Chinese Language

Proverbs | 12

Xin you ling xi yi dian tong : Hearts meet on the dot in a unicorn's horn.

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Zhong wen

Hearts meet on the dot in a unicorn's horn
心有灵犀一点通

Translated word for word this quotation should read: 'Hearts have (endowed with) ling xi (a mythical unicorn) one point meet.'

The full sentence consists of the following two lines:

'My body, unlike that of the bright phoenix, has no wings,
My heart meets yours in the same vein of a unicorn's horn.'

When Li Shangying, the Tang poet, first wrote this cryptic line in his poem called Poem Without Title,' he was describing the way he felt after having parted with his lover the previous night. The allusion to the unicorn's horn is based on the ancient Chinese folklore that the unicorn is a mythical beast whose horn possesses extraordinary sensibility - what might be called 'extra-sensory perception' today - as it is the belief that there is a white vein running like a thread through the unicom's horn linking its extremities (nerve-ends) to its brain (the central nervous system).

When two lovers whose passion for each other has engendered a state of mind which you call 'empathy', we say 'Xin you ling xi yl than tong'. Shakespeare, coincidentally, also encapsulated this beautifully in his poem The Phoenix and The Turtle.

In a broader sense, this Chinese quotation can equally apply to two people or two groups of people between whom a feeling of empathy exists. For instance:

'Given the undoubted empathy that exists, I can see no reason why the Chinese people residing on the two opposing sides of the Taiwan Strait cannot be re-united, if they so wish. Xin you ling xi yi than tong, as the saying goes.'

The following two stanzas come from Shakespeare's The Phoenix and The Turtle:

So they lov'd as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.
Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
'Twixt this turtle and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2001 reprinted from SACU's China Now 124, Page 41, March 1988

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