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Chinese Discourses on Happiness$
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Gerda Wielander and Derek Hird

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888455720

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888455720.001.0001

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The Happiness of Unrealizable Dreams

The Happiness of Unrealizable Dreams

On the Pursuit of Pleasure in Contemporary Chinese Popular Fiction

Chapter:
(p.208) 10 The Happiness of Unrealizable Dreams
Source:
Chinese Discourses on Happiness
Author(s):

Heather Inwood

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888455720.003.0011

This chapter explores the pleasures found within a category of Chinese literature known as YY (yiyin), a term that originated in Dream of the Red Chamber and which has been translated as “lust of the mind” or “lust of intent,” but which can be understood in a more contemporary sense as “mental porn” and the verb “to fantasise.” By examining a typical work of online YY fiction, I suggest that yiyin denotes a key hedonistic impulse in contemporary Chinese popular narratives in which authors and readers gain pleasure from the vicarious satisfaction of the protagonist’s every desire. Fulfilment of these desires, however, is constantly delayed as the “objects of happiness” are held at arm’s length and the protagonist—and reader—keeps wanting more. The pursuit of happiness in Chinese popular fiction thus mirrors the deferral of gratification within capitalist consumerism, highlighting readers’ sense of lack (manque) and helping to determine their subjectivities as questioning, desiring individuals. I conclude by suggesting that, in contrast with official discourse surrounding the “China Dream,” popular fiction offers a means of “feeling good” (shuang) that is quite at peace with the fact it has no pretensions of ever coming true.

Keywords:   Yiyin, popular fiction, fantasy, internet literature, China Dream

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