CHINA HERITAGE GLOSSARY
Yun | China Heritage Quarterly
Geremie R. Barmé
Yun 蕴 is one of those multifaceted terms that abound in Chinese. These are words with ancient origins far pre-dating the Christian era, and which through different uses and changing circumstances have, over the centuries, gathered layers of meaning, sediments of significance. Yun can signify to gather, contain, collect, hoard and store. In early translations of Buddhist texts it was used to translate the Sanskrit term skanda, the wuyun being the 'five aggregates' or constituent elements of existence. Its other extended meanings cover such concepts such as dissatisfaction and ire.
Of these, perhaps, the most relevant is a usage from the Song Dynasty, around the tenth century, in the expression diyun 底蕴: concealed possibility or inner sentiment; as it is put in modern Chinese: 蕴藏的才识或修养. It also means 内情或蕴藏的内容. Diyun is still used—often as a description of an aesthetic quality in an artistic work–with the sense of resonance or layered depth. To be without diyun is to be shallow, derivative and evanescent.
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This material is from Barmé, '蘊: What Is and Isn't Possible?', Shanghai, 20 April 2008, online, at: http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/features.php?searchterm=019_whatspossible.inc&issue=019