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.

Posted in Chinese Language | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments