A Proverbial Approach to Popular Philosophies of Life
Following decades of disorientating economic, social and societal changes, the Chinese self-help market flourishes. These self-help sources contain many popular sayings that represent wisdoms of life strongly rooted in Daoist and Confucian cosmology and ethics, such as constant change and cyclic thinking, and moral self-cultivation. Such sayings often contain a dialectical phrasing using opposites, and reflect the typically Chinese perceptions of happiness (fu), contentment (zu), and joy (le). They also offer concrete advice on how to navigate happily and smoothly through life. On the one hand, they embody individual strategies for coping with conflicts, failure, grief, powerlessness, and the quirks of fate. On the other hand, these sayings emphasize the importance of harmonizing interpersonal relations (zuo ren). This chapter argues that such popular philosophies are an essential part of today’s folk psychology and popular health discourse, and will lay bare not only their ancient philosophical, but also their psycho-social dimensions.
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