TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. März 2010

Sektion 3.2. Transcontinental Transfer of Literature and Arts to Transform Traditional Societies
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Hsia Adrian (McGill University, Canada)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Xin vs. Heart: Where the East Meets the West”

Lily I-wen Su (National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan) [BIO]




The notion of Chinese xin underlies a complex cultural network. As a linguistic symbol, we discover that xin is motivated by, and in turn reflects, our bodily experience, which supports well the idea that language is tied to our thinking (Huang 1982, 1995, Ye 2002, Yu 2002, 2003). Through analyzing the conceptual structure of the lexeme xin as it occurs in Chinese discourse, we support the idea that metaphors identified via authentic language use can reveal conceptualization patterns of the language and serve the meta-function of typologically categorizing a language. 

To carry out the present study, we use ‘xin’ as the keyword to search against Chinese corpora of different kinds: the so-called balanced type where both spoken and written discourse as well as ancient and contemporary texts are included. Based on the data retrieved, two senses of xin have been identified: the sense of the muscular organ and that of the mental faculty.

Something extremely interesting about the Chinese xin is that it is conceptualized both as the container and the contained, the content inside the container. It is at the same time both the source and the instantiation, a unique feature absent in the commonly held equivalent of heart in English. This finding reveals a holistic cultural view where embodiment-based properties originating from the physical, psychological, and spiritual spheres, as well as the seemingly contrasting attributes of human mental capacity, are united as one concept due to the long-standing historical tradition. Because of this, an English equivalent of xin should be appropriately and correctly stipulated as a dual composite of “heart-mind,” rather than just as “heart” or “mind” alone.


1. Introduction

Heart has long been used in the Indo-European world as a symbol to refer to the spiritual, emotional, and the moral, as defined by the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1996):

the emotional or moral as distinguished from the intellectual nature: as

On the other hand, it is said that people in the Near East imagined heart as the seat of thinking – it is used approximately 300 times in the Bible meaning "Intellect, Mind" with the Semitic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And Indo-Iranians show that its seat was (is?) in the head in spite of the Semitic influence. Indo-Iranians still pointed to their Head for thinking and contemplating, and to their Heart/Breast when referring to feelings and emotions.

When it comes to a Chinese perspective, heart might best be viewed if understood from a historical development of the character. Xin, the Chinese word for heart, originally refers to the organ Western medicine recognizes as the heart. Even for the ancient Chinese, xin was much more than a fleshy muscular blood pump. The ancient Chinese character for the heart is a primitive rendering of the actual organ; it shows the hollow vessel of the organ itself as well as the main arteries leading to and away from it.

In addition to being a rudimentary picture of the heart, the graphic can be viewed as a picture of an empty bowl that is open at the top. The emptiness at the center of the heart makes it useful. This emptiness creates a space for the shen ‘spirit’, the fiery sparks of spirit that, according to Daoist mythology, come to us at the moment of conception, directly from the stars. This fiery cosmic light illuminates our capacity for consciousness and self-awareness and is the spark that ignites all other aspects of personal awareness represented by the spirits of the hun ‘soul’, yi ‘intention’, po ‘vigor’, and zhi ‘will’. The small brush stroke at the center of the heart represents the shen ‘spirit’ – the tiny spark of divine fire that resides in the heart space and radiates out into the world as the light of individual awareness and identity.

The empty bowl in the heart provides a nest into which the shen or spirits settle like tiny winged birds. The lines extending outward represent the vena cava, pulmonary vein and aorta which connect the heart to the rest of the body. On a physical level, these lines represent the conduits of the blood. But, on a subtler, psychic level, the lines represent the ephemeral soul threads through which the radiance of the spirits extends outward into one’s life and environment through his attitudes and actions in the world. The emptiness at the center of the heart is the meeting point where all contradictions are resolved and all of life is welcome.

The graph xin in bronze inscriptions is depicted as a physical organ, and the same graph sports since the Classic of Odes varied meanings: emotions, sentiments, source of morals and cognition. Benjamin Schwartz (1985) hence translated the word as "heart/mind." It was not until Mencius that the classical thinkers started to offer a coherent philosophic conception of the mind and heart. The mind/heart is the Heaven-endowed faculty of thinking which discriminates great people from small ones. It is that which mediates our sensory communication and engagement with things in the world.

