The rhino's horn: When hearts are linked, minds think alike
Li Shangyin (AD 813-858) was a renowned poet but only an undistinguished politician in the late Tang Dynasty.
His career in politics suffered ups and downs, denying him high office, but his poems won him accolades for their rich imagery though many were untitled.
Some of his poems are still quite popular today, translated into various languages, including English.
One line from an untitled poem has even become a common idiom frequently quoted by Chinese speakers.
After a nighttime tryst with his lover, which Li thought might be their last together, he wrote his feelings down in a poem that contains two lines roughly translated as:
Without the wings of a colorful phoenix, we cannot fly away side by side,
But our hearts are closely connected like a rhino’s sensitive horn.
According to ancient Chinese legends, a rhino’s horn, called lingxi in Chinese, has white veins on its surface, which link directly with the animal’s mind and are very sensitive. The horn is also reputed to have supernatural benefits, like driving away evil spirits and detoxifying the body.
Therefore, the second line here, xinyou lingxi yidiantong, indicates the empathy of transcendental love.
xīn yǒu líng xī yī diǎn tōng
Nowadays, used as a common idiom, it means “where hearts beat together, the minds of two people think alike.”
For example, if you are in a conversation with someone and that person completes your sentence before you do, then you might say: “Ah, xinyou lingxi yidiantong!”
This Chinese idiom is like English phrases such as “to be on the same wavelength” or “great minds think alike.”