biǎo (表)

literally means “to manifest or display;” according to Shuōwén, the imagery of biǎo (表) comes originally from yī (衣) ‘clothing’ and máo (毛) ‘hair’, which is now written 龶 (four strokes) over 衣; biǎo (表) refers to the outside of a garment — the hairy side; thus, in general, biǎo (表) refers to the exterior, the side that is seen; it connotes the conspicuous and what is manifest; biǎo is usually translated in Chinese medicine contexts simply as “exterior,” and in contemporary practice is frequently conflated with 外 (wài), meaning external or outside. In modern Chinese, biǎo (表) is also used to refer to an index, chart, or watch, and as a suffix meaning for qualities that can be measured (meters, etc.) and the gauges used to measure them, because they show or are manifest. So, modern western science is a systematic investigation of biǎo (表), which is generally juxtaposed in Chinese medicine with lǐ (裏), which refers to what is obscured in the interior.

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