The Chinese Pursuit of Happiness: Anxieties, Hopes, and Moral Tensions in Everyday Life 0520306317, 9780520306318

What defines "happiness," and how can we attain it? The ways in which people in China ask and answer this univ

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The Chinese Pursuit of Happiness: Anxieties, Hopes, and Moral Tensions in Everyday Life
 0520306317, 9780520306318

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction • Becky Yang Hsu
1. The Changing Notion of Happiness: A History of Xingfu • Lang Chen
2. Having It All: Filial Piety, Moral Weighting, and Anxiety among Young Adults • Becky Yang Hsu
3. Performing Happiness for Self and Others: Weddings in Shanghai • Deborah S. Davis
4. Happy and Unhappy Meals: Culinary Expressions of the Good Life in Shanghai • James Farrer
5. Making the People or the Government Happy? Dilemmas of Social Workers in a Morally Pluralistic Society • Richard Madsen
6. Deriving Happiness from Making Society Better: Chinese Activists as Warring Gods • Chih-Jou Jay Chen
Epilogue 155Richard Madsen
References
Contributors
Index

Citation preview

The publisher and the University of California Press Foundation gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Philip E. Lilienthal Imprint in Asian Studies, established by a major gift from Sally Lilienthal.

THE CHINESE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

THE CHINESE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS anxieties, hopes, and moral tensions in everyday life

Edited by

Becky Yang Hsu and Richard Madsen

university of california press

University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit www.ucpress.edu. University of California Press Oakland, California © 2019 by The Regents of the University of California Calligraphy art by Chen Chien-Hua. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Hsu, Becky Yang, 1975- editor. | Madsen, Richard, 1941- editor. Title: The Chinese pursuit of happiness : anxieties, hopes, and moral tensions in everyday life / edited by Becky Yang Hsu and Richard Madsen. Description: Oakland, California : University of California Press, [2019] | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Identifiers: lccn 2019009254 (print) | lccn 2019017746 (ebook) | isbn 9780520973671 (e-book) | isbn 9780520306318 (cloth : alk. paper) | isbn 9780520306325 (pbk. : alk. paper) Subjects: lcsh: Happiness—China. | Happiness—Social aspects—China. | Stress (Psychology)—Social aspects— China. | Anxiety—Social aspects—China. | China— Social conditions—2000Classification: lcc bf575.h27 (ebook) | lcc bf575.h27 c485 2019 (print) | ddc 646.700951—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019009254 Manufactured in the United States of America 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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CONTENTS

Acknowledgments Introduction

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Becky Yang Hsu

1. The Changing Notion of Happiness: A History of Xingfu

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Lang Chen

2. Having It All: Filial Piety, Moral Weighting, and Anxiety among Young Adults

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Becky Yang Hsu

3. Performing Happiness for Self and Others: Weddings in Shanghai

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Deborah S. Davis

4. Happy and Unhappy Meals: Culinary Expressions of the Good Life in Shanghai

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James Farrer

5. Making the People or the Government Happy? Dilemmas of Social Workers in a Morally Pluralistic Society

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Richard Madsen

6. Deriving Happiness from Making Society Better: Chinese Activists as Warring Gods Chih-Jou Jay Chen

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Epilogue

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Richard Madsen

References Contributors Index

171 183 188

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We are grateful to the John F. Templeton Foundation, and especially Kimon Sargeant, who funded this project, then titled “The Concept of Fu in Contemporary China,” from 2013 to 2016. Though Anna Sun does not have an essay in this volume, she helped create the project and played an important part in the creation and writing of the Blessed Happiness Survey. In the summer of 2013, with funding from Yale University, Deborah Davis led the effort to carry out pilot interviews by making our project the focus of a summer training workshop for a remarkable group of students from Yale and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. They included Stephanie Wong, Michael Chan, Yusupov Ruslan, Subrina Xirong Shen, Zixi Liu, Lin Li, Lang Chen, and Benny Ho Kong Chan. We thank David Palmer, Jiyuan Yu, and Haiyan Lee, who wrote and shared papers with us as part of the project. To people who were involved in the early stages of the project or who offered stimulating conversation and commentary, we are grateful: Jose Casanova, Cheris Chan, Alison Denton Jones, Philip Gorski, Yanjie Bian, Christian Haerpfer, Martin King Whyte, Qiu Xiaolong, Robert Weller, Bethany Allen-Ebrahamian, Robert Daly, Carol Graham, and Susan Jakes. To Weiwei Zhang, our postdoctoral fellow, thanks for your excellent work throughout the project.

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Introduction becky yang hsu

Since the start of the new century a great deal of popular attention and new scholarship have focused on the subject of well-being. National policy based on happiness research has emerged in China, Bhutan, France, and the United Kingdom. Taken together, statistical reports on the effects of wealth, inequality, gender, age, education, migration status, and the like on levels of reported happiness have produced no clear results, however; many surveys (“How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?”) have produced diverse, conflicting results about which countries or cities are happiest. One reason for this uncertainty is that the English term happiness, around which many of the surveys have been designed, is inadequate for encompassing how people around the world feel about a good life. To improve our results we need to use other research methodology to get a sense of how self-reporters understand their own well-being in the first place. In the United States, for instance, happiness has historically been conceptualized not only as the experiencing of pleasant emotions but as the target of a pursuit (per the 1776 Declaration of Independence), a state of being that is the result of an individual’s efforts. But around the time of American independence, Immanuel Kant was speaking of making ourselves worthy of happiness, regarding happiness as a gift we receive rather than a goal we achieve. An even more fundamental debate concerns the moral implications of one’s definition of happiness. Thomas Aquinas argued in thirteenth-century Western Europe that while only imperfect happiness is possible on Earth, it can be found through the exercise of virtue and the contemplation of truth. Much 1

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earlier than Aquinas are the Greek concept of eudaimonia and the Chinese notion of fu; although not identical, both encompass health, wealth, friends, and family—but they also rely on virtue and honor.1 Clearly, among the many notions of well-being as happiness, virtue is a commonly shared element. Few definitions of happiness are morally neutral. However, opinions about the content of this virtue (goodness) may differ. Though people have deliberated about the components of happiness and good lives for a long time, the current field of happiness studies in social science research has been mostly the domain of psychology and economics, and it has operated in a culturally specific frame of reference. Hedonic psychology focuses on increasing measures of pleasure and decreasing amounts of pain.2 Positive psychology attempts an appraisal of whether people actually live good lives, and the field labors to refine an objective list of good-for-you items and activities.3 Research into subjective well-being compares self-assessments across countries, age, gender, and a host of other factors. As previously mentioned, this research is used to produce the happiness indexes and cross-national rankings that are so popular today. These studies attempt to post global comparisons by asking respondents to assess their own happiness, life satisfaction, or location on a ten-rung ladder of life. In fact, a large proportion of the data used in the World Happiness Report relies upon this Cantril Ladder question: “Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top.4 Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally stand at this time?” The question offers a very specific vision of what a life looks like, and its central analogy—climbing up a ladder—does not necessarily make sense to everyone. The content of virtue and the understanding of its place within a “good life” would fit into the cognitive-evaluative approach to happiness studies. This body of research focuses on how people assess their lives using socially constructed standards and concepts. Such an approach in sociology and anthropology relies on interviews and fieldwork to shed light on how ordinary people in the United States and elsewhere define their “pursuit of happiness.”5 In cross-cultural psychology, the approach uses experimental methods to examine cultural differences, including what emotions people desire to have (ideal affect).6

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Of these four approaches, the cognitive-evaluative approach has received the least attention by far in both the academic and public spheres. Yet this is the only one of the four that hopes to get at the social construction of happiness. This is important, because this construction is really the foundation for any rigorous investigation of the topic. How a person assesses her level of fulfillment certainly affects her numerical rating on a survey. If in one place people assess their lives by how agreeable their relationships with their parents are (which we find in China), while in another people are responding to a happiness survey question that asks about a feeling of coziness (such as the Danish hygge), we know that we can take the comparison of the two sets of results only so far. While the subjective appraisal of one’s own life satisfaction is worthy of attention, we also need details about what exactly is satisfying to people, if we hope to truly understand (and so compare) the survey numbers. As the philosopher Charles Taylor has shown, people employ different “social imaginaries,” fundamental assumptions that shape their maps of their social world—their expectations about people and life in general.7 Social imaginaries deeply rooted in diverse cultural traditions cannot merely be transposed onto one another, as the sociologist Richard Madsen has argued.8 As the anthropologist Gordon Mathews has noted, surveys about happiness can be understood only by taking into consideration that people are assessing their lives in the context of a particular cultural moment, which in turn is informed by stable cultural patterns as well as faster-changing social moments.9 Therefore, it is necessary to pay close attention to (and take very seriously) the frames of reference that people use to view the world. Any meaningful measure of a society’s (or city’s or group’s) happiness must also grapple, then, with cognitive-evaluative realities, including moral conundrums.

happiness in china Of the many Chinese words that can mean happiness, fu (福) is one of the most ubiquitous. Fu can be prayed for, enjoyed, and created, but it is not easily translated. It connotes more than purely hedonistic satisfaction; it is directly tied to the value of a virtuous life. But traditionally it also concerns the elements of prosperity, high status, health, and longevity. Through the twentieth century, in literary sources as well as common usage, fu took on a new role, not as the sum of life’s positive elements but rather as one element of a triumvirate: happiness-prosperity-health, or fu-lu-shou. Based on recent

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conversations with colleagues in China, our current best translation of fu would be “blessed happiness” or “having blessed happiness,” phrases that indicate that good fortune arises from luck (yuanfen) as well as personal striving; fu also retains a sacred quality. A wealthy thief would not be considered to have fu. Fu is a property of individuals in relationship, especially family members. The written character itself incorporates symbols for the mouth, family, and farmland—illustrating happiness as a family working together so that everyone has ample food. Strictly speaking, individuals are not fu; families are. And they can pass their familial fu down to future generations. Individuals, though, can possess a personal fu if their families are fu. The gods and one’s ancestors also play an important role in delivering fu. Thus it is a concept that encompasses a lot of different elements that in reality might be in conflict one another. There is probably no perfect fu, only better or worse mixtures of these elements. In contrast with more individualistic notions, fu is something that one can determine for someone else. An unmarried female professor to whom Richard Madsen spoke, for example, said that the ideal of fu includes having sons who can carry on the family name. In this respect, she said, her mother—who still lives in their distant village—does not have fu, because she had only girls. Because the professor was not married, her marital status was another big non-fu factor for her mother. And her mother didn’t understand her daughter’s professional lifestyle (which is also non-fu). So her mother, the professor said, could not be fu. But her mother did want her to be happy, and the professor wanted her mother to be happy. There is, therefore, a difference between having fu and being happy. Fu is as grounded in the ethical and religious sources of good fortune as in its material aspects. Therefore fu is not simply luck. Or morality. Or an undefined, general concept of “the good life.” Or a fleeting emotional high. It has always been related to some defined and specific standards (such as having sons), even if the standards change over time. So at the core of what is translated into English as happiness is a complex and polyvalent idea. To return to the widely used Cantril Ladder question, the analogy does not successfully evoke the elements of fu. Ladder climbing is an individual activity; there is no room for a family on a ladder. The question itself implies that going up is better than going down, which connotes the desire to progress in one direction; it cannot encompass a cyclical or continuous view of life. Thus it is a mistake to assume that this image can reflect how people measure their well-being in China.

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There are many other words for happiness in Chinese, and their constellation encompasses a long and wide-ranging tradition of thought. The word used today in most official discourse is xingfu. Xing means undeserved, and before the twentieth century xing fu (undeserved happiness) was used to describe an ignorant pursuit of fu through petty means—such as a pursuit of wealth rather than duty or virtue. The contrast to xing fu was le (joy), which transcends material conditions. In chapter 1, Lang Chen chronicles the history of this word and shows its changing relationship to the other words that have constituted the discourse about the good life. As Chen argues, the set of cultural, cosmological, and political assumptions that once underlay this term had collapsed by the end of the nineteenth century. Filling the void, a new definition of xingfu arose, first used by the Japanese to translate the English happiness and subsequently transmitted to China. The term now embodies many, often contradictory, ideas, including utilitarianism as well as Kantianism and Marxism, but it also has maintained its resonances with earlier Chinese cultural traditions. It is thus a deeply ambiguous term, interpreted in many different ways. Chen’s archeology of xingfu thus exposes many of the tension-filled layers of modern Chinese political ideology and popular culture. In everyday language, xingfu encompasses things going well for someone— often envisioned in terms of family, wealth, and luck. Xingfu therefore has a strong component of good material circumstance while also referring to good mood and happy feelings. There is a general understanding that for things to go well, one must be fulfilling moral obligations to family and community; carrying out these duties is tied to good fortune. The state has appropriated xingfu to legitimize its achievement of economic growth and stability. As the sociologist Anna Sun argues, the notion of happiness is something given to the people by the state. Citizens, then, are recipients of happiness made possible by the state, in the Confucian language of benevolent politics (ren zheng).10 As the use of xingfu in official discourse became more frequent through the early 2000s and still was quite common in the 2010s, a woman in her early twenties told me that to ask whether someone is xingfu sounds almost sarcastic; the term has been overused to the point of sounding disingenuous. The state has also added language from positive psychology in a therapeutic mode of governance wherein people who have not been successful in this economy—laid-off workers who have remained unemployed—are asked to manage their own feelings and focus on empowering themselves to get out of poverty.11

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The Chinese state has been actively monitoring assessments of happiness. The China Daily, a publication owned by the Communist Party, reported that in 2017 the World Happiness Report listed China as 79th out of 157 countries (awarding Norway the top spot), up from 83rd in the world the previous year.12 There have been cross-national, national, and provincial surveys of happiness in China, and since 2007 Chinese institutes have conducted numerous surveys underwritten by the government and covering millions of people (mostly in provincial capitals).13 Changes to happiness over time have been assessed to measure peoples’ response to social factors and to government projects (Has the new overpass increased commuter happiness?) and policies (How do people feel about the air quality?). A frequently cited set of studies by the economist Richard Easterlin and his colleagues used some of these cross-national and national data to show that, despite rapid economic growth, China’s increases in its gross domestic product have not boosted self-reported happiness. Happiness steadily declined between 1990 and 2010 (although there has been a modest uptick since 2004). Easterlin, Wang, and Wang’s explanations for the decline include macrolevel changes in unemployment, weakened social safety net provisions, and growing income inequality.14

the impact of social change and dislocation We can disaggregate the elements of the traditional fu—prosperity, high status, health, and long life, all in the context of relationships—and look at the factors that make each element problematic in China’s current social environment. Take, for example, prosperity. Rapidly changing living and consumption standards make for ever-growing standards of prosperity. Some conclude that income is the major source of happiness for Chinese people, yet others extrapolate that rapid economic growth has not improved their quality of life. And popular media in China portray both sides. There is the much-discussed example of the twenty-two-year-old woman on a popular Chinese dating show who said, “I’d rather be crying in a BMW than laughing on the back of a bicycle.” Her comment incited heated debate: While some expressed admiration for what they saw as her candor and called her lovely, others called her disgusting. (Still, that she became a celebrity and a talk-show guest for a time may be the most accurate reflection of public sympathies.)

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On the other hand, one of the most popular prime-time television dramas in Chinese history, Brother’s Happiness, depicts Brother Fu, who after finding life in modern Beijing superficial and fraught with drastic changes in moral standards, returns to a simple and happy life in a small town. The show seems to have tapped into a reaction against changes in ethics that have accompanied the rapid economic growth. One blogger wrote that Brother Fu “lives a happy life because he is not eager for quick success and instant benefits.” Another blogger commented, “People in big cities are slaves to their desires.” What about high status? A diverse and changing society calls into question what constitutes high status: a government position? artistic or professional success? being considered a celebrity? What about high moral status? People in China emphasize the importance of being a good, honest person. But the prevalent use of bribes and gifts in China means that almost any upper-level success has to be achieved by at least partly dubious means. At one extreme, China’s new entrepreneurs have a vulgar reputation; they are said to “laugh at poor people but not at prostitutes.” They have also been involved in inhumane acts, such as deliberately adding toxins to food (more about this shortly), abusing human rights, illegally seizing land, and even killing accident victims—all in the name of making or saving money. On the other hand, Chinese private entrepreneurs have also served as models of morality, playing important roles in charity organizations and community organizations, which are often organized around family lineages. Some have established nongovernmental organizations to manage community or charity affairs themselves. (Those who have grown up in lineage arrangements and kinship networks are more likely to commit themselves to civil service for the public interest.) Any study of how people define happiness and a good life, then, must understand the role of virtue and vice in ideas about status. Health and long life continue to be highly valued; this remains deep-seated as people grow up surrounded by symbols and iconography celebrating longevity. People are proud to have old people living in their neighborhoods. It is not unusual for someone to say, “Old age is a self-evident good.”15 The elderly are repositories of experience, and that is to be respected. It reflects well on a community (and the larger society) to have old people around because it means that the society is sufficiently wealthy that people live to an old age; it also means that the society is able to nurture such experience, that is, the society’s culture is refined enough that people appreciate such experience.

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What about the indispensable element of relationships, especially family relationships? In 2015 almost 73 percent of Chinese visited, tidied, and burned offerings at the graves of their ancestors during the official tomb-sweeping holiday (qingming).16 This practice is considered virtuous, because it fulfills a person’s duties to her ancestors. It also provides the assurance that ancestors are watching over her in this life. It is one way people ensure continuity from one generation to the next.

our approach: fieldwork, interviews, and survey We take a somewhat different approach from most of the research completed to date on the subject of self-reported happiness. We are interested in whether people’s assessment of their life is primarily a judgment of their social relationships. We also take special interest in the moral and ethical understandings that embed individuals in specific communities, and we attempt to describe respondents’ underlying (if elusive and often conflicting) efforts to contribute to their own happiness, their family’s well-being, and the good of society. This kind of approach requires extensive in-depth interviews and fieldwork. This book focuses on the urban middle class in China, members of which have some capability in shaping and carrying out their notions of a good life. The way they talk about happiness does not necessarily represent China as a whole, and most of the empirical material in the book cannot be widely generalized. Our research does not include either the abject poor or the ultrarich and is therefore missing some very important accounts of life in China today. Our team began with in-person group meetings (nine in three years) to discuss theories of happiness and to assess the published happiness and China studies. Each author carried out a specific fieldwork project, and that person’s chapter contains information about the specific methodology used. The fieldwork was carried out in urban areas: Davis, Farrer, and Madsen in Shanghai (a cosmopolitan city whose residents’ version of the good life is widely aspired to), and Hsu and Chen in a more spread-out geography, including cities in northern, central, and southern China. The studies encompass a range of generations, from unmarried young adults to the middle aged to the elderly. Informed by findings in our ethnographic work, we wrote the Blessed Happiness Survey (BHS), some of which we report on here. Note that “blessed happiness” is a reference to fu. Being blessed has the connotation of having desirable things in life, not only through a person’s own effort but also by

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having them bestowed upon him. The BHS included four features that distinguish it from previous surveys: social contact questions, emphasis on behavior rather than opinion, the inclusion of three aspects of happiness (emotion, assessment of a good life, and meaning), and questions seeking details of participation in rituals remembering the deceased.17 We commissioned Horizon Research to field the BHS nationally, and the firm conducted 2,561 face-to-face interviews from November 2015 through February 2016. Although this book focuses mostly on our fieldwork, we also report some basic results from the survey. Our cognitive-evaluative analysis of happiness in China begins with the perspective that evaluating one’s personal well-being is a substantially social act. People compare their own situation to what they understand to be the ideal in their community. These notions are developed by way of interactions and experiences that teach us what is good/desirable/right or bad/undesirable/ wrong. The differentiations are gut level, and they are formed early, preceding the categories we hold as adults. Consider a child reaching for a piece of fruit—or a piece of chalk—and making a motion to eat it. Although putting something interesting in your mouth as a toddler is a morally neutral act, an attentive adult indicates that it is desirable (“Apples are good for you!”) or undesirable (“No! Chalk will make you sick.”). In that moment, an action motivated by a biological urge (to eat or to explore the world) is transformed— by social interaction—into something imbued with social meaning and associated with specific concepts and feelings. The object of the urge is now either valuable or objectionable.18 Social life is made up of layers upon layers of these types of experiences with others, where definitions and features of what is good (and in which situations) are conveyed and used in processes of moral deliberation. An individual may accept or reject any of these definitions, but even rebellion is carried out in reference to demarcations that arise from social exchanges. Individuals are active in choosing among multiple definitions or in choosing to blend them. Sociologists have emphasized the way that people act out, piece together, and use multiple narratives, stories, and symbols as they incorporate diverse, sometimes contrasting, notions of “a good life” into how they live.19 In our study, we work to unravel a bit the tangle of reasoning that people in China rely on in determining what makes up a life well lived. By investigating how they define happiness, we examine the shared evaluative frameworks by which

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they assess and organize their lives. We pay attention to how their lives match up to their expectations and what are the preoccupations central to their experiences. Talking about happy and unhappy families, good and bad places to eat, desirable and undesirable work situations, and priorities and secondary aims in significant moments like weddings led us to uncover common conceptual structures.

the role of pluralism Individuals in China face the fragmentation of values inherent in pluralism. Thirty years of socialism reached deeply into moral life, and now people talk about the moral vacuum that the era has left behind. No other country can tell this particular story. Even today, Chinese bloggers continue to post statements about Mao Zedong’s writing, including Class Struggle Theory, saying it should be widely read because struggle makes people stronger and leads to advancement. Nevertheless, ordinary people no longer frequently speak like this in everyday life. We examine the points of convergence, as well as the contradictions, in the way ordinary people think and talk about the challenges of a new pluralism. What follows is my own perspective on the moral strands extrapolated from the interview material, observations, and documents and described in the chapters that follow. These strands can be roughly grouped into three: the happy and prosperous family, the greater good, and individual fulfillment. They are in some ways like threads of symbolic material that people weave together as they construct their versions of happiness and the good life. Therefore, rather than leaning heavily on one or another category, individuals take up certain strands at certain points in time, even while feeling tension between two or all three of them. Sometimes they feel that one strand could lead to another and that, with some creative weaving, they might be able to have it all.

The Happy and Prosperous Family A traditional definition of the good life in China has centered on family. Happiness includes being a good person, and the mark of a good person is taking responsibility for reciprocal relationships, especially repaying one’s parents for all they have done. This includes caring for their health, spending time with them, and being obedient. The mark of growing to adulthood in China

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is not independence and leaving home but rather is learning to ease the minds of parents and contributing to the overall happiness of the family. The happy family requires self-sacrifice for the sake of the collective, and the goals are shared prosperity and abundant offspring. Happy events have been understood to include “the birth of a (male) child, examination success, promotion, the milestones of old age, and a good death.”20 Many generations living together under one roof (sishi tongtang) has historically been a measure of the good life, and although it might not be what everyone desires, intergenerational living is a reality for 70 percent of the population, according to our survey.21 Reasons for this include housing shortages and high prices, as well as the need for grandparents to take up child care and household duties while both young parents go to work. Some people express that when an older person’s sons (or, these days, sons and daughters) are attentive, that person can be happy, even while living far away from them. And parents of adults considered inattentive might find happiness elusive, no matter what good things have happened to them. Additionally, there can be tension in a modern intergenerational household, as adult children may still resist obedience in order to find their own way in the world. While it’s not always the ideal of sishi tongtang, people are improvising solutions and getting by, and the values of filial piety and plentiful intergenerational contact are alive and well. Young adults today labor to demonstrate their maturity by remaining close to parents (geographically and emotionally), even while balancing their other economic, political, and social responsibilities, as I argue in chapter 2. Ideal happiness comes as an offshoot of fulfilling their present or future roles as a benevolent parent, dutiful child, faithful spouse, and loyal sibling. The young adults depicted in this essay say this loudly and clearly. But they also speak of the difficulty of achieving the moral ideal of family happiness in society today. Divorce rates are rising. Intense competition for good jobs drives people away from home. Different life experiences cause estrangement among generations. The vicissitudes of a churning political economy make success or failure seem arbitrary, and there is much talk of how happiness is contingent upon fate. The Chinese pursuit of happiness today requires that one somehow balance responsibilities to the most involuntary of institutions, one’s family, with the effort demanded by a job in a dynamic, globalized market economy. The contradictory requirements create dilemmas for both younger and older generations.

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Despite the tensions, family remains central, as Deborah Davis shows in chapter 3. Her essay unpacks the different meanings of happiness expressed in contemporary middle-class weddings in Shanghai. Brides and grooms recounting their weddings there focused on their parents: the couples achieved happiness when their parents were satisfied with the celebration. Rituals emphasized not only the couple’s exclusive loyalty to one another but also the bride’s departure from her natal home and entry into that of her in-laws. Financial success is an important part of the ideal of family prosperity. Davis finds in Shanghai that consumption is a vehicle for the performance of happiness. Weddings, as the quintessentially happy event, are a set of elaborate rituals that perform in this way. Brides and grooms are purchasing $10,000 Vera Wang dresses and using drones to deliver rings. Even though couples typically describe their weddings as unique, they almost all follow a common pattern with just a few individualized touches. All agree that they are part of a happy occasion, while different generations of friends, family, and the married couple put different meanings on their commonly performed happiness. Wedding gifts are very much about cementing ties between members of the older generation (friends and family of the bride’s and groom’s parents).

The Greater Good A second moral strand people draw upon in their symbolic constructions of a good life is the greater good, consistent with traditions in Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist thought. It is a notion of virtue that may include material and social deprivation and is therefore not exactly encompassed by xingfu or fu. A well-known Confucian adage states that true joy (le) is derived from living in accord with the Way, even if a person has only coarse grains to eat and a stone for a pillow.22 For Buddhist monks and nuns today, as in the past, the pursuit requires leaving the home (chujia) as they deeply enter the world to serve the larger good. In Daoist thought, things of the universe are one, and therefore we have a “primordial connection” with every aspect of the world; because we are “fundamentally one with all things,” we should care for them as extensions of ourselves.23 There is also the long Confucian tradition of regulating one’s own behavior first, then that of one’s family, to effect a society that is harmonious overall. Partly related to the boom in the market is a bolstering of civic awareness and concern for the preservation of the humane. Thus some people with whom we spoke considered contributing to a beneficial Chinese society to be part of

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their definition of a good life. People spoke of trepidation about the effects of unbridled economic growth—issues like clean water and safe food hold particular attention. In the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, twenty-two companies added a type of plastic to infant formula and milk products in an effort to fool nutrition testers, killing six babies and causing illness in 300,000 of them. Exercising individual ethics within the context of institutional structures is unsettling for people in China, who try to face their fears about the condition of society when making personal decisions as well as in their work. If there is a moral order in China today, what people are feeling reflects the obstacles they are running up against as they pursue what “ought to be.” There have been many responses to this fear of social and moral disorder, and some center on the universal burden/pleasure of eating. James Farrer’s essay (chapter 4) explores the differences between happy and unhappy meals in today’s Shanghai. The business banquet, for instance, often features expensive food (usually charged to a corporate or government expense account) and raucous drinking games, all designed to express deferential gratitude to the host and solidarity with his (women are usually not invited) associates. For most people, this is a prime example of an unhappy meal, a hypocritical expression of happiness in a hierarchical relationship endured for utilitarian purposes. Alongside the fear of polluted food is the influx of outsiders, symbolized by “gutter oil”—oil that is produced by recycling leftover dishes and leftover cooking oil—which is less of a health concern and more a revulsion at untrustworthy strangers’ preparing the food. Farrer describes restaurateurs who are responding to concerns by creating small culinary utopias, allowing customers to take refuge and escape the threats of the larger society. There are also those who devote their careers to combating the bad aspects of society and helping to create a good one. In chapter 5, Madsen explores happiness from the point of view of the public world of work and government, which are seen to impinge upon the family and undermine some ideals of family happiness. Madsen’s work investigates a profession that mediates the pressures of markets and the demands of government on the one hand and the needs of families on the other—social work in Shanghai. The social workers labor on behalf of the greater society, specifically by healing family relationships, so in a certain way they take up both moral strands. In chapter 6, Chih-Jou Jay Chen focuses on reform-minded activists in China who derive happiness from their determination to make Chinese society better. They based their reform efforts on traditional Chinese values and

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communist ideology, and define their happiness as the pursuit of justice and equality. They are bolstered by the moral ideal that intellectuals should serve the disadvantaged. However, this life isn’t easy. The political beliefs and modes of action of activists, as well as personal career advancement, family values, and economic needs, are mostly incompatible with each other, resulting in a high degree of tension among them. Additionally, the activists and lawyers endanger their own security and freedom—risking imprisonment—when they organize on behalf of laborers and factory workers. They are further conflicted about risking the safety of their families. By studying these institutions in tension, we can understand an important aspect of happiness in private and public life in contemporary China.

