3- The Sun and The Moon 日 月

(Originally published February 2013)

Three thousand years ago, in China, the sun and moon were drawn like this:

 sun01  sun02
Sun Moon

The sun was a round sun, and the moon was a crescent moon. Both had spots in the middle, perhaps to indicate a beam of light. By two thousand years ago, in the Han dynasty, they evolved to their modern form, which was easier to write with simple brush strokes. Round lines became straight, circles became square, and the dot became a line:

Sun Moon


The Hanja character for sun日(일) can also mean ‘day’, and it is with this meaning that we find it in many common Korean words. For example a birthday (생일), is a day in which the first day of your life is celebrated:

+ = 生日
Life Day Birthday

A diary (일기) is something in which you record what happened that day.

+ = 日記
Day Record Diary / Journal

The Korean word for ‘everyday’ (매일) is simply the Hanja for ‘every’ plus the Hanja for ‘day’:

+ = 每日
Every Day Everyday

‘Tomorrow’ (내일) is a day that will come in the future:

+ = 來日
To come/ Future Day Tomorrow

Adding the Hanja for ‘Week’ will give you the Korean word for ‘A week’:

+ = 週日
Week Day A week

Each day of the week is a combination of something from nature plus the ending of “요일” which means ‘day of the week’. Sunday and Monday are ‘Sun-day’ and ‘Moon-day’ just like in English:

+ 曜日 = 日曜日
요일 일요일
Sun Day of the week Sunday
+ 曜日 = 月曜日
요일 월요일
Moon Day of the week Monday
+ 曜日 = 火曜日
요일 화요일
Fire Day of the week Tuesday
+ 曜日 = 水曜日
요일 수요일
Water Day of the week Wednesday
+ 曜日 = 木曜日
요일 목요일
Tree Day of the week Thursday
+ 曜日 = 金曜日
요일 금요일
Gold Day of the week Friday
+ 曜日 = 土曜日
요일 토요일
Earth Day of the week Saturday

Have you ever heard Japan referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”? The sun rises in the East, and as far as anybody knew for a long time there was nothing further east than Japan. Therefore Japan was called the place where the sun rises, or the ‘origin’ of the sun:

+ = 日本
Sun Origin Japan

It is for this reason that in addition to ‘Sun’ and ‘Day’, the character日has also taken on the meaning of “Japan” or “Japanese”.

+ = 日食
Japan Meal Japanese food

In newspapers you will often see the character 日used as shorthand for Japan.



In English the words ‘month’ and ‘moon’ share the same origin; because a month is traditionally based on one lunar cycle (a full moon happens every 29.5 days). Likewise, the Hanja character for moon also means ‘month’. Unlike English, however, each month in Korean doesn’t have it’s own name, they are simply numbered from 1 to 12.

+ = 一月
One Month January
+ = 二月
Two Month February
+ = 三月
Three Month March
+ = 四月
Four Month April
+ = 五月
Five Month May
+ = 六月
육(유) 유월
Six Month June
+ = 七月
Seven Month July
+ = 八月
Eight Month August
+ = 九月
Nine Month September
+ = 十月
십(시) 시월
Ten Month October
十一 + = 十一月
Eleven Month November
十二 + = 十二月
십이 십이
Twelve Month December

A salary (월급) is something that is traditionally given once a month:

+ = 月給
Month Give Salary

If you look on the cover of this magazine, in the upper left corner you will see the word 월간 next to 샌디에고. Can you guess what it means?

+ = 月刊
Month Publish Monthly publication



The sun日 and moon 月 are the brightest objects in the sky. If you put them together you get a new character that means ‘bright’ or ‘clear’:

Bright / Clear

Let’s take a look at a few Korean words that use this character:

+ = 明確
Bright / Clear Certain Clear, Obvious
+ = 說明
Say / Explain Bright / Clear Explain
+ = 透明
Penetrate Bright / Clear Invisible

One final bit of trivia… Even though in Korean we pronounce the character明 as 명, in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) the character is pronounced “Ming”, and is familiar to most of us as the name of the Ming Dynasty of China!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to email me at newhanja@gmail.com.


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