Reading about the 三年大饥荒 (1958-61) in China recently just breaks my heart. What differentiates Chinese writing from that time period is that while others were contemplating about existential questions such as what love is, Chinese writers were writing about struggling just to live. When food is scarce, any emotion other than hunger becomes a luxury.
What meaning does love have when basic survival is in question?
film: To Live (1994) directed by Zhang Yimou
It made me realize the difference between "Western" conceptions of love as romantic and idealized, versus "Chinese" conceptions of love as affection and basic survival instinct. A woman's love is demonstrated through feeding her children, endurance, and self-sacrifice. It is unspoken, and unable to be shown materialistically, or in any other way except through action.
/// book: Dogshit Food by Liu Heng
This not to say there is a "correct" way to love; rather, it is interesting seeing and understanding how history might affect the formation of different perspectives, and I found it fascinating. Throughout any hardships, the greatest virtue was to not criticize, not complain: to simply endure. Although my professor called this "the greatest virtue of Chinese people," I hesitate to stereotype an ethnicity so broadly. Although, I found that studying this part of China's history made some sense out of some stereotypes; the survivalist nature of their past truly produced a generation trained to be frugal and self-sustaining. 苦命, 好悲伤.
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