The Meaning of Anger

I started a Chinese etymology blog about 2 years ago. Today, I finally imported the posts to this website. So check it out if you’re interested. You’ll find it in the category section.

Here’s another word I want to talk about. It’s the word anger: 怒 (nù). This word can be broken down without looking at the ancient scripts.

It’s broken by top and bottom, and then from the top part, left and right.
怒, nù
—奴, nú
—–女, nǘ
—–又, yòu
—心, xīn

奴 (nú), the top part means slave. It’s interesting to see the character choices for slave. It’s broken up into left and right components. 女 (nǘ), means woman. 又 (yòu), means hand. A hand holding a woman, that was the idea of a slave in ancient China.

怒 (nù), has the character for heart, 心 (xīn) in the bottom. 心 (xīn), literally means heart, but it is often times used to mean emotions. 怒 (nù) is ultimately a pictogram describing, “the feelings of a slave.”

Anger is a very powerful emotion. It’s eruptive, destructive and ugly. But in Chinese society, outward expression of emotion is looked down upon. Any kind of outward expression is a sign of weakness or lack of control. So one could ask, why is the word for anger associated with the “feelings of a slave?” First off, I’m sure that slaves felt anger often. But it’s also interesting to note that the heart is on the bottom, not on the left or in another position. It can be further interpreted as slavery weighing down on the heart, crushing it, leaving nothing but anger.

Second, slaves were in a different social strata. This might have allowed them to express their emotions more freely, because they were not governed by the “proper” behavioral standards.

Also, there is the question of “why women?” I suppose in ancient societies, after a war, the men were killed and the women were taken in. They became the first slaves.

The ancient chinese associated anger with slaves. What do you associate with anger? If you were to write a symbol for anger, what would you draw?

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