Chinese philosophy maintains that the human heart is not only a physical organ, but the site of the shen ‘spirit’ – the spiritual dimension of human beings. Xin represents the true and authentic way in which we should flow – in each of our actions, thoughts, and emotions. In traditional Chinese medicine and ancient Daoist thought, the heart is likened to the ruler of a kingdom. Like an emperor the heart is the organizing principle of a person’s being, the regulating principle of the body and the mind. It is found at the crossing point of the upper and lower body, at the X point of the arms and the legs. heart was thus thought of, rather, as the palace of the Emperor, the residence of the spirit, as well as the center of psychological life and function. It becomes evident that xin can sometimes be referred to as the heart/mind, the central organizing principle or processing unit of individual life

This view was later supported by Zhu Xi, who defined the mind-heart in ontological terms as "consciousness" zhijue. For him, the mind-heart comes from principle li ‘reason’ which is nature xing ‘temperament’ in humanity: "Nature consists of principles embraced in the mind-heart, and the mind-heart is where these principles are united." As the mind-heart embodies nature, so it must also embody sentiments qing ‘sentiment’." Therefore, the mind-heart is the master of the physical body and the external world with which the body is engaged."

Whether one's innermost character, feelings, or inclinations can have reflected a universal use of the word is subject to further scrutinizing. If heart is often considered as the emotional counterpart of the mind, is it then true that mind is exclusively reserved as the seat of thinking, the intellectual core of a human being? How universal is this heart vs. mind distinction?

This paper intends to deal with the above questions by attempting first to establish a semantic network associated with the lexeme xin in Contemporary Chinese, assuming that the semantic structures will reveal the characteristics in conceptualizing and categorizing mental activities in Chinese, as reflected in language use. Through analyzing the conceptual structure of the lexeme xin as it occurs in Chinese discourse, we aim to validate the claim that linguistic metaphors thus identified can reveal conceptualization patterns and provide the categorization function of the language.


2. Literature Review

The notion of Chinese xin ‘heart, mind’ in fact underlies a complex cultural network.  As a linguistic symbol, we discover that xin is motivated by, and in turn reflects, our bodily experience, which supports well the idea that language is tied to our thinking (Huang 1982, 1995; Ye 2002; Yu 2002, 2003). The character has a wide distribution in fixed expressions and compounds of related to emotions, thought, and metaphysics.

The essential role of xin “heart, mind” in Chinese expressions of emotion and thinking is explored by various past studies (Huang 1982, 1995, Ye 2002, Yu 2002, 2003). Ye (2002) uses xin-related Chinese data to attest and support the emotional universals proposed by Wierzbicka (1999). Yu (2002) examines the conventional expressions of emotion containing body parts in Chinese, and finds that the metaphor heart is the seat/container of emotions is manifested linguistically in an extremely rich fashion in Chinese. Expressions of emotions, such as xin-tong (heart-pain) ‘grieved’, kai-xin (open-heart) ‘happy’, fang-xin (lay_down-heart) ‘feel relieved’, are often metonymically related to xin, and becomes highly metaphorical after conventionalization.

Unlike other body organs, xin has the widest and most unlimited distribution in emotional expressions and can be freely linked to any kind of emotion, an issue touched but whose implication of such a free linkage was not explained in Yu (2002). Yu (2003) claims that, as opposed to the dichotomous meaning of “heart” and “mind” in the Western culture, xin is the seat of both emotion and thoughts in Chinese. Though focusing on Chinese metaphors of thinking, Yu (2003) should have discussed in detail the claim he tried to argue for.

In arguing against the double-subject constructions such as ta xin-li xiang “he thinks (in his heart)” in Chinese, Huang (1982) proposes a cultural account. He maintained that the Chinese metaphysics of a person incorporates one’s spiritual, physiological and physical attributes. Accordingly, a person is constituted of three basic entities: a physical body, a psychological qi ‘gas (literally)’, and a psycho-spiritual xin. In Huang’s view, the representation of a person is incomplete without the conception of one’s spiritual xin. This being the case, the double-subject construction in Chinese should not be treated as a purely syntactic issue; it actually reveals the Chinese-specific mode of thinking.

A semantic analysis of xin was provided in Huang (1995), where five interrelated senses for the lexical network for the organ schema of xin, consciousness was proposed.  Each of the five senses – the mind, feeling, source of Dao, thinking, state of mind – is related to the “core” organ schema via a metonymic link. Huang (1995) used this analysis to support the metonymic basis of Chinese meaning extension.

