Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pulse Education and Translation Problems

ne of the more frustrating problems Chinese medicine folks have in the English speaking world is getting past translations of pulse terms to arrive at less ambiguous descriptions of these different pulses.

Pulse translations problems:
  • Names of pulses are inconsistent between books.
  • Translation needs vary.
  • Poetic Chinese explanations provide little help.
Examples of inconsistent pulse names:

Pinyin Maciocia CAM Wiseman Eastland
se.mai Pulse Education and Translation ProblemsSechoppyhesitantroughchoppy
ruo.mai Pulse Education and Translation ProblemsRuoweakweakweakfrail
ru.mai Pulse Education and Translation ProblemsRuweak-floatingsoftsoggysoggy
Translations needs vary:
  • Denotative or literal translations:
    ru = soggy (also translates to “immerse” or “moisten”)
  • Connotative or implied translations:
    ru = soft. What the early diagnosticians may have been trying to describe is a feeling that the pulse is soft, not hard.
  • Functional translations:
    ru = weak-floating. I believe that these are the most useful translations for the needs of English speaking practitioners. It describes the simple parameters that make up a complex pulse. This pulse is weak and floating. Now weak and floating I can figure out. Soggy? I have no idea how that is going to feel.
Classical Chinese explanations:
Poetic pulse descriptions don’t help too much, although they’re fun. Let’s see if you can guess which pulses are being described in the samples below. Mouseover the word “answer” for the answer, you don’t have to click, just move your little pointer over the word “answer” and it should magically appear.

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