The meaning of "Love" (Ai) in the Analects

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While the word "love" sometimes means our feelings of affection for our family members and loved ones, religious teachings often maintain that we should love our neighbors as much as ourselves. In this essay, I analyze the ancient Chinese word "ai" as it appears in the Analects, and show that there exists a roughly similar distinction in the Analects as well: that is, ai can refer to natural affection for family and friends on one hand, or to a non-discriminating attitude of care that a virtuous person is supposed to assume universally toward all human beings, on the other. In addition to these two, however, we also find another sense of ai in the Analects, and I argue that this third sense of ai, namely some sort of "valuing" in a broad sense, can weave through the other two senses of ai.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-278
Number of pages22
JournalSungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Academy of East Asian Studies.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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