Of One Heart

The Chinese phrase tongxin (同心) literally means “same heart,” with the implication of “to be of one heart” or, in a popular modern variation, a soulmate. This seal comes from the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and shows the two central characters arranged from top to bottom and flanked by two animals. They may be the dragon and phoenix which symbolize the emperor and empress and the balance of yin and yang. In the almost two thousand years since they were made the characters have worn so much that they are almost unreadable. This seal was cast in bronze and might have been given as a wedding gift.

Someone suggested this phrase should perhaps not be used as it seems the mainland Chinese communists adopted it in a political context. I don’t know if this is true or not, but points up that caution should be taken when re-using phrases from ancient seals as language has a tendency to drift in meaning over time (and across cultures as, for instance, when exported to Japan).

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