I may not have a cell phone, and you may not have a boat, but we all have a heart that pumps the “qi” through our bodies to keep us alive. The Chinese word for this vital organ is 心 (xīn).
心中 (xīnzhōng) means in one’s mind or heart. Who wouldn’t be flattered to hear the following sweet nothing?
Wǒ de xīnzhōng zhǐyǒu nǐ.
In my heart there is only you.
On the other hand, 中心 (zhōngxīn) means the center or the core. It also refers to a center (organization), such as a children’s center, 幼兒中心 (yòu’ér zhōngxīn).
The heart is where we perceive our emotions to reside. Therefore you can expect to see many Chinese words that contain the radical for “heart”. In fact, there are two Chinese radicals for “heart”.
I. The normal heart radical
When used as a radical, 心 (xīn heart) is squashed down somewhat to fit in, as shown in the following examples.
Tā shì gè zhōngxīn de péngyǒu.
He is a loyal friend.
Notice how 忠心 and 中心 are pronounced exactly the same? The Chinese language is replete with homophones.
忍 (rěn) means to endure, to tolerate or to put up with. 忍心 (rěn xīn) means to be hard-hearted enough to do something unkind.
Tā rěnbuzhù dàjiào yī shēng.
Unable to bear it any longer, he let out a cry.
亡 (wáng) means to die, to lose or to flee. 忘 (wàng) means to forget (to lose one’s memory of something).
Wǒ wàng le.
You know that 爱 (ài) means love. Compare it to the Traditional character, 愛, and you will see that the “heart” radical in the Simplified character has been reduced to one mere horizontal stroke. What is love if you don’t put your heart into it? The up side of this change is that the lower half of the Simplified character sports the character for friends, 友 (yǒu).
爱 (ài) also means to tend to do something often. For example:
Tā ài bàoyuàn.
He likes to complain.
想念 (xiǎngniàn), like 思念 (sīniàn),means to long for or to miss someone or some place.
悲哀 (bēi’āi) is sadness or sorrow. 愤怒 (fènnù) means anger or indignation. These words can also be used as adjectives.
恐怖 (kǒngbù) means terror or scary.
Tā bù xǐhuān kǒngbù piàn.
She dislikes horror movies.
恩 (ēn benefaction or gratitude) is the opposite of 怨 (yuàn resentment or grievance). 恩怨 (ēnyuàn) refers to a history of feelings of gratitude or resentment between two parties (old scores). Please make sure not to confuse the character 恩 (ēn) with 思 (sīn).
休息 (xiūxī) means to take a rest. Therefore, when you see a sign that says: 休息室 (xiūxīshì), you’ll know it’s a lounge.
II. The vertical heart radical
When the heart is placed on the side of a character, it takes on a skeletal vertical format. Following are a few common examples:
快 (kuài) means fast, quick or soon. It also connotes forthrightness, happiness, or gratification.
忙 means to be busy, while 急忙 (jímáng) means hastily, or to be in a hurry.
忧愁 (yōuchóu) means to be sad or worried. It can also be used as a noun.
As an adjective, 怪 (guài) means strange or odd. As a noun, it refers to a monster or evil being. As a verb, it means to put the blame on someone.
Wǒ bù guài tā.
I don’t blame her.
When something frightens you, your heart (or, rather, your face) may turn pale, hence the word 怕 (pà), which means to fear, to dread, or to be worried about something. 胆怯 (dǎnqiè) is the adjective that means to be timid or cowardly.
恨 (hèn) is to hate or to have regret.
情 (qíng) can mean feelings, affection, emotions, passion or a condition or situation. 爱情 (àiqíng)is the feeling between lovers. 一段 (yī duàn)is a segment or a section. It is also used as a unit for a period of time. 一段情 (yī duàn qíng) means an affair. 深情 (shēnqíng) means deep affection. The following two sentences both mean: “How much do you love me?”
Nǐ ài wǒ yǒu duō shēn?
Nǐ ài wǒ yǒu jǐ fēn?
As a verb, 分 (fēn) means to separate, to divide, to distribute or to differentiate. As a noun it means a fraction or a branching off of an entity. It is also a unit of currency as well as a measure for length, area and weight. 十分 (shífēn) is ten out of ten, i.e. totally.
Tā shífēn gāoxìng.
He is utterly happy.