Individual Fulfillment Individual fulfillment is present in the way people talk about what they desire and what they see as a good life. Our fieldwork finds references among respondents to self-development, emotional expression, and the importance of mobility and career options.24 Young adults in China desire to gain material and social resources, fulfill their dreams, and prove their self-worth. But their definitions of success include things other than making money. Young adults have soured on having to entertain clients, for example, even if they are still willing to endure it for career advancement. Since the 1980s, the Chinese party-state has called upon its citizens to energetically engage with market-oriented economic reforms, as part of a nationalist agenda to promote progress. The initial collectivist call soon began to allow for more individualized efforts, as official slogans like “To get rich is glorious!” legitimated the accumulation of personal wealth. By the late 1990s, as the anthropologist Yunxiang Yan argues, a new cultural hero had emerged: the successful, fashionable, rich, and confident individual (usually a man) who enjoys a worldly life. Some young adults interviewed aspire to this archetype (see chapter 2), who is admired for his dedication to his work and his striving for excellence—as well as for his conspicuous consumption, because enjoying the worldly life includes not only producing but also consuming. People desire the latest products, experiences, and imports, but there is a concern among Chinese that business is penetrating too far into private life, and prevailing materialism is leaving some feeling empty and spent.25 Individual fulfillment may come from having fun with friends. While the Chinese describe the family meal as an expression of the bedrock centrality

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of family in the moral universe, so-called ordinary people in China also describe it as neither unhappy nor especially happy (chapter 4). The happiest meals are with friends, perhaps an expression of a new importance given to the egalitarian conviviality of people who get together simply because they want to. Happy friendship meals are a haven from a corrupt society, while family meals are partially insulated but never completely isolated from that society. Additionally, individuals regard purchasing choices about food as part of self-expression and -definition, and there is a prevailing culinary nostalgia as people in metropolitan areas choose foods that evoke their hometowns or home provinces. And individuals choose particular types of what they term “clean and healthy” food as a way to protect themselves from the threat of social disorder, perceived as an effect of increased migration. Individual fulfillment can also be derived from good deeds. Social workers see themselves as engaged in conduct that demonstrates a virtuous life (chapter 5). They are trained to see each client as an individual and an equal, but this individualistic, egalitarian approach comes into conflict with the demands of the state. The tension between the values of their government and of their profession makes social workers unhappy, even as they are pleased with the small successes they achieve in helping their clients. A common aspiration of individuals caught within these tensions is for a happiness that springs from integrity. Similarly, activists pursue ideals of public service in a way that is about fulfilling deeply held values despite the sacrifices this entails for themselves and their families (chapter 6). Today in China, individual fulfillment is a factor when people conceptualize or construct happiness in various areas of everyday life, including schooling, career, timing of marriage and parenting, and leisure time with friends. Figure 1 depicts the three major moral strands that people in China combine into constructions of happiness and a good life: family prosperity, the greater good, and individual fulfillment. They are like three strands in a length of rope. To extend the metaphor a bit further, people may be braiding these strands together and holding on to their rope as they weather the anxiety about larger social forces they cannot control. As they go about their daily lives, they may exert more energy in the maintenance of one strand or another in response to perceived threats. A 2015 study by the anthropologist Teresa Kuan found that parents in China devote their time and resources to education strategies for their children, paradoxically spending their effort and their money in an

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The happy and prosperous family

The greater good Fu Xingfu (chapter 1)

Weddings (chapter 3) Young adults (chapter 2)

Social work (chapter 5) Eating with friends (chapter 4)

Activism (chapter 6)

Individual fulfillment figure 1. Three strands in the symbolic construction of happiness and the good life: the happy and prosperous family, individual fulfillment, and the greater good.

attempt to create the happy and prosperous family—as reflected in the success of their children. We might see here an awkward twisting together of the strands of family prosperity and individual fulfillment. Sometimes people may give more attention to the strand of the greater good in response to certain events. After the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, there was a massive outpouring of civic activity, as people organized themselves to donate and volunteer. For some, this led to more than intermittent involvement. The sociologist Bin Xu shows that there was also a “tiny public” of dissidents and liberal intellectuals who addressed why schools collapsed, although doing so was a politically dangerous activity (as it could expose the state’s having overlooked enforcement of building safety codes).26 In her New York Times op-ed, “The Bitter Regrets of a Useless Chinese Daughter,” the fiction writer Jianan Qian exemplifies the way people in China interlace all three strands of a good life while also feeling the tension among them. She is apprehensive because she feels she provides inadequate health care for her ailing mother while she pursues her career. Qian also worries

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about how to bring about a better society, lamenting that people focus only on getting what they need at that moment, by whatever means they can. Working to address real social and political issues “takes too long, and too many things cannot wait.”27 Her concern for the greater good is countered by the feeling that people can do only so much. In this volume, we consider the social and cultural context in China as central to our inquiry into the criteria by which people assess and evaluate their own lives. In doing so, we study happiness in a unique way: by painting what we hope is an accurate portrait of the hopes, expectations, and challenges experienced by people living in China today. Because we recognize that selfevaluation is an inherently social act, the research we discuss here enables a more nuanced and contextualized understanding of happiness and its assessment than has yet been presented in the field. A last note: we do not standardize the use of the English word happiness or its synonyms to describe specific Chinese understandings of happiness. Although we considered imposing some kind of scheme, we ultimately did not, because in the interviews and the fieldwork, people didn’t necessarily use the different Chinese words for happiness precisely. Sometimes they did not use any of the words for happiness when they were describing what they were aiming for in life, what they saw as ideal, what they wanted, and what they thought was good, yet all these represent our topic. Since the words for happiness are ultimately peripheral to these larger notions, we followed our respondents and did not focus on linguistic aspects, instead using the term happiness liberally.

notes 1. Yu (2014). 2. Kahneman et al. (2004). 3. M. Seligman (2011). 4. Helliwell, Layard, and Sachs (2017). 5. See Bellah et al. (1985) for an examination of how ordinary Americans define the good life and the pursuit of happiness. See also Mathews and Izquierdo (2009) for essays on definitions of the good life in various locations around the world. 6. Oishi et al. (2013); Tsai (2007). 7. Taylor (1989). 8. Madsen (2012). 9. Mathews (2012). 10. A. Sun (2014).

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11. Yang (2015). 12. “China Rises in World Happiness Rankings” (2017). See also Helliwell, Layard, and Sachs (2017, 20). 13. Places where there have been surveys on happiness include Nanjing, Dezhou, Jinan, Tianjin, Wuyishan, Zhongshan, and Zhuhai City. City-level surveys include Constructing Happy Nanjing Survey (南京建设人民幸福城市调查问卷) (http:// site.nj.gov.cn/site/dcwj/index.jsp?pid=1); “Developing Happy Dezhou” Survey poll (“建设幸福德州” 民意调查问卷) (www.dezhoudaily.com/xfdzwjdt.do); Jinan “Happiness Index” Survey (济南 “幸福指数” 调查问卷) (www.sdfdc.com/xinwen /image/xfzs.doc); Tianjin Residents’ Happiness Survey (天津市居民幸福感调查) (http://www.sojump.com/jq/2594379.aspx); Wuyishan Residents’ Happiness Index Survey (武夷山市居民幸福指数调查问卷); (http://bbs.wys.gov.cn/infoopen/info detail.aspx?id=203430); Zhongshan Residents’ Happiness Survey (中山市公民幸福 感调查问卷) (http://www.sojump.com/report/2603793.aspx); Zhuhai City Jinwan District Happiness Survey (珠海金湾区幸福感调查问卷) (http://www.jinwan.gov .cn/OnlineSurveyInfo.aspx?ID=15068&flag=4&VID=daf74c2bfdf14419b8ae60f4e4 d0990a). 14. Easterlin, Wang, and Wang (2017). 15. Farquhar and Zhang (2012, 145). 16. The statistic is from the Blessed Happiness Survey, which has not been published. See Hsu, Weiwei Zhang, and Kim (2017). 17. The survey’s social contact questions ask about how people communicate with others, who they meet with in person, and who they give money to. The questions emphasize behavior (what people do in their everyday activities—for example, how often they see family members, when they visit the graves rather than asking them to rate the importance of things or polling their opinions. 18. Dewey (1985, 308); see also Xu (2017, 7) for a discussion of Chinese educational traditions revolving around theories about morality. The more often-cited account is Durkheim’s (2001), which describes how repeated social interactions (rituals both formal and informal) lead to moral understandings. 19. Swidler (1986); Wuthnow (1998, 95). 20. Lee (2016, 90–91). 21. The Blessed Happiness Survey shows that 71 percent of adults live with another generation, such as parents, in-laws, or adult children. 22. The master said, “Eating coarse rice and drinking water, leaning upon my bent arm for a pillow—there is joy to be found in such things!” (Analects 7.15). 23. Ivanhoe (2017, 21). 24. Our fieldwork is in agreement with Rofel (2007, 3) and Jankowiak and Li (2016). 25. Yan (2013, 270); Liu (2002). 26. Xu (2017, 141). 27. Qian (2018).

chapter 1

The Changing Notion of Happiness A History of Xingfu lang chen

Xingfu (幸福) means happiness, or to be happy, in Chinese. The word drew tremendous public attention in China in October 2012, when the party-state television channel (China Central Television, aka CCTV) aired a special program on the 7:00 p.m. news every day during the weeklong National Day/ midautumn holiday. CCTV reporters had approached about two thousand people and asked if they are xingfu. The program, Reaching the Grass Roots: People’s Voices from Within (Zoujin jiceng, baixing xinsheng), dedicated itself to “ joyfully anticipating” the eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party, which was to be held approximately one month later. What may have been most impressive about the program, and what people still recalled five years later, were some of the eccentric answers to the reporter’s query. The question was “Are you xingfu?” and it seemed to puzzle or confuse some rural or working-class people. “What were you saying?” asks a woman vendor, laughing. “Am I xingfu? Of course, I am! I’m selling things—of course, I’m xingfu.” She turns to another vendor and says, “She asked me if I’m xingfu. How funny this sis is!” “Xingfu?” replies a young migrant worker in a train station, frowning and thinking seriously. “This is knotty—It’s hard to say.” An older migrant, relaxing in the sun, tells the reporter, “I just came to work from the province. Don’t ask me.” When asked again, he takes the question “Are you happy?” (Nin xingfú ma) to mean “Is your family name Fu” (Nin xing fù ma); he answers nonchalantly and innocently, “My family name is Zeng.” 19

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Answers like these immediately became memes; the most nonsensical example, “My family name is Zeng,” was praised online as the best answer ever.1 Parody videos of the interview popped up on the internet, with people giving deliberately funny answers or being sharply critical of the question. Weibo, the Chinese version of Tweeter, became a carnivalesque playground for people to mock the survey. In including such amusing footage in the program and broadcasting it during the normally poker-faced evening news, CCTV seemed to be trying to make a gesture of humor and candidness. The network even included a few negative answers to the question. Broadcast three months after the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 20 the International Day of Happiness, the program also seemed to be a response to criticisms of China’s blind pursuit of an ever-larger gross domestic product, as well as the country’s attempt to follow the global trend of promoting national happiness. However, these efforts were not at all appreciated by most of the audience. Beneath their laughter one could discern irritation, dissatisfaction, and even harsh political criticism. A well-known public intellectual posted on Weibo: “The word xingfu is rather popular recently. . . . It is because some people want to use ‘Xingfu China’ as the new slogan of governance. . . . This, just like [the slogan of] ‘Harmonious China,’ only shows the government’s lack of [real] political tenets, which should have been impartiality, justice, democracy and legislation.”2 Ren Zhiqiang, an even more high-profile public figure, condemned the CCTV survey as a “very stupid hoax.”3 This incident, labeled “Xingfugate” by some dissident media, clearly demonstrates the specifically political nature of the word xingfu, which other Chinese words denoting happiness lack.4 Despite the utterly disastrous outcome of the CCTV interviews, xingfu has continued to play an important role in the ideology of the party-state.5 A search of party organs such as People’s Daily and Guangming Daily reveals the boggling frequency with which the word appears in political articles. In this essay I am conducting an archeology of the word xingfu, in order to better understand its connotations and applications in the contemporary context. While xingfu is a very common word with a seemingly straightforward meaning in both written and spoken Chinese, just like the English word happiness, it has a loaded history. Before the twentieth century, the word xingfu rarely meant happiness, and happiness was conveyed through other words. One of those words in classical Chinese is fu (福), which mostly refers to

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material prosperity; unless specifically indicated, it carried hardly any moral connotation. Cultural elites often despised amoral passion for material prosperity and labeled such an attitude xingfu (幸福). The antithesis of this attitude was the pursuit of le (乐), the inner joy derived solely from being virtuous, transcending one’s material desires and conditions. Le and fu may be regarded as opposite ends of the spectrum of how happiness was understood in China, and various efforts have been made to harmonize the two, such as the karma theory and the Confucian idea of the “interaction between heaven and men” (天人感应). I consider the new use of the word xingfu in the early twentieth century another attempt to harmonize fu and le, as the means previously used to tackle this issue became unsatisfactory. This may well have been the first time this harmonization was attempted by using a single word. Yet, because of the intrinsic ambiguity of its meaning, xingfu has been constantly redefined since its modern debut. My goal in this chapter is to elaborate new understandings of happiness in early twentieth-century in China as embodied in the change of meaning of the word xingfu. Xingfu had been used mostly pejoratively, except when it was used to describe someone’s humble gratitude toward a superior, especially the emperor and other members of the royal family. The change in its meaning was not merely a linguistic one but involved and embodied clashes and negotiations of conflicting views of history, social hierarchy, and so forth. How is xingfu different from other traditional Chinese expressions of happiness? Does it carry any special connotation that the English word happiness does not? Is it considered to mean the satisfaction of desires for external things or the inner joy transcending such desires? A human right or a gift bestowed by the state? A concrete “good feeling” about this very moment or a utopian vision of the future? If happiness could be all these things, how are such contradictory definitions related or reconciled in Chinese contexts? These are the questions that I address here.

expressions of happiness in classical chinese The Sinologist François Jullien, studying the Daoist philosophy of Zhuangzi, has asked why Chinese thought “never made the idea of happiness explicit” and why “it showed so little interest in happiness.”6 By using happiness, Jullien refers specifically to that of the Western tradition, a tradition that, according to him, associates happiness with finality and telos. Other scholars, such as

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Wolfgang Bauer and Koon-ki Ho, nonetheless point out that the search for happiness has been enduring and ubiquitous in China one need not be a welltrained anthropologist to observe the fervent pursuit of a happy, prosperous life in temples or during festivals in a Chinese community.7 So what is (or are) the Chinese kind (or kinds) of happiness, if there is such a thing? One of the words indicating happiness in classical Chinese is fu (福), which is the second character in the term xingfu. The character fu appeared as early as the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE) in bone scripting used for divination. Its radical (the left side of the character) indicates its original relationship to sacrifice. The right side may explain its connection to fu (富), which means abundance and richness.8 The original meaning of fu may well be the meat that is used for sacrifice, whereas the most authoritative premodern dictionary, Shuowen jiezi, defines fu as blessing or divine protection (祐).9 While fu is definitely related to heaven, it also must be embodied on Earth. Fu is specifically defined in the Book of Documents (Shangshu) as including longevity, prosperity, health, cultivating virtue, and death by a natural cause.10 Around the beginning of the Common Era, these “Five Fu” were redefined as longevity, prosperity, high social status, an untroubled life, and plenty of offspring. The character fu appears in various forms of folk art such as print and paper cutting, which are often posted on walls, doors, and windows of Chinese households, especially at the time of the Lunar New Year. It is also the name of a deity, the first of the “Three Stars,” which collectively symbolize a complete bundle of good things in life and have been enjoying great popularity in China. The two other stars, Lu and Shou, refer to rank and longevity, respectively, whereas Fu refers to an untroubled, happy life in a more general sense. Although cultivating virtue had been listed as one of the five fu, it was hardly considered an important element unless specifically mentioned. A great amount of evidence—most dating from the eleventh century on—shows that the worldliness and amorality of fu has been criticized by cultural elites. Obviously, the concept of fu is far from adequate to define happiness in the Chinese context. Cultural elites considered people to be ignorant if they took worldly fu as the primary or only pursuit of their life, and the elites regarded a religion to be misleading if it taught people to do so. For this reason, in sharp contrast to its modern usage, the phrase xingfu (幸福, also written as 倖福) when used before the twentieth century usually describes an ignorant, blind pursuit of fu. The character xing means luck, often with the connotation that people do not deserve the good fortune they experience or do not receive the punishment

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they deserve.11 As a result, when xing and fu are put together, xing functions as a verb that takes fu as its object, and thus the whole phrase usually would be translated as “obtaining fu by luck” or “indulging oneself in fu, which is obtained by luck.” For example, in commenting on a sentence from The Analects of Confucius, “The unrighteous avoid their due punishments by mere good fortune (xing),” the famous philosopher Zhang Zai (1012–1077) wrote: “If one’s life is righteous and follows the Principle, then he accepts both the good and bad that happen to him. For the unrighteous, even if he does not indulge himself in the fu that he obtained by luck from his unrighteous deeds (幸福于回), he would try to avoid suffering by giving up his moral principle.”12 Wang Fuzhi (1619–1692), another renowned scholar who lived in the seventeenth century, further commented on Zhang Zai’s words, stating that for the unrighteous, “when having a smooth life, they merely obtain such fu by luck (xingfu, 处安平而枉以幸 福); when harsh situations occur, they would certainly give up their morality in order to be safe. There are people who fortunately obtain fu by accident.”13 Here, both Zhang Zai and Wang Fuzhi use xingfu pejoratively. Confucians like them value morality more highly than fu. Sacrificing moral righteousness to obtain fu is particularly despicable. Being upright represents an end in itself, not a means to obtain fu. This attitude is praised as “having no heart/mind of xingfu” (无幸福之心) by a twelfth-century writer commenting on an instruction in the Book of Rites (Li ji) about the proper attitude toward sacrifice: when conducting sacrifice, the virtuous person serves heaven as a son serves his parents with filial piety, in the sense that he does not expect to gain anything for himself through his service.14 This is echoed by a text that dates to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century: “The purpose of being virtuous is neither to xingfu (i.e., to obtain fu by luck, 为徳非以幸福) nor to bring fame to oneself; I just act according to my conscience and capability.”15 The person who followed this principle would be extolled by others as a “noble man” (君子). According to these cultural elites, although fu is a kind of good or happy life, it is not to be pursued as the goal of life, as it is predicated upon so many contingencies. In the eyes of some Confucians, religions that promise fu to their devotees as a reward for their devotional deeds are misleading and even deceptive. In fact, the earliest and perhaps most well-known use of the phrase xingfu described the Emperor Xian of the Tang dynasty, who worshipped Buddha relics but still died at an early age. The New History of the Tang, compiled in the eleventh century, comments on this case: “As for trying to

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enjoy fu but ending up with suffering (幸福而祸), there is no better example [than this].”16 Another text, written in the sixteenth century, explicitly charges that Daoist and Buddhist practices—such as fasting, giving alms, and performing rituals—are attempts to acquire profits through deceit and to pursue fu, which is in fact mere good fortune (罔利幸福).17 The author condemns these practices as causing ignorance, says they are as evil as robbery, and urges Confucians to refrain from them.18 Notwithstanding the common pejorative usage of the word xingfu, there is a riveting exception in classical Chinese. On some rare occasions when one is interacting with a superior, especially royalty, this prejorativity is replaced by a connotation of self-deprecation. The word xing expresses one’s humbleness, indicating that the speaker does not really deserve such good fortune but merely got lucky. For example, in a memorial written in 778, the author, a Buddhist monk, expressed his feeling of being fortunate (幸福) to have been commissioned to perform a fire ritual for the emperor; the success of the ritual, he suggests, should not be attributed to the author but to the virtues of the emperor, which matched the virtues of heaven and brought fu to his subjects.19 This example draws our attention to two things. First, in some special contexts the word xingfu could have a connotation of indebtedness and gratefulness, which may have survived in the word’s modern transformation. Second, as I have shown, while many cultural elites were fully aware of the potential conflict between following moral principles and obtaining worldly fortune (fu), they considered the virtues of the emperor and the prosperity of his country congruent. I will return to this discrepancy later and discuss how it was justified. For the elite who criticized the blind pursuit of fu, the antithesis was the search for le (乐). Etymologically related to sounds of music, this word emphasizes the subjective side of happiness. It could refer to any pleasures, no matter how transitory or physical they are, a meaning that is preserved in the modern word kuaile (快乐).20 However, traditional literati often used le to signify inner joy, the kind of happiness that they regarded as more reliable than fu. Modern scholars have noticed this usage of le and defined it as “attainable enjoyment/contentment,” which is “expanding, absorbing and lasting” and thus “carrying with it a moral tone,” or as “pleasures that one can rely upon” and “that sustain rather than consume.”21 Of course, le does not always have a moral connotation, nor is it the only Chinese word that refers to a kind of happiness that transcends hedonism or material satisfaction.22 Neverthe-

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less, le is the word used most frequently in contrast with fu as an alternative ideal of happiness, especially under the influence of neo-Confucianism. The extolment of le goes at least as far back as Confucius’s Analects, which says: “In eating of coarse rice, drinking of plain water, and using of one’s elbow for a pillow, joy [le] is to be found. Wealth and rank attained through immoral means have as much to do with me as passing clouds.”23 Here, le is contrasted with things like “wealth and rank,” which belong to the domain of fu. By the same token, Confucius highly praises his disciple Yan Hui for his genuine joy (le) in spite of poverty.24 Unlike fu, le is much more subjective, requiring only minimal external conditions. In the eleventh century, the philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) highlighted this virtue of Yan Hui’s, and his words served as the basis for the famous phrase “ joy of Confucius and Yan Hui” (孔颜乐 处) and became a classic expression of the Confucian ideal that literati were expected to follow from the eleventh century on.25 In one essay composed in the twelfth century, the author reflects that he named his house “Thinking of Joy” (le, 思乐斋) to warn himself not to become attached to fu, which is gained only through luck and would eventually bring suffering (幸福而祸).26 This essay very explicitly contrasts le and fu. The former has a much more reliable foundation than the latter; this foundation is one’s inner feeling, unaffected by external, unpredictable fate or other conditions. Generally speaking, Chinese literati pointed to thoughts attributed to Confucius, which were further elaborated in neo-Confucianism, to criticize folk notions of fu, warning that it is rather risky and deluded for people to rely on this for their ultimate happiness. In most cases they used xingfu to describe such a deluded mentality. Whereas fu and le may be regarded as representing opposite ends of the spectrum of the understandings of happiness in China, efforts to reconcile the two have never ceased. For example, Liaofan’s Four Lessons (Liaofan sixun), which was composed in the early seventeenth century and is still popular today, explicitly contrasts the two and explores the possibility of acquiring both—“Morality, virtues, benevolence, and righteousness are pursuable, but is there a way to pursue rank, fame, and wealth?”27 This work, representing the Chinese tradition of merit accumulation, uses the belief in retribution to link morality and prosperity: Being virtuous and diligently doing good deeds, facilitated by “ledgers of merit and demerit” (gongguo ge), is said to bring positive things to one’s life such as a successful career or male offspring.28 Not surprisingly, orthodox Confucians were not convinced and scathingly

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criticized this approach for encouraging a functional and calculated attitude toward morality, an attitude that sabotages the virtue of doing good for its own sake.29 Another way to reconcile fu and le is to do so through political agents. In the Book of Songs (Shijing), a poet asked the rulers of the Zhou dynasty to cultivate their virtues so that the Zhou would never lose the Mandate of Heaven as the previous dynasty did. The poet considered this the way to “seek for fu” (自求多福).30 Dong Zhongshu (179–104 BCE) institutionalized this idea, solving this “potential conflict between Heaven and man” with the theory that “it is the ruler who must bring the patterns of Heaven to the world, and . . . ministers must be properly trained in classics so that they can guide the ruler.”31 This theory suggests that through virtuous deeds, including sacrificing their own fu when necessary, Confucians help to improve the morality of the ruler, which would bring fu to people of the entire country. In this way, fu and le could be harmonized, thereby justifying the aforementioned discrepancy—between the ordinary people who often experienced the conflict of prosperity and morality on the one hand and the ruler whose morality was said to bring the entire country prosperity on the other. Yet, when the monarchic cosmology was being dissolved and the truthfulness of karmic retribution was questioned, could these theories harmonizing fu and le still work? I will show in the next section that in the late Qing and early Republican era, the need to reconcile morality and prosperity for every individual seemed to become more pressing as people attempted to adjust to a new cosmology. These attempts were embodied in the newly imported concept of xingfu.

the modern concept of xingfu The meaning of xingfu began to undergo a transformation in nineteenthcentury Japan during the Tokugawa period. An English dictionary published in 1814 defines the English word happiness using the Chinese characters xingfu.32 This usage did not become common until the 1870s, the early Meiji period.33 From then on, the meaning of xingfu turned positive. It is worth noting that the new meaning of this word originally appeared as the translation of an English word. The modern usage of xingfu was transmitted from Japan to China during the final years of China’s imperial period. Based on the materials I have so far collected, I date its debut to 1902, when Liang Qichao

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(1873–1929) published two essays that engaged this new idea; both essays were in regard to Jeremy Bentham and utilitarianism.34

Xingfu: The Diverse and the Universal Liang devotes the second half of his essay “Selected Words on Political Theory” (Zhengzhixue xueli zhiyan) to discussing Bentham’s utilitarian concept of “the greatest happiness (xingfu) of the greatest number.”35 Liang relates the notion of happiness to the evolution of civilization, as he considers that human history constitutes a history of the expansion of happiness to increasing numbers of people. In other words, the more civilized the world becomes, the greater the portion of its population that enjoys happiness. Here, all human beings are considered equal, and happiness—whatever its denotation—seems to be something universally applicable to any and all humans. Such an expansion or maximization of happiness, Liang continues in his essay, is to be achieved through a continuous negotiation between demanding on the one hand and yielding on the other. He criticizes traditional Chinese culture for only encouraging people to yield, which has made happiness the exclusive possession of the powerful and privileged. Liang emphasizes that the people should not wait for the ruler to grant them happiness but strive for it through continuous negotiation. However, he also points out that whereas the happiness of the majority should not be sacrificed for that of a privileged minority, in an ideal world the opposite should not happen either. In that sense, he concludes, the phrase “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” which implies the existence of some unhappy people, does not depict a perfect world but only a transitional phase of evolution, which China in the early 1900s should still strive to reach. The implication here that the pursuit of happiness is the right of every human being. Yet the question remains: What is happiness? In another essay that Liang published the same year, “Teachings of Bentham, the Founder of Utilitarianism” (Leli zhuyin taidou bianqin zhi xueshuo), happiness is again at the center of discussion, which is reflected in the term Liang coined to translate utilitarianism—instead of adopting any of the Japanese translations, he uses the word leli zhuyi (乐利主义).36 Whereas zhuyi is the standard translation for ism, le—as I have shown previously—means joy or pleasure, often with some moral connotation, and li means interest or profit. Liang begins his essay by using the word le to refer to worldly pleasures, which, according to him, has been considered the antithesis of morality and thus, like

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li (profit), was rarely discussed by Chinese intellectuals.37 Yet only a few paragraphs into the essay, Liang brings in the moral side of le when elaborating different kinds of joy, distinguishing the noble (高尚之快乐, including religious joy, especially that of Buddhism) and superior (高等) from the ordinary (普通之快乐) and inferior (下等).38 Defending the measurability of happiness that Bentham advocated in his idea “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” Liang argues that these kinds of le are different in quantity—that is to say, a noble joy is inevitably of greater amount than the lowly one, for the latter entailed suffering while the former completely excludes it.39 For this reason, the noble joy is the “real joy” (真乐). Similarly, the “real profit” (li 利) is not the profit gained by exploiting others, for that would ultimately harm one’s own interests. Therefore, people who pursue the real joy and real profit are by no means greedy or uncharitable but understand through kindness or calculation that their own gain or loss is actually in line with that of their community. Liang suggests that real joy and real profit (真利) constitute “the greatest xingfu (happiness).”40 We can speculate that for Liang, xingfu contains two aspects—joy and profit—and can be achieved only when both are obtained. Not every open-minded Chinese intellectual at that time was impressed by the utilitarian approach to happiness. In “Spencer’s Critique on [the idea of] the Greatest Happiness,” published in 1903, the anonymous author questions the measurability of happiness and thus the practicality of utilitarianism.41 According to this article, different nations in the world have different understandings of xingfu. For example, the British regard pursuit of progress as xingfu, whereas for the Chinese it means the proper conduct of rituals and manners. Even within a nation, each person has a different view. Some suggest that we should cultivate our heart or mind, while others argue that physical exercise would bring greater xingfu; some consider that to desire less would make a person xingfu, but others argue that it is desire that has motivated progress, and without desire we would remain barbaric. Given that happiness is so different for each person and nation as a whole, how can it be measured in a way that allows the “greatest happiness of the greatest number”? Although this anonymous author does not agree with utilitarianism that Liang introduced, the manner in which the writer criticizes it shows similar modern features. First, both authors are not satisfied with the silence of traditional cultural elites regarding material and physical happiness, and both acknowledge that the fulfillment of humans’ material desires—not basic mate-

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rial needs alone—could be a legitimate or even important aspect of happiness.42 Although Liang still distinguishes the noble and the ordinary le, he acknowledges that profit (li) constitutes an essential part of happiness. Material desires have now been justified as a basis for the world’s progress. The traditional, neo-Confucian view, which emphasized the nonmaterial, including mental status and moral cultivation, is no longer absolute but relative. Kang Youwei (1858–1927) had mocked it a few years earlier, caricaturing Confucians after the Tang dynasty as “considering themselves superior for riding on a broken chariot or a feeble horse, living in a shabby house, and eating only vegetables.”43 Obviously, these images, which traditionally once signified the virtue of “feeling content with the simple life and finding joy (le) in the Dao” (安贫乐道), are no longer regarded as leading to happiness. Second, like Liang, the author of the Spencer article is searching for something universal that applies to all Chinese—even all humans—across social strata. While highlighting the diversity of views on happiness, what the writer ultimately advocates is a universal foundation or essence that underlies all these takes on happiness. This foundation, the author claims, is the “freedom and equality” that Spencer prescribed, rather than the utilitarian goal of “greatest happiness of the greatest number,” which the author considers ambiguous. With the term xingfu, the traditional concepts of fu and le are reconciled in a new way. On the one hand material prosperity is justified by the discourse of progress and nationalism and thus acquires moral values. On the other hand, perhaps for the first time fu and le are reconciled by being amalgamated into one word: xingfu. People from various social, economic, and cultural strata are equipped with this common term to refer to what they pursue. Paradoxically, while the diverse understandings of happiness have become better acknowledged, the idea of happiness appears to be universal, or at least bases itself on some universal foundation or measurability. A 1909 article, “Diligence Generates Xingfu” (强勉生幸福), which—judging from its plain, highly colloquial style and its appearance in a periodical called the Colloquial (白话报)—seems to target less-educated readers, demonstrates the same transformation in meaning from a nonelite perspective.44 It begins with a powerful statement: “There is no one in the world who does not want to enjoy fu. Fuqi is neither given by Heaven nor obtained with the help of gods, but is created by each person’s own hands!” This implies that those who appear detached from the pursuit of material prosperity are hypocritical. Here, based on the discourse of progress instead of the karma theory, fu is considered as attainable and

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reliable as le. For the author, if those who work with diligence and intelligence will earn money and become xingfu, and their country will also become as developed and powerful as Europe and North America. Here, just as in Liang Qichao’s essays and the anonymous one on Spencer, xingfu acts as a universal ideal situated within a linear framework of progress and development.

