Misinterpretation due to chinese translation failures

Gertrude Kubina
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Acupuncture, Huglgasse 1-3, A-1150, Vienna, Austria

Purpose of the study: To call attention to the importance of the genuine meaning of TCM – and Acupuncture – terms

Methods used: Chinese linguistic and character analysis

Results: Because of the use of different shorthand expressions in different languages the original sense of TCM-terms is often hidden or lost. E.g.:

“Xue” is translated “acupuncture point”, but does not mean “point”. Xue means “cave, hole, lair” and “acupuncture point”. The pictogram shows what an acupuncture point is like: a door, covered by a lid – a closed entrance, which can be opened by needling.

The term “meridian” creates the imagination of a fictive two-dimension line system, but means a three-dimensional “channel-network = jing luo”.

“Antike Punkte” is the German expression for the “wu shu xue shu – transportation points” – referring to the transportation of vital energy qi.

Among the shu – transportation – points are the “he-sea-points he xue”. He does not mean “sea”, but “to close, unite”.

In German the mother – and child – points are named “Tonisierungs – und Sedativpunkte”, neglecting their interrelation according to the five elements – in contrast to the English expression.

The translation “extra meridians” implies, that the respective channels are out , of order, in Chinese the expression “qi jing ba mni” is related to the most original channel – like structures with extraordinary potency.

What we call “Kardinalpunkte” in German and “confluential points” in English means in Chinese very exact “ba mai jiao hui xue” – crossing points of the eight channels.

Conclusion: Although in praxis we can not avoid to use shorthand expressions in acupuncture terminology, we should always be aware ourselves and make clear to our students from the beginning, what is the real meaning behind it. Literal translation from original Chinese terms gives much more sense than western efforts to create new terms or fancy name.