shén 神 – Chinese philosophy and culture

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shén 神

Shen (Spirit / Spiritual)


The term has four meanings. First, it indicates a deity in a personified sense, possessing superhuman capabilities. Natural things, such as heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, sun and moon, and stars, have their deity. A human soul may also become a deity after death. Second, it indicates the human spirit and mind. Daoism considers “spirit” to be the dominating factor in human life. Therefore, maintaining and refining the spirit is most important to prolong life. Third, it indicates the subtle and unfathomable changing of all things as well as heaven and earth occurring under the interaction of yin and yang. In this sense the term is often used together with hua (化 change), the combination being called “divine change.” Fourth, it indicates a marvelous and unfathomable realm in life attained by a person.

引例 Citations:



The nation will prosper when people’s opinions are heard and it will perish when only the will of the spirit is followed. (Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)



In qi (vital force) there are yin and yang whose gradual operation means change. The unpredictable interaction and unity of yin and yang is what is called spirit. (Zhang Zai: Enlightenment Through Confucian Teachings)



Being sage beyond understanding, that is called divine. (Mencius)

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