China: Healing the Metaphorical Heart - Science Feature

HONG KONG¡XDominic Lee declines an offer of chili sauce as he tucks into wonton soup and stir-fried greens. Over lunch at a bustling indoor market near his office at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Lee, a psychiatrist and researcher, explains that chilies tend to make him agitated because they are metaphysically hot. Although trained in the Western medical tradition, Lee incorporates the notion of balance between opposing forces¡Xcold and hot, yin and yang¡Xa tenet of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), into his personal life and professional practice. In TCM, mental distress falls into a category of diagnoses that involve weakness of the heart, or bad interactions between the heart and other organs, Lee explains: ¡§The heart is part of the metaphorical mind.¡¨ The idea is rooted in thousands of years of Chinese culture, and even now it shapes how Chinese talk about their mental life. ¡§There are more than 100 Chinese characters for emotion that contain the heart symbol in combination with others,¡¨ Lee says.