While looking at an antique, I noticed that what I assume is the character 「五」is missing the top stroke. It's written this way three times. Below are two examples, which I think read 十五人 and 明和五. The second one seems to indicate it is from 1769, so the writing is very old. Is this 五? If so was it common to write it like this?

Example one Example two

1 Answer 1


This is an alternative form of the character 五【ご】 ("five"), as you correctly surmised. The entry at the English Wiktionary currently only lists this as used in Chinese, but the corresponding entry at the Japanese Wiktionary lists this under the more general heading of 「漢字【かんじ】」, and describes this as 『「五【ご】」の俗字【ぞくじ】。』 ("informal variant for 五【ご】").

I think this form might have arisen from handwriting. I've seen images of 五 where the writer starts the top stroke, but doesn't draw the line all the way across, and after a very short horizontal, they start the downward vertical stroke. In certain cases this can look like the top stroke has been mostly omitted.

  • 1
    Fantastic. Thank you a ton for finding this information and answering so quickly! Good insight on the possible origin as well. The stroke omitted from 「和」also goes along with your idea, though compared to the 「五」 it was easy to be confident to read. I searched through Wikipedia before I asked, but I couldn't find anything. I'll remember to search the Japanese Wiktionary next time.
    – Khai
    Dec 7, 2022 at 2:32
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    Wiktionary puts it to the "Chinese" section for convenience, it does so for all variants. Going to Unihan database itself (unicode.org/cgi-bin/GetUnihanData.pl?codepoint=%F0%AB%9D%80), we see that the source is JH-IB0607 (Japanese Hanyo-Denshi program), so it is definitely encoded from Japanese. Dec 7, 2022 at 13:56

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