Hanzi of the day! 忘

Hey everyone... Again. I kind'a forgot about my blog, which brings us to the next character of the day, to forget, or as the Chinese say, the death of the heart.

Today's character wàng consists of the character (meaning lose, flee, die and deceased) on top of a heart , making up the lovely combination of death of the heart!

This is a curious phono-semantic character where the heart (心) carries the meaning component. Why would the heart be related to forgetting, since the brain carries the function of remembering?

Time
Oblivion...

In fact in modern Chinese there are a lot of metaphors and expressions where the word heart is used in place of the brain:

  • 思 - Another phono-semantic character contain a heart, meaning to think.
  • 心病 - Literally a heart that is sick, meaning worry or anxiety.
  • 心不专 - Literally a heart not devoted, meaning unfocussed or scattered.
  • 我心里就这么想 - Inside my heart this is what I think.
  • 我心想,我是妈妈 - My heart thinks I am a mother.

This is likely due to the traditional Chinese medico-philosophical theory in which the heart is the seat of thought and feelings and the brain is only secondary. There is a very interesting post about the Chinese concept of heart-mind and the challenges of its translation in a popular language lover's blog.

This is in fact nothing new or surprising. Nowadays we know that thought comes from the brain (we are cephallocentric), but in ancient Greek times the rival cardiocentric (heart centered) view was very popular and it was supported by a number of distinguished thinkers and philosophers such as Aristotle or Empedocles. Our society has gradually shifted to be completely cephallocentric but traces of cardiocentricity remain in our vocabulary:

  • To have a change of heart - To change one's mind, used interchangeably.
  • To be heartbroken - To have one's feelings hurt.
  • Heart of stone - To show no pity or sympathy.
Remembrance
"The thing that's left is the memory"... Unless it also died in your heart...

No matter whether we use our brains or our hearts, let's not forget!

Nick

Image sources: pexels pxhere pxhere