Abstract concepts that are not clearly delineated in experience, such as time, love, and ideas, are metaphorically structured, understood, and often discussed in terms of other concepts that are more concrete in experience, such as money, travel, and foods (Lakoff and Johnson 1980).  Metaphors are a way of explaining the abstract in terms of the concrete. A metaphor is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, where X is said to be Y, i.e. X IS Y.  The expression Time is money can be a good example to illustrate the metaphorical concept involved. In this linguistic expression, the time schema is structured in terms of the money schema.  The systematicity of the metaphor is reflected in everyday speech formulas, which are sources of insight into and evidence for the nature of the metaphor.  Fixed expressions embodying the conceptual metaphor Time is money abound and are clearly evident in expressions such as to spend time, to save time, and to live on borrowed time.

Most recent studies on metaphorical cultural models have been carried out in the fields of cognitive linguistics and cognitive anthropology (Lakoff 1993). Cognitive linguistics investigates cultural knowledge, knowledge which is embedded in words, stories, and in artifacts, and which is learned from and shared with other humans.  Virtually all research strategies in this field explore the relationship between language and thought by studying the conceptual knowledge and cognitive systems embedded in metaphorical cultural models (Holland and Quinn 1987; Lakoff and Johnson 1980).  According to the definition that guides research in cognitive linguistics, culture is an idealized cognitive system, a system of knowledge, beliefs, and values that exists in the minds of members of society.  Metaphor is viewed as the mental equipment that people use in orienting, transacting, discussing, defining, categorizing, and interpreting actual behavior in their society.

Cognitive linguistics focuses generally on the intellectual and rational aspects of culture, particularly through studies of language use.  Among its many research topics, one is central: cultural models, often termed schemata, abstractions that represent our conceptual knowledge in memory through stereotypical concepts.  Cultural models structure our knowledge of objects and situations, events and actions, and sequences of events and actions.  Items in the lexicon, grammatical categories, and rules are associated in memory with cultural models.  Linguistic forms and cognitive schemata “activate” each other: linguistic forms bring schemata to mind, and schemata are expressed in linguistic forms. 


3. Analysis

Current empirical and theoretical pitfalls of Chinese historical linguistics models include the confinement of the field into a constricted scope by insisting on methodologies and terminologies esoteric to linguists without such training.  This creates a tendency to ignore the pragmatic and communication-oriented factors leading to diachronic semantic change. Due to the unique characteristics of Chinese, we expect the paths and processes for grammaticalization in this language can be quite different from what is normally associated with the Indo-European languages we come across often in literature. Specifically, high degree of disyllabification, relatively free compounding morphology, and reanalysis of the compounding elements should not be left unexplored. By looking into these factors, new findings based on diachronic data can be obtained, which may shed insight into previously ignored areas of language change and modifications to existing models of grammaticalization.

3.1. Data and Methodology

Having the unique characteristics of Chinese in mind, data for the present study are first collected via online dictionary sources, i.e. Sinica Bow and Mandarin Chinese Dictionary Online, and then xin-related compounds are analyzed and classified into semantic categories. In addition, the model known as Principled Polysemy (Tyler & Evans 2001, 2003, 2004; Evans & Tyler 2004, Evans & Green 2005) is adopted for sense distinction to account for the range of senses associated with the form xin in a principled and systematic way. Principled Polysemy proposes three criteria to determine whether a particular instance of a lexeme would count as a distinct sense. The range of distinct senses associated with a lexeme is accounted for by virtue of interaction between the Sanctioning Sense, conceptual processing and structuring, and context. Hence, semantic representations, cognitive mechanisms and situated language use are appealed to in accounting for the polysemy associated with a lexeme.

Since each language has its unique constructions and syntactic patterns, the tests to each criterion need to be modified to suit the characteristics of individual languages. For the concept xin in Chinese, test of legitimacy to the grammatical criterion cannot be based on the criteria proposed by Quirk et al. (1985) for English nouns because of the countability of each noun in Chinese is not linguistically coded. The grammatical criterion for xin can be tested by the unique constructions where each sense occurs in, the classifiers that each sense xin can take, and the degree of boundedness of each sense, with respect to forming compounds or independent occurrence in texts.

3.3. The Santioning Sense

Following Evans (2005), we use three criteria for determining the Sanctioning Sense. The criteria proposed here concern linguistic and empirical evidence. First, a putative Sanctioning Sense of a word is likely to be the historically attested meaning of the word. In the case of xin, though the character of xin is a hieroglyphic representation of the muscular organ ‘heart,’ the predominance of xin used as the agent of emotion is found in all classic Chinese texts. Second, the Sanctioning Sense of a word is likely to have predominance in the semantic network (in the sense of type frequency). Third, the Sanctioning Sense is likely to have high predictability regarding other senses. Fourth, the Sanctioning Sense of a word is a sense which relates to human experience at the phenomenological level. That is, the sense that is most closely related to the body and the environment.

