Universal Human Concepts

To the best of my ability to discern and express them, below is a list of fundamental, universal human concepts that, if people can become aware of them, can help them live humane, skillful lives, regardless of language. If they can use these concepts in words, they may be able to connect more skillfully and meaningfully with each other.

Kindness for all

Simple language summary

If people are kind to themselves and others, and aware of themselves and others, they can gently become aware of many components of their inner lives and their interactions with others. This awareness offers the ability to make conscious decisions about potentially helpful ways to speak, act, relate, and work, increasing the likelihood of optimal results for self and others.

List of concepts

These concepts, and related ones, are listed below and defined in Chinese and English. To assist early learners of Mandarin Chinese, after the Chinese character is listed the pinyin, then a literal, one-word translation into English of each character, then an English translation in bold. Explanatory words are included but are not in bold.

善良 shànliáng | good very good | kindness
自我善良 zìwǒ shànliáng | self I good very good | self-kindness
对别的人善良 duì bié de rén shànliáng | towards other people good very good | kindness towards others
意识 yìshí | meaning knowledge | awareness, consciousness
自我意识 zìwǒ yìshí | self I meaning knowledge | self-awareness
对别的人意识 duì bié de rén yīshí | towards other people meaning knowledge | awareness of others
感觉 gǎnjué | feel become aware of | feelings
想法 xiǎngfǎ } think method } thoughts
头脑 tóunǎo | head brain | mind; not the same as thoughts
大脑 dànǎo | big brain | brain; not the same as thoughts
事实 shìshí | affair/matter reality | facts
对 / 对抗 duì / duìkàng | towards | versus/vs.
信念 xìnniàn | believe think | beliefs; not the same as facts
需要 xūyào | need want } needs
想要 xiǎng yào | think want | wants
偏好 piānhào | bias want } preferences
价值观 jiàzhíguān | price value sight | values
优先级 yōuxiān jí | excellent first level | priorities
同理心 tóng lǐ xīn | alike reason heart } empathy
同情 tóngqíng | alike feeling | sympathy; not the same as empathy
理解 lǐjiě | reason separate | understanding
做选择 zuò xuǎnzé | make choice pick with hand | to make
a choice
决定 juédìng | decidedly set | to decide
方法 fāngfǎ | square/direction, law/method/way | method, way
优化 yōuhuà | optimize
做到最好 zuò dào zuì hǎo | optimization, make best
(Instead of trying to work harder, seeking ways to work better/more efficiently.)
协同作用 xiétóng zuòyòng | association alike/together do use | synergy = greater than the sum of the parts
判断 pànduàn | to sentence to cut off | judgment | Judgment is a soul-killer and a destroyer of possibility.
内在智慧 nèizài zhìhuì | internal at intelligence wisdom | inner wisdom; results from dialectic/synergy of awareness of feelings and thoughts
战略 zhànlüè | fight summary | strategy
技能 jìnéng | skill can | skills
连结 liánjié | link knot | a sense of feeling connected as humans in meaningful ways
一种存在方式 yī zhǒng cúnzài fāngshì | one type deposit at direction system | a way of being

An earlier version of this list as a .pdf is here.

Image: iStock

The list is informed by my knowledge, training and experience as a scholar, educator, counselor, learner of Mandarin Chinese, and person. I created this content in consultation with multiple individuals proficient in Mandarin Chinese. All errors are mine.

Anne Giles, M.A., M.S., L.P.C., is a student of Mandarin Chinese and also a mental health counselor, able to provide counseling services only to residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S.A. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.