Shenkui (Semen Loss)
Syndromes of Excessive Yin
Shenkui (pinyin) or shen-k'uei (Wade-Giles) is one of several Chinese culture-bound syndromes locally ascribed to loss (or fear of loss) of yang (positive/male energy). Shenkui also fits into a larger category of culture-bound syndromes found in many cultures, particularly in east and south Asia, described as "semen-loss" syndromes. The best studied of these syndromes is dhat, which has received much attention for its prevalence in India.
Shenkui is believed to result from a deficiency in yang, obtained through the loss of semen. Semen is believed to be "lost" through excessive sexual activity or masturbation, nocturnal emissions, "white urine" which is believed to contain semen, or other mechanisms. Symptoms within the Chinese diagnostic system include dizziness, backache, tiredness, weakness, insomnia, frequent dreams, and complaints of sexual dysfunction (such as premature ejaculation or impotence). From an ethnopsychiatric perspective, additional symptoms are preoccupation with sexual performance, potential semen loss, and bodily complaints which may be taken as symptoms of lost yang.
Shenkui is sometimes translated as "kidney weakness". According to traditional Chinese medical theory, one of the functions of the kidneys is to transform blood into semen.
Shenkui fits logically with several other disorders in the Chinese medical system which result from loss of yang. Two of these are described by Rin Hsien (1966) in an article which I have not been able to obtain. These syndromes are pa-leng (or frigophobia) and pa-feng, which are fear of cold and fear of wind, respectively. Both wind and cold are yin phenomena, and therefore present a threat to a man's yang. Lin, Kleinman, and Lin (1981:255) summarize Rin's description. Pa-leng and pa-feng as resulting from fear of excessive yin in males; affected men typically bundle themselves in warm clothing, avoid wind or drafts, and eat foods that are symbolically and calorically "hot' while avoiding foods that are "cold".
A similar condition exists in India and other South Asian cultures, where it is known as dhat.
For further information, see:
Rin Hsien. (1966) "Two forms of vital deficiency syndromes among Chinese male mental patients." Transcultural Psychiatric Research 3: 19-21.
Sumathipala, A. , Siribaddana, S. H. , Bhugra, Dinesh (2004) "Culture-bound syndromes: the story of dhat syndrome." The British Journal of Psychiatry, 184: 200-209.