A simple name cartouche 九郎判宦義経 uses '判宦' instead of '判官'. I assume it is supposed to be read Kurō Hōgan Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune received the title Kurō Hōgan (九郎判官) from the Imperial Court; sometimes you see his name written as Minamoto Kurō Yoshitsune (源九郎義経) without the Hōgan; the term "sympathy for a tragic hero," Hōgan-biiki (判官贔屓) comes from Yoshitsune's title. Can anyone shed light on the 宦/官 substitution — is this common?

In general dictionary searches, I noted that kangan 宦官 (かんがん) is the noun for "eunuch". Assuming gan is correct, then is it a simple matter that 宦 has a kan かん sound (as evidenced in kangan 宦官) and a gan がん sound (as evidenced in gan 判宦)?

Wiktionary gives the following readings for 宦:

Goon: げん (gen)

Kan’on: かん (kan)

Kun: つかえる (tsukaeru, 宦える); まなぶ (manabu)

Wiktionary gives the following readings for 官:

Goon: かん (kan)

Kan’on: かん (kan)

Kun: つかさ (tsukasa, 官); おおやけ (ōyake, 官)


宦 = "official", Kun: つかさ tsukasa, On: カン

官 = "government service; the bureaucracy​", かん kan

官 = "office; official", ​Archaism, つかさ tsukasa


  • 2
    (1) Rather than saying that 宦 has a がん sound, it's worth considering the がん sound as rendaku, in the same way that かな becomes がな in ひらがな or かみ becomes がみ in おりがみ; (2) What historical background is this, and what are the views of the artist? It may help shed some light on why 宦 was chosen. 宦 and 官 are synonyms to a large degree, but at least in Chinese historical literature 宦 appears more in texts about shady court politics, and 宦 has an additional meaning of "eunuch" that 官 does not have. It may be some kind of wordplay and a subtle insult. – dROOOze Feb 11 '18 at 16:06
  • You asked about context: the name cartouche is one of many cartouches from a Yoshikazu print 大物浦難風之圖 showing Taira no Tomomori (Tomomori no rei, 知盛之霊) rising up against Yoshitsune (Kurō Hōgan Yoshitsune, 九郎判宦義経). As such—and though I am not familiar with the Gikeiki (義経記, The Chronicle of Yoshitsune) or the Noh play Funa Benkei (船弁慶, Benkei in a Boat) from which this narrative is supposed to derive—I assume there are no negative connotations with the selection of 宦 over 官. – musha Feb 12 '18 at 13:27
  • <orientaloutpost.com/dictionary.php?q=officer>: Chinese magistrate (during Tang and Song dynasties); mythological underworld judge; and Japanese (1) (はんがん only) judge; magistrate; (2) (archaism) (See 四等官,尉・じょう・1) 3rd grade official (ritsuryo system); assistant district officer; inspector; (surname) Hangan; (person) Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (nickname) – musha Feb 12 '18 at 14:10
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    「じょう」is a kun'yomi for「判官」and「尉」, but it looks like a Chinese-derived word, and I'm going to assume that it comes from the first character of「上官」. I can't be sure of the answer to your question, but there are no Japanese (or Chinese) examples that I can find of「判宦」, nor can I find an example of「宦」being a kokkun reading for anything, so I feel that this character is either a mistake or a wordplay. Note that such a wordplay or mistake can only be made in Japanese, as「宦」and「官」do not sound the same in Chinese. – dROOOze Feb 12 '18 at 14:43
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    Correction: 「じょう」comes from「」; see 「じょう」は唐代に一部の官庁で三等官の呼称だった「丞」の借音. In any case,「判官」is not written as「判宦」in orthodox literature. – dROOOze Feb 12 '18 at 15:10

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