kōng (空)

literally means “empty, hollow, or (the empty space of) the sky;” according to Shuōwén, the imagery of kōng (空) refers to an aperture; sometimes in Nèijīng, this character is used as an alternate name for a point (xué (穴)), which is also the top portion of kōng (空); one key challenge in reading each instance of this character’s use rests in deciding what (if anything) defines the space of its emptiness: is it an aperture through something dense or ‘opaque,’ or does it refer to a wide open empty space, as in the sky?

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