Xingfu: A Right or a Favor? Not long after its debut in China, xingfu went beyond the personal and the philosophical to be used in explicitly political contexts. In order to reach xingfu, some claimed, China needed fundamental structural reform or even a revolution. “The Xingfu in the Citizens’ Imagination,” an article published in 1907, argues that the Chinese should abandon their habitual illusion that the government or a certain “good official” will save the country and bring the people xingfu.45 Such a notion, the author asserts, reflects an ingrained submission to the powerful and has contributed to the country’s authoritarianism (专制). The Chinese should change their mind-set to one of viewing the government’s power as something given by its citizenry, with the responsibility “to express the desire and will of the people” (达出大众之欲望) and benefit all through legislation. The people should strive for their own xingfu, in place of the illusion that the Qing government will conduct sincere reforms to promote human rights. Desire is again acknowledged and even highlighted. It is thus very understandable how appalling the idea of xingfu was for the royalists. A memorial that the conservative high official Liu Tingchen (1867– 1932) presented to the emperor in 1911 says that radicals, who were trying to overthrow the emperor, “are using the idea of xingfu to incite the ignorant masses, and the idea of enriching and strengthening the country (富強 fuqiang) to incite the upper class.” 46 This would pose a clear threat to his political vision that “the opinions of the masses should be listened [to], but their rights should not be advocated; the emperor’s morality should be cultivated, but his power should not be abandoned.” 47 The implication is that happiness should by no means be a right that each human being is entitled to demand. Even if “ordinary people suffer from the corrupted officials,” they should understand that “the imperial government had no intention of torturing them.” 48 By the same token, it seems to suggest, if the opinions of ordinary people are heard and they feel satisfied about their life, they should be grateful to the ruler. After the monarchy was overthrown and Sun Yet-sen took the presidential oath on the first day of 1912, xingfu also played an important role. The first

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half of this very brief oath reads: “Overthrowing the authoritarian government of the Qing, establishing the Republic of China, and working for people’s xingfu—these are the consensus of our citizens, which I follow in order to be loyal to this country and to serve its people.”49 Here, xingfu seems to represent one of the fundamental legitimacies of the first republic in Chinese history.

Xingfu: At Present or in the Future? Despite the oath taken by Sun Yat-sen and the founding of the Republic, xingfu did not arrive as quickly as many had expected. The discussion of the topic continued, evolving to a more sophisticated level. At the time, Liang Qichao’s enthusiasm about utilitarianism (leli zhuyi) had waned. In an essay from 1915 (“Feisidi rensheng tianzhi lun shuping”—Critical Remarks on Fichte’s Theory of the Vocation of Human Life), although he still defends its founding thinkers, Liang points out that their followers have never been immune to misunderstanding and misappropriating the thinkers’ ideas.50 He condemns those who think that life is only about le-li, without any moral values.51 Here, he apparently uses le to refer to transitory pleasures rather than “real joy” (zhen le). The major problem of utilitarianism, Liang suggests, is its failure to emphasize the intrinsic value of morality, regarding it as merely a means to obtain happiness (le). He thus brings in the character de (德), which means morality or virtue, to express the meaning of happiness more accurately, and even creates a new term: “unificationism of fu and de” (福德合一主义 fude heyi zhuyi). Joachim Kurtz, in his 2012 study, points out that this concept “allows [one] to combine two aspects whose apparent incompatibility had been the subject of extensive controversy in China since the turn of the century: the moral demands of traditional Chinese thought and the emphasis on individuality and progress that presumably lay at the heart of the Western strength.”52 This tension between Chinese morality and Western strength may have inspired Liang in 1902, when he wrote that Chinese culture encourages people to yield to authority but not to demand their own rights. At this stage, however, such an analysis may be reductive, potentially misleading readers into simply taking de (morality) as Chinese and fu (prosperity) as Western. Liang states clearly that Fichte’s Germany was every bit as weak as his China, and morality in China was in decline and required reform (although one can argue that this narrative of China’s moral decline is a construction of Western colonialism). In my opinion, it would be more accurate to describe Liang’s construction of “unificationism of fu and de”—as well as the term le-li zhuyi—as an effort

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necessitated by the dissolution of the Confucian cosmology as the official ideology and inspired by the Western cosmology of progress. As I have concluded, the inner joy derived from virtue (le) and the satisfaction of prosperity (fu) were two separate concepts in premodern China, especially the late imperial period; for the strict Confucians, who did not believe in karmic retribution, virtue (de) and material well-being (fu) often came into conflict with each other, and theoretically could be rendered harmonious only by using the emperor as the medium, assuming anyone ever tried to harmonize them. This cosmology officially collapsed when the monarchy was replaced by the new republic, and the cultural boundary between elites and the proletariat became unprecedentedly blurred.53 It is at this moment that the issue of reconciling virtue and prosperity became particularly pressing. For Liang, none of the Chinese philosophical or religious traditions could offer a satisfactory solution: Buddhism deprecated the senses, Daoism ignored morality, and Confucianism repressed the self.54 Whereas their teachings might provide perfect guidance for some people, Liang was searching for something universally applicable to humans, and he believed it could be found in Fichte.55 The solution offered by Fichte is to propose a telos for life, which he calls a vocation.56 The telos of life is to make one’s body and actions consistent with their innate nature, which Fichte and Liang define as rationality. Happiness (xingfu) is achieved when this telos is reached, that is, when one’s internal, rational nature becomes consistent with the external world.57 Since being moral is now defined as acting according to one’s rational nature, happiness and virtue are unified. While we may dismiss this theory as tautological or denounce its presumption of human rationality, what is germane to this investigation is that Liang had made continuous efforts—first with the idea of le-li and later with fu-de—to develop a new concept of happiness that claims to unify internal, virtuous joy and external, material prosperity. This time, inspired by Fichte, Liang transformed happiness from a concept—either fu or le—describing a concrete and perhaps current situation or feeling to something that is abstract yet alluring and shimmering in the future of one’s life, something to strive or even fight for (奋斗 fendou).58 This idea can also be applied to a nation or the entire human race. In an earlier essay, “The Hope of China’s Future and the Responsibilities of Its Citizens” (Zhongguo qiantu zhi xiwang yu guomin zeren) (1911), Liang states that Chinese people’s wish to obtain happiness (xingfu) without paying any price is unrealistic.59 For him xingfu does not mean “feeling good” but something to be obtained

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through a painstaking, strenuous process. Here, a kind of teleological happiness, which François Jullien considered nearly absent in traditional Chinese culture, insinuated itself into the “repertoire of happiness” in China. Pain and suffering are the price that a nation must pay to achieve it. Quite paradoxically, two very different understandings of happiness (xingfu) were circulating during the same period: on the one hand political leaders claimed to serve the people by promoting their xingfu,60 but on the other hand they asked people to bear their current unhappiness in order to achieve xingfu in the future. While the former served as one of the justifications for overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the republic, the latter could be used to explain nearly any suffering on the path to utopia.

conclusion Despite the varying understandings and usages of the word xingfu within the modern Chinese language, we can hardly deny that its meaning underwent a radical change in the early twentieth century as the Chinese language was transformed from its classical to its modern form. In the nineteenth century, although Wei Yuan (1794–1857) was well known for his openness to Western thought and his criticism of conservative Confucianism, he still wrote, “If one does not indulge oneself in fu, which has been obtained by luck, no disaster will happen to him (不幸福斯无祸); if one is not eager to profit, no loss will befall him.”61 By the early twentieth century, however, as I have shown, many people would have instead said, “If everyone in a country is not eager to profit, their country will stall and remains backward”; it was at this time that xingfu became something positive to be pursued. Generally speaking, while the pursuit of fu must have been ubiquitous, the cultural elites, trying to distinguish themselves, had attributed greater value to moral cultivation and inner joy (le). Scholars have shown how during the antisuperstition movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, rituals, worship, and other technologies that had been used to bring fu were attacked.62 This essay may be regarded as an attempt to address the other side of the coin: what was proposed to replace these deities and technologies.63 Into this vacuum came a new idea, expressed through a new word—xingfu— that attempted to combine inner joy (le) and material prosperity (fu), and claimed to be universally applicable to people across different strata. It thus came to be used as a rallying cry for sociopolitical change.

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In addition to Liang Qichao, other Chinese intellectuals have discussed the question of how the harmonization of fu and le, li (profit) and le, or fu and de (virtue) is philosophically possible. For example, the contemporary neoConfucian philosopher Mou Zongsan (1909–1995) devoted his last book, Treatise on Summum Bonus (Yuanshan lun, 1985) to solving this puzzle of “the harmonization of fu and de” (福德一致) from a Confucian perspective. Mou acknowledged that the problem can be solved to some extent if one accepts the existence of a God or karma that promises blissful heaven or rebirth for the virtuous. For Confucians, who do not believe in the existence of God or karma, this issue is particularly difficult; yet, for the same reason, the Confucian solution, once discovered, must be superior to others’, as it does not rely on any presumed religious belief. Inspired by the philosophy of the Tiantai school of Buddhism, Mou claims that the real harmonization of fu and de can be achieved through cultivating the “mind of unlimited wisdom,” which every human possesses. Here, I do not intend to delve into Mou’s obscure language and argumentation, which many scholars of Chinese philosophy have critiqued, but only to highlight it as part of the collective endeavor made by Chinese intellectuals to harmonize external satisfaction and inner morality.64 However, as I have shown, the definition of xingfu has rarely been a purely philosophical issue; in reality it has never been some impartial, perfectly balanced combination of material good and subjective well-being. While it is undeniable that the growing urban middle class tends to support an idea of happiness that balances material life with inner joy, this idea represents an imagined common interest more than a real one. My examination has revealed its ambiguity, one that allows for various or even contradictory interpretations. It could be a human right or a favor granted by those in power; it could describe a concrete, personal feeling at this moment or a vision shimmering from afar on the horizon. All these interpretations have continued to exist, together constituting the provocative and controversial nature of the word. This malleable concept has constantly been manipulated, shaped, or stretched by powers in different contexts for different purposes. In a hubristic manner, we may consider the idea of xingfu, during the heyday of socialism, to have been more about an inner feeling of joy based on the belief that one is contributing to the progress of the motherland, of which material progress constitutes a crucial part. This is a quasi-religious idea in the sense that xingfu is at least partly derived from a promise of bliss in the future, rather than in the present. Yet, since the 1980s, the pursuit of pleasure or prosperity

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at this very moment has replaced a promise for the future, as the cosmology of a continuously, teleologically progressing world, of which Marxism represents one example, begins to lose its followers in this postmodern world. A revealing anecdote is that a quote from Sun Yat-sen—“If one wants to enjoy the happiness of civilization (文明之幸福, one would have no choice but going through the pain of civilization”—was mocked and made into parodies by netizens after it appeared in a very popular historical movie screened in 2009.65 This quote perfectly embodied the teleological narrative of happiness.66 Such a narrative sounds weird and comical to many in the early twenty-first century. The best parody may be, “If one wants to enjoy the happiness of owning an apartment, one would have no choice but to go through the pain of [making the money for] buying an apartment,” which satirizes the ridiculously high price of real estate in major cities in China.67 Obviously, the present unhappiness about real estate prices can hardly be appeased by some promise of happiness in the future. When fu and le have to be considered within the same time frame, a tension emerges: material prosperity is usually driven by desires, but inner joy is often achieved by abandoning or sublimating desires. The puzzle of this modern secular discourse of xingfu is where is and who has the authority to draw the line between the legitimate desires necessary for prosperity and the excessive desires that cause mental afflictions and even social unrest. The “Xingfugate” of 2012 can be explained as a reaction to the party-state’s attempt to determine or direct the answers to these questions. After “Xingfugate” the party-state did not stop using xingfu as an ideological tool. An article published in 2014 by the party organ is titled “Cultivating the People’s [Correct] View of Xingfu in This New Era” (培育新时期人 民群众幸福观), which assumes that people need to be taught not only what xingfu is but how to feel it properly.68 The piece begins with a definition of xingfu that supports my argument: “Xingfu is a harmony (高度统一) of the objective environment of the society and the subjective feelings . . . a harmony of one’s material happiness and spiritual happiness.” It then ascribes “the low level of happy feeling in China today” to “people’s mental imbalance and moral perplexity.” To correct this mentality and achieve the happiness defined above, people need to be schooled in Marxism and what the party-state deems the good elements of traditional Chinese culture. From the examples given by the authors, it appears that the latter refers to Confucianism, although this is not stated explicitly. Such traditional culture teaches people “to cultivate oneself,” “to control one’s selfish desires,” and “to harmonize his/her own pursuit with

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the development of the society and the need of the country.” Clearly, the tradition of le has now been rediscovered as a resource for state ideology, whereby ordinary citizens are expected to be as virtuous as Confucian literati. Based on articles about xingfu that were published in People’s Daily and Guangming Daily, two of the most important mouthpieces for party ideology, I have identified two strategies or patterns that describe how the state regulates desires, that is, how it manipulates the relationship between inner joy and external prosperity, in addition to the teleological rhetoric with which people in China are all too familiar. We can think of these two solutions as role specific and region specific. Role specific refers to the idea that the government-party and individual citizens are considered to inhabit different roles: the former should be praised for making the state materially prosperous, while each individual should transcend their personal material concerns to find joy either in being content with the status quo or selflessly contributing to other people’s xingfu.69 This is best embodied in the lyrics of “The Song of Xingfu from Daqiang,” which were praised by Guangming Daily. The lyrics read: “To the society, being grateful, responsible and reciprocal is fu. . . . To the state, being loyal, lawful, and contributive is fu. . . . To yourself, being healthy, frugal and content is fu. . . . To life, loving, cherishing, and being optimistic is fu.”70 One would be hard put to find any kind of teleology, including Marxism, here but the idea is that one should stick to one’s proper role(s), pursue desire accordingly, and feel the right kind of xingfu. This emphasis on gratefulness echoes the only positive usage of the word xingfu in classical Chinese, the humble expression of one’s “undeserved luck” to receive favors from members of royalty. Another way to allocate the various meanings of xingfu is based on regional differences: whereas most people are taught that money alone cannot make them xingfu, some regions—such as Tibet—are apparently capable of achieving perfect xingfu (满满的幸福) through material development alone.71 It suggests that material development would bring Tibetans only benefits and no “side effects.” As a result, people in Tibet are supposed to feel perfect xingfu with an increased salary, larger apartment, and improved transportation system, whereas, for example, a young Chinese woman claiming that she “would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle” is criticized for having an “unhealthy view” of xingfu.72 These newspaper articles demonstrate how the meaning of happiness can be manipulated—it not only has been used as a handy ideological tool but also

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has been tackled as an urgent and tricky issue. It is handy because the concept is globally trendy, ostensibly neutral, cross-cultural, and free of ideology, yet extremely malleable. It is an urgent issue because the government, whose legitimacy is largely based on material prosperity, regards the desire for happiness as something that must be regulated—and officials found a means for such regulation within traditional Chinese culture. While many Western scholars lament the modern Western cosmology that defines life based on the pursuit of happiness and thus has made people “chronically unhappy” or worried that “our lives would dissipate in boredom” once happiness is achieved, the People’s Republic would proudly show them the wisdom drawn from traditional Chinese culture, according to which happiness also means contentment and gratitude.73

notes I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Yingyao Wang, who initially encouraged me to participate in this project, and to my former colleagues at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore—Liang Yongjia, Giuseppe Bolotta, Catherine Scheer, and others—who helped me develop this chapter in the “work-in-progress” workshop. I am grateful to my friend Dr. Keren He for carefully reading the draft and giving me insightful suggestions. Last but not least, I thank my mother for escorting me while I was pregnant to the AAS annual meeting in Philadelphia so that I could present the earliest version of this research with this great team. Colleagues who helped me with specific references or ideas are acknowledged in relevant endnotes. All errors are mine. 1. A montage of unexpected answers, with English subtitles, is available at https:// youtu.be/lYxIVz0pLQM (accessed February 29, 2016). 2. Yu Jianrong’s original tweet has been deleted or censored. But it was quoted in, for example, Shen Zewei (2012). 3. Ren Zhiqiang (2012). 4. New Tang Dynasty Television (2012). Hsu, Zhang, and Kim (2017) identify the following Chinese words used in existing surveys of happiness: xingfu, kuaile, huanle, yukuai, gaoxing, manyi, xiangshou shenghuo, and hao shenghuo. 5. For example, Lü Xiaoxun (2015) mentions the 2012 CCTV program positively as evidence of the importance of xingfu. 6. Jullien (2007, 107). 7. Bauer (1976); Ho (1983–86). 8. Kangxi zidian (Compendium of Standard Characters of the Kangxi Period), compiled in 1716, cites a third-century dictionary, Shiming (Explaining words), for this meaning: “《释名》:福,富也。” See Kangxi zidian jiansuo ben (2010, 845).

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9. For its original meaning, see Kangxi zidian jiansuo ben (2010, 845). Bauer believes that fu originally denoted “a jug of wine” (2007, 10). For fu as blessing or divine protection, see Xu (121 [2002], 4). 10. Li and Wang (2000, 229). 11. Kangxi zidian jiansuo ben (2010, 341). 12. The Analects 6.19 (B. Yang, 2004, 61): “罔之生也幸而免.” For Zhang Zai’s commentary, see Wang Fuzhi (1978, 366). 13. Wang Fuzhi’s (1978, 366) commentary in Chinese: “凭气数之偶然,幸而得 福者有矣。” 14. The original sentence is located in chapter 25 of the Book of Rites; see T. Yang (1997, 827). The commentary was written by Ying Yong 应镛 in his Liji jishuo 礼记 集说 (Collected commentaries on the Book of Rites), which can be found in Siku (vol. 119, fascicle 140: 465b). 15. Lan (2010). 16. Ouyang and Song (1975, 17:5355). 17. Fang Hongjing 方弘静, “Jie ru yi” 诘儒一 (Questioning the Confucians, Part I) in “Ming wen hai” 明文海 (Ocean of Essays from the Ming), Siku (vol. 1454, fascicle 137: 465b). 18. Ibid. “为群诳,诱痴愚,不啻盗窃.” Of course, religious literati and scholarly monks would dismiss such accusations as misunderstandings and distortions of their religions. It is from the Dao de jing (58), the founding text of Daoism, that we read the powerful and influential statement: “Fu is to be found by the side of misery, and misery lurks beneath fu.” It emphasizes the mutual transformation between fu and huo (misery). The Platform Sutra (for the Chinese original, see Taishō shinshū dai zōkyō, hereafter referred to as T., (2008); for the English translation, see McRae 2000), which is usually considered to herald the completion of Buddhism’s indigenization in China, warns its readers that fu is not the real or ultimate goal of practicing Buddhism. Although it acknowledges making offerings, giving alms, and building temples as ways to obtain fu, it considers those who only do these things “deluded” since these practices will not bring them the final liberation or enlightenment (T. 2008, 354c26 ff; McRae 2000:52) On the contrary, true enlightenment can be achieved only through cultivating gongde (usually translated as “merit” or, literally, as “effort and virtue”), which the text defines as cultivating one’s own acts and mind (T. 2008, 351c27–352a12; McRae 2000: 37–38). Here, it reached a conclusion very similar to that of the Confucians’. 19. T. 2120 (859b1–12): “Memorial regarding the merit gained from the fire ritual performed in Mt. Wutai” (Jin Wutaishan xiu humo gongde bias, 进五台山修护摩 功德表一首). 20. For example, in the following sentence from fascicle 21 in Zuo Qiuming’s Guoyu (2005, 317): “Now the Duke of Wu is indulging himself in pleasures and ignoring his subjects” (今吴王淫于乐而忘其百姓). 21. Ye (2006, 70–73); Nylan (2015, 207). Both Nylan and Ye distinguish le from xi, another common word denoting happiness, emphasizing the moral connotation of the former.

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22. Xi (喜), for example, sometimes is used to describe religious joy in Buddhism, as in the “joy of dharma” (法喜). 23. The Analects 7.15 (B. Yang, 2004, 70). 24. The Analects 6.11 (B. Yang, 2004, 59). 25. Zhou (2000, 38); see the biography of Zhou Dunyi in Tuotuo (1994, 12712). 26. Sun Di 孙觌, “Silezhai ji” 思乐斋记 (On the residence named “Thinking of Joy”), “Hongqing jushi ji” 鸿庆居士集 (Works by Hongqing), Siku (vol. 1135, fascicle 22: 212b). 27. Yuan (2008, 19). 28. This important tradition was studied by Brokaw (1991). 29. Wang Fan-sen (2015, 241). 30. Waley (1954, 251) translates this phrase as “bring to yourselves many blessings.” For the English translation of the poem, see Waley (1954, 250–51). 31. Puett (2005, 65–68). 32. Nihon kokugo daijiten (2000–2002, 5:427a). There might be a good reason to choose the Chinese characters for xing fu to translate happiness since the earliest meaning of the English word happy is similarly related to good fortune and luck (Oxford English Dictionary). 33. Nihon kokugo daijiten (2000–2002, 5:427a). 34. The word xingfu also appeared in Liang Qichao’s Dong ji yue dan, which was published in 1902 and might have been written somewhat earlier: In this bibliography that introduced modern Japanese books, Liang briefly mentions Herbert Spencer’s xingfu zhuyi (幸福主义, eudaimonism) without any further discussion or comment (Liang 1994, vol.1, fascicle 5: 88). 35. Liang (1994, vol. 2, fascicle 10: 61–69). The section regarding xingfu begins on page 66. 36. Liang (1994, fascicle 13: 30–46). Liang mentions in this article that utilitarianism had been translated as 快乐派, 功利派, and 利用派 (Liang 1994, vol. 2, fascicle 13: 30). Also see Kawajiri (2009, 74). 37. Liang (1994, vol. 2, fascicle 13: 30.) 38. Ibid., 32, 35. 39. Ibid., 35. 40. Liang (1994, vol. 2, fascicle 13: 39): “苟犹私尔忘公焉,则不过其眼光之短、 思虑之浅,不知何者为真乐真利,何者为最大幸福而已,非能应用边沁之 学理者也。” 41. Anonymous (1903, 11–15). 42. Brokaw’ s study (1991) of the ledgers of merit and demerit shows that Yuan Liaofan’s candid expression of his desire for material good in Liaofan’s Four Lessons is rare in Chinese history and that works of this genre that followed his turned out to be something that maintained the status quo rather than encouraging social mobility. 43. “Riben shumu zhi” 日本书目志 (1896) (An annotated bibliography of books published in Japan) in Kang (1992, 3:599): “儒惟以敝车羸马、陋室蔬食自高。” 44. Xi, Yin 惜阴. (1909).

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45. Weiquan 微全 (1907). 46. Liu Jinzao (2000, 11512b): “以幸福之说动愚民,以富强之说动亲贵。”. 47. Ibid., 11512a. 48. Ibid., 11511b. 49. Luo (1968, 1:3). 50. Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 78): “乃至如欧洲十九世纪末之乐利主义, 自然主义,倡导者虽或别有苦心,而汲其流者恒不胜其敝。” 51. Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 3: 73): “舍乐利外更无道德。” 52. Kurtz (2012, 170). 53. The article was written in February and March 1915, before Yuan Shikai’s brief reestablishment of the monarchy, which Liang fervently condemned. 54. He criticizes Daoism on Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 73), Buddhism, and Confucianism on pages 75–76. 55. He considers Daoist philosophy to be helpful for those who are good-natured but often used by the wicked to justify moral corruption (Liang 1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 73). He also criticizes Buddhism because it cannot be “absolutely universalized” (Liang 1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 74). 56. Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 74): “其第三派则以人生实有天职为前提。 谓人之生于此世,确有一大目的。” 57. Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 32: 76). 58. See Liang Qichao, “Li minzhudang huanyinghui yanshuoci” (Speech on the welcome reception of the Democratic Party), in Liang (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 29: 16): “ 今日之文明幸福何一非自奋斗來乎? 59. Liang (1994, vol. 3, fascicle 26: 30): “我国民欲求幸福而不以苦痛为易,此 不可得之数也。然骤感苦痛,而遂疑幸福之弃我而去,则亦自绝于天而已.” 60. This attitude is exemplified in Liang Qichao’s “Speech on the Welcome Reception of the Democratic Party,” in which he used the phrases “seeking happiness (mou xingfu) for the people” and “creating happiness (zao xingfu) for the citizens” (Liang, vol. 4, fascicle 29:17). 61. Wei (1998, 16:172). 62. For example, Goossaert (2006, 329) mentions the attempt to transform a Temple of God of Wealth (Caishen miao) into a school around 1904. 63. It may not be mere coincidence to find Liang Qichao’s “unificationism of fu and de” echoing, intentionally or not, one of the honorifics of the Earth God—“the Righteous God of Fu and De” (福德正神). I owe this very interesting observation to the Venerable Hui Min, president of the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, who pointed this out to me when attending my presentation. 64. For example, Yang Zebo (2010) and Du (2015). 65. Sun was not the originator of this expression. Rather, Sun was quoting his friend Miyazaki Tōten (1952, 53). I thank Huaiyu Chen for pointing out to me the origin of this quote. 66. Liang Qichao (1994, vol. 4, fascicle 29:16) similarly equates happiness (xingfu) with civilization (wenming), considering them the fruits of struggle (fendou). See note 73.

