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Originally from Seattle, USA, I've lived in China for 27 years now, 22 of them in Taiwan. For those 27 years I have been teaching English to Chinese people of all age levels; kindergarten, primary school, junior high, high school, College, University and many business managers. I have traveled to many countries, enjoy cycling very much, enjoy reading and studying and love Chinese Art Museums and walking through Nature. My favorite musical instruments are 古筝。。 古琴 。。 琵琶。。 二胡 。。 笛子 。。 (guzheng, guqin, pipa, erhu, dizi).
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Chinese meaning of 心 heart    

By WarmLife
2366 Views | 5 Comments | 6/11/2016 3:58:36 PM

There are some, many or numerous foreigners who often make an interesting comment about Chinese people and their social behavior or thinking .  I have heard (and in the beginning years of living with Chinese I also used the same comment ... ) -- Chinese have no logic!!  In other words, these foreigners assert that Chinese social behavior is devoid of rational logical thinking ... So, I am going to write more than enough blog posts to consider this assumption .  

 Behind the Chinese word  心 xin ‘heart’ there is a long and rich cultural history through which the Chinese concept of “heart” has been formed. 

In Chinese, the word 心 xin that primarily denotes the heart organ may also refer to it as the “organ for thinking” and the “seat of thought and emotions”.This fact is displayed clearly in the unique ideographic writing system.

Thus, many Chinese characters for words related to thought and feeling contain the 心 “heart” radical as their semantic component. Here are a few examples pertaining to thinking or thought: 思 -- ‘think; consider; deliberate; think of; long for; thought; thinking’, 想 xiang ‘think; ponder; think back; try to remember; recall; recollect; consider; miss’,  虑 lü ‘consider; ponder; think over; concern; worry’, and 念 nian ‘think of; miss; thought; idea’. The following are two common characters representing words for feeling: 感 gan ‘feel; sense; feeling’ and 请 qing ‘feeling; affection; sentiment; passion’.

 Second, the single character words often combine with others to form so-called compound words in modern Chinese. For instance, the preceding single-character words can form the following compounds:  思想 - ‘thought; thinking; idea; ideology’  -- 思虑 consider; contemplate; deliberate ---  思念 ‘think of; long for; miss’ -- 感情 -- ‘emotion; feeling; sentiment; affection’--- 情感 --‘emotion; feeling’.

 It is, therefore, traditionally regarded as the central faculty of cognition in Chinese culture 。 In this way, the Chinese word 心 xin ‘heart’ covers the meanings of both “heart” and “mind” as understood in English, which, like various other European languages, upholds a heart-head dichotomy. According to the Western view, the heart is seen as the center of emotions and the head (the locus of the brain with which the mind is associated) as the center of thought. In contrast to this Western dualism, Chinese takes on a more holistic view that sees the heart as the center of both emotions and thought. This contrast is an important one, characterizing two groups of cultural traditions that have developed distinctive conceptualizations of the person, the self, and the cognitive agent。

 I need to point out that the English word mind, as much as the Chinese word 心 xin ‘heart’, represents a culture-specific concept constructed in the Anglo-Saxon context.

What it means has also changed over time, interacting with the concepts encoded by other English words such as spirit, soul, and heart. In the older stratum of English, mind was closer to the present-day spirit, and was linked with both emotions and moral values. The presentday mind, however, is basically free of emotions, which are now normally linked with heart, and is morally neutral. That is to say, the older mind had spiritual and psychological dimensions, whereas the current mind has the redominantly intellectual and rational orientation, with a modern emphasis on thinking and knowing, not on feeling, wanting, or any other nonbodily processes. 

Therefore, present-day minds are no longer described as “happy” or “fiery” (emotional), or “noble” or “ignoble” (moral) as in older English, but instead as “inquisitive” or “inquiring” (seeking knowledge), “brilliant” (good at thinking), “keen” (active in thinking and seeking to know), and so on. A “good mind” nowadays has unambiguously intellectual implications just as a “good heart” has emotional and moral ones  Thus, as Wierzbicka (1989: 49) summarizes, in the history of semantic change mind “shed its spiritual connotations, lost its links with values and emotions, and became a concept focused on the intellect, more or less to the exclusion of any other aspects of a person’s ‘inner’ life”. This change reflects the modern emphasis on rationalistic, intellectual, and scientific orientation of mainstream Western culture. It is worth noting that dualism in English has changed over history from the soul-body to mindbody dichotomy (Wierzbicka 1989: 50): 

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#2016-06-11 16:01:53 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Jim - I find this very interesting because what you are saying here seems to suggest that in the west we are now more intellectually inclined because we have narrowed the meaning of "mind" to relate exclusively to the thinking, intellectualizing process and the meaning of heart to relate more exclusively to the process of feeling or caring.

