This book started with a simple conversation between colleagues. Gerda Wielander told Derek Hird about her interest in happiness; Derek Hird told Gerda Wielander about his interest in developing a multidisciplinary project. The two things were put together, the idea germinated, articulated, and turned into a call for contributors to an initial, closed workshop on happiness, which took place in November 2014 at the University of Westminster. In addition to the editors, Heather Inwood, Giovanna Puppin, and Jigme Yeshe Lama, who joined us all the way from New Delhi, were among the participants in this initial event. The idea of an edited volume started to grow from there. The editors made a targeted approach to academics who they felt might be a good fit for the volume in terms of their interests and disciplines. The authors who contributed to this volume were as enthused as we were about the idea and chose to engage with us, in most cases despite considerable pressures on their time. We want to thank all of them for believing in the project, sticking with it, and for entrusting us with their excellent research; we feel honored that they chose to work with us. In the process new friendships were forged, despite less than rigorous application of the em dash in some cases, ultimately resulting in vastly increased happiness levels all around.
Strategic Impact Funding from the University of Westminster enabled us to organize a two-day event at Westminster in July 2016, which brought together seven of the final contributors in London, and added an additional one who had signed up to the event as a participant. The event did not take the form of a traditional conference, but simultaneously engaged with academic and nonacademic audiences from the Chinese community in London. It was facilitated by True Heart Theatre, which specializes in playback theater. Films and photographs of the event can be found at https://www.westminster.ac.uk/contemporary-china-centre/projects/chinese-happiness. The event was an eye-opener to all of us. We are grateful to all of our participants, in particular to those outside the academic community, and to True Heart, who managed to take us all out of our rehearsed patterns to try to find a new language to communicate our research.
We want to thank our editor at Hong Kong University Press, who recognized the importance and timeliness of “happiness” in the context of contemporary China (p.ix) and was willing to put faith in us. We thank Eric Mok for his expert advice and unfailing encouragement in bringing this edited volume to fruition. We are also grateful to the two anonymous readers of the complete manuscript for their hugely positive and encouraging feedback and for unequivocally recommending the publication of this volume. Their comments also led to a comprehensive rewrite of the introduction, which has vastly improved this important part of the volume. Of course, all errors or omissions remain the responsibility of the author.
Many factors contribute to the success of a creative and intellectual project. In addition to excellent authors and a supportive editor at the chosen press, there are also a host of intangibles and inexpressibles; this is an acknowledgment of all these factors that came together in a cosmically fortuitous constellation.
Finally, Derek Hird wishes to thank Gerda Wielander for leading this project with consummate efficiency and good humor all the way from the conception to the completion of this volume, and for stoically bearing the brunt of the editing work. Gerda Wielander wishes to thank Derek Hird for his unfailing creative and intellectual input, and for his robust Scottish constitution, a vital ingredient in making the collaboration with his “efficient” coeditor such a happy one. (p.x)