Graphical etymology
above; up
kun: ue -ue uwa- kami a-geru -a-geru a-garu -a-garu a-gari -a-gari nobo-ru nobo-ri nobo-seru nobo-su tatematsu-ru
names: aoi age i ka kaki kazu kan kou nobori hotsu
strokes: 3
radical: (no. 1) (Nelson uses , ⼘,⺊, no. 25)
shàng on top; upon; above; upper; previous; first (of multiple parts); to climb; to get onto; to go up; to attend (class or university); ◇ shǎng see 上聲|上声 shǎng shēng;
pinyin: shàng shǎng
strokes: 3
radical: (no. 1) (Nelson uses , ⼘,⺊, no. 25)

Graphical etymology

上 is a deictic graph. Originally it consisted of a horizontal line with a smaller line placed above it to indicate the idea of “above”.¹ According to Qiú later a vertical line was added to prevent confusion with the similarly constructed graph “below” and the graph “two”

Schuessler writes that 上 was used to write two words, “to rise” and derived from that “upper part, above”.³ Modern Mandarin still has these two meanings, but their pronunciation seems to have merged.


In Japanese 上 is used to write a large number of different words (often differentiated using okurigana but not always).


  1. Ochiai, 2016, pp. 584-585.
  2. Qiú, 2000, p. 46. Outlier has that the vertical line was “added for aesthetics” (entry for 上).
  3. Schuessler: “what has been raised”. He adds that the word “sunrise” may be related (Schuessler, p. 454).

Additional details for 上

Morohashi: 13 1.0195
Item no. in Henshall: 37
SKIP code: 4-3-2
Four corner code: 2110.0
Korean reading: sang
Kanjidic cross references: variant kanji (JIS): 13022
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
top; superior, highest; go up, send up
Unihan on: JOU SHOU
Unihan kun: UE KAMI NOBORU
Unihan pinyin: shàng
Unihan kZVariant: