dictionary moment:

極く: "quite, very"

極: 10^48, i.e., quindecillion


@22 Are you familiar with わさん (和算)?There is a 17th century math textbook written by Yoshida Mitsuyoshi called the じんこうき (塵劫記). In this book 10^48 is referred to as ごく(極), which is 10,000 multiplied by itself 11 times. Each increment has a kanji.



@ipfactor I was not at all familiar with this and that is SO crazy cool! Thank you!!!

Is there a place that compiles all these numbers and the kanji assigned to them? Did he pick them? Do they have any cosmological significance?

@22 @ipfactor
I dug into this and wrote a blog post about it a while ago:

"Why does Japanese have kanji for very large numbers?"


@wim_v12e @ipfactor Wim, this is a superb post! I was really curious if this had something to do with counting the Buddha’s past existences or something (the Japanese took many of the extant Buddhisms in entirely new and freaky directions).

Were the specific kanji chosen for each slot picked arbitrarily or is there some phonetic reference I’m not getting or did they have Chinese antecedents for numeric placeholders? Why those kanji?

@22 Thank you very much! 😊 I enjoyed writing it.

There is no single explanation for the choice of the specific kanji. I had a quick look at the first four. 万 has always meant "myriad" (it is most likely a variant of the swastika symbol); for 億, "hundred million" is a a generalisation of the original meaning "full of ideas"; for 京 it is probably a generalisation of the meaning "height";
for 兆, "trillion" is a borrowed meaning.

If I have time I'll dig a bit deeper into the others as well.

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