Chinese Word of the Day – 傷寒

The character 傷 (pinyin: shang) means hurt or injury. The character 寒 (pinyin: han) means cold or winter. What would the combination 傷寒 mean?

Answer: Typhoid fever!



Medieval Chinese: siang-han

Mandarin: shang-han

Cantonese: soeng-hon

Hokkien: siong-han or siong-han



The term 傷寒 has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. More specifically, the word originated towards the end of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) and was coined by the eminent physician and herbalist Zhang Zhongjing 張仲景 (c. 150 – 219 CE). Although the word specifically refers to typhoid fever today, back in Zhang’s time, 傷寒 originally meant any type of chills, aches, or fever caused by the seasonal change. Zhang recorded his theories on many symptoms with corresponding treatment methods in his magnum opus 傷寒雜病論 (pinyin: shang-han-za-bing-lun). This title literally translates to Treatise on Cold Injury. Much of the theory is based on yin-yang theory that is reminiscent of modern theory of homeostasis.