Recently for my Mandarin homework I came across an idiom that baffled me on its origin. The idiom is:
It means, according to MDBG.net: hearts linked as one, just as the proverbial rhinoceros communicates emotion telepathically through his single horn.
Figuratively, it means to have a close rapport or two minds who think alike. Two hearts beating as one.
However, going back over the idiomatic expression it just baffled me. Almost as if someone was making a joke (开玩笑). Telepathic rhinoceros horn communication, what the?
So I did some investigation. According to Baidu’s Zhidao section on this idiom it gives some explanation: A Tang Dynasty poet, 李商隐, wrote a poem for his lover and his feelings of not being able to see each other. The line in the poem goes:
Which basically means (excuse my bad translation): We are like a phoenix’s body without it’s two bright wings, but our are hearts linked as one, just as the proverbial rhinoceros communicates emotion telepathically through his single horn.
Ok, so I get the idea sort of. The rhino is a symbol of their enduring connection. A connection beyond earthly bounds. However, it still doesn’t really answer why the rhino horn has telepathic abilities.
Reading further in the Zhidao article it made it a bit more clear. Apparently, this is due to the rhino’s horn pointing at the heavens and a white line/thread running up the rhino’s horn linking the tail with it. A sort of earthly connection to heaven. The horn facilitates it.
Fascinating to the say the least and really beautiful as well. I think I do get the gist of it now. This is what I like about Chinese. All this cultural knowledge of many many years encoded into its language. Amazing! I suggest you guys read the rest of the poem below.