What do 上 and 下 on books mean?

Kan () is the usual Japanese counter for volumes of a book or reference. (See What is the counter for ...?) If there are two volumes, they are labelled jōkan (上巻) or just () for the first volume, and gekan (下巻) or just ge () for the second. The basic idea of using these kanji originates from the idea of reading from top to bottom. See Can Japanese be written right to left?

If there are three volumes to a series, they are labelled , chū () and ge. Four or more volumes are usually labelled using numbers.

Japanese translations of Western books are often broken up into and ge volumes.

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