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Ishin-denshin (以心伝心) is an idiom[1] commonly used in East Asian cultures such as Japan, Korea, China, which denotes a form of interpersonal communication through unspoken mutual understanding. This four-character compound's (or yojijukugo) kanji (Chinese characters) literally translates as "like minds, (are) communicating minds". Sometimes translated into English as "telepathy" or "sympathy", ishin-denshin (i-shim-chon-shim, 이심전심 in Korean) is also commonly rendered as "heart-to-heart communication" or "tacit understanding".[2]

Silent understanding is recognized as a universal human phenomenon; however, some Japanese believe it to be a unique characteristic of Japanese culture.[3] Whereas the Japanese concept of haragei denotes a deliberate form of nonverbal communication, ishin-denshin refers to a passive form of shared understanding. Ishin-denshin is traditionally perceived by the Japanese as sincere, silent communication via the heart or belly (i.e. symbolically from the inside, uchi), as distinct from overt communication via the face and mouth (the outside, soto), which is seen as being more susceptible to insincerities.[3] The introduction of this concept to Japan (via China) is related to the traditions of Zen Buddhism, where the term ishin-denshin refers to direct mind transmission.[3][4] Zen Buddhism tradition, in turn, draws the concept of ishin-denshin from the first Dharma transmission between Gautama Buddha and Mahākāśyapa in the Flower Sermon.[5][6]

Ishin-denshin, or non-verbal communication, continues to influence aspects of contemporary Japanese culture and ethics,[7] ranging from business practices[8] to end-of-life care.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maynard, Michael L; Maynard, Senko K; Taki (1993). 101 Japanese Idioms: Understanding Japanese Language and Culture Through Popular Phrases. McGraw Hill Professional. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8442-8496-5.
  2. ^ Cheung, King-Kok (1993). Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa. Cornell University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-8014-8147-5. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Davies, Roger J.; Ikeno, Osamu (March 15, 2002). The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 52–54, 105. ISBN 978-0-8048-3295-3.
  4. ^ Baroni, Helen Josephine (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-8239-2240-6.
  5. ^ Shore, Jeff (1998). "The Source of Zen: Who Transmits What?" (PDF).
  6. ^ Durix, Claude (1991). Cent Clés pour Comprendre le Zen. Le Courrier du Livre. p. 43. ISBN 978-2-7029-0261-5.
  7. ^ Murata, K (2010). "Knowledge Creation and Sharing in Japanese Organisations: A Socio-Cultural Perspective on ba". In Morais da Costa; Jorge Goncalo (eds.). Ethical Issues and Social Dilemmas in Knowledge Management: Organizational Innovation: Organizational Innovation. IGI Global. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-61520-874-6 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Dougherty, Andrew J. (1991). Japan: 2000. Rochester Institute of Technology. p. 17.
  9. ^ Taylor Slingsby, Brian (2005). "The nature of relative subjectivity: a reflexive mode of thought". The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 30 (1): 9–25. doi:10.1080/03605310590907039. PMID 15814365.