Maybe I am misinterpreting what you are saying, so correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me the fact that we have now made a clear distinction or dichotomy between thinking and feeling in no way has to mean we have become more thinking than the Chinese. In fact I would suggest that the very way we look at love as compared to the way Chinese think of love would suggest quite the opposite. Whereas we "fall head over heels in love" and allow that to dictate all our decisions in the years following, the Chinese "fall in love" only as deeply as is economically and socially responsible for leading a better future life.

Pretty clearly we have removed the mind from the heart in order to allow ourselves not to think and to blindly follow our emotions, but the Chinese, by keeping the concept that their heart must remain a thinking heart, avoid a lot of the incredibly bad decisions we make by "following our heart". When they follow their heart they do so on a more solid, well thought out basis.

Does that make sense to you?

#2016-06-11 17:58:03 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


It's quite fascinating how the Chinese use 'xin' (heart) in this way. This 'xin' is pronounced using the first tone. There is, however, another character that is pronounced 'xin', but with the 4th tone. This one means 'real'.
'Xiang' means to think and when 'xiangxin' go together, it means 'believe'. Therefore 'wo bu xiangxin' means 'I don't believe', or directly translates as, 'I don't think it's real.'

Although these 2 'xin' characters are different and have slightly different pronunciations, it's interesting that they are both 'xin' in pinyin. One wonders whether or not in earlier times they were even more closely connected as in 'My heart doesn't believe', or 'I don't believe in my heart' (that what you say is true)?

Either way, there's a beautiful saying in English:-

"The heart has reason that reason itself does not understand."

Now ain't THAT the truth?

#2016-06-12 19:07:10 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Pretty clearly we have removed the mind from the heart in order to allow ourselves not to think and to blindly follow our emotions, but the Chinese, by keeping the concept that their heart must remain a thinking heart, avoid a lot of the incredibly bad decisions we make by "following our heart". When they follow their heart they do so on a more solid, well thought out basis.

Ain't that the truth?..............Well, sometimes!

But that doesn't mean that Chinese people always make good decisions. My colleague decided to join a dating site (not this one, he'd already succumbed to another one before I got to him), but nevertheless, the underlying story is the same.

Chinese women who have already had the wedding invitations printed whilst leaving a blank space for the groom's name to be written in once they find someone 'suitable'.

A Chinese female friend of mine entered into what are affectionately known as 'flash marriages'. 18 months into it and she discovers that she cannot live in his country and he can't (or won't), live in China.

They met on a dating site but didn't actually meet for real until the day of their wedding in China.

Where I come from we have a wise old saying. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

John, you are splitting the difference in the west between rational thought (head) and maybe irrational thought (heart), so where would you put my friend?

#2016-06-12 22:47:57 by sharonshi @sharonshi

Hello, Jim!

This is fascinating! I love this reading! It could be controversial.;)

I felt dreadfully disappointed whilst learning biology and psychology and being told there is NO HEART physically and psychologically.

Differing from western MIND denoting Consciousness, Chinese HEART, by and large, tends to refer to Subconsciousness which underlies both inherent Goodness and Evil. HEART conveys more in domain. HEART sometimes is used to stand for MIND, however, the reverse does not likely hold true.

Western MIND tends to generanlly indicate Positive things.

However, still sometimes it feels like ambiguous while trying to distinguish MIND and HEART.

Thanks for sharing!


Very nice to meet you here!

It is amazing that you can play so many Chinese Instruments. What is your best? You would be An EnChinese! You know Chinese culture.
I tend to love better pure instrumental music as time goes by, especially classic Chinese ones. They accompany me to dream.

Would be interested in reading through all your work.

Thank you for sharing!

#2016-06-13 14:30:28 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@paulfox1 - you are correct, for sure, that Chinese people are not free from error in their thinking. In the case you've provided clearly the rush to marriage was not a wise decision. But in her case, she at least bought herself a year or two of relief from the no doubt relentless badgering she was getting from Mom and Dad to get married. So there was some reason of the mind to cause her to make that bad decision.

In your friend's case there seems no excuse and I would place him clearly in the same group as the headless horseman. He has a big heart but is sadly lacking a brain.

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