Qing (情) and Emotion in Early Chinese Thought

Ming Qing Yanjiu 2001:151-176 (2001)
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Abstract
In a 1967 article, A. C. Graham made the claim that 情 qing should never be translated as "emotions" in rendering early Chinese texts into English. Over time, sophisticated translators and interpreters have taken this advice to heart, and qing has come to be interpreted as "the facts" or "what is genuine in one." In these English terms all sense of interrelationality is gone, leaving us with a wooden, objective stasis. But we also know, again partly through the work of Graham, that interrelationality was of fundamental importance in the early Chinese cosmology and that qing, by later carrying the meaning of "emotions," expressed that interrelationality. I take as my project in this article the recovery of an emotional adumbration in the qing of early Chinese texts, notably the Mencius, from which Graham begins his discussion. With an eye to explicating qing in the Mencius, and with a sensitivity to an implied notion of interrelationality in early texts, I survey early literature from the Shu Jing to late commentaries on the Yi Jing. I find that usages of qing and contexts in which qing is used inevitably illuminate it as key term in the evocation of interrelationality, shading it with emotional overtones. Emotions, of course, are inherently interrelational, and even more so in a Chinese world in which the internal and the external are in constant communication by way of a cosmic interchange of arousal and response among all things. That qing, as a term which later comes to explicitly mean "emotions," should have a centuries old convention of emotional connotation prior to its explicit definition should come as no surprise. The corroboration of this supposition entails a complex investigation and analysis, however, and it is a preliminary step in this investigation and analysis that I undertake here.
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