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Component order rule 4 – spear enclosures

Spear enclosures tend to be more complex. Not only they come in several variations but each enclosure, despite being a clearly defined kanji component, is often split into group of strokes that are not written as a single component.

The reason I call them “spear enclosures” is that they generally originate from pictograms of spears (or other weapons).

In the diagram below I present the six main spear enclosures that you will encounter as you study the 2136 常用漢字 jōyō kanji. They are shikigamae, hokogamae, and some of their variants.

Kanji stroke diagram of five common spear enclosures: しきがまえ shikigamae, ほこがまえ hokogamae, and their variants.
Five spear enclosures: しきがまえ shikigamae, ほこがまえ hokogamae and variants.

When spear enclosure shapes are present within a kanji, the stroke sequence that you see above is interrupted and other elements are written in between. Study the following diagram carefully.

Kanji stroke and component order diagram of kanji incorporating spear enclosures: 式 SHIKI 'system', 試 tamesu 'to attempt', 弐 NI 'two', 武 U 'he art of war', 戒 imashimeru 'to admonish', 幾 iku 'how many', 我 ware 'myself', 栽 SAI 'to plant', 裁 sabaku 'to judge', 成 naru 'to become', 威 I 'authority', 歳 SAI 'years old'.
SHIKI ‘system’, tamesu ‘to attempt’, NI ‘two’, BU ‘the art of war’, imashimeru ‘to admonish’, iku ‘how many’, ware ‘myself’, SAI ‘to plant’, sabaku ‘to judge’, naru ‘to become’, I ‘authority’, SAI ‘years old’.

The component order is as follows:

  1. the part of the spear formed by the long horizontal stroke and related strokes is written first (red);
  2. the enclosed part is written second;
  3. the slanted part of the spear and related strokes is written last (green).

Sometimes these shapes are seen as independent/isolated shapes (not enclosures). For example: koeru, kawaru, ikusa, nokoru.

Kanji stroke order diagram of: 越 koeru 'to surpass', 代 kawaru 'to replace', 戦 ikusa 'war', 残 nokoru 'to remain'. The spear shape acts as an independent component.
koeru ‘to surpass’, kawaru ‘to replace’, ikusa ‘war’, nokoru ‘to remain’.

The spears in the kanji above are not enclosing anything. They simply exist as normal kanji components.

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