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Ai versus xiao. The Expression of Love in the Novel Jinghua yuan. A Preliminary Approach

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Ai versus xiao. The Expression of Love in the Novel Jinghua yuan. A Preliminary Approach
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        AI    愛 VERSUS  XIAO   孝 : THE EXPRESSION OF LOVE IN THENOVEL  JINGHUA YUAN  鏡花緣 . A PRELIMINARY APPROACH *   D ONATELLA G UIDA  U NIVERSITA ’ DEGLI S TUDI DI N APOLI “L’   O RIENTALE ”   Fiction has often been considered the greatest source of insight intohow emotions were perceived and expressed in the past. This isespecially true in traditional China, where social values clearlydictated not only individual attempts to express emotions but also theway these were actually perceived by different social groups. Thepurpose of this paper is to begin to uncover the inner world 1 of lateimperial China as it is represented in the novel  Jinghua yuan 鏡花緣  (Destinies of the Flowers in the Mirror), first published in 1828. Tothis end, textual analysis has been used: I have selected words whichrefer directly or indirectly to emotions or implicate them, 2 thusallowing us to single out both the social codes and the lexicalexpressions related to emotions. 3 This study will focus on theexpression of love ad its various meanings in the social as well as inprivate life.Although the author Li Ruzhen claims in the first chapter that hisnovel “contains trivial matters of the women’s quarters and romanticand leisurely fancy between men and women” ( guige suo shi , ernü xianqing 閨閣瑣事 , 兒女閑情 ), 4 actually little, if any, attention isgiven to romantic love. Instead, the story focuses on other, more‘respectful’ feelings, namely filial and paternal love, and loyaltytowards one’s sovereign and country. Passionate love and even * My work on  Jinghua yuan has been possible also thanks to the post-doctoralfellowship I received from Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, for whose generoussupport I am deeply grateful. 1 Mark Elvin 1991 illustrates the concepts of causation, self and free will in thesame novel. 2 Ortony A., L.G. Clore, A.M. Foss 1987. 3 The data from this textual analysis belongs to the research Project on emotionsand states of mind based on textual analysis of Ming and Qing sources directed byProf. Paolo Santangelo. For some examples of the database we are working on, seeGuida 1999 and Santangelo 2000. (www.iuo.it/emotions/home.htm) 4 Li Ruzhen,  Jinghua yuan (hereafter  JHY  ), Beijing, (1955) 1957, 1:1.   AI  VERSUS  XIAO   302conjugal love hardly fit into the strictly Confucian frame of Chinesesociety that Li wants to celebrate; therefore, he carefully omits everydangerous reference to passion. This is indeed odd for an author whois apparently attempting to emulate  Hongloumeng in so many ways. 5  In fact, some years ago Maram Epstein argued that, although certainsimilarities with this great novel cannot be ignored, Li’s lack of interest in love is a “revision of the intoxicating sensuality of   Hongloumeng .” 6    Different kinds of love 7   The main characters Tang Ao and his fourteen-year-old daughterXiaoshan do not seem to have any other feelings other than their loveof letters and their Emperor. While the daughter is probably too youngfor romantic or passionate love, the father does not even think of hiswife, who awaits him in vain throughout the whole story. First, hegoes to the capital to take the imperial examination, and then he sailsabroad on his brother-in-law’s junk without even bothering to sayfarewell to his wife or children. He merely leaves a short letter 8 to bedelivered after his departure. The process of disappointment → anger → sorrow he undergoes after the imperial exam he has just passed isannulled for political reasons, leads him to disenchantment regardinghis official career and, through his love for travelling ( hào you 好遊 ),to enlightenment and immortality. His love of travel is underlined atleast six times in the novel: four times in the first chapters and at thebeginning of their journey, when Tang is said to “love travelling bynature”, 9 and then again when they eventually land at the slopes of theenchanted mountain of Little Penglai, and climb it to find marvellousscenery that makes him forget all his worries and worldly thoughts, asdescribed in the passage below: Tang was so charmed by the surrounding landscape that, although hehad started to head back down again, he could not go far and continuedto look around in ecstasy. 5 It is not possible to analyse here all the aspects of   Jinghua yuan that are clearlymodelled after  Hongloumeng . See for instance the article by Frederick Brandauer1977, p. 649 that compares the two prologues. 6 Maram Epstein 1992, p. 256. 7 For a specific treatment of this topic, see   Santangelo 1999. 8    JHY  8:45. 9    Bing xing hao you 秉性好遊  JHY  7:37 and 40, 8:46. See also 9:55 (  zui hao youshan wan shui 最好遊山玩水 ).   AI  VERSUS  XIAO   303 “If we keep going at this pace, what time will we arrive back at theboat?” Duo reproached Tang. “If the sun sets, how will we be able toget down from the mountain?”