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67. For parodies of the Sun Yat-sen quote, see the online thread, first posted on December 8, 2009: http://bbs.tianya.cn/post-funinfo-1723236-1.shtml. 68. Guo (2014). 69. An example of praising the government for creating prosperity is Qu (2012). Examples of individuals finding happiness in contributing to others’ happiness selflessly are reported in Yu Haiyan (2015); Shen Lü et al. (2014); Chen Yuan (2012). 70. The Chinese lyrics of this song can be found on this webpage: http://www .d777.com/geci/daqingxingfuyao_3wdh/, accessed June 6, 2016. For the praise of this song, see Zhang Shiying (2016). 71. Shi Pengfei et al. (2014). For happiness in Tibet, see Wang Zhuolun (2016), Han Junjie (2015), Chen Feiyu (2015). These articles do not contradict but are in line with the romanticized, stereotypical portrait of Tibetan people as spiritually pure: because they are said to be pure, they supposedly are not susceptible to the corruption of consumerism. 72. Guo (2014). 73. Sahlins (1996, 415); Soni (2010, 8).

chapter 2

Having It All Filial Piety, Moral Weighting, and Anxiety among Young Adults becky yang hsu

When young adults in China evaluate their own happiness, what criteria do they have in mind? I seek to characterize how young adults organize their lives today—their goals as well as the conditions beyond their control that complicate their efforts. I explore the moral reference points they access as they deliberate everyday decisions and assess their lives as happy—or otherwise. In this essay I argue that young adults’ self-assessments of happiness depend in part on the ability to feel good about their relationships with their parents. They want to fulfill their filial obligations, and when there are obstacles to doing so, young adults feel anxious and even miserable. “Having it all” means that they can pursue their ambitions while staying close to home and family. For some, the sense of family obligation conflicts with their career aspirations. Even as they move away to places with better opportunities or imagine going abroad, they try to compensate somehow for leaving their parents behind. For others, though, staying close to home takes priority, and for them it is a simple choice, even if it limits their career opportunities. Alongside the aspiring, enterprising young adults in China are some without much ambition who prefer to reside outside the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. My fieldwork supports a set of social psychology experiments showing that college students in Hong Kong who rated filial piety as more important to them than career also assessed themselves as having more life satisfaction than their more ambitious peers.1 Young adults in China assessed their own happiness in relation to virtue, at least in part. The kind of virtue they pursued could be characterized as 42

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seeking relief: they felt bad if their parents were unhappy and wanted reassurance that their parents would be well. Thus their notion of happiness did not resemble the Aristotelian idea of happiness as pursuit of the good or living a virtuous life.

methods: fieldwork, interviews, and a new survey In this chapter I am summarizing what I learned from my fieldwork, which consisted of observing people in their different spaces and situations; participating in meaningful ceremonies, rituals, and interactions; and taking copious field notes. I also analyzed 155 in-depth interviews completed from 2013 to 2016. I completed eighty-seven, and sixty-eight were conducted by research assistants: WeiWei Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow, and two anthropology graduate students from Xiamen University, Liu Bo and Bai Jiaqi. The interviews spanned the northern (Heilongjiang, Beijing, and Ningxia), central and eastern (Jiangsu and Shandong), western (Yunnan, Sichuan, and Chongqing), and southern (Fujian and Hunan) regions of China. Some interviews occurred while I followed people on their daily routines; others I began by saying, “Tell me about someone who’s happy.” A typical answer from a young person was, “My roommate [or friend or coworker]. Because she has a good relationship with her parents and grandparents.” I also draw from a nationally representative survey designed by our team and conducted in 2016.

theories of happiness My fieldwork reveals a certain angst, a dissonance experienced by many young adults in China today, and it sheds light on two important theories of happiness that underpin prominent fields of happiness research. First, interviews show that young adults define their happiness in specific ways, referencing social expectations that greatly affect how they feel. This relates to hedonic psychology, which focuses on measuring pleasure and pain. In this vein, the fieldwork illuminates processes of what I call moral weighting: the various emotional forces that affect one’s happiness and are derived from understandings of what ought to be. Moments of pleasure and pain do not add up in a straightforward manner to characterize how someone feels about their own well-being. I find that someone could have a day filled with

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pleasurable moments, but if one minute out of the twenty-four hours was morally distressing, it makes a bigger difference in self-assessment than the fraction of time would indicate. Conversely, people could largely live uninspiring lives, but they might eagerly await a significant event (a visit from a grandchild, for example). That three-day visit could have a greater impact on their assessment of the year than would the other, uneventful 362 days. In the ethical reckoning of young adults in China, they could not feel happy unless they felt like a good person; raw subjective feeling depended on their sense of virtue. And the first order of being virtuous was to make their parents happy. Many of the stories related by unhappy people in the interviews were actually accounts of someone who had failed to meet an obligation to a parent, spouse, or in-law. The happy people were those who meet their obligations and who surround themselves with other people who meet their obligations— their parents (or children) are good to them, and they are able to reciprocate. Moreover, the feelings of young adults about themselves emerge from interactions with their parents. They found it was difficult to feel like a good person when their parents communicated disapproval. However, the new filial piety is different from that of the past, as I will explain. Second, desire theory, which posits that happiness comes from fulfilling one’s desires (whatever they may be), leads to the question of how those desires arise in the first place. The fieldwork shows that desires, for some young adults in China, arise through interactions with other people in their families. Filial piety is desirable in China, and the fieldwork and interviews begin to explain why: young adults’ desires were intertwined with their parents and created through interactions with them. Findings elucidate how desires arise from interaction—as people define themselves in relation to others—and contribute to the underdeveloped account of this phenomenon. An emerging individualism competes with traditional obligations, the most salient of which is the devotion of children to parents. Young adults are making decisions that affect important social markers such as marriage, career, and children. Because these issues are central concerns for their parents, adult children engage in ongoing negotiations about these matters with them. Young people often talked about whether a family was happy, including whether the family had been fortunate and whether the young people had been attentive to their elders. Young adults did not explicitly address their own contributions (or lack of) to their natal family’s happiness, but the topic loomed in the background.

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The New Filial Piety Until the 1990s, young Chinese understood that they were to devote themselves to studying, competing for a good job, and then working very hard for the sake of their families, which held an unshakable claim on their success.2 Extra money wasn’t for luxuries but for relieving financial pressures within the family. A blossoming reputation was not to be savored by individuals but capitalized upon to benefit their relatives. Before the 1980s, adults had been similarly obligated to the state. In both understandings, achievement depended upon the curbing of self-interest and the submission of personal preference to the betterment of the group.3 Individuals were understood as active agents, but the goal of their work was to glorify the family or the collective. But since the 1990s, China has witnessed a steady elevation of the individual.4 Filial piety remains important, but expectations have changed. Instead of the older generation’s requiring (and getting) unquestioned obedience from their adult children, elders hope to receive regular visits and phone calls. Instead of single-mindedly pursuing the family’s success, the younger generation often feels the pull of their career and/or need for personal fulfillment. Whereas they once had an unavoidable responsibility to live with their family to support the elderly, now young people often benefit from intergenerational living. Currently, postmarital coresidence (usually a married couple living with the husband’s parents) is common, in part because of an underdeveloped social safety net.5 Although there are tensions, intergenerational living arrangements make it easier to maintain parent-child relationships, especially as young couples begin to have children. The couples and their parents cobble together creative plans that see them spending time among one, two, or even three homes and allow them to juggle work, household, and parenting responsibilities. They may live together some days of the week but apart during others. In addition, older parents assume continuing responsibilities, such as cooking for their adult children and helping with child care and household chores.6 For more ambitious young adults in China, chasing their own happiness sometimes means sacrificing family happiness, and this conflict of interests can cause anxiety, remorse, and some measure of self-loathing. The issues that these young adults have to grapple with include finding a suitable spouse, advancing in their profession, finding affordable housing, and having a child, all while maintaining good relations with their in-laws, spouses, and parents.7

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As parents age, adult children often find it increasingly necessary to live nearby in order to care for them and to facilitate frequent visits from their grandchildren. Many people feel guilty about not visiting loved ones (including deceased loved ones at the gravesite), and they anguish over whether to take a job in another city, away from their parents. Or young people might put off marriage or having children, which leaves their families hurt and confused.

ninety-five percent happy: differential moral weighting Guan Xiaozhi, an expressive young man in his midtwenties, told me he could not be 100 percent happy.8 In his interview, he demonstrated moral weighting: pleasing his parents carries a special moral weight, an emotional force that exerts a gravitational pull upon him, even though most of his time is spent relatively free from their influence. As a winsome and friendly hotel clerk at the hotel for international students at a large university, he wasn’t shy about peppering his conversation with English phrases he’d eagerly picked up from visitors. He was originally from a single-surname village (everyone there is related) in Zhangzhou, Fujian. A lot of his kin remained in the village, working farmland and raising shrimp, geese, and ducks. Many of his relatives were migrant workers who came to the city to work in restaurants, in child care, or for seasonal work like construction. His parents originally were village dwellers who traveled back and forth to the city. When he was born, his family had been able to register him as a city dweller (probably through a favor from a friend). This opened up certain opportunities for him, and when Guan Xiaozhi was seven, his family—including a little sister—migrated to the city together. In addition to learning English, Guan Xiaozhi took advantage of the university policy of free tuition for staff members. He was a law major, he told me, and he intended to go on to graduate school. He had already taken seventeen courses in the past four years and had eleven to go. He felt that he had a great schedule: “Like today I got off work at 9:00 a.m., I told the next worker about stuff that wasn’t finished, then I mailed a receipt to a customer.” He was free to study or do other things (like sleep, to recover from the overnight shift) until 3:00 p.m., when he had to return to work. Compared to his relatives in the village or who were migrant workers in restaurants or construction, he had a great setup. He made 5,000 RMB per month (about US$800) at the

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hotel, slept there for free, and got to practice his English with international visitors. Best of all, he had a quiet place to study. The anthropologist Yunxiang Yan has identified a newly emerging self in China, the “striving individual,” which connects with a long-held image of the hard-working person—“the person above other persons” (ren shang ren)—that has been around since the imperial examination system, which originated in the Han period in 206 BCE but began to be effective in the Tang dynasty, or around 600 CE.9 But while the traditional notion was based on an effort to glorify one’s ancestors, the focus of the current iteration is on the individual— the pursuit of dignity and social respect. This new kind of drive for success has triggered many ethical reflections on the part of young adults, similar to what Guan Xiaozhi was doing as he thought about negotiating the conflicting elements of how he understood himself. He was driven to “make it” out there in the world, but he had to contend with the moral vision of his parents. Anxieties arose from this tension, as “striving individuals” sometimes think that pursuing happiness for both themselves and their family are two different, even conflicting, things. Many, like Guan Xiaozhi, struggled with what the anthropologist James Johnston calls the “centripetal morality” of attachment to home and the “centrifugal ambition” that flings so many away from home in search of opportunity and success.10 I had told him before the interview that I was doing research on happiness, and when we began our conversation, he said, “So you want to know about happiness? I’ll tell you who’s happy—me.” But he immediately launched into a more nuanced explanation: “There’s just one thing that makes me not happy, because I have a different concept [here he used the English word] from my parents.” His life was, on the whole (“95 percent” in his words), just wonderful: “Whatever I want to do, I can do.” But the 5 percent that makes him unhappy had the power to overshadow the rest of his life. His parents wanted him to get married and have a child. He described their point of view like this: “Whatever age you are, you should do certain things. If you are a kid, you should go to primary school. If you’re a teenager, you should go to high school. If you’re twenty years old, then you should find someone and get married. So they think I should get a girlfriend and get married and have a family, have a child.” But Guan Xiaozhi saw things differently. This was a really serious matter, he emphasized: “Like for me, if I had a child now, I would feel really terrible [again, in English]. That 5 percent of unhappiness would destroy my 95 per-

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cent.” His numerical characterization was interesting: he considered his parents’ wishes much less significant in terms of ratio (perhaps in terms of importance to him), but he attributed to them much greater power to influence his life. He told me about his friends who had children and how hard it was for them to make ends meet. But there was more: he wanted to see his parents remain healthy, and he feared that a grandchild would wear them out. Three generations “usually live together,” he explained, and the grandparents take care of the grandchild. He described the mother of one of his friends: “She’s lost all this weight because it’s hard to take care of children. She still works but takes care of the child. She’s really tired. I would be worried that my mom would get that tired.” Since part of his filial duty is to take care of his mother’s health, her wishes would conflict with his ability to carry out that aspect of being a good son. His mother did not receive a pension, and though his dad’s job would normally provide one, he had become ineligible because they had had a second child (Guan Xiaozhi’s sister) under the one-child policy. So, Guan Xiaozhi told me, he felt even more pressure not to burden his parents. “If I got married, I’d be taking away from my parents’ income. So that’s the 5 percent that makes me unhappy,” he concluded. Despite his resistance to his parents’ plans, Guan Xiaozhi had been on five blind dates arranged by his family. “My parents want me to get married right now,” he said, “even though I’m a college student.” His relatives were introducing their relatives to him, which made him uncomfortable. He explained with a metaphor about rabbits: “You can eat the grass far away, but don’t touch the grass near yourself.” The active involvement of others in the partner-seeking process is the most common way that people in China meet their spouse, according to our findings from the (unpublished) 2016 Blessed Happiness Survey. In urban areas, 48 percent of married people met their spouse through matchmaking, and 38 percent met their spouse on their own. The ratio is even higher in rural areas, where 57 percent met their spouse through matchmaking and 31 percent on their own. This matchmaking—“introductions”—usually entails either direct or indirect parental involvement. Like many of our respondents, to some extent Guan Xiaozhi credited fate for his happiness. “I’m lucky,” he said. “That’s why I’ve got happiness. I got away from the village. And I found my own job, am getting an education. So I’ve got happiness. It’s important to be lucky.” He echoed the narrative of the countryside, where success is primarily defined by one’s ability to leave it or

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at least escape the hard physical labor of agriculture.11 Although he referenced things like his hard work in his job and his classes, he explained that he really had been lucky. People in China often get a job through acquaintances. “Usually you get a job because you have someone introduce you,” Guan Xiaozhi told me. “You have connections [guanxi]. Because they want a stable worker, [they’d] rather someone know [you].” People making hiring decisions in China are often held responsible if they choose someone who turns out to be a bad employee: “If your worker makes trouble, you are in trouble.” He had gotten his job through a friend with whom he had previously worked as a security guard; his friend later became a guard at the university. Guan Xiaozhi also was considered for the international hotel position because of his English skills, which he had been pursuing entirely on his own initiative. Guan Xiaozhi’s assessment of his life involved nonmaterial things like a sense of personal freedom; it wasn’t only about money. He told me about a friend of his who managed a chemical plant and made much more money than Guan Xiaozhi did (200,000 RMB, or US$33,000 per year, compared with his less than US$10,000). His friend had the status symbols of a car and a house, whereas Guan Xiaozhi used public transport and slept at his place of work. “But,” he told me, “he envies me.” Why? “He has to think about how to please the clients all the time. . . . All day he drinks, he throws up. He’s like a machine,” Guan Xiaozhi said, “calculating, doing the same thing.” Every week his friend had to go out drinking at least twice and take the client to sing karaoke. “Plus massage—you know what I mean,” he said, referring to the purchase of sex. “He has to do it, even if he doesn’t want to.” Having to party with clients for the sake of money is something that many people find distasteful and undesirable. Guan Xiaozhi’s statement echoes a widespread sentiment observed by the sociologist James Farrer (see chapter 4), that work-related eating and drinking—whether catering to clients or socializing with political leaders—is the epitome of the unhappy meal. This description of Guan Xiaozhi’s friend echoes the changes from the 1980s, when Chinese individuals were called upon by the party-state to inject more of their energy into market-oriented economic reforms. People accumulated personal wealth as they seized opportunities offered by the private sector to become rich, and the Chinese value of hospitality became inflated to correspond with modern market priorities. By the late 1990s, a new cultural hero had emerged: the successful, fashionable, rich, and confident individual (usually a man) who enjoys the worldly life. However, there is also in China

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today a fear of the penetration of business into private life and the emptiness of the prevailing materialism.12 Guan Xiaozhi referred to his idea of the good life in terms that seemed to convey opportunity and a kind of cosmopolitan identity. “Maybe I’ll be going abroad,” he said eagerly. “What I really want is a lifestyle. I want to have a modern Chinese lifestyle [the italicized words are words he spoke English here].” But as quickly as his bright smile had appeared, it flickered as he thought again of the current tension with his parents. “But my parents want me to have a traditional lifestyle.” He couldn’t separate his bright dreams from from the gray cloud of his parents’ disapproval. For this young man in his late twenties, his parents were very much on his mind. He was chasing the modern Chinese lifestyle, but happiness had to include good relationships and a sense of integrity, too. His distaste for his friend’s life, filled with fake relationships and self-destructive habits, ran deep. So he really wanted a lifestyle but definitely not that one. Being a good son is the ideal, but it is not always attainable, and everyone is subject to the vagaries of fate. For people like Guan Xiaozhi, whether he gets into an American graduate program will play a role in the degree to which he can become the model of an attentive son (fulfilling his parents’ wishes for him to get married, live at or near home, and let them raise his children). If he changed course now, he could give his parents what they want, but that would diminish or eradicate his own ability to feel happy. If, however, he achieves the modern Chinese lifestyle, he could never really feel satisfied, because he would be taking satisfaction away from his parents. He would be haunted by the 5 percent that threatened to overshadow everything.

the interactive creation of feeling: on face-work and evaluating the self The fieldwork shows that feeling is created interactively; it is not only that people have emotional responses to the actions of others but also that the definition of the situation and the accompanying feelings emerge from interactions. This section explores the social interactions undergirding the enduring sense that one must attend to one’s filial obligations, no matter the conflicting tensions. In doing so, it investigates the process by which personal standards create pleasure and pain. Happiness requires self-realization and the achievement of what is good, what is noble—and that means being attentive to elders.

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Interactions invoke these categories, resulting in opportunities to gain or lose face, to augment or diminish the self. Many have written about filial piety and the ideals that people try to realize, but most accounts do not quite explain the strong pull, the inevitability that people feel when it comes to filial piety in China. Some write about it in terms of conformity to tradition versus resistance to it, for example.13 While this is not inaccurate, it fails to fully capture the mechanisms by which the powerful emotional influence of filial piety is created today, nor its effect on self-assessments of happiness. To explain the sense of compulsion that continues to accompany filial piety, I draw upon the sociologist Erving Goffman’s account of face-work. Many know the Chinese concept of face as involving shame-honor in a situation. But it actually runs even deeper, because it builds one’s sense of personal identity and moral worth. Face can be given or taken by others, especially those in authority or in intimate relationships. According to Goffman, people attempt to maintain face by acting out a what he calls a line in their social encounters: a “pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts” by which a person “expresses his view of the situation” as well as “his evaluation of the participants, especially himself.”14 In social encounters among family members in China, evaluations of the participants are often based on their perceived filial piety. Given a cultural logic that defines personhood in terms of reciprocity, those who do not or cannot reciprocate toward parents not only threaten the social order but also are unfit to be considered people at all.15 The belief that reciprocity is a requirement for being a decent human being figures powerfully in the logic of filial piety. One’s parents gave of themselves for years, putting their children first in everything, and adult children ought to respond in kind. Zhu Daogang, a twenty-six-year-old from Fujian province who is a doctoral student in anthropology, feels tension between himself and his family. His mother is dissatisfied with the work he’s doing in pursuit of his doctoral degree—the reason, in her understanding, that he is delaying marriage and children. Zhu Daogang invited me to visit and have a meal with his family, and when I asked Mr. Zhu (Daogang’s father) to tell me about someone who is especially happy (xingfu), he couched his response in terms of filial piety: “Having money doesn’t mean you’re happy [xingfu]. Older people who have children next to them, that’s happiness. That family being together. My son’s grandfather has a good life [hao ming]. Everyone is around, and they care [guanxin] for him.”

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Like Zhu Daogang’s mother, his father prioritized grandchildren. His assessment of his own life depended on whether his son had children. Only then could Mr. Zhu have the kind of happiness that his father enjoys. Zhu’s grandfather had the same assessment of his own life when I spoke with him the next day: “I have it all; I’m a great-grandfather. Eight children call me great-grandfather. And if I live another ten years, they’ll call me greatgreat-grandfather. There aren’t many people who have five generations. It’s not easy. In the past, sixty was an old age. Now we’re so healthy, but most important is that one’s heart is happy. We can’t eat food that is too rich anyways. So we eat simple food.” Being surrounded by children of multiple generations makes up for the negative aspects of old age (such as digestive issues); more important than being healthy is being happy. And happy means lots of attentive (respectful, responsive) family. Having lots of money or being able to eat expensive food is not worth much to an old man. He eats simply and luxuriates instead in his grandchildren, the extended family, the family harmony, and the honor he is accorded. “I can make a call, and everyone will come and eat together,” Mr. Zhu said contentedly. Earlier, when I had asked Zhu Daogang’s father what his hopes were, he had replied, “Hopes? It’s easy.” Then he looked meaningfully at his son. We all laughed knowingly at his obvious meaning, even before he specified what he meant by saying, “That’s all there is to hope, to hold grandchildren.” Zhu Daogang and his family were caught in an overlap of two realities, each with its priorities, rituals, and options for expression. His family lived in an “urban village.” As the growth of the city spread out to surrounding areas, they found their village being developed around them. The villagers took advantage of the gentrification, razed their homes, and together built apartment buildings. The lower floors contained rental apartments for visitors and migrants to the city, and the original villagers and their families lived on the top floors. These families, who once farmed for a living, now received rental income, and their workload was much less. The city showed no signs of diminishing, so they did not feel worried about their future. They carried on much as previous generations had, visiting one another often (playing cards or mahjong) and helping each other. It was a grand life in comparison to the past, and their complaints were minor compared to the life they remember as farmers. When Zhu Daogang’s father was talking about going to visit friends every day, he said that these visits weren’t as nice as in

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the past, when people could just wander into each other’s courtyards. Now, with the high-rise buildings, and all the strangers around, he explained, you had to have locks, security systems, and apartment buzzers; simply dropping in was no longer an option. Materially, life was much better now, but for Mr. Zhu, life was filled with a constant anxiety. When would his son marry, and why was he taking so long? Mr. Zhu saw his life as nestled in a layer of generation upon generation: “One generation after another [yi dai, yi dai], that’s what it is.” In his living room was an altar that served as a shrine to the gods and to his ancestors. He paid his respects there twice a day, morning and evening: “Whether it brings us anything, who knows? But you feel better. If you don’t pay your respects [bai], your heart won’t feel right, and other people will say, ‘What’s wrong with you? You’re not filial.’ To have a family that has survived over so many generations, one after another, and not cherish it, would be wasteful.” Generational continuity is a priority shared by everyone involved, so others would disapprove if Mr. Zhu were to squander it by not paying his respects to previous generations. And in some ways, while his son remains childless, he is thoughtlessly neglecting the family lineage that has been so carefully preserved. Zhu Daogang’s family and the other families native to the village live very different lives from those of their tenants, of migrants workers in the city, and even of the majority of people in other villages, who still need to work hard to survive. Mr. Zhu’s notion of happiness is shaped by his daily routine of visiting friends and family and playing mahjong. For these people, the opinion of their small community may matter more than community opinion does for people who are spread out across the city, working many hours, with less time for chitchat. While social expectation seems to be an important driver everywhere in China of such considerations as when to marry and when to have children, in some social circles, the voice of the community rings louder through the mechanism of more time spent socializing. Zhu Daogang faces pressure from his parents, but his parents are compelled by the opinions of other parents with whom they have daily contact. It is no easy task for the Zhus to be always adjusting their line to compensate for the reality of their son’s choices, because their face, as they move through the social circle of their urban village, depends a great deal on his actions, and his actions are partially beyond their control. The situation in the family could be somewhat legitimized, because he was not directly rejecting

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the line that he ought to get married and have children; he was only putting it off and not committing to it fully for the time being. But this unfulfilled responsibility was not easily integrated into the line that his parents were sustaining for him: that he was a good son, an attentive one, a good person— just temporarily misguided.16 The longer Zhu Daogang waited, the greater the danger of family ruin; a good son would not for long deprive his parents of grandchildren. Zhu Daogang’s aunt (his father’s sister) does her part to help her brother save face by slathering on the pressure. When Zhu Daogang and I arrived, his aunt said right away, “I thought he was coming here to tell me good news about him getting married. His whole generation is all pretty much done, all married.” Later, she said again to him, “Hurry up! Go, go [jia you; literally, add gas to the tank]. Get married! . . . Next year is too late; other people have four kids already.” Then she said to her brother, “Your son is already old. A-bin [a relative] is getting married next month.” She was trying to participate in the work of making things right, of getting Zhu Daogang to follow his line and get married. She did not give Zhu Daogang face, taking away his chance to take a better line than he might otherwise have been able to take in the interaction. She was solely concerned about her brother’s face, which depended on what Zhu Daogang did. Everyone was doing their part in the family, Zhu Daogang’s aunt warned, and he was in danger of failing to do his. She remarked, “People envy us because we have a harmonious family, not because we have money.” If Zhu Daogang failed to do his part of the work that everyone in the family is doing to make it a good family—a happy family—people would no longer envy them. It would be hard to have face, to hold one’s head up high, to be proud of the family. The stakes for this kind of happiness were much higher than selfdefined pleasure or vocational fulfillment. Was it too much to ask for him to put off or abandon his graduate work to make time for marriage and family? They could not understand his resistance. In the opinion of Mr. Zhu, his son was not an adult until he had bowed to his father during his wedding, as he embarked upon giving rise to the next generation: “You’re not an adult until you kowtow [in the Minnan dialect: chiu tao], which is to pay respects to the earlier generation. . . . So my son is not an adult, because he hasn’t done this.” Their son’s getting married (and having a child) was crucial for his parents to fulfill their responsibilities and take their places in the lineage.

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That it is the parents who seem to be the ones gunning for a marriage is consistent with what Deborah Davis has found in her study of weddings in cosmopolitan Shanghai (see chapter 3). The lavish ceremonies are about the brides and grooms but even more so about their parents. At the end of the big day, the young adults emphasized, the celebrations satisfied their parents. While many couples said that they would have preferred a small destination wedding, they instead organized elaborate celebrations with large banquets for their parents’ sakes. So rituals included both the exchange of rings, emphasizing the couple’s exclusive loyalty to one another, and the tea ceremony— symbolizing the bride’s entry into the family of her husband and his parents. The strong wish of Mr. Zhu was not extreme, compared with other incidents I and my team observed in both rural and urban areas. Some cases of such parental disappointment have ended in suicide.17 “Contract marriages”— marriages between a lesbian and a gay man as a strategy to conform to heteromarital norms while in reality allowing for some degree of independence— have emerged because of the same kind of parent-child pressures. One young woman contemplating a contract marriage described that her parents had been so eager for her to get married that they began to ask relatives to inquire of and try to persuade her. Describing her mother, she wrote, “I know she wants me to be happy, but happiness for me is not about being married.”18 Still, she knew that she would devastate her parents’ happiness, and so the possibility of creating happiness for the entire family, if she failed to marry. The urgent desire of Zhu Daogang’s parents to have grandchildren, and the unhappiness that they convey to their adult son, is also consistent with recent studies. Survey data show that, across China, the most unhappy people over age sixty are those living in two-generation households: those who live with their adult children but no grandchildren (6 percent of the rural population, and almost 5 percent of urban) or the very small number (1 percent of the population) of grandparents living with grandchildren only.19 The happiest elderly are those who live only with their spouse (35 percent of rural, 39 percent of urban) or in three-generation households with their adult children and their children (about 30 percent in both rural and urban areas). Zhu Daogang was resigned to his parents’ unhappiness, but he was also embarrassed and annoyed. He had become accustomed to these feelings every time he faced his family, and he had anticipated the interactions that would occur while we were visiting them. But he did not feel good about the situation or about himself.

