- Meaning: white
- Pronunciations: haku, paku, byaku / shiro, shira
This Kanji character is based on the shape of a human skull exposed to the wind and rain. It’s said that this Kanji character became to mean ”white” because that skull was white. It also means “empty” or “clean” sometimes.
- 白い（しろい）: white (i-adjective)
- 空白（くうはく）: blank space, vacuum, space, null
- 白紙（はくし）: blank paper, white paper
- 白鳥 （はくちょう）: swan
- 明白 （めいはく）: obvious
- 自白 （じはく）: confession
There is a Kanji character which is very similar to 白. It’s 百 (hyaku) which means a “hundred”. When we look at those letters, we can see 百 is composed with 一 and 白. 一 (ichi) means “one”. You may wonder why “one” plus “white” will be “hundred”. In fact, it is not clear the relationship amongst them as far as I researched. However, there is an interesting culture related to these Kanjis in Japan.
As you may know, Japan is known as a country of longevity and there are customs to celebrate longevity according to one’s age.
The celebration of a 100 years of age is called “百寿 (momoju: 100th birthday)”. In this case, “百” is read as “momo”, not “hyaku”. The word “寿 (ju / kotobuki)” means “long life” and also “congratulations”.
The 99th birthday, on the other hand, is called “白寿 (hakuju)”. Can you guess why the Kanji character “白” is used for the 99th birthday celebration? It’s because when you take away the “一 (one)” from the “百 (hundred)”, it becomes “99”.