The semantic network for the Chinese lexeme xin is organized around a primarily conventional meaning, the Sanctioning Sense. The four criteria for determining the Sanctioning Sense adopted by Evans (2005) include (1) historically earliest attested meaning; (2) predominance in the semantic network (in the sense of type frequency); (3) predictability regarding other senses; and (4) a sense which relates to human experience at the phenomenological level. For xin, the Sanctioning Sense constitutes the meaning of the material heart, an organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system of an animal.

For the first criterion – the historically earliest attested meaning, there is evidence to take the sense of “physical organ” as the earliest attested sense, since the character of xin is a hieroglyphic representation of the muscular organ ‘heart.’ The earliest work of Chinese lexicography, ShuoWen-JieZi, has defined xin as the following:

心, 人  心 。 土 臧 也。
xin  ren  xin    tu zang  ye
xin human heart  soil organ part
在   身 之 中,   象 形。
zai  shen zhi zhong xiang xing
Exis. body of middle symbol shape

Xin, the human heart, is the organ of soil. (It) locates in the middle of the body. (the character xin is) a symbol of its shape.’

As can be seen, the character xin is a hieroglyphic representation of the shape of the muscular heart. Given the origin of the character, we would treat the Muscular Organ Sense as the earliest attested meaning of xin, bearing in mind though that the sense of “muscular organ” has in fact a rather limited usage in both the diachronic Chinese texts and contemporary Chinese. In the putative oldest Chinese text Yi Jing, all the 28 tokens of xin seem to have been associated with mental activities such as emotion, thinking, or intention. This suggests that the organ of xin was associated with functions beyond the physiological level rather early in the history of Chinese. In diachronic as well as contemporary usages, the senses related to mental activity have a wider distribution and are more productive in combination with other morphemes to form compounds.

The second criterion for determining the Sanctioning Sense is predominance in the semantic network, which suggests that a plausible candidate for the Sanctioning Sense will probably be the most frequent type in the semantic network. As the result show, the muscular organ sense has a very limited distribution of tokens in the corpus.

The third criterion suggests that the Sanctioning Sense is likely to have high predictability of other related senses, the meaning component that is most predominant in the semantic network. As will be seen in the following discussion, the exploitation of attributes, functions and physiological activities associated with the physical heart is frequently employed in conceptualizing the senses of xin related to the mental activities.

The fourth criterion is a bit complicated with the analysis of xin since there are reasons for and against taking muscular organ sense of xin as the most closely related to the phenomenological experience of man. Though we may first encounter the shape and function of the muscular heart from the sight of an animal's heart, and further relates its resemblance to the human heart, our initial awareness to the existence of such an organ comes very likely from our experience of heartbeat accompanied by the feeling of anxiety, excitement, or abashment. Thus, our first experience of xin as an organ may not be associated with its function in the circulation system, but rather as a receiver or agent of emotion. Diachronically, there is also reason to belief that in the folk taxonomy of Chinese, xin is an organ that dominates both the physiological and psychological activities. The phenomenon will receive fuller discussion with the domain structure of xin is established based on diachronic data and compounds. In the contemporary usage, however, since the development of anatomy and scientific ontology has divided the physiological and psychological domains into two, it seems plausible to separate the “muscular organ” sense of xin with the senses associated with mental activities.

Since the muscular organ sense fits better to the four criteria mentioned and explained above, it is proposed here as a putative candidate for the sanctioning sense.


4. XIN: The Conceptual Scheme of Chinese Philosophical Thinking

To probe into the conceptual scheme of Chinese philosophical thinking related to xin, a semantic analysis of all the linguistic uses of the Chinese word will help to shed light on this question.  In this section, we will attempt to establish xin’s semantic network before exploring the more philosophical question raised.