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He did intend to eventually marry his girlfriend. She was studying in the United States and pursuing a career of her own. The timing was not the right for either of their careers. And the ways in which marriage will tie him to his own family in certain ways gave him pause. As a doctoral student, he dreamed of being in academia—perhaps going abroad first, then coming back to take a university post in China. And there were economic realities as well; as in the United States, people with doctorates in anthropology have a limited number of career options. He would have to go where the work is, so he battled internally with his filial responsibilities: “There’s a difference between my dad’s idea of a good life [hao ming] and mine. Mine is that I can do what I want to do. Also travel or go somewhere, if I want. I don’t know if I can stay with him the way he wants. Filial piety means to stay here and be with him. I can’t do it. “In the future I might be here. I’ll figure out a way. Like other people my age, they live at home with their parents, a lot of them do it. “But I don’t want to, I wouldn’t be able to take it [shou bu liao]. After getting married, the son and daughter-in-law move in with the parents. I won’t, though. Happiness [xingfu] is to have a choice.” Even in his thirty seconds of musing, he was obviously conflicted by wanting to be an attentive son who satisfies his parents’ wishes and worrying that the burden of doing so would be too much for him. He began by describing his parents’ wishes for him to stay home, concluding, “I can’t do it.” Then he allowed that he might do as they wish in the future: “I’ll figure out a way.” But he switched back again, saying that it could overwhelm him and stated, “I won’t.” Finally, there is the direct contrast with his father’s statement that “family being together” was the definition of happiness; to Zhu Daogang, “happiness is to have a choice.” Neither father nor son was getting what he wanted. In reality, Zhu Daogang might have no choice but to live with his parents upon finishing his doctoral degree. At least in part because of high housing prices, 81 percent of young couples (age thirty and younger) live with their parents or in-laws, according to the Blessed Happiness Survey. Coresidence of adult children and parents is a historical continuity: today’s figure is not all that inconsistent with that of the post-Mao era (1977–82), when the majority of newly marrieds lived with their parents (only 32 percent lived apart from them).20 Unless he finds a job that is lucrative enough that he can pay for housing, he probably will have to depend on his parents for that, and he will

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feel even more strongly their pressure for him to get married and live out the life that they expect and imagine. Zhu Daogang’s situation shows how feelings get generated interactively in conjunction with definitions of the situation, the lines and face that people accord one another. Similarly, desires arise in interactions between people, rather than originating within individuals.

how desires arise interactively Jin Yan, a high-earning twenty-eight-year-old born in Beijing, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and has returned to Beijing to work for a foreign company. With an annual salary of 500,000 RMB (about US$83,000), she is doing well, above the ninety-fifth percentile of income in China as a whole. When asked, “Do you know anyone who is very happy?” she responded, “I don’t know any.” She continued to describe how people might seem to have good lives, but most people were worried about one thing or another. She had a friend who she once thought had “a very good life,” because she had been with her husband, “her first love,” for more than a decade. But recently, her friend had confided that she was having infertility issues. Although her husband loved her very much and never blamed her, she felt despondent. That was when Jin Yan realized, “She is not as happy as I thought.” That’s why her philosophy is that most people are struggling with something that limits their happiness, whether it’s obvious or not. What about her? “Generally speaking, I’m happy,” she said [this interview was conducted by Weiwei Zhang], “but there are definitely things about me that I’m not satisfied with. I wish my career were moving forward faster. It’s not, because I didn’t find a better job after college. I wish I were in better shape so that I would feel better about myself when I shop for clothes. Like, if I were to buy a pair of white pants today, and my mom said to me, ‘You shouldn’t wear white, because your legs are big,’ I would totally be in a bad mood.” When Jin Yan pictured things going well for herself, the image included being promoted and looking better in her clothes. But her account also demonstrated the importance of family life. Her friend’s inability to have children was darkening her otherwise idyllic life. Jin Yan also mentioned her mother early in her account. Although she gave a hypothetical situation (“If I were to buy a pair of white pants”), her feelings about it were very real. It was one of

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the first things she thought of, and it seemed to reflect a sadness that her mother does not completely approve of her appearance. What Jin Yan said is not particularly unusual. It illustrates the way that desires (such as being “in better shape”) are contingent upon interactions and therefore are cocreated. There is also an interpretative element: Jin Yan narrated how she imagined the interaction, and her emotions accompanied that imagined encounter. We can assume that the visualization and interpretation of it were based on a deep knowledge of her mother, obtained through previous interactions. Later in her account, Jin Yan described how her mother did not initially approve of her daughter’s boyfriend. Her mother has accepted their relationship now, but Jin Yan was unhappy when she anticipated their dealings with each other in the future. Her mother looks down on her daughter’s fiancé and his family because they are originally from the countryside: “My mom was strongly against [our relationship] in the beginning, because she thought I should be dating someone with a similar family background. She was quite pampered when she was a child and stresses a lot about one’s appearance and cleanliness. She thinks people from the country don’t practice good hygiene. And she doesn’t think my boyfriend is handsome enough. I don’t expect my mom to get along with his parents. It’s still bothering me now. She looked down on my boyfriend because his parents are poor and they are from the country. Things have gotten a little better the past few years, and she has changed her attitude a little. As long as I like him, she’s fine with it.” Her mother’s attitudes crept into Jin Yan’s accounts of both her personal satisfaction and her relationship with her boyfriend. Something that could be a source of happiness (a romantic relationship) is entwined with her mother’s negative opinions, whether Jin Yan feels they are justified or not. Her fiancé had a close relationship with his parents. They worked very hard to get to the city and to provide opportunities for their children: “It was impossible to support a family of four depending on the dad’s salary only. So his dad did some small business, like selling bamboo shoots in the winter and something else in the summer, to support my boyfriend and his sister’s college education.” Jin Yan’s fiancé sent his parents all the money he can spare. Rather than spending it on luxuries (like hot water, for instance), they have used his money to make more money, lending it out in small, private loans with high interest rates. His family has made more than 100,000 RMB (more than US$16,000) from this endeavor.

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Jin Yan and her fiancé plan to eventually buy his parents a better condo closer to where the couple will live. This one will be large enough for her boyfriend’s sister to move in with their parents and take care of them. Jin Yan did not feel threatened by her future husband’s priorities: “His parents didn’t have an easy life. They tried the best they could to raise him and his sister,” she explained. He felt a sense of obligation, that he ought to be paying his parents back for all the sacrifices they made, and Jin Yan agreed: “I think it will make him happier to buy a condo for them than for ourselves. I’m happy if he’s happy.” Besides, she explained, “I have a condo to myself. I’m not in a rush to buy another one.” Throughout China family members exchange a lot of money. Almost half of the people surveyed reported giving money regularly to their parents, while more than one-third said they give money to their adult children.21

calm, unambitious china So far, I have examined the relationships of three adults and their parents, and all the adult children have been ambitious and career oriented. But it is also informative to look at how less ambitious young adults assess their own happiness. Filial piety and a sense of family can play an important part in their choices, too. Wang Jing, a twenty-nine-year-old married woman in the northern city of Qiqihar, chose her career because she wanted to stay close to her parents’ home: “It was when I came back from college that I didn’t want to leave my hometown. My parents have two children. My older brother lives outside my hometown, while I just wanted to come back. There happened to be an opening for this job after I got back home. So I took the entrance examination for it.” She spoke of an element of fate (“there happened to be”), but in fact she had restricted her search to jobs in her hometown, a reflection of her priorities. She wanted to stay home, so she took what was available. She wasn’t complaining; she liked her easy, 5.5-hour workday. It’s what many would call a dead-end job (doing odd administrative tasks such as maintaining public signage), but she didn’t mind. Unlike many of the people described in other works about China—anxious, ambitious, restless—Wang Jing conveyed calm, a laid-back attitude, and contentment. Rather than striving to be like her peers in the big cities, she actively defined herself in contrast to them as she emphasized her own carefree

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and relaxed lifestyle. Her thoughts echoed the message of one of the most popular prime-time television dramas of the early 2010s, Brother’s Happiness. Brother Fu, after finding life in modern Beijing superficial and fraught with drastic changes in moral standards, returns to a simple and happy life in a small town. The show seemed to have tapped into a reaction against the changes in ethics that have accompanied the rapid economic growth. When asked, “Why didn’t you consider going to Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou when you graduated from college?” Wang Jing responded with no regrets: “I didn’t go because I think the life there was not a good fit for me. I’m a slowpoke and kind of like the carefree lifestyle. What’s more, I was homesick at the time, so I came back. [I’m happy with my job] mostly because it’s slow-paced.” “So you like the slow-paced lifestyle?” Weiwei Zhang asked her. “Exactly. I wouldn’t be able to get used to the kind of life where you have to get up at seven or eight o’clock in the morning for your commute and then work until five or six o’clock in the afternoon. By the time you are commuting home, you’re already exhausted. And I can’t stand a long commute. “I go to work at 8:30 and get off at 11:30 a.m., then work again from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m.” Weiwei Zhang: “Do you have to stay in the office during those hours?” “You’re supposed to,” she replied. “But if you have something else to do, you can leave. It’s flexible. If it were in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, things would be different: they’d take it out of my salary or work attendance. We don’t have those kinds of requirements here.” Wang Jing had no complaints about her lifestyle. She saw herself as happy, in contrast to those with unhappy lives in the big cities. She had some important things they didn’t—a flexible schedule, a low-stress job, and proximity to her parents. Now that she is married and they have a baby on the way, Wang Jing felt she was living her dream: “I feel like I’m really happy now. I’ve found this husband who really cares about me. At home, there’s nothing that worries me. And I’ve got a job; I’m not one of those jobless people. I’ve got everything. I’m pretty happy.” She paused to say that she didn’t want to be “showing off” the love in her marriage. But when Weiwei Zhang encouraged her, she continued: “Because you know, I’m pregnant, it’s hard for me. Even if I’m not having that bad of a reaction, still [my husband is] pretty good about taking care of me, like when I sleep, and when I’m eating. When I’m hungry, he makes food for me, and

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when I’m hot, he fans me to cool me down, even if it makes him sweat like crazy! That’s the feeling of happiness.” Wang Jing would certainly score herself high on a self-assessment of happiness, and when she described why that is, she focused on her proximity to her parents and what her husband does to create happiness in their lives— especially his self-sacrifice. Witnessing it makes her joyful. So Wang Jing’s commonsense folk theory of happiness is centered in her relationships with her parents and her husband. And maybe we social scientists have something to learn from this. Curiously, the importance of parent-child relationships has not been highlighted in happiness theories, but it is a major component of other fields of psychology.22 The longitudinal Harvard Grant Study found that relationships with people are the main factor in whether an individual lives well in old age. Wang Jing conveyed total contentment with her situation, in part because the pressure on young women to find a good husband can be onerous, as doing so is seen as necessary for both having a good life and being a good person.23 The failure to find a good husband is now regarded as the fault of the individual, and many young women are eager to secure the perfect match. So, while she was fine with being in what she called a “third-class city,” she didn’t have the same lackadaisical attitude toward marriage as she did her career: “Life means marriage. The unhappy marriage makes people unhappy. It is unlike the job. For example, we are living in this third-class city, which is to say it is not a big deal to have unsatisfactory jobs. But it is another case for marriage. Just imagine when you get married and you find it is unhappy, especially when you find you are already pregnant, or your husband has other women, it is likely for the couple to get divorced when the child is only one year old.” Like those of many other young couples, the lives of Wang Jing and her husband are highly intertwined with both sets of their parents. The house her in-laws occupy will one day belong to Wang Jing and her husband; it is understood to be theirs already, although his parents paid for it and won’t let them move in with them now. (Anecdotally, we have heard of many young Chinese couples whose parents purchase houses for them or give them a down payment.) Wang Jing would have liked to live with her in-laws, but they weren’t interested. “They felt it would be exhausting to look after us,” she explained. (This is an interesting, but now common, reversal of traditional understandings, wherein when the older generation’s job was done, they were the ones to

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be looked after.) As a compromise, the couple spends their weekends in a rented flat in the city that is closer to his job as well as his parents’ home, where they go for their weekend meals. During the week (Monday to Friday), Wang Jing and her husband live with her parents—her mother cooks for them and cares for her needs—so that she doesn’t have to commute to work. But this arrangement is not without its tensions: “My father frowns on me . . . because I don’t make the bed when I get up in the morning. Then he criticizes me all day long, saying that he still doesn’t want to move to live with us yet.” Her father’s reaction could be a reflection of grumpiness more than a true desire to live apart, since he was saying only that he did not want to live with them “yet.” Whether because of housing scarcity, child-care costs, or other reasons, the expectation that young married adults live with (or close to) their parents—who then take care of grandchildren and often other responsibilities—was something that was stated across interviews. More than 80 percent of young married couples live with their parents or in-laws, and more than 20 percent of young adult singles live with their parents.24 But those numbers do not include others, like Wang Jing, who live close enough that their parents can cook for them, watch their children, and provide other kinds of practical support.25 Those who do not report living with their parents still spend a significant amount of time with them; asked, “Did you spend time with your parents yesterday?” 74 percent responded affirmatively.26 And when asked, “Who helped you recently?” adults said that their parents helped with emotional and psychological issues (13 percent), health issues (21 percent), household chores (20 percent), financial difficulties (22 percent), and emergencies (20 percent). The help is not exactly mutual, but it does seems to flow in both directions. Wang Jing, like others interviewed, talked of how filial piety is different now. People did not usually describe themselves as attentive (it would not be modest), but they would sometimes indicate that they were satisfied with their own efforts by saying that their parents were happy with them, or they would give a mixed answer (“Sometimes I am attentive; sometimes I’m not”). When asked whether she herself was xiaoshun (someone who exemplifies filial piety), Wang Jing responded: “Sometimes they say I am xiaoshun, but I at times feel that I am a little rebellious. Because I often help my parents do housework, but now that I’m pregnant, my mom takes care of me. I feel, now after the 1980s, people my age seldom help parents do things. A few of us are hard-working.

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“When my mom was young, she was xiaoshun as a girl. She always tells me that she began to help her mother wash, clean, and cook when she was seventeen or eighteen years old. There were many people in the family at that time. She helped take care of her younger brothers and sisters. And I said that I couldn’t do that. So, compared with my mom, we have not reached the extent of being xiaoshun. When I say how I am xiaoshun, being respectful of my parents in this day and age, that means I don’t answer back to them. When it comes to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or their birthdays, remembering to celebrate with them is enough to be called xiaoshun these days. In terms of accepting or adopting parents’ advice, it is not uncommon that many people would not like to listen to their parents and fail to communicate with their parents. . . . The criteria differ from generation to generation.”

summary For many young people in China, “having it all” means that they can pursue their ambitions while staying close to home and family. The young adults in this study revealed that a major requirement for assessing themselves as happy was being able to fulfill their filial obligations to their parents’ satisfaction. Extended family’s evaluations of their character and choices could effectively spoil an otherwise happy lifestyle, so many ambitious young adults experience a strong sense of compulsion to obey, along with wrenching emotions, yet struggle to maintain their ground. They described happiness as less as a pursuit and more as a seeking of relief from pressures: pressures of the market economy, of societal norms, and mostly of responsibility to ensure their parents’ well-being. The fieldwork and interviews shed significant light on what self-assessments of happiness and life satisfaction represent for young adults in China; they probably are assessing their success in carrying out filial piety. My interviews show examples of young adults who are unhappy or happy with themselves as a direct result of being dissatisfied or satisfied with how attentive they have been able to be. The interviews also show the importance of how different factors may weigh more heavily in the experience of pleasure and pain. As Guan Xiaozhi expressed so well, his parents’ being unhappy with him detracts from his happiness by a mere 5 percent of angst, yet that small portion threatens to envelop the rest of his happy life. The creation of feeling itself happens in part

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interactively, emerging from the back-and-forth between parents and adult children (and sometimes extended family), as Zhu Daogang’s case illustrates. Young adults’ desires are intertwined, and negotiated, with those of their parents. Parents are very engaged in the concrete parts of young adults’ lives, including housing (as parents buy housing for children and vice versa), which is then intertwined with marriage and then child care. Parents are also involved in choosing spouses, and they try to take a hand in the timing of marriage. Young adults in China desire to be respectful, and they work out the details of what they are aiming toward in discussions with their parents (whether the discussions go smoothly or not). Some lucky ones, like Jin Yan, are able to put together plans that please everyone, while others, like Zhu Daogang, stay in limbo for a long time, unable to find a resolution. There is a range of understandings about the burdens and/or benefits of filial piety. While some young adults are anxious and ambitious, others are relatively unperturbed. Young adults like Wang Jing exude a new, more mutual kind of filial piety, where young adults expect that their parents will provide child care, along with cooking and cleaning. But their parents can also expect constant companionship from their adult children, including access to grandchildren, with the understanding that their children will live with or near them, rather than chasing opportunities far away.

notes 1. P. Sun et al. (2016). In the social psychology experiments college students in Hong Kong were given a series of statements preceded by the question, “How important is it to you?” They tested two kinds of filial piety (reciprocal and authoritarian). Items measuring reciprocal filial piety included “Be grateful to parents for raising you” and “Hurry home upon the death of a parent, regardless of how far away you live.” Items measuring authoritarian filial piety included “Live with parents even after marriage” and “Compliment your parents when needed to save their face.” 2. Whyte (1995, 1003). 3. Yan (2013, 268). 4. Rofel (2007). 5. Chen, Guangya Liu, and Mair (2011); Zhang (2004). 6. J. Sun (2013). 7. Zavoretti (2017, 131). 8. All names are pseudonyms. 9. Yan (2013, 271). 10. Johnston (2013, 50).

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11. Yan (2013, 265). 12. Yan (2013, 270); X. Liu (2002). 13. Engbretsen (2016, 170). 14. Goffman (1967, 5). 15. Kuan (2015, 20). 16. Ibid., 8. 17. Yan (2017, 5). Yunxiang Yan writes of Aunty Liu, a respected person in her village in northern China. She had one imperfection, however: her son wanted to concentrate on his career and was unresponsive to his mother’s wish to see him married. She had a strong feeling of shame and apology, which she shared with only two of her closest friends, and part of that shame was her feeling that she had let her husband down. In 2014, after a visit from her son when he reiterated his lack of desire to get married, she committed suicide. Rather than writing this off as a case of mental illness or instability, women informants with whom Yan discusssed Aunty Liu’s story said that she was a woman with a big heart. She had put her self-interest aside, worked hard to raise her son, but suffered shame for failing to get him married and thereby fulfill one of the most important an obligations one must meet to be a full person. Additionally, since being sensitive to others’ feelings and helping others to fulfill their life tasks is also important to being a good person, she kept her feeling of shame to herself. 18. Engebretsen (2016, 167). 19. Ren and Treiman (2015, 265). 20. Q. Zhang (2004, 1233). 21. Our Blessed Happiness Survey (2016) found that 49 percent of adults whose parents are still alive report giving money regularly to their parents, while 31 percent give money to their adult children. 22. See, for example, the Harvard Grant Study, Vaillant (2012). 23. Fang (2011, 266). 24. According to the Blessed Happiness Survey of 2016, 80.54 percent of young married couples (30 and younger) live with their parents or in-laws. Almost 24 percent (23.88 percent) of young unmarried adults (aged 18 to 45) live with their parents. While some studies have examined the living patterns of the elderly (Xu and Li 2014; Ren and Treiman 2015), we have not seen any other recent studies that show with whom young married Chinese couples live. 25. The Blessed Happiness Survey 2016 asks respondents how often they receive help in various ways from specific people, including parents, when the respondents are going through difficulties: emotional, health, household, financial, emergency. 26. According to the Blessed Happiness Survey of 2016, 74.2 percent (871 out of 1,174) of adults whose parents were still living had seen their parents the previous day. Among all respondents, 1,175 of 2,651 had parents who were still alive.

chapter 3

Performing Happiness for Self and Others Weddings in Shanghai deborah s. davis

Across countries of East Asia, North America, and Western Europe that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), marriage rates have been declining for decades.1 In China, in contrast, marriage rates have generally risen since 2000, and in 2013, more couples married than in any of the previous thirty-five years. 2 Parallel to these numerical trends were shifts toward ever more elaborate weddings and a proliferation of wedding day rituals. In 2014, the average cost of an urban wedding in China was 200,000 yuan (about US$30,000), a sum almost seven times per-capita disposable income in the cities.3 Moreover, 200,000 yuan is the national average; in Shanghai, where I did my fieldwork, recently married college graduates estimated they spent closer to 300,000 yuan (about US$45,000) in 2015. Throughout the Mao years (1952–76), ideologues of the Chinese Communist Party attacked all forms of ostentation and in the case of weddings systemically took steps to repress sacred rituals, ceremonial bowing, family feasting, displays of elaborate dowries, or exchanges of jewelry. The efforts to simplify and secularize were particularly effective in urban China, and by the late 1970s, the typical wedding entailed no more than a trip to the registry, followed by a tea party at the workplace and a small dinner in a parent’s home. Brides purchased or ordered a new pants suit from a tailor but never wore the long white gowns with princess veils and tiara crowns that are now ubiquitous.4 How are we therefore to interpret the current elaborate and lavish weddings in our effort to unpack the multiple meanings of xingfu (幸福)? And in par66

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ticular, what does close observation of the wedding day reveal about the intersections of those dimensions of happiness where emotion and values elide? Traditionally, weddings were explicitly one of life’s “happy things,” or xishi (喜事), and the most ubiquitous ideograph to indicate a new marriage is a homonym that simply doubles the character xi 喜 to symbolize marriage as “double happiness,” 喜喜. In reality, of course, marriage is a central transition in the life course of both parents and children when anxieties run high for all parties. In eras when parents arranged marriages and a bride might never have spoken directly to the groom before their wedding day, and when marriage for women often meant permanently leaving their parents to begin a life among strangers, weddings were frightening for the young woman and deeply sad for her parents and siblings. In the contemporary era, and particularly in an urban metropolis like Shanghai, conditions are radically different. Typically, men and women meet their spouse on their own, date for several years. and most become sexually intimate before their marriage.5 Nevertheless, even in Shanghai a significant minority meet their future spouse through an introduction by a parent or other close kin, and with few exceptions, none of my respondents announced their engagement without first securing parental approval.6 Moreover, because parents and adult children have such a close relationship, creating a new conjugal unit is a major transition for both generations. The public celebration of the union before friends and relatives generates a mixture of emotions. In this chapter I will draw on interviews with fifty men and women who shared their stories, photographs, and often videos of forty-two weddings celebrated between 2005 and 2016 as I explore the ways highly scripted wedding rituals allow brides, grooms, and their parents to navigate the tensions of the wedding day by performing rituals “as if ” they were happy.7 For the anthropologists Adam Seligman and Robert Weller, rituals are consequential because they allow individuals to walk through a major life transformation without requiring all the participants to share the same understandings.8 Certainly, highly staged celebrations can be draining. And not a few respondents reported how stressful it had been to finalize all the details of the wedding with their parents and in-laws and how exhausted they were by the end of the day. But in recounting the moment of performing multiple rituals before their guests, most respondents told me that they became caught up in the celebratory mood and in particular stressed how central it was to their happiness that their parents shared the joy of the wedding day.

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celebrating weddings in shanghai Legally, a couple is married as soon as a clerk at a district marriage registry processes their application. The transaction is simple and requires little more than presenting official copies of identity cards, household registrations, a health certificate, and two color photos of standard size. Until 2003, registries also required letters of approval from the employers of both the bride and groom; today, the state views marriage as a decision of two consenting adults.9 The fee is less than two US dollars, and if there is no line at the registry, couples can wed in less than twenty minutes. When I observed more than one hundred couples at the registries in four of Shanghai’s districts in spring 2016, couples seemed rushed and rarely even embraced before or after they were handed the certificate. Some dressed in matching sweatshirts and a few carried bouquets; the overwhelming majority, however, would not have stood out if they had been standing on a subway platform.10 While some of my respondents equated their wedding with the receipt of the marriage certificate, the majority identified their wedding banquet as the critical day when they announced, confirmed, and celebrated their union.11 When my respondents spoke about their own weddings, they emphasized how critical it was that there be a large banquet. They explained that if there was no wedding banquet, friends and relatives might assume that the parents were ashamed of their child and the child’s choice of spouse. Many recently married men and women told me that they would have preferred a destination wedding to avoid an elaborate celebration, but in no case did their desires override their parents’ need to host a banquet for friends and family. Among those married after 2005, only two had had fewer than one hundred guests, and thirteen had more than three hundred. Moreover, because intense competition in the wedding business had drastically driven down costs, the typical celebration with multicourse dinner, tiered wedding cake, elaborate wedding gowns, videographer, and master of ceremonies was within the budget of all but the poorest families.12 In addition, because custom in Shanghai dictates that every banquet guest make a cash gift to the person who invited them, and because the gift should at least cover the cost of one place at a banquet table, wedding banquets can pay for themselves.13 In fact, several young male respondents told me that they and their parents had made a profit from the banquet, money that they then

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spent on such other expenses as a honeymoon or furnishings for the new home. However, from the perspective of the parents who are hosting the banquet, the cash gifts are not creating a surplus or profit but rather are continuing or initiating a reciprocal relationship. If the parents had gifted cash when a colleague’s child married, they and their colleague expect that person to give an equal or larger gift when their child marries. Unlike the upward, hierarchical gifting that Yunxiang Yan (1996) observed in rural China, these gifts cement horizontal ties among equals. I also do not claim that the marriage, as distinct from the wedding, of a child creates no financial pressure on Shanghai parents. On the contrary: given the expectation that couples begin married life in their own apartment, establishing a new conjugal home creates extreme financial pressure on parents and young couples.14 However, if we approach the wedding as the first public celebration of the new kinship roles of husband, wife, mothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law, noneconomic emotional concerns take center stage. Thus, for example, in making up the guest list, the couple and their parents must decide how many tables will be assigned to each family and whom to invite. Because in Shanghai the custom has been for the groom’s parents to pay all banquet expenses, it is often assumed that they will invite most of the guests and receive most of the cash gifts. But in the era of the one-child family, when the marriage of an only child is as critical a transition for the parents of the bride as for the groom, couples and their parents find that old norms may no longer satisfy, and one observes routinization of rituals that incorporate both sets of parents. Wedding banquets in Shanghai begin at a lucky time: 6:08. 6:18, or 6:28. At that appointed hour, the bride, wearing a white dress with long train and white veil, is led by her father toward a stage at the front of the banquet room. As they approach the stage, the groom steps forward and the father hands the bride to the groom. The couple ascends the stage, where a professional master of ceremonies, provided by the wedding company and rarely known to the couple, directs the audience and the couple through the subsequent rituals. In this first part of the ceremony, the emcee leads the couple in their vows and exchange of wedding rings. Before exiting the stage, the emcee then calls on a witness chosen by the couple or their parents. In most cases, the witness is an older man, often a supervisor of the groom or a colleague of his father, who speaks seriously about the importance of marriage and extends explicit wishes for lifelong happiness (xingfu).15 At the end of this first portion of the wedding

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celebration, the couple leaves the stage, and the bride redoes her hair and makeup and changes into a form-fitting satin evening dress for the next segment. During this second portion, the rituals feature the couple and both sets of parents. The emcee asks the parents to come forward, and usually both fathers speak about how proud they are of their child and how they welcome their new child by marriage; sometimes they read from scripts found on the internet or supplied by the wedding planner. After the parents have left the stage, the couple together lift a very large bottle of wine, which they empty through a tree of champagne glasses, and then turn and toast their guests. Next, they cut a multitiered Western-style wedding cake that has been standing to the side of the stage, and then the emcee leads the bride in giving away her bouquet. In some weddings, the wine and cake rituals follow the exchange of rings during couple’s first appearance, and the second segment focuses exclusively on expressing thanks to the parents. After the couple exits a second time, the bride changes into her third costume, usually in a shade of red and often in the style of a qipao, or cheongsam. When they return, the couple sits briefly at the head table before leaving to circulate throughout the room to toast each guest. After the last toast has been made, the wedding has concluded, usually within three hours after the bride first entered on the arm of her father.

multiplication of rituals Recent academic analyses of weddings routinely highlight the role of the bride as consumer and the wedding as a commodity.16 Less often do authors foreground the performance of rituals.17 However, because ritual performances evoke and display a range of emotions, a focus on wedding rituals speaks directly to the shared effort by contributors to this book to unpack the meanings of happiness in contemporary urban China. Although the banquet is the central part of the wedding, it is only one part of an ensemble of rituals that spans the whole wedding day. Next, I describe two rituals that previously were absent from Shanghai weddings but that now are routine and standardized. The first is the tea ceremony, which ritualizes the bride’s departure from her natal home and entry into that of her husband and his parents. The second, the exchange of weddings rings at the banquet, is a performance that emphasizes and makes public the couple’s exclusive loyalty to one another.

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The Tea Ceremony In Shanghai on the day of the wedding, the bride rises early.18 After being professionally made up, she dresses in a white wedding dress for the tea ceremony, which is performed first at the home of her parents and then repeated at the home of the groom’s parents or the couple’s new conjugal residence.19 In the ceremony, the bride and groom kneel before the parents. offering each a bowl, cup, or glass of tea. In response, the parents give each of the affianced a red packet of lucky money. In the tea ceremonies that I witnessed in person or on video, the core ritual was the exchange of the tea and the red packets, followed by the groom’s feeding the bride sweet soup before each set of parents. The ceremony begins at about 9:00 a.m., when the groom and several of his friends leave his home in a cavalcade of rented cars whose hoods have been decorated with flowers and stuffed animals. At the entry to the home of the bride and her parents, the young men set off firecrackers and neighbors block the entrance, demanding red packets of lucky money. The groom is goaded to call out “Wife, I love you, please open the door.” In contrast to the solemnity of the core ritual of serving tea and receiving gifts, this preliminary jostling and teasing create hilarity and joyful exuberance. After entreating the bride and her family to open the door, the groom enters their home, where her parents, neighbors, and relatives watch as her friends intensify the teasing, asking the groom to solve riddles, do push-ups, and eat revolting food to prove his love. Finally, the door to the bride’s bedroom opens and the groom enters. He kneels, offers a bouquet, and declares his love. He then searches for and finds her shoes and puts them on her feet. The young couple then leaves the bedroom and serves tea to her mother and father.20 After her parents have accepted the tea, they present both bride and groom with red packets of money, as a gaikou fei 改口费 payment for changing his terms for addressing them from aunty and uncle to mother and father. The parents then offer bowls of sweet soup and ask the couple to feed each other to symbolize the mutual care spouses are expected to give one another. After this first tea ceremony has concluded, the strongest of the bride’s male relatives carries the again shoeless bride to the car that is waiting to drive the couple to his parents’ home. Her mother puts on her shoes, and the bride’s departure for the home of her in-laws is tearful. Although one bride told me that the video team and wedding planner had commanded her to cry (which in fact she did not), in most of the eighteen videos I watched, and in the recollections

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of many whom I asked about the ceremony, the farewell was genuinely emotional. One bride told me that she had viewed the wedding as a meaningless event to give her parents face but then described how she completely broke down when she saw her maternal grandmother standing at the window: “Only then did I realize that I was really leaving my home.” When the couple arrive at the door of the husband’s home, his groomsmen set off firecrackers and the couple quickly enters. Once inside, they repeat the central rituals of serving tea, receiving packets of lucky money, and drinking sweet soup. This repetition of the tea ceremony with the grooms’ parents (and sometimes grandparents) is shorter and more subdued because there is no teasing at the entry or symbolic resistance to the breaking down of the bride’s door. In addition, as I watched the videos, I detected a different emotional valence at the groom’s home that did not seem attributable to fatigue alone. Rather, the celebration was more raucous and extended at the bride’s home because the rituals were designed to minimize or redirect the sadness of parents whose daughter is leaving her natal home and simultaneously celebrate and even heighten the happiness of the couple as they separate from her parents. In contrast, the simpler and more subdued rituals at the home of the groom centered more narrowly on enacting the new family roles that would bind the wife to her husband’s parents and require the groom to stand beside his bride as both his wife and the daughter-in-law of his parents.

