to go through or penetrate; to be connected with or in communication with (by virtue of having penetrated some challenge to smooth flow and communication); thus, tōng (通) can also mean to circulate, even to the point of becoming homogeneous; to understand fully (similar to English usage of “penetrate”); frequently, a mixture of these renditions is closer to the meaning of tōng (通), than any single one.
Tōng (通) is a good example of the visual nature of the Chinese written language, which is symbolic, and most characters consist of 2-4 components, only one of which is typically phonetic; tōng (通) is related, by having the same ‘phonetic’ portion (甬), to the character tòng (痛), meaning “pain.” This latter tòng (痛) includes the disease radical (nì (疒)) in addition to the ‘phonetic’ (甬), which it shares with tōng (通).
The image of pain (tòng (痛)) reflects a disease (nì (疒)) of one’s meridian flux (jīngmài (經脈)) where the blood-qì (xuèqì (血氣)) does not penetrate or communicate freely tōng (通). Pain is the alarm, communicated from the embodied spirit to the individual’s conscious awareness that smooth flow has been compromised. This is every bit as true of emotional pain, as it is for physical pain, which arises from a blockage (bì (痹)) in the flow of qì (氣).« Back to Glossary Index