into most commonly "平和."

心に平和を感じる is the most common. 心に平穏を感じる can be an alternative. 心に平安を感じる is okay and understandable, but I myself don't dare to choose.

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    The 平安 example is not as drastic as, say, the use of the word "Heroine" in English in recent usage. "Heroine" as female hero has dropped in usage due to the connotation associated with the word "Heroine" and the (potent and often lethal) drug of the same name. The point I make is that some words drop in favor because of connotations. In this case, the word 平安 has the connotation that leads one to think of eras instead of peace. It's not a negative connotation like my example is, but it makes sense why a different word is used instead, like 平和 – psosuna Aug 8 '17 at 23:23
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    Interesting assertion, but I think it more likely that calling females "hero" has become acceptable as sexual stereotypes are blurring. Objective data on printed (not spoken) word frequency is available from google: – Craig Hicks Aug 9 '17 at 2:58
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    books.google.com/ngrams/… – Craig Hicks Aug 9 '17 at 2:59
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    @CraigHicks thank you for the graph, that's actually a great tool. I would argue and also agree with you all the same, because the way that I've rationalized it, 'Heroine' drops in favor due to this drug, and the alternative would be to just use 'hero', which is now equally acceptable because as you say, sexual stereotypes are blurring and there is less of a need to differentiate by the word whether the hero is male or female or non-binary. – psosuna Aug 9 '17 at 16:41
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    @psosuna - One example where the connotation you mentioned would really tend to deprecate "heroine" --- "Oh darling, you are my heroin(e)!" – Craig Hicks Aug 11 '17 at 2:55
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There are some similar words using 平:

  • 平和【へいわ】: peace. the state without war or conflicts.
    • この戦争が終われば平和が訪れる。
    • 戦争のない平和な世界が来てほしい。
  • 和平【わへい】: peace (in legal/diplomatic contexts); cessation of war
    • 敵国のリーダーと和平交渉を行う。
    • 我が国はA国と和平条約を締結した。
  • 平安【へいあん】: calmness; peace in mind; state without disturbance, anxiety or bad mental conditions. It's not a difficult word, but is a bit literary (i.e., not very common in casual conversations)
    • 小さなことに悩まないようにすれば、心の平安を保てます。
    • 戦争は終結し、人々は訪れた束の間の平安を享受した。
  • 平穏【へいおん】: (temporary) quietness; tranquility; without trouble
    • 一晩中見張っていたが、その夜は平穏に過ぎた。
    • この問題は平穏に処理しましょう。
  • 平静【へいせい】: coolness in mind; not confused, panicked or excited. a more common word in conversation is 冷静.
    • チェスの試合では、平静さを失わないことが大切だ。興奮すると間違いが多くなってしまう。
    • 平静を装っていたが、心の中では気が動転していた。

The direct antonym of 戦争 is 平和. 平安 is mainly used to describe how peaceful and calm your mind (or your family, your neighbor, etc) is.

  • I know these words, I don't think it answers my question, "平安, does it sound weird to a native speaker's ears to be used in other situations other than the Heian Period, or is it normal in everyday use?" I think your answer only slightly touches what I was asking for. – knowledge_is_power Aug 9 '17 at 2:49
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    I think I said 平安 is a bit literary, and the meaning of 平安 is different from 平和. I gave natural examples of how you can use 平安 outside of 平安時代. What else do you want? – naruto Aug 9 '17 at 2:51
  • I think Seesawscene best answered my question. I wasn't asking for other meanings using "平” – knowledge_is_power Aug 9 '17 at 2:52
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    That's fine, 平安/平和/平穏/和平 is a frequently asked group of words anyway, and it might help someone else :) – naruto Aug 9 '17 at 2:55
  • Thank you though! Also, if you can make English translations of the Japanese sentences? I can't quite understand them all. – knowledge_is_power Aug 9 '17 at 2:55
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The other answers are excellent. I would just like to add that I have heard 平安 used fairly regularly in religious conversations. Combining that with the definition given by naruto, (Peace of mind; state of good mental condition) it seems to fit really well.

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