Confucian Affect (Qing 情) as the Foundation for Mutual Care and Moral Elevation

Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture 40:39-73 (2023)
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Abstract

Western psychology primarily studies human emotions via physiological reactions to external stimuli. Research suggests that cultural variations lead East Asians and Western-heritage individuals to experience distinct emotional patterns beyond bodily responses. A more thorough understanding of affect, involving culturally influenced emotions, remains unexplored in cross-cultural contexts. Influenced by Confucianism, East Asian cultures show unique emotional patterns. Unlike the Western focus on rationality, Confucian philosophy values human affect (qing 情), going beyond conventional emotions. This paper delves into the transformative nature of Confucian affect, specifically its four facets: (1) philosophized (zhelihua 哲理化), (2) moralized (dehua 德化), (3) ritualized (lihua 禮化), and (4) aestheticized (meixuehua 美學化). These dimensions redirect human emotions towards mutual care and moral elevation. Despite limited empirical research, contemporary East Asian experiences shed light on Confucian affect's ongoing significance in daily life. This paper illuminates existing research to elucidate Confucian affect and proposes future directions for exploration. By recognizing the interplay of cultural influences and emotions, a richer comprehension of affective experiences across cultures emerges, offering insights into the intricate tapestry of human emotions shaped by diverse philosophical and cultural foundations.

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