Hemorrhoids are blood vessels that bulge out of the anus caused partly by stagnant blood flow. This post discusses the meaning of the Chinese character for “hemorrhoid” and show its connection to, of all things, Buddhism. “In the end”, I will also offer you a cure!
On the left is a picture of the anus, where the blood vessels bulge through the rectal wall. The Japanese man on the right, after getting off the toilet sees blood in the toilet from his hemorrhoids, and shouts, “hemorrhoids” (痔).
The Chinese character to the right is “hemorrhoid”.
As in my “hara” post, I will now describe the origin of this character and share some linguistic, religious and medical connections in the process!
|Most Chinese characters are combination (a ligature) of other characters. “Hemmorroid” is composed of three smaller characters.The first section is “dirt” or “ground”. Imagine a pile of dirt. Oh, wait, you don’t have to imagine it, I drew it for you on the right.|
|Now, with a little imagination, you can see a symbolic brush strokes the Chinese used to abstractly represent that “ground” picture.|
|And here is the block form of the ground character .|
|Here I show how “ground/dirt” is part of the character for “hemorrhoid”.|
|The second component of the hemorrhoid character is located below the “ground” character. This component means “measure”:
There are several theories as to the origin of this character.
|The “measure” character also means “small” or “inch”. It does not actually mean “inch”, but instead a measurement in ancient China which is close to an inch in length. Anyway, this pictorial predecessor of the character shows a thumb next to a hand. The thumb is both the origin of this measure as it is for the measure of an “cun”/inch.
In classical oriental medicine, the way of finding acupuncture points on the body is to find a landmark (like a bony protuberance) and then use your thumb to layout the prescribed number of cuns to the described point. The character later became generalized to mean “measure”.
|Combining “ground” + “measure” we get this character. Ask yourself, “What sort of ground is carefully measured?”Yes, you are right, a holy place — a temple. The Jewish scriptures, for instance, tells of very careful measurements for their holy temple. Likewise in Japan and China, their holy grounds are carefully measured by priests to create a perfect abode for their sacred practices.Thus combining the character for “ground” and “measure” gives us the Chinese character for “temple“.
You will note that both “temple” and “hemorrhoid” are pronounced the same: “ji” in Japanese.
|Chinese characters, as you have seen in my discussion of “Hara”, are divided into meaningful sections which are called “radicals“. The character for hemorrhoid has a surrounding radical which is called the “illness” or “ailment” radical. Characters using this radical usually have something to do with sickness or illness.|
|So, lets put “temple” and “illness” together to arrive at the grand finale: Hemorrhoids!
Some would say that hemorrhoids had the symbol of “temple” attached to the radical for “ailment” simply to provide the sound. But the explanation I heard from Japanese is that frequent meditation with crossed-legs caused stagnant blood and thus hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are a common ailment in the Buddhist temples.
|But you meditators need not despair. There are traditional ways to both prevent and treat hemorrhoids. The prevention measure takes us back to my posting on “hara” where I spoke of the 腹式呼吸 (Hara Shiki Kokyū) which is Japanese for “diaphramatic breathing”. Diaphramatic breathing increases venous flow and can help avoid hemorrhoids.Of course regular fiber and not straining during bowel movements are also helpful in avoiding hemorrhoids. But if you are going to sit on your butt for long periods of time — in meditation, in an office cubical or in a car or truck — may I suggest also doing diaphramatic breathing.|
|But once you get hemorrhoids, let me teach you a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique for treating them. Fortunately, I have no idea if this actually works but I have seen it used in many clinics. First you must find “The Hundred Meetings” (百合) point on top of your head ! That is the name of the acupuncture point on the crown of the head. Fold both ears forward then draw a line from the tip of the folded ears across the top of the head. Where that line crosses the center of the head, is called “The Hundred Meetings”. Since hemorrhoids are the result of stagnant blood, the treatment claims to remove the “heat” caused by the stagnant blood. This is done by burning moxa at a point furthest from the hemorrhoids — at “The Hundred Meetings”.|
|“Moxa” is a fine, oily fiber which comes from a plant called mugwort and burns at a low temperature rather slowly. In fact the character for Moxa is 灸 which is composed of a top part meaning “eternity” and a bottom part meaning “fire” — the long lasting heat. Moxa is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine throughout the Orient. The technique, in English, is called Moxibustion. Here is an inviting picture from an advertisement from a medicine site showing patients how comfortable moxa can be — and, indeed, contrary to your possible imagination, it can be a pleasant experience.|
|Finally, it is not only Buddhists who will be prone to hemorrhoids but also you bloggers are highly prone because of long sitting habits. So do some hara-breathing, burn mugwort on your head or better yet, get off your butt and start exercising and eat better! 🙂|
See other “Word!” posts, here.