The Heart of the Matter

When I was at boarding school in rural New South Wales, I was accused of being ‘brainy’ simply because I was Chinese.  I don’t know how this misconception was formed but the irony is, to us Chinese, we don’t use our brains.  The idea is definitely western and ‘using our brains’ is a modern concept for us.

You can see it in our language and perhaps strangely to some, in Chinese medicine.

To the Chinese, the Heart is the source of all thoughts and emotions.  The brain, that grey matter, is simply matter.  It serves a mechanical purpose but the power comes from the Heart.  I use the capital letter because in Chinese medicine, it is a major meridian through which the governance of thoughts and feelings is delivered.  There is no such thing as a brain meridian.  The brain is merely the servant of the Heart.

People who don’t believe in Chinese medicine may pooh pooh the idea and say that there’s no such thing as meridians, those energy (qi) channels that the Chinese believe are vital to health.

The only tangible ‘proof’ I can offer is in our language, precisely our writing.  The word ‘brain’ 腦 is under the word family of 肉,meat.

Look at those words under the word family (radical) of Heart (心):

想, 感, 忘,忍,忠,念,忿,怎,怨,怒,恐,恥,恕,惡,悶,悲,感,愁,愛,慧,應, 慕,慾,憶.

they include:  to think, feel, forget, endure, be loyal, think of, angry, enquire, blame, anger, shame, forgive, be bad, be bored, sad, feeling, worry, love, wisdom, respond, envy, desire, remember.

It is interesting to note that, when China decided to simplified its written language, they left all the ‘hearts’ in this list of words –except two:  Love and Desire.  Love 愛 (ai) and desire 慾 (yu) is now 爱 and 欲 - they had their hearts taken out of them.

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16 Responses to The Heart of the Matter

  1. Sunshine Jansen says:

    Mary, I hope I haven’t caught you too late, but as a linguistics major at university (more than 20 years ago), I debated this very loss in 愛 so I loved to read this essay. It has also caused me to rethink certain aspects of the book I’m writing, where telepathy is a matter of ‘mind’ rather than ‘heart’. I am thankful for your radical heart and all the things it’s taught me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Tang says:

      Thank you, Sunshine for all your feedback and support. My premium account expires in 6 hours but I imagine I would still be able to check messages now and then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. taphian says:

    That was really interesting, dear Mary. We have some people practising Chinese medicine here and I believe in it much more than in some stupid doctors we have here, but fortunately we also have homeopathy which I prefer.
    Have a nice day, kind regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oglach says:

    I’ve noticed that in the study of taijiquan and qigong the brain is seldom mentioned, if ever. It has been explained to me from the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine, but never in the manner that you’ve used here, using the language. This is a valuable addition to my education that I doubt I would have gotten elsewhere. Many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. susurrus says:

    I like the idea that we are our hearts, not our brains.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting. I never thought I would accept acupuncture but I needed it due to chronic pain, and it helps tremendously! So I know there is some real good within Chinese medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating – you are certainly heart y

    Liked by 1 person

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