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Trying to look up the etymology of the kanji 金, every reference seems to give a different explanation. Let me ask about two references (Wiktionary and Hanziyuan)

Wiktionary gives the following etymology

semantic 王 (“upside-down axe”) + semantic 呂 (“two blocks of metal”) + phonetic 亼. 亼 is the ancient form for 今.

Hanziyuan said that in decomposition notes

(- musical bell indicating metal)

I want to know the real etymology for this kanji and if it is one of these two, I want to understand why.

I mean, if the Wiktionary explanation is correct then why is the upside-down axe part of the character; if the Hanziyuan explanation is correct, then how does the musical bell indicate the metal and where is this musical bell in kanji?

  • You can take Wiktionary's explanation as correct, and Hanziyuan's explanation as wrong. – droooze Mar 7 at 3:54
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「[金]{きん}」can indeed be viewed as containing semantic「呂」, semantic「王」, and phonetic「[今]{きん}」.

「王」is a depiction of the blade of a battle axe, used as a symbol of power/authority > king > prince.



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小臣𪺕卣
集成5378
西周

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大盂鼎
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In「金」,「王」is being used for the meaning metal (battle-axe), emphasised here as an item of metallic manufacture.


As discussed before,「亼」is a component in「今」. The more complex story is that, early on during the Shang Dynasty, both「亼」and「今」were used to represent the same word.「亼」is「口」written upside-down, while「今」is「曰」(to speak) written upside-down. The shape of「曰」is derived from「口」; see What's the deal with/origin of the character 曰?.



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1.11.9
合集36955


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110.4
合集6038
西周

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夨令方彝
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說文解字
 
東漢

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老子銘碑
 


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「今」is no longer used nowadays for its original meaning, which is now written as「吟・噤」.「今」(Zhengzhang OC: /*krɯm/) was originally a depiction of a blocked mouth, indicating the meaning unable to speak, and it may share etymology with「禁」(also /*krɯm/; taboo, warning, prohibition).


「呂」depicts metal disks/plates, representing a word now written as「鋁」(copper plates, now re-interpreted as aluminium).



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8854
合集22265
西周

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貉子卣
集成5409
西周

enter image description here
效父簋
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上・䊷・15
 


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說文解字
 


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Note:「呂」had the same graphical origins as「⼎」, both representing metal disks/plates made from a forging process. While「呂」represented a word now written as「鋁」,「⼎」represented a word now written as「鉼」(metal plates).

You may later come across resources telling you that「⼎」means ice, commonly used as a semantic component to do with ice/cold. In truth, this is a phonetic loan;「⼎」>「鉼」sounded similar to the word now written as「冰」(Shinjitai:「氷」; ice), and was used early on to represent this word.

Bringing these components together:

西周

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過伯簋
集成3907
西周

enter image description here
師㝨簋
集成4313


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說文解字
 


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日甲90背
 


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References:

  • So this page here is wrong guoxuedashi.com/zidian/ziyuan_1352.html – user32763 Mar 7 at 22:51
  • @user32763 it's not quite wrong. The crucible explanation is also reported in some reliable references. The only thing is that we should expect an individual crucible shape, (that is, without「呂・⼎」) representing a word that meant crucible in the earliest inscriptions, but such a character has not been found. The part of that explanation which says「呂・⼎」is the earliest form of「金」is probably not reliable. (Wait a moment, do you read Chinese? Or are you guessing what the explanations are from the pictures given?) – droooze Mar 8 at 1:07
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    😅no i can't read chinese ..but first i translated the site in the search page and i found link "character source analyze 1" so i opened it..second when i saw the picture haven't the battle axe i downloaded it then after about hour trying to exctract the text then translated it.😤 .. but you know ..the kanji and the chinese culture and the japanese culture deserve all the efforts – user32763 Mar 8 at 22:14

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