Originally 鬱 meant (茂盛) lush, luxuriant, and "densely overgrown". But then how did it mean "anxious; depressed; grieved; [...] melancholic; moody"?

Lush trees and nature therapy are supposed to treat mental illnesses like anxiety, depression!

American Psychological Association reports that "Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health and emotional well-being."

Nature-rich environments unequivocally helped reduce mental distress.[3]

It showed that by spending a minimum of 10 minutes, either sitting or walking in a wide range of natural settings, there was a significant and beneficial impact on the participants’ mental health. Scientists used key psychological and physiological markers to measure this.

2 Answers 2


Nature-rich environments unequivocally helped reduce mental distress

True, but not if you've spent a great amount of time in a dark jungle trying to find the way out. The sequencing below shows how the meaning of "鬱" is evolved from "lush" to mean "melancholic", "gloomy", and "moody".

叢集茂密 --> 繁多(congest) --> 幽深 (deep and quiet) --> 阻滯(obstruct/block/sluggish);閉塞(plug/blockage) --> 憂愁(feel blue); 怨恨(resentment); 暴怒(sudden anger).

Have fun :)


  • Thanks. Can you please expatiate on EACH of your four arrows in your chain of arrows? For examples, how did you get from 繁多(congest) 🡲 幽深 (deep and quiet)? Then 幽深 (deep and quiet) 🡺 阻滯(sluggish)?
    – user
    Aug 25 at 23:34
  • 繁多 🡲 幽深 🡺 阻滯; 錯綜密集的林木**(讓人感到)**安靜,深不可測**(而又)**四面不通寸步難行 🡲 沮喪鬱悶.
    – r13
    Aug 26 at 14:42


It is the reverse. The original meaning is "melancholy", which can be interpreted as "Stagnant of Sadness", and then it is derived to mean "積聚(Stagnant), as in 鬱血 (blood clots), which is the origin of the meaning of "lush".

Source: Wiktionary: https://zh.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%AC%B1

  • "本義是抑鬱、憂鬱". I doubt it. In 【詩經】 , there is this sentence 「鴥彼晨風、鬱彼北林」 in which 鬱 cannot be interpreted as 抑鬱、憂鬱. 【詩經】was written before 西漢.
    – joehua
    Aug 25 at 22:35

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