On Valentine’s Day a year and a half ago, I heard Michigan State University (MSU) Emeritus Professor SuiWah Chan enchant a group of teachers by talking about the Chinese character for the word, ai or “love.” Most people who talk about how Chinese characters have meaning built into them will point out that the word “heart” is at the center of the word “love,” and leave it at that. However, Professor Chan went on to show how on either side of the word “heart” was a “hand”—one hand offering one’s heart and another hand receiving that gift. So in Chinese, the word “love” has the notion of relationship physically built into the word. Since it was Valentine’s Day, all the teachers swooned, of course.
All I could think was that this was so unlike Aristotle’s notion of love, which is strictly one way—with the lover who adores the beloved. Both words are translated into English as “love,” but the thinking behind each one is so radically different. I wonder how much of that background affects how we in the modern age think about these things? How much is transmitted when many of us no longer know the historical background to these words and concepts? What about those of us who are bilingual? (click on link for more)
The Genesis of Chinese Writing and the Art of Chinese Calligraphy at UMMA Saturday - AnnArbor.com