Exchange of Wedding Rings Before 1949, in both rural and urban China, brides received gold bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Her parents gave her gifts as a form of premortem inheritance and a hedge against hard times in her conjugal household. A groom’s parents, in particular his mother, gave the new daughter-in-law gold jewelry to express gratitude for joining her family and to provide a financial asset to the new couple. Through the late 1970s, rural parents continued to give gold jewelry to brides; in the cities, however, gifting became rare or at least surreptitious. According to my respondents, even couples who married as late as 1995 rarely purchased wedding rings, and none had a ceremony at the wedding banquet to exchange rings and publicly declare their love. One woman, who married in 1988 and was from a working-class family, told me that she received a heavy gold ring from her mother-in-law that she wore only at the wedding banquet. However, she, like the others who married between 1978 and 1995, now wears a diamond ring that her husband bought as gift for

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a recent wedding anniversary. In contrast, those who married between 2000 and 2005 reported that they had exchanged rings at the ceremony, but none could remember particular vows. Instead they tended to remember that the rings were ugly, no longer fit, or were inconvenient to wear. Today, exchanges of rings and declarations of undying love have become the focal ritual during the first thirty minutes of the wedding banquet.21 All my interviewees who had married after 2005 exchanged rings during the first segment of the evening wedding ceremony. The five who were Christians exchanged rings during a small ceremony at which their minister presided. A few couples wrote their own vows; most merely repeated those supplied by the emcee and followed his direction as they exchanged rings and then again when he told them to kiss and hold up their entwined hands to the guests. I have translated a set of vows from a registry marriage in 2013.22 I quote the vows in their entirety to illustrate the centrality of declaring loyalty to both their new spouse and their parents. While this script comes from a city office, it closely resembles those I heard at several banquet ceremonies. Also striking to me, and to Christians with whom I shared the text, is how closely the words supplied by the government registry resembled marriage vows in the Protestant Book of Common Prayer: From this day forward, we will jointly assume the responsibilities and duties that marriage gives us. Be filial to parents and educate our children, show mutual respect and mutual love, mutual trust and mutual encouragement, mutual understanding and mutual forgiveness, help each other when both are in humble circumstances, and be in love for the rest of our lives. From this day forward, regardless of whatever adversities, in wealth and in poverty, in health and in sickness, in our youth and old age, we will share the same boat through wind and rain, suffering difficulties together and sharing both the sweet and the bitter, we become lifelong partners.23

Because most respondents deferred to the emcee and had no interest in writing their own vows, one might presume that recitation before their guests might evoke little emotion. But when I observed the performances on video or during the ceremonies, or when I listened to my respondents—both parents as well as husbands and wives—recount their experiences, interviewees remembered that exchanging rings before their guests had created an unexpected emotional high. In addition, because most couples have had their entire wedding day professionally videoed, exchanging rings before all their guests

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created an iconic moment in the narrative of the wedding day that sutured the performance into family memories and history.

individualizing and personalizing ritual In some cases, wedding planners suggest embellishments to individualize the wedding as a marketing tool or simply to increase their profits. One of the more memorable embellishments described by a respondent was the use of drones to fly in the wedding rings; unfortunately, at this wedding, the drones crashed and a bridesmaid brought the rings to the stage. For another wedding, the planner insisted that four young children precede the bride carrying bowls of goldfish; my respondent never understood the meaning of the ritual nor whether there had been an additional fee, and like the bride whose drones had crashed, she chuckled at the reminiscence. Another bride had chosen a space theme because she wanted blue curtains and twinkling stars; her banquet began with a child questioning a crystal ball and an LED screen that flashed the answers. Again, in retrospect she found it amusing. In other cases, the couple themselves added the individualizing touch. For example, one architect spoke at great length about the hours she spent crafting one hundred place cards, each with a unique photograph of herself and her husband. She then asked each guest to return the card with their impressions of the wedding. And why, I asked, did she ask each guest to leave a note? “Because I wanted happy memories.” In three other weddings, the efforts to personalize and individualize focused on presenting special gifts to their parents: One couple gave gift coupons for a famous photography studio so the parents could have the wedding portraits that they had not been able to afford when they had married in the 1980s. Another gave whirlpool footbaths, and a wealthier couple gave new iPhones to each parent. Others individualized their weddings with personal performances. One groom, who ran a kung fu studio, arranged for a colleague to confront the couple as they left after exchanging their rings. He then expertly repelled the staged attack and the audience burst into applause. A dancer and a musician opened the festivities with a lion dance in which the lion made contorted moves while trying to grab and eat the wedding bouquet, which was suspended from the ceiling. And one devout Christian bride who repeatedly stressed her preference for simplicity spoke with great pride about her innovation: to screen an American comedy in the foyer of the hotel where they had just held the religious ceremony so

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that their the guests would not get bored while she and her husband went with the videographer to take additional photos in a nearby park. During my fieldwork in Shanghai, I often was told a wedding had been unique. Friends who had told me about such weddings would stress how lucky I was to hear about this totally different experience, or a respondent would repeatedly stress how they were not like other people and that their wedding was not typical. However, when I reviewed my notes, I found that even weddings that had been flagged as unique rarely deviated from the standard script. In particular, I was struck by the centrality of memories that expressed shared understandings of filial devotion, reciprocity, and family loyalty.

The General’s Daughter (Married in 2006) Ms. M is a high-powered professional originally from Nanjing who was educated and pursued her career entirely in Shanghai. She was identified to me early in my fieldwork as someone whose wedding was unique and special. At the time of the wedding, the couple had been cohabiting for several years in an apartment her parents had purchased. The groom would soon turn thirty and the bride was twenty-nine. She didn’t say that her parents were pushing them to wed, but in 2006 twenty-nine was a late age at which to marry. Initially, they did not want any ceremony or banquet and instead had planned a long trip just for themselves. Her father, however, insisted that, in addition to large wedding luncheons that he would host for his colleagues in Nanjing and Beijing, the couple had to host a three-hundred-person banquet in Shanghai. The date was chosen to accommodate the father’s schedule, the main witness at the banquet was a colleague of his whom the bride did not know, and two weeks before the ceremony he sent his secretary to check on all the details. In recounting the planning and the day of the wedding, Ms. M repeatedly stressed how much time she and her husband had spent individualizing the wedding and the key role their friends and his sister had played in helping them create the many special touches. She saw the wedding as their first joint project, and as she reflected on the preparations, she told me it was “fun and great.” She also criticized many young couples who let their parents take charge. In her words, such young people are lazy. In fact, Ms. M had chosen a package deal, wore a wedding gown rented from the wedding company, and chose from among the food options the planner offered. They used the emcee provided by the planning company to run a lucky draw and to keep the

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ceremony within the ninety-minute time frame her father had required. They personalized the rings they bought by engraving “I love you” in Greek, but they followed the vows that the emcee had written and worked within the time constraints that the planner had established. On the other hand, together with friends they baked six hundred cookies for the wedding favors in place of wedding candies, and they took three months of dancing lessons, so that at an after-banquet cocktail hour on the patio of the venue they could salsa-dance before their friends. They did not do a tea ceremony with his parents, nor did they have prewedding photographs taken to display at the banquet venue. The tea ceremony was omitted because her parents lived in Beijing, and the couple was already living together. And they specifically eschewed having the photos taken because her husband had a very heavy work schedule during the two months before the wedding, and it was too hot to take photos outside. They did, however, prepare a slide show loop reprising the story of their lives. Not once did she spontaneously use the word xingfu; instead, she described the wedding as special, fun, and unique. Yet, as I listened and later reflected on our threehour conversation, I heard a glamorous, successful professional in her late thirties describing an elegant wedding that she had planned to make her parents proud and happy. In writing about “the Chinese path to individualization,” the anthropologist Yunxiang Yan describes the rapid and remarkable “rise of the individual and the individualization of the social structure” in China since the turn of the last century. But he also makes a strong case for the persistent role of party-state controls and even the lingering hegemony of a state ideology that endorses individualism but primarily as an integral component of the partystate’s own “developmental strategy.”24 In listening to my respondents describe their wedding day, I also heard how larger social institutions constrained or contradicted their ambitions to be special and different. This was particularly true among rural-born migrants who had discarded the homogenized and narrow life course trajectory of their parents’. However, in the retrospective narratives, those who constrained them were neither government officials nor CCP ideologues but rather the immediate community of kin and parents. Thus, while the discourse of my respondents aligns with Lisa Rofel’s postsocialist “desiring self,” and articulates an ambition to celebrate their individuality and carve out their own biographies, their version of individualization revolves around maintaining reciprocal family relationships..25

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rituals and happiness When defining ritual, English-language dictionaries stress the centrality of repetition and prescribed order.26 And, in my fieldwork in Shanghai, I looked systematically at elements of the wedding celebration that were repeated or followed a prescribed order. But beyond recording the incidence and sequence, I approached wedding rituals as performances that enacted social relationships, revealed underlying values, and generated emotion. Because rituals are created by and for communities, unpacking the meanings of happiness in wedding ritual also required that I place the performance within a community. Theoretically, then, this chapter builds on the work of anthropologists who study rituals as a primary avenue through which to understand group dynamics and societal values. In particular, I draw on the work of Adam Seligman and Robert Weller, who argue that while “rituals can transform objects or people from [one] category to another,” they can simultaneously carry people across categories and therefore “create a flow of time” and provide “the grounds for imagining a shared past and future” (emphasis added).27 Therefore, in contrast to assumptions that rituals primarily function to create clear boundaries between the sacred and the profane, I understand rituals as performances that create both boundaries and bridges that allow participants to “express acceptance of an order without requiring a full understanding” of what that order may require of them.28 Such acceptance is particularly potent during moments of uncertainty, for example, when the bride, the groom, and their parents are publicly assuming new kinship roles of wife, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, or husband, son-in-law, and father-in-law. When enacting ritually scripted roles, individuals do not need to share identical expectations or emotions to execute a satisfactory performance before their community. Ritual performance allows each person to behave for a limited time as if there were no conflicts and all parties could be equally happy about assuming these new family relationships and identities. But wedding rituals engage more than the couple and their parents; they also engage the larger community in which the bride, groom, and their parents are embedded. Therefore, when individuals actively join celebrations of their community, they draw on habits or virtues of mind and heart that enable them to act in such a way as to maintain and enhance their way of life. This is not simply a matter of abiding by rules but of internalizing the principles behind the rules and, in the case of weddings, of internalizing the moral values that

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guide and normalize the individuals’ acceptance (even mastery) of new kinship relations. Through this process, participants in the shared event reproduce the community and elide the happy and the good.

performing happiness for self and others When asked what explains the ever more elaborate wedding celebrations, respondents in Shanghai first stressed the new affluence and the huge gap between today’s material bounty and past decades of poverty and shortage. Weddings have become more elaborate and rituals have proliferated because parents have the financial means and because they want to compensate for earlier depravation. The second popular explanation is that weddings have become more elaborate because most young brides and grooms are onlychildren, and both have been the focus of parental discretionary expenditure since their birth. And, third, both parents and young couples attribute the trend of more elaborate weddings to the recent intense commodification of weddings and the avalanche of advertising that cascades from metro billboards, photo studios, specialty bakeries, and the mammoth biannual wedding expo. Undoubtedly, these economic and demographic factors encourage higher expenditures and ever more elaborate celebrations. However, when I asked my respondents what had made them nervous in preparing for the wedding, particularly if the interview involved watching a video or browsing a wedding album, they always mentioned the fear that their parents would be unhappy or lose face before their friends and family. The respondents’ major fear was not that the food would be inadequate or that decorations would be seen as shoddy but that they had failed to adequately express publicly their appreciation and love for their parents. Even as recently as the early 1990s, premarital sex was unusual among urban couples, and open cohabitation before marriage was unknown. Thus, concerns about sexual performance or virginity did unnerve some brides and grooms and affect the emotional valence of the celebration. But today in Shanghai, the majority of couples have been sexually intimate before marriage, many with more than one partner.29 Since 2010, cohabitation before marriage has also become increasingly routine, and most slide shows displayed in the banquet halls include photos of the couples on trips abroad or extended visits to scenic spots in China. As a result, anxieties about sexuality that many traditional rituals channeled or deflected no longer seem paramount. Instead, given

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the surging divorce rates since 2003, a key anxiety for parents, the community, and even the bride and groom is whether the marriage will survive.30 Thus, the rituals that guide bride, groom, their parents, and their guests are those that require the new couple to perform their loyalty to one another and their commitment to function as a couple in the family and larger community. A second, and equally palpable, anxiety that arose during conversations with parents or in response to my question about how weddings differ from marriage, was fear about the quality of future relations between parents and their (usually only) son or daughter. Will, for example, the transition to wife and daughter-in-law undermine what had previously been a happy relationship between parents and an unmarried child? Will a parent’s marriage suffer with the departure of a son or daughter? When Vienne Tso analyzed weddings in Hong Kong, she described a wedding as a process of learning to “do family.”31 Writing from her own experience, Tso emphasized the bride’s negotiations with her parents, her future husband, and his parents but situated the process within a larger analysis of the moral obligations that define family happiness. Creating family harmony and happiness is difficult, and it is not achieved in one day of feasting and toasting; however, by publicly performing scripted roles as happy bride, grateful daughter, proud father, or welcoming motherin-law before their guests, members of the wedding party signal to each other and their guests their pleasure as well as acceptance of new family responsibilities and loyalties. As Seligman and Weller emphasize, by performing rituals before others, there is no requirement that all participants share the same understandings or evaluation at the moment of performance. The performances may be forced, unpleasant, and often exhausting, but in remembering that moment most of my respondents recalled hedonic feelings—particularly pride and joy—that subsequently animated their family relations. Today in Shanghai, city residents have far more freedom than earlier generations to choose where to work, where to live, and with whom to be sexually intimate. They also must assume greater financial responsibility for child care, education, and medical expenses.32 The immobility and surveillance of urban danwei society created oppressive dependence on workplace leaders, but it also embedded people in dense social networks and provided a basic social safety net. Today, employers focus on maximizing their profits, frequent job changes are the norm, neighbors no longer share kitchens and bathrooms, and workmates and even neighbors are often strangers. In this dynamic but uncertain society, individuals have more freedom to choose their work, choose their

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intimates, and travel widely. Yet even the most financially successful people worry about long-term security. As a result, the desire for loyalty and reciprocity between the generations has intensified.33 In fact, I would go so far as to say that for city families, the established and involuntary ties between parent and adult child often rival and sometimes overwhelm the new voluntary bonds between husband and wife. During my interviews in 2015–2016, I asked respondents about the relationship between a wedding (hunli) and a marriage (hunyan). Most replied that there was no relationship: marriage is a lifelong relationship between two people, a wedding is a one-day celebration primarily for the parents. However, when I then asked if there was a connection between a happy (xingfu) wedding and a happy (xingfu) marriage, several commented that if the wedding did not go smoothly, it might create a problem in the future. One bride said with some embarrassment that in fact she had been worried that there might be a world disaster and that it might have a negative influence on her marriage. One interpretation of the ubiquity of Hollywood-style evening gowns, beribboned knives to cut a multitiered white wedding cake, and chapel-like venues for exchanging vows identifies the couple and their families as victims of commercial excess or competitive, conspicuous consumption. Certainly, weddings have become big business, and, in the opinion of one cadre I interviewed in the city commerce bureau, the central government should officially recognize the wedding business as new type of for-profit enterprise. But the many hours I spent with men and women as they shared their wedding videos and albums led to a different interpretation. The men and women whom I interviewed remembered anxiety and fatigue, but they did not feel victimized, nor did they have regrets, that the money could have been better spent. Rather, as I listened to my respondents describe wedding preparation and answer my questions about performing the multiple rituals, the emotion that emerged most strongly was pride. Celebrating the wedding according to a standardized script had been exhausting, but it demonstrated to their guests—and to themselves—that they were good people with a xingfu family.

notes 1. Raymo, Park, Xie, and Yeung (2015); Schwartz (2013); Schneider, Harknett, and Simpson (2018);Xu, Li, and Yu (2012); OECD Family Database, http://www.oecd .org/els/family/database.htm, accessed April 19, 2019.

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2. Zhongguo minzheng tongji nianjian (2018), http://www.infobank.cn/IrisBin /Text.dll?db=TJ&no=788115&cs=7097041&str=%BD%E1%BB%E9. 3. In 2014 urban disposable per capita income was 31,195 yuan, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. 4. Whyte and Parrish (1984);Whyte (1993). 5. Farrer (2014b); Yu and Xie (2015); Yeung and Hu (2013); Jankowiak and Li (2016); Pan (2015). 6. In the Blessed Happiness Survey, 46 percent of urban respondents reported that they met their spouse through an introduction, and in the Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey, done in 2013 by Fudan University of a representative sample of Shanghai residents born after 1980, 20 percent of all married men and women had met their spouse through introduction by a parent or other close kin, and 25 percent through introduction by friends. Tian and Davis (n.d.) 7. I draw here on materials from interviews conducted in Shanghai between 2014 and 2016 with six wedding planners and fifty of the seventy men and women who had married after 1976, as well as from observations of twenty-five wedding videos or albums and attendance at eight weddings. I met these men and women through many channels: some were old friends, others were friends of colleagues or former students, and some were contacts of my research assistant, a recently retired office worker. Of the forty-two weddings celebrated after 2005, which provide the core data for this chapter, all but one groom were born after 1976 and three-quarters were born during the 1980s. Thus the weddings that are the focus in this essay took place during a decade of unprecedented prosperity in one of China’s most globally connected and fast-paced cities. Sixty-two percent of the grooms and 54 percent of the brides had graduated from college. One-third had migrated from rural villages on their own or with their parents to find a better life in the big city; they were enterprising and self-reliant. Another quarter had been born as rural residents in the greater Shanghai areabut later gained urban registration and now moved freely across the metropolis, even as they retained emotional attachments to their native villages. Half had been born and raised in centralcity districts, but these Shanghai natives were no longer ensconced in the constricted social networks of socialist-era danwei (enterprises) or cocooned in the neighborhoods of their childhood. Thus in comparison with the overall population of young adults in Shanghai born after 1979, those I interviewed were slightly more educated and slightly less likely to hold a blue-collar job, but overall the gap was small and the variety of socioeconomic backgrounds among their families allows these interviewees to identify the basic elements of a “typical Shanghai wedding.” For comparison I use the profiles from 2013 Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey, conducted by the Social Science Data Center at Fudan University, of all men and women born after 1979 who had lived in Shanghai for more than six months (N = 2,357). Fifty-six percent of women and 52 percent of men were college graduates, 67 percent of women and 75 percent of men held Shanghai household registration either from birth or as result of conversion, and 44 percent of women and 49 percent of men held service jobs.

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8. Seligman and Weller (2012). 9. Davis (2014a, 2014b). 10. Of note was the absence of any witnesses, a pattern that paralleled the experience of my respondents, all of whom found it very odd that I asked if anyone had accompanied them to the registry. 11. During the 1980s, urban couples also considered a banquet essential (Whyte 1993), and all fifteen of my respondents who married during the 1980s held banquets with as many as sixty guests. 12. In 2014–15, prices for tables of ten ranged from a low of 1,688 yuan to high of 10,000 yuan (about US$250 to $1,500), and for as little as 5,000 additional yuan (about US$745) the hotel or planner provided several gowns for the bride, professional makeup for the bride and her attendants, a tiered wedding cake, wine tower, decorated stage, emcee, and videographer. In my sample of forty-two weddings held since 2005, only one reported that the event had put them in debt. Also of note was that when I asked Shanghai wedding planners if it was common for their clients to borrow to host a wedding—as planners in Hong Kong had told me in the summer of 2014—one blurted out that if the bride or her parents learned the groom and his family were borrowing for the wedding, they would immediately break off the engagement. Also of note was that the ratio of the cost of one banquet table to average monthly wage was the same as it had been in the 1980s: one month’s wage for each table of eight to ten guests. 13. Guests who are closest kin or those who previously received gifts at the marriage of their own children are expected to be more generous, with kin expected to make a gift reflective of their closeness and friends to account for inflation or to reflect newly made wealth. 14. Davis (2010). 15. In 80 percent of the post-2005 weddings described to me that included a witness, half were a supervisor at the workplace of either the bride or groom; the other half were relatives or colleagues of one of the parents. 16. Constable (2006); Edwards (1987, 1989); Gillette (2000); Huang (2006); Kalmijn (2004); Mead (2007); Tso (2012); Boden (2003, 3). 17. The exception is the very fine work by Edwards (1982,1987, 1989) on Japanese weddings during the 1980s. 18. In northern China, where first weddings must conclude before noon, brides arise as early as 3:00 a.m. 19. In 2015 and 2016 more and more brides were wearing elaborate embroidered vests and skirts that are deemed traditionally Chinese. 20. In some cases, tea is first served to one or both of the grandparents and then the bride’s parents. 21. In most cases these rings are fairly simple platinum bands that can cost as little as 3,000 yuan for two rings but when decorated with gems or special engraving may cost as much as 15,000 yuan. During repeated visits to jewelry shops in a midlevel mall in central Shanghai in fall 2015, I observed mainly young couples alone or with few of their age mates. Also of note was that both salespeople and accompanying friends paid

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at least as much attention to how a ring looked on the hand of the man as on the woman’s. Less often did I observe older couples, whom I presumed could be parents, and in those cases they moved quickly past the display cases and made no purchases. When I asked respondents who paid for the rings, most insisted that they paid for the rings themselves. However, the original source of funds was not clear, and when I probed, several respondents described how the groom’s mother had given them cash for the purchase but left the choice of ring to the bride and groom. 22. I first viewed these vows after the informant sent me a cell phone video of the ceremony and later confirmed that this ceremony was routine at many registries and very close to what most emcees used when guiding the couple in the exchange of rings at the banquet venue. 23. This ceremony was performed at the Civil Affairs Registry in the Yangpu District of Shanghai in 2013. 24. Yan (2010, 499). 25. Rofel (2007). 26. See, for example, ritual (n.), Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2014), 1076. 27. Seligman and Weller (2012, 7). 28. Seligman and Weller (2012, 94). 29. Farrer (2014); Pan (2015); Zhang (2011). 30. Davis (2010, 2014a); Fincher (2014); Xu, Li, and Yu (2012); Shanghai Tongji Nianjian (2016). 31. Tso (2012). 32. Cho (2010); Gao and Riskin (2009); Li and Sicular (2014). 33. At the end of her essay “Leftover Woman in Shanghai,” Ji Yingchun notes that the small size of these Shanghai families “may have strengthened parent-child bonding” (Ji 2015, 1070). Hu and Scott (2014), To (2015), and Zhang and Sun (2014) document similar dynamics between parents and only daughters.

chapter 4

Happy and Unhappy Meals Culinary Expressions of the Good Life in Shanghai james farrer

Eating is not merely a biological act but a symbolic act through which we claim group boundaries, assert social status within the group, and make individual claims to virtue. In short, “food is culture.”1 In an ambitious history of the world’s major cuisines, Rachel Laudan writes that all ancient imperial cuisines came to share three basic principles: a concept of culinary hierarchy that legitimated why some people ate better than others, a practice of sacrifice in which the gods were provided with foods in exchange for blessings, and a theory of a culinary cosmos, in which the social and natural order were represented through correspondences with foods and cooking practices. Modern cuisines have largely abandoned or weakened these principles, although they survive in residual and modified forms.2 As I will try to show in this chapter, discussions and practices of eating socially in contemporary urban China also are a window on how people represent, enact, and embody new ideas of “the good life.” In particular, cuisine in China remains a potent language for expressing, and coping with, anxieties about changing social hierarchies, notions of personal virtue, and claims about both the natural and social order. Put simply, eating makes people happy (and sometimes unhappy)—but how? As Laudan’s study shows, the language of cuisine is often conservative, preserving traditions and supporting social order. Despite the neophilia associated with urban dining in contemporary China, for example, the basic fan-cai (rice and side dish) grammar of the Chinese meal remains a central orienting principle. Dishes are still generally shared among diners, even in Western restaurants. Moreover, the dominant attitude associated with culinary con84

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sumption is one of nostalgia, as shown in Mark Swislocki’s study of the historical development of Shanghai cuisine.3 We can also see the dominance of nostalgic representations of cuisine in popular cooking shows, including China Central Television’s hit television A Bite of China, which celebrates China’s regional cuisines as expressions of “history, culture, tradition and warm feelings.”4 Cuisine, in this official register, is part of the “China dream” of a revival of cultural traditions and their expansion abroad (the English-language version of this program was promoted widely outside China). However, alongside such official representation of a traditional social order through culinary nostalgia, we also find profound concerns about social disorder represented through food. Especially in heated discussions of food safety in China, we are reminded that images of the pure, orderly, and healthy life always have a dystopic shadow: the diseased, adulterated, and poisoned other of bad food, of food producers who may even kill you or your children.5 Indeed, a 2016 Pew survey shows that 40 percent of Chinese consider food safety to be a “very big problem,” up from 12 percent in 2008.6 We thus see a proliferation of public discourse around food, both in nostalgic longings for tastes of tradition and in panics about food safety. A useful theoretical perspective on this recent proliferation of culinary discourse comes from the cultural sociologist Ann Swidler. She writes that in “unsettled times” the seriousness and quantity of cultural work increases, as social actors attempt to mend the cultural rifts emerging around them.7 In unsettled times we are likely to see a proliferation of novel cultural solutions to newly pressing dilemmas. One of the key claims of my essay is that the concerns about unsafe food, ostentatious banqueting, and other forms of “bad eating” are associated with, or even have as their basis, concerns about larger stresses in the social order. As Laudan’s history would suggest, claims about culinary disorder are really about social disorder, and culinary reform is equally a form of social reform. I discuss how increased social mobility, the rise of problematic urban elites, as well as a migrant underclass are expressed through worries about food in Chinese society, but we also can see a proliferation of imagined culinary solutions to these problems, in other words, new ideas about eating well and living well. And we can see how these solutions are, at their heart, class-based solutions that privilege the urban elite over marginal members of society, such as rural-to-urban migrants. While Hsu and Davis (chapters 2 and 3) emphasize the role of the family and conjugal relations as central to the definition of Chinese happiness, I focus on the expanded range of social relationships encountered in eating outside the

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home. These include friends, coworkers, business associates, and others with whom one shares restaurant meals but also vendors and suppliers who represent a larger society of largely unknown (and perhaps unreliable) people. This essay thus takes us into the stomach but also outside the home, to look for broader social contexts of the “good life” in China. In doing so, it also reveals the tensions still lurking in the modern definition of xingfu (幸福) described by Lang Chen (in chapter 1), a concept of happiness that combines material well-being with inner feelings of joy (and a notion of virtuous living), ideas that Chen points out were considered quite separate, even oppositional, in classical Confucian thinking. If a wedding ceremony is meant to celebrate the ethical joy and material wellbeing of conjugality, for most people meals outside the home also are special events that combine the ethical value of conviviality with the material enjoyment of tasty healthy food. Yet the tensions lurking in these expressions of culinary happiness are revealed when we ask people not only about “good meals” but “bad meals.” As I describe in the discussion that follows, the combined ideal of inner joy paired with material well-being fractures when people sense that the material pursuit of good living is not accompanied by true human feeling (as in unpleasant business meals). The opulent but emotionally hollow banquet might be considered a rich man’s problem; however, this tension between the material and ethical foundations of happiness is revealed even more profoundly among people who worry they cannot even access the material basis of the good life. In the case of a young couple, this anxiety might be about affording a new apartment, whereas a young migrant eating at a street stall might worry about the very safety of the foods one can consume there. Economic inequality forms a hidden border to a state of happiness that combines joy and virtue with material abundance. The culture of eating involves not simply talking about food but patterned practices or social rituals, resembling and overlapping with the weddings and other rituals discussed elsewhere in this volume. Within eating practices, however, we can also distinguish rituals that happen on a more repetitive or everyday basis, such as family meals, and those that are more elaborate events for meeting with friends. These everyday ideals of a good meal are the starting point of my discussion.

methods, data, and limitations This study is based upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted during fifteen visits to Shanghai over seven years. I interviewed over a hundred chefs, manag-

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ers, food critics, and regular customers. During that time I branched out of my previous research on the international dining scene in Shanghai (nonChinese restaurants, including Western, Japanese, sweet shops, and cafes) and collected case studies of Chinese restaurant owners and others engaged in novel areas of culinary production in Shanghai.8 This is a theoretical sample guided by a search for diverse answers to the problems of eating well in the city. In addition to this ethnographic data, I also use a set of recorded and transcribed interviews conducted by Chinese research assistants in Xuzhou and Shanghai in 2014. They asked twenty-five informants of different ages and genders what “good eating” meant to them, asking for concrete examples, of recent good and bad meals. In less formal conversations, I asked the same questions of many of my informants in Shanghai. Their answers inform the first section of the discussion that follows.

talking about happiness and meals In contemporary China, sharing a meal is associated with nearly every celebration, from births to weddings to funerals. As incomes have risen, people are able to afford more elaborate meals, not only at home but also in the booming restaurant sector, part of the “consumer revolution” that followed the revival of a market economy under Deng Xiaoping.9 Eating well is clearly one of the practices associated with a “good life” or a “happy life” in Chinese society. But what do contemporary Chinese see as a happy meal, or an unhappy meal? And what do ideas about good and bad eating reveal about changing understandings of the good life in urban China? When a research assistant asked a convenience sample of twenty-three Chinese people aged nineteen to seventy what makes a happy meal, or asked them for an example of a happy meal, some aspects of their responses were remarkably consistent. First of all, with rare exceptions, the focus was less about what they ate than with whom they ate, and, by far the most common response, when asked for an example of a happy meal, was a convivial meal with friends. A sixty-two-year-old retired male professor from Xuzhou discussed his notions of a happy meal with an interviewer. A: Because I am retired. So once every two months, my friend treats me or I treat my friend.

