遐想 (xiáxiǎng): thoughts aflight

PutongWord of the Day

PutongWords Etc. is the next incarnation of #PutongWords, a daily Twitter column I wrote from late 2018 through 2019. Each day I chose a different common Mandarin Chinese word to pick apart and muse about within the constraints of 280 characters, uncovering the likes of wit, violence, tenderness, and wonder embedded within.

This newsletter expands beyond the short format so I can write about Chinese words and culture without worrying about fitting a single thought into less than one Tweet. There will be 3-5 PutongWord of the Day posts per week under a specific theme, and 1 entry per week discussing said theme. In between, I will dispatch pun-filled doodles and the occasional miscellaneous post on things such as Chinese internet slang, newly invented characters, naming conventions etc.

遐想 (xiáxiǎng) refers to unrestrained reverie, letting your mind wander. 遐 (xiá) refers to distance, being far from a point of origin. This word is about your thoughts go on a long journey, far from you, far from where you are, far from reality.

Because this refers to thoughts, rather than physical travel, there’s a great lightness about it, to me it’s about allowing your weightless thoughts go upwards and onwards, rising above the clouds. Though our bodies are bound by laws of physics, our imagination can go as far and as high as the mind can think it.

This is a positive, joyful word, often used when someone is excited about the future or inspired by many possibilities. Though it’s about imagination, it is tied with hope, the belief (however humble it may be) that your most wonderful dream can come true.

— f

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