Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature

Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature

Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature

Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature

Synopsis

Do all cultures and historical periods have a concept corresponding to the English word emotion? This collection of essays is concerned with the closest candidate within the Chinese language, namely the term qéng. What is the meaning of this term in different periods and genres? What are the types of discourse in which it is typically found? This volume contains two essays on the notion of qéng in classical sources, two on Chan Buddhist usage, and two on fiction and drama from the Ming and Qing dynasties. An introductory essay discusses the complex historical development of the term. Together, the essays may be read as a first step towards a conceptual history of one of the key terms in traditional Chinese culture.

Excerpt

To what extent are emotions universal? Are joy, anger and fear the same in all cultures and in all historical periods? What about love? And what about exotic reports of emotions like the state of “being a wild pig” sometimes experienced by young men of the Gururumba people of New Guinea? Such questions have long been the focus of intense controversy among anthropologists and cultural historians. One way of approaching the problem of emotions is through the study of emotional concepts.

The present collection of essays attempts to do that, but instead of focusing on particular emotions, it is concerned with the notion of “emotion” itself. It is by no means obvious that all cultures and historical periods have a general concept corresponding to the English word emotion. The essays in this volume centre around the closest candidate in the Chinese language, the term qíng. What is the meaning of this term in different periods and in different genres? What are the types of discourse into which it typically enters? Together, the essays may be read as a first step towards a conceptual history of one of the key terms in traditional Chinese culture.

Each of the essays has its own unique form of presentation, and the collection approaches its topic from philosophical, historical, semantic, textual, literary, stylistic, and psychological points of view. This diversity, I think, reflects the open atmosphere in which the original drafts were first presented and discussed, at a seminar amidst

This introduction has profited much from the comments of Maram Epstein.

See Dylan Evans: Emotion: The Science of Sentiment, Oxford university
Press, Oxford 2002, p. 17ff.

For an impressive study of emotional concepts in late imperial China, see
Paolo Santangelo: Sentimental Education in Chinese History: An Interdisciplinary
Textual Research on Ming and Qing sources
, Brill, Leiden 2003.

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