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Q: Do you feel happier to eat with your friends or with family? A: With friends, we talk a lot. We have a lot of topics to share when we eat and drink. It is usually very happy (kaixin 开心). Q: Why do you prefer eating with friends? A: It is because of the good conversation. I feel happy about that. For example, I recently had dinner with a group of professors in the liberal arts, my colleague and his family. He had gotten in touch with me through the internet. We ate in a restaurant. We talked about history, even though I don’t have much knowledge about it. He gave me his book, about The Dream of the Red Chamber. [He and his wife] are about ten years younger than I am, but we had really good conversation. I brought some liquor from my hometown and I treated them to dinner. A similar ideal of a good meal with friends and conversation was described by a thirty-seven-year-old female lawyer, also from Xuzhou. She said that eating with friends was the ideal happy meal, compared with meals at home with her mother, which she described as “ just as usual.” With friends, she said, “it depends on who you eat with, and if you have a good conversation over the meal. After that comes the taste of the food.” Conversation with friends over a meal is a source of momentary pleasure but also meaningful in the longer term, since it is the place where a friendship is renewed and celebrated. And for most people the food itself is secondary to the companionship. The positive qualities of these convivial meals with friends come into focus most clearly when informants contrast them with both ordinary meals and unhappy meals. In contrast with the occasional practice of eating out with friends, everyday eating with family is the most ordinary of meals. In the survey conducted for this project, we found that over 90 percent of recent meals were eaten with family members. In the qualitative interviews, however, almost no one brought up eating with family members as their example or ideal of a happy meal. For example, a nineteen-year-old female student, also from Xuzhou, answered that the happiest type of meal was eating with her friends: “If I hang out with good friends, we have a great time together and I might not even remember what we actually eat. So the time spent together and the topics we shared are more important than the food we eat.” Young informants living in Xuzhou and Shanghai tended to agree that eating out with friends was happy, with one twenty-year-old student pointing

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out, “With older people, 80 percent of the time they are going to be talking about things that the young people are not interested in, so of course this atmosphere is a bit boring. So of course I am going to enjoy more the atmosphere when eating out with classmates.” Even many older interviewees often preferred meals with friends to meals with family. As one fifty-six-year-old male engineer in Xuzhou said, “When I eat with friends, we don’t talk about serious things. We just joke and chitchat.” And a government official in Xuzhou, a fifty-four-year-old man, described eating out with colleagues and friends as happier: “Eating at home is very normal. It is nothing happy or unhappy.” These statements should not be taken to mean that Chinese people are generally unhappy eating at home but rather that eating at home is the usual or ordinary practice, one that involves relatively less novelty and less conversation, perhaps simply watching television. Conversations that do occur are more likely to be serious conversations about practical issues such as work and study. In contrast, conversations with friends could be simultaneously more lively and lighthearted. Eating out is the space in which friendship—a key aspect of the good life—is experienced and celebrated. When one informant was asked about eating at home with her family, she said that involved a different type of good feeling than eating with friends. Q: Do you feel happy to eat at home? A: I won’t use the word happy (kaixin 开心) but warm (wenxin 温馨) instead. Eating at home with family makes me relaxed and warm—hmm—after all, my parents and I live in different times, differences exist in our style of communication. But they are family. We can still feel the warmth from family. Fun conversations happen more with friends. A contrasting but telling response was from a sixty-four-year-old retired woman who rarely saw her family. Q: What kind of meal do you think is a happy meal? A: With family. Particularly nowadays my parents are getting older. Eating with my parents and husband, with everyone being there, is happy, like a reunion dinner. If my child and husband are not at home, I feel empty and bored at home. I go out to see if there is anything nice to buy. Or sometimes I listen to music at home or read a book.

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Q: Do you enjoy family dinner because of the conversations? Or just seeing everyone already makes you happy? A: Actually just seeing them I am already happy. People talk about their own stories when we are together. But nowadays people are busy and are away from home. It makes home not interesting anymore. Once everybody comes back, it is fun. Q: How many times a year do you have such a reunion? A: I only go back to my hometown in summer holidays. We eat together and talk. Q: Once a month? A: Only once a year. For people who rarely gather with their families, as was the case for this woman, this family meal could stand out more as a special occasion, and it may be that older people who are socially isolated rely more upon, or long for, these collective meals for experiencing and expressing family happiness. In most cases of people who live near or with their families, however, meals with family members seem to support one type of background happiness, described by interviewees as “normal (putong 普通),” “warm (wenxin 温馨)” or a type of “family feeling (qinqing 亲情).” However, most informants seemed to take this type of eating for granted, and, when asked about happy meals, they mentioned dinners with friends, almost always involving going out to restaurants. This less frequent type of celebration of convivial friendship over shared food seems to be an important ritual of sociability that stood out against the background routines of family life but also was a contrast to work life. Unhappy meals, in contrast, were characterized by a tension between ritual form and emotional content, between the social forms of dining meant to express conviviality and the underlying unemotional experience. Very often “unhappy meals” could represent a contradiction between the pursuit of material or pragmatic benefits and a sense of genuine emotional well-being, as described by Chen in chapter 1. When asked for examples of “unhappy meals,” people most frequently mentioned meals that they attended out of obligation or for purely pragmatic reasons. When she was asked about unhappy meals, one sixty-year-old retired female schoolteacher in Xuzhou said: “Like school group activities. It was mainly in the past, not anymore, or weddings or funerals. Usually you are not that close with the person, but for the sake of face (mianzi), you had to go. That can be tiring.”

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She mentioned weddings and funerals as examples of the meals that she engaged in unwillingly out of a sense of obligation, although the funerals were more depressing, she said, whereas weddings could be more pleasant. Having an ulterior motive for a meal can make it unhappy as well, as a sixty-eight-year-old retired man in Xuzhou explained: Q: What is the least happy meal? A: Those social meals you go to for a certain task. In that case, the meal is not important. The purpose is to achieve your goal through the meal. You have to think about how to get connected and get your task done after the meal. Q: Is it mainly when you ask people for a favor? A: Both. When you ask people for help, you need to think. When people ask you for help, you also need to think during the meal whether you can offer the help. But it is more stressful when you ask others for help. Unhappy meals can involve socializing (yingchou 应酬) with political leaders, as a sixty-two-year-old male professor in Xuzhou said: “Those social meals with political elements, you have to go. Those political people are evil. You can’t just eat. You have to drink with them—otherwise they think you look down on them. I have to sacrifice myself to eat with these bastards. You cannot help that, though recently it is not that frequent anymore. They can’t do anything to me even if I don’t go. I am a professor anyway.” Even young people mentioned the pressure to drink as one aspect of unhappy meals. When asked about unhappy meals, a twenty-two-year-old male student in Xuzhou said: “When you are with a group of people, and they start to drink, if you don’t want to drink, they would say something to make you drink.” In general, the evidence from this group of interviews, as well as from my own ethnographic interviewing in Shanghai, confirmed that the meals serving to fulfill social obligations, face saving, ritual events, gaining political goodwill, business dinners, and achieving material goals all were perceived as unhappy by informants. This contrasts with the idea of convivial meals with friends (especially former classmates and even more casual friends). These discussions indicate that for many people the cultivation of instrumental social relationships through banquets represents a debasement of rituals meant to enhance the sociability of eating together. Convivial dinners with “real friends” were those not governed by instrumental logic. Or, put differently, they were ritual

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occasions in which outward form conformed to inner sentiments and thus were happy, like a successful wedding banquet.

public visions of culinary happiness Eating well may be primarily a private event, but it has a public face, especially in the social rituals of eating out. When I first visited China as a graduate student in 1990, I was struck by two idealized versions of a good meal. One was the traditional banquet, and the other was Western fast food. The meanings of both have changed in the nearly three decades since and represent not only altered material conditions but also changing political and social conditions that shape the boundaries of contemporary happy eating (and the good life more generally).

Banquets Most restaurants in this still-early period of the “opening and reform era” were set up for banquets, dominated by large round tables, an arrangement that was familiar to me from living in Taiwan. It was unusual to see a couple dining together in China and even more exceptional to find a person eating alone. The early restaurant banquets I attended were clearly special occasions in which hosts signaled the importance of their guests by sharing costly and rare dishes. Even at a home banquet, there should be something special on the table. The banquet was one of the central practices of the gift economy noted by anthropologists engaged in fieldwork in the 1980s, the first decade of the reform era.10 As described in these accounts, banqueting in the early reform era was a ritual enactment of benign social relationships characterized by hierarchy and reciprocity, with special guests seated closest to the hosts and receiving the tastiest morsels. Although the expense and waste of banqueting were criticized even in the 1980s, the purpose of banqueting was to cultivate warm feelings between hosts and guests. Presenting rare and relatively expensive items, such as alcohol, meats, and seafood, was a type of patronage. Although not explicitly Confucian, the resurgence of banqueting in the 1980s represented a practical refutation of the culinary austerity and egalitarianism advocated by the Maoist state. However, the meanings of banquets were still shaped by the modest material conditions of socialism. Given the low personal incomes in that period, food costs were substantial, with families spending up to 70

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percent of household income on food.11 Especially in rural areas, banquets were sources not only of sociability and solidarity but of nutrition and offered a rarely experienced culinary variety.12 As both a ritual and an economic practice, a banquet represents a form of gift giving or patronage. One person generally treats all the others. Sometimes this is agreed upon ahead of time; if not, there may be a mad tangle at the cashier as men (usually men) struggle to pay for the check. Anyone who has spent a short time in China or other Chinese societies has seen such a tussle over the right and obligation to play the role of patron. This social form has important consequences in China, and changes in these practices of paying and treating are very important. The restaurant banquet formed the model for the type of group sociability and patronage practices that John Osburg describes in KTV (karaoke) rooms and other nightlife spaces, practices now associated with the decadent lifestyles of private businessmen and their alliances with corrupt officials.13 Since the advent of Xi Jinping, the ostentatious banquet has become one of the visible targets of the anticorruption campaigns. High-end restaurateurs in Shanghai all mentioned the impact of this campaign on their business. The new official model of politically correct eating is the much-publicized visit in 2013 of President Xi to an ordinary chain store selling steamed buns. Echoing the socialist austerity of the past, the new official line is one of modest private consumption. This may be a political stunt, but it also may represent some important changes in the orthodox rituals for a proper and happy meal. One sign of change is that today people seem to be questioning these rituals, and new practices may be emerging. In recent years the new norm of splitting the bill (often called the AA system) has emerged, particularly among young people, such as students both in Xuzhou and Shanghai. As one female Shanghai student said, “With classmates it is almost always the AA system. This is a very natural thing. We do not feel at all awkward. Every time we do this, and it has become a tradition for us, so these things [about who pays] are less trouble for young people.” Even middle-aged people, however, see splitting the bill as a new social norm, as a fifty-eight-year-old self-employed woman in Xuzhou explained. Q: How do you pay for a meal when you eat with friends? A: We split the bill. Before, my generation loves to have someone pay for everybody. Now we are trying to catch up with the trend, so we pay AA style.

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Growing economic inequality may make these rituals of “treating friends” less attractive, since the vast economic gap denies poorer people the ability to treat others. Wealth is now defined as an individual attribute, which friends have no claim over, as one seventy-year-old retired woman said. A: It used not to be a problem. Those with better economic conditions, such as those who have their own business, would pay for everyone. Nowadays we decide to split the bill because it can be too much for someone to pay for everyone. Q: So you think this is more fair? A: Yes. It is fair. If someone is wealthier, that is their own business. Everybody is very happy about this decision. So this time everybody paid 100 yuan. The money left will be used for the next gathering. That’s nice. Others also described splitting the bill as a way to avoid both the expense and burdens of social obligations. A sixty-eight-year-old retired man explained why some people want to split bills as opposed to treating guests. However, he also noted why the custom of treating guests was still sometimes desirable or unavoidable. Q: Is it troublesome to think who should pay for the meal? A: Yes, especially when there are a lot of people. Nowadays everything is expensive. It can be quite a lot of money if it is a big group of people eating together. Normally 500 [yuan]. Expensive ones can be 1,000 or even 2,000. Not every working-class person can afford that. Q: Is it [paying for others] more about face (mianzi 面子) or building relationships (guanxi 关系)? A: Hmm—mainly for the sake of relationships (guanxi 关系). If you are willing to pay, you are happy to spend the money when you feel you owe it to someone (qian renqing 欠人情). If you are not willing, it’s because you don’t feel an obligation and you don’t want to deal with the person. If it is with people you are not close to, it is mainly because of face (mianzi 面子). In short, the practice of treating (qingke 请客) others to a meal remains a way of establishing relationships, creating obligations, or simply expressing gratitude and affection. It may be a way of showing off status (gaining face). For many informants, however, this type of face consumption could even be

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described as an example of unhappy eating. Among friends it is neither obligatory nor universal. The relatively newer practice of splitting the bill represents a more individualistic and egalitarian way of sharing a meal with friends, one that some informants, especially the young, see as more modern, fashionable, and practical.

Individualized Eating Eating out in contemporary China is not always a celebration of hierarchal patronage relations. During my 1990 visit the other unforgettable dining experience was a visit to a lone Western-style fast-food restaurant near West Lake in Hangzhou. Although pricey by local standards and not even an authentic Western brand, the place was swamped with Chinese visitors clearly yearning for a taste of modernity. As Yunxiang Yan has written, Western-style fast food represented a radically different model of happiness, or the good life, than did the traditional banquet.14 The banquet was a male-dominated patronage event in which a senior male treated a group of guests, and during which women and children were often excluded from one of the more important rituals (namely, drinking toasts). The Happy Meal at McDonald’s, in contrast, was nearly the antithesis of the banquet. It was a celebration of individualization in which children and women were central actors. Young women could eat alone. Children could choose their favorite foods. Couples could date. Fast food was a space in which newer values of individualization, cosmopolitanism, and romance were symbolically enacted. However, my research in Shanghai shows that fast food too has lost its clear association with the “good life” among many of my informants. For some busy adults, especially those living alone, it is associated with an unhappy meal of eating alone in the big city. Many people eat their lunches alone every day, with fast-food restaurants and convenience stores providing not only inexpensive meals but also counter spaces from which to consume them. Among urban adults, these are generally regarded, however, as stations for “filling the stomach” (tianbao duzi 填饱肚子), not places for special or joyful meals. This doesn’t mean that the pursuit of culinary modernity, cosmopolitanism, and fun food has ended. Rather, such pursuits have moved upmarket. Young informants in Shanghai were particularly likely to mention going out to eat at new types of restaurants as among the pleasures of eating out, especially when going out with friends instead of family. For these gatherings with friends, urban young people generally would prefer big restaurant spaces that

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allow for free conversation and restaurants with an innovative concept that appeals to their desire for fashion and novelty. This could include Western restaurants and especially Japanese restaurants; Shanghai now has more than five thousand in these two categories.15 Foreign foods are perceived as special occasion meals that cannot easily be prepared at home. As one woman, a twenty-year-old student, explained: “With Western food, going out to eat it once in a while is really happy (kaixin), something fresh and new. With Chinese food we are just used to eating it; you don’t think so much about whether it tastes good, just a way of getting your necessary energy.” These discussions with ordinary people point to changing ritual practices for celebrating and enjoying the good life through food. There is a greater focus on novelty and spontaneity, and a looser, less hierarchical forms of sociability. The possibilities for pursuing these new experiences have greatly expanded beyond fast food. As one young woman said: “I am a foodie (chihuo 吃货)! I love to watch those programs like Intoxicated with Shanghai (Tao Zui Shanghai 陶醉上海). But you have to be careful. I don’t go to those little stands on the street, because they will have problems with food hygiene. But the segments they did on Japanese food made me want to try it out, and those little petit bourgeois sweet shops, oh, those are quite good.” She went on to talk about how she enjoys eating Japanese food with her boyfriend and that Thai food had recently become fashionable, so they tried that. While younger people often chose exotic new restaurants in the pursuit of culinary novelty and fashion, family meals in Shanghai still were centered on banquet-style dining in Shanghainese or Jiangsu-Zhejiang–style restaurants.16 During those meals young people still participated in rituals that conveyed social hierarchy and traditional gender roles, placing foods on the plates of elders and acting in a gender-appropriate manner in front of elders. The new rituals of pursuing culinary novelty with friends thus coexisted with familyoriented ritual forms. Eating individualistically does not mean eating alone but rather in a less hierarchal group of social equals that might include people who are not even physically present. One often can observe young diners in such restaurants barely speaking with their tablemates while photographing every dish, then immediately posting the pictures on social media. These ideals of “good eating” are a social practice that focuses on accumulating individual experiences while sharing a sense of novelty, fashion, or adventure with others, either in person or,

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increasingly, through social media. Like Western fast food in the 1980s, however, this is not a happy meal accessible to the poor. It is a class-based performance of the good life for the urban middle and upper classes in China’s increasingly polarized cities.17 Indeed, as I discuss next, the rural-to-urban migrants even may be regarded as embodied representatives of culinary unhappiness.

culinary dystopia A sociology of happiness cannot be constructed without a corresponding sociology of unhappiness. As I have already discussed, one form of culinary unhappiness involves a mismatch between the rituals of eating, meant to cultivate companionable feeling (renqing), and the realities of a meal when that feeling is forced or absent. However, like visions of culinary happiness, other ideas of culinary unhappiness are expressed at a more public level. Programs such as Intoxicated with Shanghai or A Bite of China play into Chinese nationalism by outlining a geography of delightful eateries around China or in particular regions. The flip side of this discourse of culinary nationalism, however, may be the use of food to delineate a geography of culinary unhappiness that is a counterpoint to the geographies of happiness. All around the world, young people in particular are concerned more and more with good and bad food choices, focusing on diet and health. As I have mentioned, the specter of unsafe food is a common theme in urban China and marks people as well as foods.

“Gutter Oil”: Black Oil from Black Hearts One frequently mentioned problem is unsafe food sold by mobile vendors on the street. As one Shanghai college student, a twenty-year-old woman, said: “Since I was little, we were told not to eat those things sold by street vendors. I think I am one of these people who is able to exercise self-control when it comes to food safety.” She suggested that food from convenience stores such as the Japanese chains Lawson or Family Mart was much more reliable. “I am quite worried about it [food safety],” she continued, “because I got sick eating something at the university. Yeah, because back then there was a ‘black street’ near the school. In three months I ate there about two times. Maybe it was because I wasn’t used to it, and after eating in the morning I got the runs, it was my own fault.”

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Because of this fear of foods served by vendors in “black shops,” many young people relied on convenience stores and commercial packaged products. This trust in industrial or commercial food products once extended to fast foods as well, but with a growing concern about “ junk foods” and caloric content, industrial foods, including international fast-food chains, are no longer seen as inherently reliable. As another female Shanghai student said: “Well, McDonald’s—that kind of fast food, I still want to eat it [laugh]. But as a girl, I know I have to control the amount, I can’t just let myself go eating. And with the problems that came out [a major food safety scandal involving a McDonald’s supplier], I think I will have to be more careful. From now on I will eat it less often.” Food safety is as much a cultural as scientific issue, and one that I would suggest must be read as social commentary rather than merely about actual food practices. In the words of my informants, food is “black” (hei 黑) when vendors’ “hearts are black” (heixin 黑心), that is, greedy and unscrupulous. And, in the conversations of my informants, the hearts of many Chinese food vendors are particularly black. “Chinese people have no moral bottom line,” was an expression I heard in discussions of adulterated food. One focal point of culinary revulsion has been “gutter oil.” This is oil that is produced from recycling leftover dishes and leftover cooking oil. It is boiled, filtered, and resold, and, according to informants, it is everywhere, even in many so-called good restaurants. One never knows if one’s dishes are actually fried in gutter oil. It is perceived as an omnipresent quotidian risk. Indeed, one study found that one in ten meals in China may be prepared with some form of gutter oil.18 The discourse of gutter oil might be considered more social commentary than a concern for personal health. Many people who talked about gutter oil as a social problem seemed rather unconcerned about their personal consumption of gutter oil. Some bragged cavalierly about eating at black shops (“hei dian” 黑店), where they imagined that the ingredients were quite likely fake and the oils quite likely gutter oils. One twenty-one-year-old university student in Shanghai described this cynical or resigned attitude toward food safety in his family. A: In the past my parents would cook a little for us, but now they are old and can’t cook, so they will just pick up some precooked foods outside for us to eat. Q: Aren’t you worried about the safety of precooked foods?

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A: No. Whatever comes, I will eat it. If we eat something bad, you just get the runs. You can consider it a way of losing weight, and after you’ve lost some weight you can keep eating. That’s the rhythm. As this example shows, some informants had a devil-may-care attitude toward the health effects, going on about the unique flavors of “dark cuisine” (heian liaoli 黑暗料理). Even organic produce may be faked, they said, making the search for “safe food” pointless. For some informants, it seemed that talking about food is simply a way of talking about the rotten society they see around them, something that can be dissociated from their own private food practices. For others, such as the female student whose parents serve precooked foods, eating at risky street vendors was unacceptable, although the risk of reused oil at Sichuan hotpot shops, another place she suspected gutter oil was used, was something she said she had to put up with. Citing the work of Ulrich Beck, Yunxiang Yan attributes China’s food crisis to the emergence of a peculiar type of “risk society” in which food scandals further damage social trust, in a society in which strangers already were generally not trusted.19 Similar crises of food safety emerged in times of rapid urbanization in the West, including England in the mid-nineteenth century and the United States in the early twentieth century.20 Objectively, long supply chains and industrial food-handling practices introduced new risks (while reducing others), but in all these cases people’s imagination ran wild because of their dependence on strangers, especially migrants, for food. Migrants also seem to be a central focus in China’s dystopic food visions. As vendors, cooks, and servers, migrant culinary workers are central to food processing in cities such as Shanghai. Given their own reluctance to become waiters, chefs, or busboys, Shanghainese urbanites are now faced with a situation not unlike that in US cities, where migrant laborers dominate the food sector. Such rural-to-urban migrants are perceived in China as not only unscrupulous but also hostile to urban elites. As Yunxiang Yan’s discussion of adulterated food manufacture suggests, Chinese urbanites’ distrust of the migrant underclass may be matched by an equally jaundiced view of urban elites among migrant workers, some of whom even see adulterated food as just revenge for abuses they have experienced in the city.21 One wealthy informant said to me, “I do not like to eat in restaurants. You know the workers in these places hate us rich people. They probably spit in the food.” His solution was to eat in private clubs.

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Attitudes differed when I asked Shanghainese informants about street foods of their youth. Most waxed nostalgic about the wonton or soy milk (doujiang) vendors of yesteryear. Some explicitly pointed out that these were Shanghainese vendors, not migrants, people known to the community. This sense of social trust (perhaps retrospective) is easily contrasted with the widespread distrust toward migrant vendors today. Gutter oil is thus a social metaphor. In essence, what is polluting about gutter oil seems to lie less in the oil itself but in the people who make it. You do not know what you are buying, one informant said, because “Chinese people can fake anything.” The reference for this, however, was the migrant, not the vendor from the neighborhood. Foreign food products, such as imported milk powder, are perceived as more trustworthy, although state media have tried to destroy this association of imported foods and health by publicizing high-profile cases of foreign violators of food safety laws, including prominent campaigns against KFC and McDonald’s. The state regards protecting the reputation of Chinese companies as at least as important as protecting the actual food supply. It would therefore be wrong to see food safety scares as merely about food itself. Rather, it is a peculiar type of culinary politics that blames a corrupt society (and sometimes a corrupting state or foreign food corporations) for the moral ills that are made present and visible through food. Visions of eating well therefore include a strong utopian impulse, an attempt to wall off a safe culinary space from the larger society with its unsafe and unreliable food practices, promoted by bad people without a “moral bottom line.” Food producers and consumers construct a variety of culinary products, experiences, and spaces that can keep one safe from the dystopic experience of bad food. These culinary utopias can simultaneously be a progressive form of health and environmental politics and a conservative form of identity and class politics. Eating safely, like eating well more generally, is a form of class consumption.

culinary utopias The visions of a happy meal that I have described thus far have been focused on the microlevel of a group sharing food. However, the larger social context of the city remains an important part of this discussion, and this context is changing. Especially in the light of the food safety scares, corruption scandals, and a new sense of alienation from corporate restaurant chains, the search for authentic

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and wholesome dining spaces takes on new importance for consumers. Moreover, the staging of these authentic dining experiences has become a new form of cultural work for culinary professionals, especially the restaurateurs.

Marketing Purity Restaurateurs in Shanghai must confront and attempt to overcome the mistrust and cynicism that food scandals have engendered in the public. The restaurant owners are tasked not only with making good food but also with making themselves look good—that is, by removing the suspicion that food is made by unethical people in black shops. It should thus not be surprising that themes of health, tradition, and naturalness dominate marketing for both for restaurant chains and independently owned venues. As Yunxiang Yan points out, however, Chinese consumers place more trust in large chains and name brands than small operators, partly because of the notion that small migrant-owned restaurants are the most likely to engage in unhealthy and deceitful practices.22 Therefore, small independent restaurants still face a great challenge in gaining trust from consumers. One informant who successfully repackaged the small-scale urban dining experience was a Taiwanese restaurateur named Karen Chen. The first decision she made was quite simple but radical in Shanghai at that time. She banned smoking in her tiny restaurant. This purified the air (at a time when smoking in restaurants was still prevalent). Then she filtered all her water, to purify that as well. The water filtration system filters the water nine times, she said. Purifying the water such an excessive number of times may be seen as a kind of ritual performance to lend an aura of cleanliness to the space. Being Taiwanese helped as well, she said, because Taiwanese were presumed to be less corrupt than other migrants (a reversal of the stereotype prevalent in Shanghai twenty years earlier). Chen, however, did not want to be just another Taiwanese running a Taiwanese restaurant in Hongqiao; she wanted to open a Shanghainese local family–style restaurant in a traditional residential neighborhood. She hired a Shanghainese chef with years of experience, but she also had to reeducate him. The heavy sugary and soy-laden sauces of Shanghai cuisine had to go, replaced with a much lighter recipe with a focus on freshness and appealing presentation. In short, she also meant to serve a purified and elevated version of traditional Shanghainese food. Her next restaurant was equally audacious: she wanted to open a Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai. So she traveled to Chengdu to learn from Sichuan

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chefs, whom she paid for lessons, accumulating secrets from multiple sources. The key to Sichuan cooking, she said, is the “red oil” (hongyou 红油), the red spicy oil used in many dishes as a base for sauces and as a flavoring. The problem with “red oil,” she found, was that in nearly all restaurants in Chengdu it actually was a form of gutter oil or, more politely, “reused oil” recycled from dishes that customers did not finish. The red oil in Chengdu was tasty and free of microbes, she said, but could have been carcinogenic. So she had to learn to make a type of red oil that was not made through recycling. She did not tell me her secret process, but she conceded it might not be quite as tasty as the original. That filth could be tasty was an irony that even the restaurant owners appreciated. Chen’s neighborhood restaurants were a solid success. Her first venture was featured in the New York Times as one of the best places to eat in Shanghai. In 2015 the street was closed down so British Prime Minister David Cameron could have dinner at her tiny local restaurant. By operating a safe and healthy Shanghainese restaurant, she had created her own little culinary utopia that serves clean, pure, safe, and authentically local food to locals and visitors from abroad. Given the emphasis on local customers, the photo of the British prime minister served less as a mark of authenticity than of food safety and quality. Other independent restaurateurs also confronted mistrust by using strategies that emphasized the purity of ingredients and recipes. To combat suspicions they were using gutter oil, some displayed their cans of brand-name oil prominently in the foyer of the restaurant. Others showed photos of their rural suppliers. One hotpot chain featured posters of the Shanghainese owner, Anthony Zhao, in a police outfit emblazoned with the label Food Police. Zhao’s restaurant featured vegetables grown on private land in the suburbs of Shanghai and prepared a hotpot soup stock exclusively from animal bones, not even adding monosodium glutamate (more a preoccupation of Shanghai Western expatriates than Shanghainese diners). The first concern in serving good food focused on the purity of foodstuffs and credibility of the owners. All these restaurants, however, were much more expensive than the traditional local vendors of these cuisines and appealed to young upwardly mobile foodies.