“I will not hide it from you that since I have come up to this mountain,not only do I no longer feel the desire for riches and fame, but I alsofeel that everything in the world is immaterial,” said Tang. “The factthat I proceed so slowly means that I don’t want to go back to the reddust.” “Usually it is said that scholars, who have dedicated so muchtime to their studies, often turn into mystics, as excessive study drawsthem away from reality. In your case, this has happened with too muchtravelling,” laughed Duo. “Walk fast! Don’t waste time chatting.”Even so, after all this talk, Tang continued to look around him. 10   Dedicating oneself to travel and aesthetic pleasure is a way of abstaining from earthly passions and reaching immortality. In fact, intraditional literature travel has usually been equated with a quest forsalvation. But, as the author further explains, only when one is“entirely free of any attachment can leisure be fully enjoyed. […]Thus, while contemplating one’s environment may bring aboutfeelings, it may also be that one’s surroundings arise from what one isfeeling.” And therefore, Xiaoshan, worried for her father who hasmysteriously disappeared, does not enjoy the very same scenery at all.   11   Conjugal love and filial piety Back when Tang’s life-long goal was the achievement of an importantsocial position, he could not let conjugal love distract him. But nowthat is even more true, having decided to devote his life to the searchfor immortality. Furthermore, having fulfilled a man’s foremost dutyfrom a Confucian point of view –that is, to have offspring, which isalso the only reason that socially justifies and dignifies marriage– hisconscience is clean in leaving his wife. There is certainly a precisehierarchy of feelings: at the top are those considered exemplary (andhere family ties are privileged). The author highlights this in differentparts of the novel, where he states that conjugal love should not be anobstacle to filial or parental love, and the duty towards one’s ownrelatives are much greater than the duty towards in-laws. To illustratesymbolically the value of filial or parental love over love between a 10    JHY  40:280. See also 38:268 and 39:278-79, where Tang contemplates thescenery and the flying Phoenix. 11    JHY  43:320-1.   AI  VERSUS  XIAO   304husband and wife, the author has our heroes encounter a monstrouscreature while wandering in a mountain beyond the sea – it is a birdbearing its sins on its own wings: While they were talking, having almost arrived at the ship, they saw abig bird fly out of the forest near the path. It had a human form and thefangs of a wild boar; long feathers covered its body, which had fourextremities and five organs. 12 It looked different from man only in thatit had two fleshy wings at its sides. It had two heads: one of a man andthe other of a woman. Observed carefully, both foreheads bore thewords “not filial” ( buxiao 不孝 )   [...]; also, the words ‘without heart’ ( buci 不慈 ) 13 were on their mouths, ‘without principles’ ( bu dao   不道 ) ontheir shoulders ‘love for the husband’ ( ai fu 愛夫 ) on the right side, and‘love for the wife’ ( lian fu 憐婦 ) on the left side.“[...] In my opinion,” said Tang, “this bird represents those who in lifeoverlook the duties of filial love and behave like beasts. That’s whyafter death they cannot be reincarnated into a human body but theirmalignant spirits become concentrated in this bird.” 14   Feeling excessive love for a husband or wife therefore leads toignoring one’s own duties. Neglecting the duty towards one’s parentscannot be forgiven, not even when it stems from excessive lovetowards one’s own children, who cannot be put before theirgrandparents. Children are nonetheless considered more importantthan one’s spouse, as this following paragraph illustrates: ...I’ve heard that in your country [that is, China] there are so-called‘stepmothers’; the way these people treat their sons and daughters bornfrom the first wife is considered by all to be unjust. They make themsuffer in all sorts of ways, making them do hard work until they faint,or else they make them ill and wasted away without worrying if theyare hungry or cold. Often they are hit and insulted and tormented inevery way, making their suffering unbearable. Their father is still ableto protect them, but how can he always be present? For the sons anddaughters these kinds of circumstances mean hell. In poor families theirsuffering is greater still. But even in rich households, although withnursemaids and paternal relatives looking after the children as well, thestepmother cannot torment them too much, as soon as she gives birth toa son or a daughter of her own, she most certainly will try to takepossession of all the richness of the family.When she is alone with her husband, she falsely accuses herstepdaughter of not listening to her instructions and her stepson of  12 The five organs are: eyes, ears, mouth, nose and body. Cf.  Xunzi ,   62/17/12. 13 It refers to love for one’s children. 14    JHY  10:62-3.
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