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齋 as a suffix for personal names

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by Jeraru, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. Jeraru Junior Member

    España, español y catalán
    Hello. In some Japanese video games I have found characters with the suffix -齋 (sai) on their personal names, like a character named 紫雲齋 (Shiunsai). I have did some research and among other options I found that 齋 can mean "holy". My question is, if this is the appropriate meaning, is this a common Japanese suffix used in personal names of great personalities related to spirituality?

  2. Arui Kashiwagi Senior Member

    Masters of certain arts or culture - swordsmanship, poetry, woodblock prints etc. - were often called by their pseudonyms. And it's true that 齋(or 斎, the same kanji in different glyph) was one of the common suffixes for those pseudonyms in the pre-modern age.

    Historically, 齋 means to fast to purify yourself before a ritual (So yes it's indeed related to holiness - even though it's a bit different from "holy" itself).
    This kanji is also applied to a room to do fasting, and later it occasionally means a small, quiet room in a more general sense. For example, we still call a study - a reading room in your home - 書斎(shosai) today.

    Now, several great people had been born. Other people thought that it's discourteous to call noble people by their real names directly, so they started to call those people after their living places. Swordsmen and artists were often hermits living in a small den, so people chose 齋 among building-related words. The pseudonyms with -齋 has been invented in this way.
    In this theory, "紫雲齋" probably implies "the master in the Purple-Cloud den" or whatever.

    However please keep in mind that this explanation is just about a basic concept. Apparently many people gave themselves a pseudonym which is a combination of irrelevant words and 齋 regardless of their living places, just because it sounds cool.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  3. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Yep names are difficult. You don't know until you ask him!

    So we need to consider as Arui did.
  4. Jeraru Junior Member

    España, español y catalán
    Thank you for the answers. Let me ask you two more questions:

    It is totally false to say that 齋can mean by itself "pure" or "holy"?
    In the case of hermit's pseudonyms, it was common to put the real family name together and before the pseudonym (like 東紫雲齋 Azuma Shiunsai)?
  5. Arui Kashiwagi Senior Member

    Well, I can't answer yes or no.
    Actually 斎/齋 rarely appears alone. You'll usually find it as a part of the two(-or-more)-letter words.

    斎苑 saien = "purified hall" = a funeral hall
    斎場 saijyō = "purified place" = a funeral hall (same as above)
    斎食 saishoku = "purified food" = vegetarian dishes served in a funeral

    In these cases, you may be able to say that the role of 斎 is very similar to "holy".
    However, as you see, 斎 is often strongly linked to a ritual - mainly a funeral. Thus you can't exchange it for other holiness-related kanjis (such as "聖", that is more close to "holy" in English).

    By the way it's clear that 斎 as a name suffix is derived from buildings and not holiness, because it's known that there were many people who had suffixes 坊(temple), 軒(roof?), 堂(hall), 館(mansion) etc. in their pseudonyms.

    Yes, it's quite a common custom.
  6. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Arui answered so mine is tiny additional info lol

    A name x斎 looks old one, and we seldom use it nowadays. Do you know famous painter 葛飾北斎(1760-1849)? His name has 斎 in it, but we're not sure if his parents wanted to make his name sound holy. 斎 might had been popular kanji for names from a long time ago (I'm not sure though, sorry).
  7. Arui Kashiwagi Senior Member

    北斎 is not his real name. According to Wikipedia he chose this art name (pseudonym) for himself.
  8. Jeraru Junior Member

    España, español y catalán
    These are very helpful answers. Thank you so much.

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