4.1. Semantic Network of xin

Based on the data available and the Principled Polysemy model, two major senses of xin, namely body organ sense and mental sense are identified, along with their derivational senses. The body organ sense, more restricted in its distribution than the mental sense, derives further the senses of “middle” (from the spatial location of heart in human body) as in yuanxin ‘the center of a circle’, “heart shape” (from the shape of heart) as in xinxing’heart shape’, and “core” (from the salience of heart in maintaining human life) as in hexin ‘core’. The mental sense, comprised of aspects from the cognitive, as in xin-ling-shen-hui ‘to understand tacitly’, the emotional, as in xinqing ‘mood’, and the intentional, as in xinzhi ‘intention’, are highly productive, all of which are related to various kinds of mental activities. mental sense, being a superordinate term, also stands for the more specific, subordinate aspects of the mental activities, which makes it possible for different aspects of the mind to be profiled in a compound (e.g. tong-xin-xie-li ‘to work together with one heart’, combining the cognitive and the intentional; sixin ‘to give up one’s hope’, blending the emotional and the intentional). This leads us to claim, based on the Principled Polysemy framework, five distinct senses for xin. The Muscular Organ sense derives into the Mental Organ Sense, and the Mental Organ Sense further developed into three senses, State of Mind Sense, Intention Sense, and Focus of Attention Sense.

4.2. Conceptualization of xin

Our analysis leads us to believe that the highly unresolved lexical nature of xin reflects the Chinese preference of describing things from a broader perspective. The role of the heart (xin), known in traditional Chinese physiology as the ruler of the other organs, has exceptional importance. Its function in traditional Chinese medicine parallels its Western anatomic function of pumping blood throughout the body to maintain life, but in the Eastern tradition, it is also intimately involved with mental and emotional processes.

Considered as the residence of the mind and spirit, the heart is the organ most often involved in psychological imbalances. If properly nourished and balanced, the heart, where the shen ‘spirit’ and mind is housed, maintains our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance. Such a function encompasses the full range of human consciousness, including emotional health, mental function, and spirituality.

Xin,whose graph appeared in the bronze inscriptions as the physical organ heart, is also the site that was believed to do thinking in the ancient China. According to Mencius, “The organs of the ears and eyes do not think and they are beguiled by living things. When living things have contact with one another, they simply attract each other. As for the organ of the heart, it thinks…” (Mencius, SZ, 2753) Likewise, Confucius informs us that at age seventy he could follow his mind/heart (xin) without going astray. (The Analects, SZ, 2461) On the other hand, DaoDe-Jing states: “In dwelling it is the site that matters; in xin (thinking and feeling), it is the profundity that matters” (Gao 1996:255).

It is the heart, rather than the brain, that is responsible for the thinking. Further evidence can be found in the Book of Poetry, the earliest collection of Chinese folk and royal songs, where xin is the center of emotions and sentiments, expressing grief, sorrow, disappointment, or tranquility and calmness. It is also made clear that heart is the source of intellect and understanding. The very fact that heart is itself “the center of will, emotion, desire, and intellect (both “rational” and intuitive)” means that it will itself become “the center of much contention in all the discussion concerning the relationship among all these faculties.” (Schwartz 1985:185)

Xin, therefore, is the root of life, the seat of shen ‘spirit’, the master of blood, and the commander of the vessels. This elevated position is due to the omnipresence of shen ‘spirit’, while shen ‘spirit’ resides within qi ‘gas’, and qi ‘gas’ resides within jing ‘essence.’ It is said that only the heart's jing ‘essence’ is always abundant, enabling it to dispatch subordinate shen ‘spirit’ to the other four organs of zang ‘the internal organ.’ And it is that only the heart's qi ’gas’is always abundant, enabling it to draw the jing ‘essence’ of the body into the organs of six fu ‘the bowels.’ Such are the major functions of the heart.


5. The Conceptualization of Heart in English

A quick look at the heart-related metaphors in English can reveal much about whether the heart/mind composite xin as argued above can also be applied to languages other than Chinese.  Since heart-related expressions are prevalent in English, such a cross-linguistic comparison becomes relatively easy to make.

In English, one should have the heart to learn something important by heart. Or one can have a change of heart so as to feel young at heart. Linguistic expressions juxtaposing the mind and the heart are also easy to come up with – examples in this category abound in the English language, almost all of which appear as parallel constructions: one heart, one mind; pure heart, simple/enlightened/clear mind; open heart, clear mind

One can also create many metaphorical expressions out of “the book of heart.” As an example, one can "read" someone's mind by making a "mental note"; one can start a new life by "turning over a new leaf"; one’s new personal "character" can make a new mental "impressions" on one’s friends. These expressions are evocative metaphors for the human psyche and its workings, all showing how deeply books have shaped our sense of who we are.

