倾心 (qīngxīn): tilted heart

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.

倾心 (qīngxīn) refers to a deep devotion, often but not always referring to romantic love. The bend of the heart is like how sunflowers lean towards the sun, a sort of helpless state.

倾 (qīng) appears in many words that have to do with leaning (倾斜 (qīngxié) “slanted”) and upending (倾盆大雨 (qīngpéndàyǔ) “pouring rain”). It’s very dynamic, the opposite of stillness and balance, its presence adds intensity and movement. When things are tilted, things are happening.

I love the drama of this word. I love the way the heart vividly personifies love as physical imbalance, a crooked tilt, a hard strain towards that which it loves. What a powerful way to describe the excess that comes with this intense emotion. It’s like when we talk about someone “throwing themselves into” an endeavor, there’s no doing that in a sensible manner. 

Does this also mean devotion is a state that cannot be sustained? Perhaps. Everything runs out of steam eventually, and entropy awaits.

— f