‘Ting’: The Art Of Listening 

An ancient Chinese performance

Ting is a perfect example of the spiritual teachings which are beautifully woven into the art of traditional Chinese writing. It embodies of the wisdom of ancient China within its character. The traditional chinese character for the adjective “to listen” (ting) is a wonderful example of this. It illustrates the importance of complete presence and mindfulness as an integral part of the act of listening—something we can we can all aspire to. Embedded within this single character are a conglomerate of smaller Chinese characters that provide a holistic formula steeped in wisdom. 

The Components Of Listening

  • Ear: To hear the other;
  • Ten eyes: To offer our full focus, to make eye contact and to observe (and consider) the wider picture;
  • One: As in ‘you’ or ‘as one’. To listen with the fullness of your being;
  • One heart: To deepen our senses, to show compassion and to listen wholeheartedly;
  • King: To signifying the importance and respect for the act of true listening;
  • Virtue: Formed from an amalgamation of smaller characters. To listen quietly, wholeheartedly, with your complete self, offering others your full attention is truly a virtue.

Simplified vs Traditional Characters

Interestingly, the simplified (modern) version of this Chinese character lacks the depth and wisdom of its traditional counterpart. With much of the original components missing, the modern interpretation reflects a somewhat more superficial and fractured ‘act’ of listening.

“Traditional Chinese characters have so much ancient knowledge and wisdom to share” says Say Ong—De yin Chinese school in London. ‘Ting’ beautifully reflects the fullness and depth which makes up the ‘true listening’ experience, an ancient and wise example of what it means to listen with the fullness of your being—with presence. These are qualities that we can all be mindful of and strive to embody today.