Indeed, "the book of the heart" was a common and influential metaphor from antiquity until early modern times. Early modern science and technology further revolutionized the heart-book metaphor. After Gutenberg, the book of the heart was often pictured as a printed volume. And as physicians reduced the heart to a pump, forcing philosophers to relocate the soul or self to the head, the book of the heart was gradually replaced by "the book of the brain."

As language use is a true reflection of culture, book metaphors are rapidly losing out to newer tropes based on modern media and machines. Already more than a century ago, Kodak gave us "mental pictures" and "photographic memory," while Hollywood taught us to experience "flashbacks" and to offer our "take" on things. Today, using the latest high-tech metaphor for the human psyche, the computer, we talk about "mental software," "hard-wired" personal traits, and what is on our "screens."

When it comes to the modern world of today, cyberpsychology has, with computers in millions of offices and homes, entered everyday life as well. Its popularity tells us a lot about who we think we are as we enter the twenty-first century. We still pay homage to the old metaphor, as in the slogan of a recent literacy campaign, Find Yourself in a Book.


6. Discussion and Conclusion

The present study provides a linguistic analysis of the Chinese xin-related expressions from synchronic and diachronic perspectives. It argues that the compounding of xin in Chinese reflects its ontology as being mainly a mental organ, controlling mental activities in general. It is further suggested that the tendency to represent specific mental activities by a superordinate term modulates the Chinese modes of thinking, rendering it as more inclined to see things in the big picture, and valuing less the finer distinctions in a general concept.

In this paper I establish the senses of xin in Contemporary Chinese. I propose that it incorporates five senses: Muscular Organ Sense, Mental Organ Sense, State of Mind Sense, Focus Sense, and Intention Sense.



Our analysis reveals the increasing abstractedness of the concept xin from the sanctioning sense to the derived senses. Among the five senses, only the Intention Sense cannot take ke as a classifier to specify the shape of xin when it is used to subsume the gestalt of muscular heart. In addition to the classifiers, its collocation with different types of verbs can also be used, in a separate study, to testify our claim on the degree of abstraction.

Our discussion of Chinese xin proves that meaning is rooted in human cognitive experience, that is, the experience of the physical actions is linked to mental world, and the pragmatic restructuring of meaning is highly structured with the development from concrete domains to abstract domains. On the other hand, although xin is an organ of the human body, it often refers to the whole person, such as xingan 心肝 “heart and liver; beloved one”. This part for whole mechanism is operative in the historical development of some complex conceptual structures, including also those involved in Chinese xin.

Metaphors and metonymies, both motivated by our bodily experience and physiology, are believed to reflect and dominate our understanding of the world around us (Lakoff 1993). The analysis of the folk models of metaphor and metonymy revealed in xin-related expressions, in line with the embodiment hypothesis, supports that our conceptual and linguistic systems are grounded in human physical, cognitive, and social embodiment (Lakoff and Johnson 1999).

Meanwhile, we can conclude that xin-expressions have changed their pragmatic discourses in the history. In order to accommodate different social values, some innovations came into being while some are fading out of the vogue. Some shift their domains, e.g. yexin ‘ambition.’ Yexin ‘ambition’ has existed for thousands of years, meaning “a beast’s heart” before Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1297), but it means “ambition” now and is included in the domain of “people and event”. Likewise, the xin-expressions in the pragmatic discourse “community”, such as gongde-xin ‘social conscience’ and xiuchi-xin ‘shame’, reflect the values of a group of people. These expressions came into being for one simple reason: People nowadays live in a global village, and are connected in a way that is hard to be imagined even just some 20 years ago.

The xin-expressions in the “individual” pragmatic discourse, like xinxin ‘confidence’ and xinqing ‘mood’, enjoys high frequency in the Modern Chinese corpus, though only a scant portion is found in the Ancient Chinese corpus. The growth of “individual” terms indicates that the egoism or individualism is permeating into the Chinese society where holism used to play a significant role. It is an effect of Western cultures and/or is a natural development of human society. The change of the social values prepares for joining the tide of globalization.

Chinese xin supports the statement: “Fact actually confirmed by linguistic evolution.” Some semanticists may have been eager to separate linguistic meaning from general human cognition and experience, and to keep each linguistic “level” (syntax vs. semantics vs. pragmatics) distinct from one another. We hope to have shown, by analyzing Chinese xin “heart-mind” and its related expressions, that the interaction of linguistic levels, viz., syntactic, semantics and pragmatics, is inescapable.



3.2. Transcontinental Transfer of Literature and Arts to Transform Traditional Societies

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