Maybe this is a religious technical question and therefore a bit tricky. In English, soul and spirit are used more or less interchangeably, although their origins are dissimilar.

spirit: mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit "spirit, soul" (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus "a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god,"

soul:"A substantial entity believed to be that in each person which lives, feels, thinks and wills" [Century Dictionary], Old English sawol "spiritual and emotional part of a person,

In Chinese, is there a difference between 魂 and 魄?

魂: soul, spirit (We have 3) 魄: soul, spirit (we have 7)





Just got this phrase from reading 西游记:道士吓得三魂丢了七魄 which I would simply translate as 'very frightened, scared witless, frightened out of his mind'

  • That can't be translated into English, they're religious specific words. This happens a lot in human languages, nothing amazing. You already has an answer in your question, what are you asking for.
    – user19549
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 2:42

3 Answers 3


This question is more advanced.


In short,

魂 is more related to the 陽 Yang side (the male, the bright, the sun side) of the spirit or soul.

魄 is more related to the 陰 Yin side (the female, the dark, the moon side) of the spirit or soul.


You may find the following texts valuable.

1) 道教原始的生命观认为,魂和魄一个属阴,一个属阳,一个主静,一个主动。阳魂就是思想,主动,是注意力,是对身体接触到外世界之后的第一反映,阴魄就是不变化的本源,主静,是对思想的承载,是一切万有的实质和内含。宇宙天地万物的总依赖。所以魂和魄之中,阴魄是体,阳魂为用。-- from www.zhihu.com/

2) 在中國哲學之中,魂魄陰陽對反,魂為陽性精氣,魄為陰性精氣

3) "Within this ancient soul dualism tradition, every living human has both a hun spiritual, ethereal, yang soul which leaves the body after death, and also a po corporeal, substantive, yin soul which remains with the corpse of the deceased. Some controversy exists over the number of souls in a person; for instance, one of the traditions within Daoism proposes a soul structure of sanhunqipo 三魂七魄; that is, "three hun and seven po". The historian Yü Ying-shih describes hun and po as "two pivotal concepts that have been, and remain today, the key to understanding Chinese views of the human soul and the afterlife.""

4) If you know the Naruto story, the author also used the similar idea of 陰 Yin side and 陽 Yang side of souls as the two dual souls of the Nine Tail beast. See also the Yin-Yang release and more.

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  • 谢谢你得努力!Now I have a lot more to read!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 23:09

Looking up the 1992 version of the 新华字典 published by the 商务印书馆, on page 195 and page 367 we find respectively:

魂 hún ㄏㄨㄣˊ 旧日迷信的说法,指能离开肉体而存在的精神((连) ~魄):~不附体. 灵魂1.人的精神、思想方面活动的总称.2.事物的最精粹最主要的部分。

魄 (一) pò ㄆㄛˋ ❶ 迷信指依附形体而存在的精神((连) 魂~):丢魂落~. [...]

Therefore, 魂 refers to the 精神 that can exist without a living body, while 魄 refers to the 精神 whose existence depends on a living body. Because they are two different kinds of 精神, they are sometimes used together, as in 魂魄 to mean all sorts of 精神.

  • So, maybe the West has just forgotten this distinction. 魂 soul: 能离开肉体而存在 spirit: 依附形体而存在. Reminds me of pulse, 诊脉. In the West we only know 1 pulse, 我听说中医认识3个诊脉。
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 23:28

魂, as most agreed, refer to Soul. But 魄 , there is no english equivalent word to it. But the closest term, in my opinion, is Life Energy or Life Force. 魄 (Life Force) is also responsible for the manifestication of your physical body. You need both for a human to be completed. An entity with 魂(soul) but no 魄 (Life Force/body) can refer to as a ghost. An entity with 魄 (Life Force/body) but no 魂(soul) can become a zombie or in a vegetative state.

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