fill the void

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NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
What does "fill the void" mean to you here? The writer appears to be an American-Chinese and I doubt native English speakers would understand what he wants to express. Is it proper English in this context?

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A second cultural factor behind the epidemic are traditional Chinese beliefs about the powers of certain foods, which have encouraged some hazardous habits. There is, in particular, the aspect of Chinese eating culture known as “jinbu,” meaning, roughly, to fill the void. Some of its practices are folklorish or esoteric, but even among Chinese people who don’t follow them, the concept is pervasive.

Source: NYTiems Mar.20, 2020
Opinion | Why Did the Coronavirus Outbreak Start in China?
 
  • grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    There's no need to guess because he later explains what that means:

    For men, it is most important to fill the energy void, which is related to virility and sexual prowess; for women, the stress is on replacing blood, which improves beauty and fertility. Rare plants and animals from the wild are thought to bring the best replenishment, especially when eaten fresh or raw.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    OK. More tranditionally, fill the void of Yang or Yin in Ancient Chinese philosophy, the balance of them is seen as the key of life.

    Thank you.
     

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    OK. More tranditionally, fill the void of Yang or Yin in Ancient Chinese philosophy, the balance of them is seen as the key of life.
    Right, but you can't deduce that from the literal meaning of the word jinbu.

    Similarly, one wouldn't be able to the deduce the cultural practices behind the phrase Trick or treat! if one never heard of Halloween.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    Right, but you can't deduce that from the literal meaning of the word jinbu.
    No. It EXACTLY deduces from the Yin-Yang principle. For example: Winter is cold with too much Yin, so your jinbu action MUST take Yang nutrients (like dog meat, ginseng* - both are seen as strong Yang nutrients) to balance it. The balance of Yin and Yang is vital, too much Yin or too much Yang leads to the harm of your health.

    No doubt science will debunk the ancient concepts.

    For linguistics, it shows it is HARD to translate a cultural concept.

    *See the NYTimes author describes them: (Because dogs') blood and energy ran high (a sign of Yang)
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    I read that article (by the way, it appeared on February 20, not March 20) when it came out and at the time I understood 'fill the void' to mean something like 'adjust for a deficiency.' While the author didn't explain the yin-yang cultural belief, he explained the cultural practice in a way that I think readers of the NY Times would understand: when your body has a deficiency in something, you change your diet and eat more of whatever contains the substance that your body lacks.
    The author of the article, Lian Yi-Zheng, was educated in the US; he was the chief editor of a newspaper, the Hong Kong Economics Journal, and held an advisory position in the Hong Kong government for six years before becoming an economics professor at a university in Japan. He probably knows more about the concept of yin/yang than he felt was necessary to include in the article.
     
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