Marketing Domesticity Another strategy for gaining trust and defining a good meal involved appealing directly to Shanghai localism. This is represented by the small family-style eatery run by Amy Wen. Wen spent five years in Australia at university. Upon

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returning she decided—against the advice of nearly all her friends and family—to open a small restaurant. The peculiar name she chose for her restaurant is indicative of her dream: Wo Yao Hui Jia (我要回家, I want to go home). This was, she acknowledged, a strange name for a restaurant, but it had several meanings, she explained. One was her own desire to return home to China. The other was the sense that customers should come to the restaurant for home cooking. The other was that it should cook authentic Shanghainese dishes that she claimed were disappearing, because cooks in the city were all from other provinces. The “home” here is very much Shanghai specifically, and the home cooking was actually executed by Wen’s mother, a genuine Shanghainese auntie. The food was expensive by the standards of fast food but affordable for white-collar workers. The regular customers were almost all Shanghainese looking for comfort foods, either for lunch or a quick dinner on the way home. Overtly, what she was selling was a homey place to eat alone, taking the harsh edge off this lonely urban dining experience. More subtly, what she was selling was comfort food for Shanghainese, which therefore presumably was safe from the suspected dangerous practices of migrant food workers. Urban diners could now choose commercial eateries that were not even restaurants at all, often marketed as “private family dishes” (sifang cai 私房菜). One was run by Peng Zini, a native of Yunnan who had moved to Shanghai to join her Shanghainese husband. Although she had run a chain of Western cafes in Kunming, she described a sense of alienation from the cutthroat nature of the conventional restaurant business. In her view the problem with restaurants was not merely one of mistrust about food supplies but a lack of devotion to craft by culinary workers and the social distance between owners and customers. She wanted a less alienating job, one that involved cooking on her own and serving her customers directly, a model of artisanal work that she saw as originating in Japan. She decided to try a new model of serving food commercially out of a private kitchen. Although not a native Shanghainese herself, she appealed to local culinary nostalgia by renting a space in an old Shanghai lane house. There she cooked dinners for groups of guests introduced by word of mouth. Her goal was to establish a personal connection. Indeed, two of her regular guests decided to join in running a cafe on a historic Shanghai street. Although the spaces she chooses to host meals represent iconic urban architecture, the food is a mix of Yunnan cuisine and Western dishes.

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Rural Idylls: Peasant Dishes in Private Clubs Despite the differences in their visions and backgrounds, Karen Chen, Amy Wen, and Peng Zini share a vision of a good restaurant meal as involving consumers and producers in a circle of trust. For them, the notion that good food should be local and shared among friends is not simply a form of marketing but an expression of the moral basis of the good life in a local community, one that also eliminates the risks posed by the pernicious activities of strangers. The further expression of this ideal of eating among friends and avoiding strangers is the rapid proliferation of private clubs (sirenhuisuo 私人会所), some of which are located in the suburbs of the city. Although some private clubs are in effect exquisite private restaurants for wealthy business elites, the suburban retreats I visited in Shanghai focused exclusively on what is known colloquially as peasant family food (nongjiacai 农家菜). Many of these are supplied by farmers who produce vegetables, fish, and poultry on the property and also double as cooks for the guests at the club. The cuisine is therefore simple and traditional but made on the premises by familiar faces. Another irony of this rhetoric of good and bad food is that farmers are inevitably the locus of both. Peasant farmers as migrant workers may be regarded as the untrustworthy purveyors of suspicious ingredients cooked in gutter oil. As producers of true local produce, however, they can be the purveyors of the ultimate good food, which is locally produced in a clean environment and cooked near the site of production in a style that represents authentic local culinary traditions. Most likely modeled on the so-called special supply farms for government agencies, where a few farmers produce for a select set of consumers, the rural private club is a strategy of privatizing the risks posed by industrial farming, poor governance, and imperfect environmental regulations.23 The utopian vision of the country manor represents the ultimate walling off of the sphere of trustworthy friends and family from the outside world of untrustworthy strangers. This is the good life of privilege and privacy but not of Western individualism. Rather, the private club is fundamentally a social space for the cultivation of warm relations among friends. The symbolic practice of sharing self-grown food with these friends is a way of affirming these relations. Despite the avoidance of outward signs of ostentatious consumption, the culture of private clubs retains strong associations with the guanxi (relationship) practices of private businessmen.

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Making Food Virtuous The previous examples involve business people marketing foods as pure by framing themselves as virtuous. Few of them, however, associated their cuisine explicitly with religiosity. One restaurateur who did, however, is Song Yuanbo, a Taiwanese restaurant owner who has lived in Shanghai for twenty years. A devout Buddhist, Song pledged to become a vegetarian when his mother became ill. After she died, he persuaded his whole family, including his wife, daughter, and father, to take up the cause of vegetarianism. For two decades now he has led their collective mission to promulgate vegetarian food. His goal is not to appeal to vegetarians but rather to create vegetarian cuisine that will persuade meat-eating customers that vegetarian dishes are superior in taste. Vegetarianism, he said, would decrease the environmental impact of raising animals for food, reduce carbon emissions, relieve hunger, ameliorate the lives of the poor, and decrease tensions that lead to armed conflict. Song’s efforts to promote Buddhist ideals extend to his suppliers and employees. For example, he said, he uses toothpicks made of a soluble starch, so that they do not puncture the hands of dishwashers in the restaurants. In dealing with suppliers of local ingredients in Yunnan, he and his chefs emphasize not only fair trade but sustainable trade, he said. They want to make sure that suppliers earn enough from their sales to make a living from the work. Song and his chefs travel to remote areas of China to source an extraordinary range of rare ingredients to produce complex yet subtle flavors, most notably various rare fungi from Yunnan. Going beyond traditional Chinese vegetarian recipes, they have consulted with Michelin-starred chefs around the world about how to improve their menu and gain recognition beyond China. Song’s efforts were awarded a star in the 2018 Michelin Guide for his flagship Shanghai restaurant, Wujie, on the historic Bund waterfront.24 Marketing virtuous foods has also emerged as a strategy for more secularminded vendors. The most common of these new ideals of secular virtue surrounds the global fitness and nutrition movement that has also come to Shanghai, especially among women. This goes beyond concerns about food safety and the tastes of home, described previously, through linkages to a larger healthy lifestyle. One of the most successful examples of this trend is a Shanghai-based chain called Sproutworks. Started by a group of North American entrepreneurs living in Shanghai, this chain markets itself as “healthy Euro-American fast

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food.” Kimberley Wong, the Chinese American general manager, began her career at Wujie and was influenced by the vegetarian doctrines of Song, the founder. She said that her target audience is women eating alone and concerned about their health. New restaurant locations for Sproutworks are close to major fitness centers, so that middle-class women can enjoy a healthy meal alone or with friends after their workouts. One regular customer with whom I spoke at Sproutworks said she prefers the fare to Chinese convenience food because of the emphasis on salads, which she sees as healthier. For her, eating at such places also reduces some of the negative associations with eating alone, since she identifies her meal choices with lifestyle modifications aimed at healthier living, which included her gym workouts, a diet to lose weight, and a job change that allowed her more free time for outdoor activities.

aftertastes: happy and unhappy meals People often say that Chinese have a special relationship with food. If this is taken to mean a generalized gourmet sensibility, I didn’t find it. Many diners can be quite indifferent to taste. Chinese restaurant banquets still emphasize the rarity and price of ingredients more than an unusual recipe or the technique of the chef, who is often an anonymous kitchen worker. Rather, I would suggest that Chinese have a special relationship with sociability expressed through food, including elaborate banquets meant to impress guests. The penchant for using the banquet as patronage and gift giving was a focus of much anthropology on reform-era China, indicating that China was indeed special in this regard.25 Much has changed in thirty years, but eating out in China is still regarded as a social occasion. The solitary foodie is a rarity. It is a bit hard to imagine a Chinese version of the Japanese television series The Solitary Gourmet, which features a traveling businessman who savors urban eateries completely on his own. Not that eating alone is actually uncommon for Chinese urbanites, especially at lunchtime. But informants seemed to dismiss eating alone as a culturally meaningless act, describing it in deliberately physiological terms, as merely “filling the stomach.” Nor, given its routine nature, was eating at home much emphasized by informants, with many family members now taking the evening meal at different times or focusing on television or social media, even during shared meals. Most people described their happiest occasions as eating out with friends.

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When asked about their recent memories of unhappy eating, informants rarely focused on bad-tasting food. Rather, a bad meal was usually characterized by the social situation, either eating alone or in alienating company, such as a stressful work-related event. A good meal also was generally defined through the quality of the companionship and not the dishes. Usually, the example given of a happy meal was a special restaurant meal with a small group of friends, such as high school classmates, in other words, friends with whom instrumental relationships were minimal or secondary. At the same time, it is important to note that eating out socially remains relatively rare for many people. It is not an everyday ritual. The relative indifference to home meals expressed in interviews might simply reflect the taken-for-granted nature of family routines, not their lack of importance. As the chapters by Hsu and Davis show, vertical family ties remain the core of Chinese social identity. At the same time, cultivating horizontal relationships through eating out—and other activities—is clearly a central part of the good life for most urban Chinese. As Laudan’s writing suggests, cuisine may have religious and moral meanings in all societies. Consuming cuisine (as opposed to simply “filling the stomach”) always takes a ritual form. However, if eating out remains a very important social ritual in contemporary China, these rituals are changing and the ritual nature of eating not only shows its centrality to maintaining social ties but also reveals social tensions and social exclusions. Informants frequently described a gap between outward form and emotional experiences in eating out, between the ritual form meant to cultivate a companionable feeling and conviviality and an underlying cold emotional reality. This could simply be a reflection of bad feelings on a particular occasion. But there also seemed to be a more systematic nature to these discontents. Many seemed to be reacting against the patronage relations seen as endemic in Chinese society. These comments thus had a political nature, one that could be seen as socially critical but also as reflecting official rhetoric against corruption. More generally, as Lang Chen points out in chapter 1, this disconnect reflects the inherent tensions between a material basis of happiness in the modern society and its idealized emotional contents based on feeling (ganqing 感情), a tension also characteristic of contemporary romantic relationships in China, which ideally are based upon love although material concerns are never absent.26 Other tensions between material form and emotional content seemed to reflect changing social relations since the early reform era. One change may involve the problem of who actually counts as a friend beyond friends

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cultivated in childhood and school years. Compared to the socialist work unit cultures of the past, corporate workplaces do not foster life-long friendship. Workplace associates may be regarded with suspicion. The attempt to mark workplace or broader business ties as more than cool utilitarian relationships requires cultural work, including shared meals. Given the cynicism regarding formal banquets, shared meals in rustic private clubs in the Shanghai suburbs could be regarded as an attempt to kindle an atmosphere of genuine human feeling (renqing) among business associates that could nonetheless still provide a basis for instrumental relationships (guanxi). It goes without saying that this is a cultural strategy available only to the upper classes, so that this one expression of happiness seemingly excludes the happiness of others. Another common point of friction seemed to be intergenerational, reflecting the tensions between family ties and young people’s society of peers and lovers. Family gatherings were usually not the focus of happy meal stories among young people. Some mentioned the predictable nature of family meals and the stresses of family conversations, especially regarding the young people’s education or, later on, their marriage prospects and career and housing troubles. The preference for dining with friends was most obvious among young adults, since they are most likely to feel parental pressure about grades, work, or marriage. But older adults also describe an affinity for the more egalitarian rituals of eating out romantically or with friends. One woman of fifty described her favorite meal as involving a very rare occasion on which her husband took her on a date to a Western restaurant. What made the meal special was his willingness to focus on their relationship, which she felt he normally neglected in their home. Another memory of a special meal involved her husband and another couple with whom they had become friends through a car club. In short, it seems convivial dinners with friends (and sometimes spouses) as social equals have become a central ritual of contemporary urban life and a source of both short-term pleasure and long-term subjective well-being. Given the growing risks of “eating badly” or eating out in a perfunctory and unsatisfactory way, people seek out spaces that offer an escape from both the dangers and pressures of the larger society. For the rich this is the private club. For more modest diners, this may be the comfort zones of Amy Wen’s or Peng Zini’s small eateries. For urban adventurers, foreign cuisines represented an escape from daily routines and an alternative globalized urban topos for the individual expression of tastes and cosmopolitan sophistication once represented by Western fast food (now seen as commonplace). For the urban poor, however, almost no such refuge is available, other than “black shop”

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street stalls in which some of them labor and that city governments all over China are busily trying to eradicate. Many visions of the good life are expressed through food consumption in Shanghai, ideas about relationships and sociability, ideas about belonging and community, and national pride, as well as ideas about health, safety, and clean living. But behind these is also a looming negative imagination of a morally corrupt society of untrustworthy strangers, a specter that must be avoided or shut out. Restaurateurs can produce their culinary utopias, and diners can seek them out. But we cannot avert our eyes from the ugly items on the equally varied menu of unhappiness if we are to understand the cultural imaginaries of a happy life in urban China.

notes 1. Montanari (2006). 2. Laudan (2015). 3. Swislocki (2008); Laudan (2015). 4. CCTV (2014). 5. Yan (2012). 6. Wike and Stokes (2016). 7. Swidler (1986, 278). 8. Farrer (2010, 2014a, 2015). 9. Davis (2000). 10. Farquhar (2002); Kipnis (1997); Yan (1996); M. Yang (1994). 11. M. Yang (1994, 137–38). 12. Yan (1996, 46–47). 13. Osburg (2013). 14. Yan (2000). 15. Farrer (2014a). 16. This comes from a discussion with a group of Shanghai university students in August 2014. 17. Solinger (2018). 18. Yan (2012, 710). 19. Yan (2012, 718). 20. Laudan (2013). 21. Yan (2012, 743). 22. Yan (2012). 23. Yan (2012, 723). 24. Farrer (2019). 25. Farquhar (2002); Kipnis (1997); Yan (1996); B. Yang (1994). 26. Farrer (2002).

chapter 5

Making the People or the Government Happy? Dilemmas of Social Workers in a Morally Pluralistic Society richard madsen

“What is social work? How should we define it?” This seemed to be a rather odd question to ask at an informal workshop for professional Shanghai social workers, some of whom, like the person who posed the question, had been practicing the profession for the full decade and a half since social work was reestablished in that city. The question provoked a passionate but inconclusive discussion among the approximately forty people crowded into a conference room. Was social work simply a matter of having a government-approved credential? Was it working for a registered social work agency? Or was it a matter of using proper social scientific methods? Or having the right values? The answer, most seemed to agree, lay in values (jiazhiguan). But what was the content of the values? Here there was passionate argument but no consensus. The conversation reflected widespread unhappiness among practitioners about certain aspects of their profession. But the people in attendance at this after-hours, voluntary workshop were happy to be there. They enjoyed the camaraderie and were excited by the discussion and hoped that it would clarify the challenges that they all face. There were thus two kinds of happiness at issue. The first was the immediate enjoyment that one gets from positive interaction with people one respects. We can call this day-to-day happiness. The other was the evaluation of the trajectory one’s life is taking, in this case the goals of the professional practice to which the social workers had committed. We might call this ultimate happiness, akin to what Aristotle called eudaimonia.1 In Chinese there are different words for the different kinds of 110

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happiness. It would be more precise to use words like kuaile or kaixin for the first kind and xingfu for the second. (But in ordinary speech many people often intermingle the terms.) The first kind of happiness is easy to identify—the kind of good feeling that enters our consciousness during a pleasant occasion. The second is more subtle. It can coexist with feelings of suffering. It depends on one’s values—the goals of one’s life’s project. But the two kinds of happiness are not totally disconnected. Day-to-day happiness is often found in encounters with a community whose members share a history of seeking to discern and work toward the same goal. The social workers at the workshop were happy discussing the unhappy state of their profession. The discussion, as noted, turned on the question of values. It was articulated in terms of questions about whom social workers should serve: the poor and the weak or the rich who could afford to pay for their services or the government that sponsored social work? Should they serve communities or individuals? And how should they serve: Should they foster a critical spirit in search of social justice or should they promote only social stability in a harmonious society? The discussion of values was part of a nationwide conversation advocated by the central government under Xi Jinping. Ever since Xi’s ascent to supreme leadership in 2012, a major theme in the official media has been the need for new values, supplementing the previous dominant themes of the need for economic growth and social stability. The official rhetoric is highly moralistic. An oft-repeated trope in Xi Jinping’s speeches is: “We should promote awareness of social codes of conduct, professional ethics, family virtues, and individual integrity, putting a particular emphasis on professional ethics.”2 The social workers echo this major stress on professional ethics. But the content of their professional ethics is not necessarily the same as that of Xi Jinping and his official propagandists. Xi Jinping declared, “We must continue to impart people with the ideals of Chinese socialism; cultivate and practice core socialist values; and carry forward China’s fine traditional culture.”3 These values are expressed in Xi Jinping’s book The Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation.4 These values are supposed to lead people to place public interests above personal interests, to spur constant self-improvement while embracing the world through virtue. In line with the Chinese dream’s appeal to an assertive nationalism, these values are a combination of traditional values, especially filial piety, and modern martial and

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socialist values. These are depicted on the one hand by ubiquitous billboards and posters that display variations of late imperial woodcuts of children lovingly serving their parents while the parents serve their own aged parents and on the other hand by images of the Maoist revolutionary soldier Lei Feng, who supposedly wrote that he wanted only to “serve the people” while being “a small screw in the great locomotive of the revolution.” According to the official rhetoric, the Chinese dream, based on correct values, is supposed to make people happy (xingfu). Even when social workers use the same words as the official rhetoric, the worldview that gives meaning to these words is different. The official rhetoric envisions the individual as embedded in corporate groups: the traditional family that transcends the interests of its constituent individuals, and the socialist state inherited from the time of Mao Zedong (and modeled after the Stalinist state), which subordinates all individuals within its hierarchically ordered collectives. Official rhetoric contrasts its vision with American individualism: “Individualism is the ideological foundation and the soul of the American Dream, while collectivism is the ideological foundation and soul of the Chinese Dream.”5 Most of the social workers—and indeed most of the people I met in China—seemed to evoke a different vision. I asked one social worker how the spirit of Lei Feng was connected to the service done by social workers. She smiled broadly and said: “You must have seen those posters. . . . Lei Feng’s ideals are good. We do have the ideal of service. But our approach is different.” As for the traditional family values of filial piety, all the social workers wanted to be attentive to their elders, but the social workers were keenly aware that the pressures of modern urban life made it unrealistic for them—and for most of their clients—to enact the uncompromised devotion depicted in the classical images. The cause of this divergence is what the anthropologist Yunxiang Yan calls the individualization of Chinese society.6 The Maoist regime actively tried to disembed the individual from corporate family and kinship relations. People from the so-called good social classes were pushed to denounce relatives from the bad classes. Children were even pressured to turn on their parents. The aim was to re-embed the individuals thus detached into the structures of a socialist state. A second disembedding occurred after the death of Mao with the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Now some of the state structures were dismantled to open the way to a market economy, even while the Communist

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Party maintained its exclusive political control. At the same time family networks (which had never been completely destroyed) were encouraged to reconstitute themselves to provide welfare services that the state could no longer provide. The result of all these changes has been an institutionally incoherent society: vibrant economic markets juxtaposed with authoritarian state structures; individuals seeking to fulfill themselves through private consumption juxtaposed with pressures to sacrifice their desires for the sake of their family. Individuals from different social classes, political statuses, or generations may embrace one part of these contradictions more than others, but no one can be secure in their embrace. For instance, elderly people can emphasize the responsibilities of children to respect their wishes and care for them in old age. But they cannot necessarily count on this. Similarly, entrepreneurs may emphasize the need to seek success through taking advantage of market opportunities. But because of the prevalence of political interference, they cannot be confident that their efforts will be rewarded. Individuals of all social stripes are thus liberated (as the state says) from stable social institutions—or, better put, they have to fend for themselves. Xi Jinping wants to reintegrate such individuals into a rejuvenated Chinese nation tightly controlled and represented by the Communist Party. This, however, remains an unrealistic dream. In their professional capacity, social workers try to confront the realities of an individualized society by responding to the needs of individuals fending for themselves. Like most people, the social workers with whom I spoke did not get their values from propaganda posters or official speeches. They developed them through the training and experiences that constituted their way of life. Their path through the social work profession tended to give them certain habits of mind, styles of living, and qualities of character. Through their relationships with colleagues they learned standards of excellence, and through their relationships with clients and sponsors they learned how to compromise and adapt standards to meet realistic circumstances. Because of the complexities of contemporary China, they have had to do a great deal of compromising and adapting. This gave rise to ongoing discussions, such as in the informal workshop described earlier, about what their real values were and ought to be. Usually implicit in the discussions was a narrative of how the profession had evolved and where it was going. The values of social work were not static entities but constantly revised understandings of the professional projects that social work in China represents.

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It was uncertainties about the future in the face of China’s changing political economy that gave the discussions an anxious edge while also making the social workers uncertain of what kind of happiness their profession would bring in the long run. The professions in China always have had to compromise their ideals in the face of government mandates and political pressure.7 Yet during the 2000s the social workers had managed to carve out some space to develop and act upon their own understandings of their goals and methods. But under Xi Jinping, this space was steadily being diminished. In this essay I will show how this predicament shapes the aspirations to ultimate happiness of both practitioners and their clients. I will discuss how social workers’ professional projects contrast and conflict with, first, the pressures of a globalized market economy and, second, the government’s imperatives to fulfill its version of the Chinese Dream. I argue that the predicament of social workers is shared by many other professions in China and offers a perspective on the moral incoherence of Chinese culture today.

methods The primary data are based on interviews with social workers in Shanghai in the fall of 2015. I conducted thirty-nine formal interviews and spoke to about fifty social workers (some interviews included more than one person). I also attended discussions such as the informal workshop mentioned earlier, and I observed social workers at work in different settings. I contacted the interviewees through social networks (snowball sampling) and conducted the interviews myself in Mandarin. Most interviewees seemed to enjoy the conversation because it gave them a chance to reflect on the purposes of their work. I interpret the interviews in the light of background reading about the development of social work in China and of Chinese political culture, all informed by many casual encounters with ordinary citizens while I lived in China. I have benefited greatly from the recently completed doctoral dissertation by Ling Han, which recounts the development of social work in China.8 Since the dissertation gives the background of the organizational forms of this profession, I was able to focus mainly on the meanings for practitioners of their work within their organizations. I asked the social workers how they understood the purposes of their work, how they carried it out, and what were the sources of happiness and unhappiness encountered in the course of their work. My focus was not on the kinds of immediate feelings of individual

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satisfaction that might be captured in an opinion survey but on an assessment of the professional goals, the achievement of which would constitute happiness, whether or not this was directly accompanied by a joyful feeling. Survey data would not capture this. I was not simply interested in a detailed study of social work per se—Ling Han’s book will eventually give us that—but in the tensions experienced by professional social workers as a window on larger ethical contradictions within Chinese society (as the interviews of psychological therapists in Habits of the Heart were a window on a general “therapeutic ethic” in modern America).9 The dilemmas faced by social workers, I argue, do indeed provide an excellent window on the moral order of Chinese society and on the challenges of finding ultimate meaning in it. Social workers in Shanghai stand on the front line of social problems of a society in dynamic, sometimes chaotic, transition. Working with broken families, fractured communities, alienated youth, and isolated elderly, they stand between the grassroots of an anxious society and the demands of an authoritarian government. They try to affirm the moral dignity of professionalism over and against the pressures of a competitive market economy and the imperatives of a state obsessed with maintaining social stability. While trying to heal troubled families, social workers confront doubts about whether they are meeting the expectations of their own families. They affirm a sense of mission (shiming), but the aims of this are ambiguous and pull them in different directions, and they find it difficult to articulate a worldview that would enable them to reconcile the tensions. Certainly, other socially engaged professionals—professors, journalists, physicians, lawyers, clergy—in China face similar tensions. But because of the visibility of these other socially engaged professionals (professors, journalists, physicians, lawyers, clergy), a foreigner finds interviewing them is a sensitive proposition, at least while they are still in China. As members of a newly emerging profession, with relatively low pay and status, social workers are not so visible and therefore turned out to be accessible and refreshingly candid.

the social work mission Social work was imported from the West into China in the early twentieth century, often through Christian institutions like the YMCA. Although inspired by a spirit of progressive Christian service—the motto of the YMCA

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was and is “Not to be served but to serve”—the profession was secularized through a commitment to help everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, and by the application of social scientific research to discern people’s needs. Such social work was suppressed after the Communists took power in 1949 in favor of a pervasive, party-led system of bureaucratic control. An important actor in the first stage of social work revival in Shanghai in the late 1990s was indeed the YMCA. As a key member of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (whose leader, Y. T. Wu, had been a Shanghai YMCA secretary who eventually embraced the Communist cause), the YMCA survived without its social service functions until the 1960s, after which it was completely suppressed in the Cultural Revolution. With the reforms of the 1980s, the government revived the organization as a point of contact for foreign visitors, although the YMCA did not carry out any significant domestic social functions. Because its leaders retained some lingering expertise in creating social welfare programs, and because the government began to see the need to create a more flexible array of such programs, in the mid-1990s the government gave the YMCA money to develop social services for the elderly, and in 1997 the YMCA established the first home in Shanghai to provide elder care based on Western social work practices. With the support of the national ministries of education and civil affairs, the Shanghai government then built upon this model. The East China University of Science and Technology established a program for research in social work in 1998, and in 2001 the city government initiated an effort to train and deploy a new generation of social workers. The pioneers received training in Hong Kong: academic training at Hong Kong University and, often, practical training with Christian social service agencies. A big expansion of social work occurred after 2008, when responses to the Sichuan earthquake spurred an awareness of the need for professional social services. To this day, a significant contribution to the professional training of Shanghai social workers has come from Christian social service agencies. The Hong Kong Christian Service agency now runs important training programs in Shanghai, and even organizations like the conservative American Christian Focus on the Family sponsor local training programs as well as study tours to the United States in family social work. Although most of the social workers who had received training in Christian organizations insisted that they did not learn any religion, the habits instilled by their training certainly bear the marks of Protestantism as well as a West-

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ern liberal sensibility. The professional social workers display an almost instinctual commitment to equality and respect for individual agency. Their approach—an echo of Protestant Congregationalism—is to build communities from the bottom up through voluntary affiliation. A key motto, which is displayed in almost every social work office, is “Help people help themselves” (zhu ren zizhu). The professional approach in Shanghai is illustrated by the story a social worker told me about her first job in 2005. She was sent to work with at-risk youth, who had dropped out of school and were beginning to participate in illegal behavior. “There are tens of thousands of such youth in Shanghai. The reasons are bad family relations, bad fortune (mingyun), and social prejudice. Their parents might be divorced, their teachers prejudiced against them because they come from bad families. This leads them to antisocial behavior. It was not easy to get them to trust me. I was the only social worker in the community. I came from an upright family and had a good education. They saw me as different. They thought I was connected with the police, especially since my project was designated as preventing crime. I got to know them by looking at their hobbies—sports, painting, handicrafts, et cetera. I helped them help other kids, for example, by playing basketball. Such activities slowly transformed their lives.” After gaining their trust and encouraging them to develop relationships of mutual help, she steered at least some of them into continuing education and stable jobs. This was the kind of work she was proud of and the reason for what she called her passion (reqing) for social work. In line with a Western Christian liberal perspective, this approach puts great stress on changing clients’ inner psychology rather than simply their outward behavior. Where the Christian legacy has largely disappeared and the liberal legacy largely taken over is in the unwillingness to impose fixed standards of moral conduct. For example, a social worker described how she and her colleagues introduced sex education in high schools. (Materials were initially imported from Hong Kong—but seized by customs because they were deemed pornographic.) “In sex education classes, we don’t tell them what’s right or wrong. Nowadays many young people [teenagers] are having sex. We tell them that sex is very normal. ‘Why are you so anxious (jinzhang) about it?’ We tell them about the stages of sex, having feelings, kissing, touching, et cetera. Tell them about possible consequences of going from one stage to another. But tell them, ‘the choice is yours. You can learn about the process of love, but the choice is yours.’ ” What remains is a kind of “therapeutic ethic”

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that aims to clarify values without imposing them and to facilitate communication among autonomous subjects. The problem with this approach, in China as well as in America, is that it does not always work to produce social order. People make poor choices. Social workers attribute this to bad influences and work to create a more healthy social environment, but their egalitarian sensibilities lead them to look for blame in all parts of the environment, including those supposedly in authority. A school social worker talks about a student who was extremely disruptive in class. “He resisted the teacher, so the teacher had no face. The old method would have been to make him write a confession (jiantao) and self-criticism. In our new approach, we try to understand the source of the problem. It could also be the teacher’s fault because he doesn’t understand the students, is too demanding, and looks down on them. We try to see all sides of the story.” The vision here is of an egalitarian society in which individuals give one another mutual respect and help one another in a nonjudgmental way through open and honest communication.

compromising the mission This approach, however, often comes into conflict with the forces of authority. The social worker who described the new way of handling an unruly student says, “We get strong pushback on this. We have to work within the system. We can’t be outside. This causes grief.” I have described an approach toward social work instilled through a Western-originated professional training and reinforced by exemplary social workers. The examples I gave were of activities that had made the social workers proud and happy because they had fulfilled some of the goals inculcated in them through their training. But in fact they are not always proud and happy. In the real world they have to meet the conflicting demands of “the system,” which “causes grief.” The most salient conflict is with the government, which sponsors the social workers. As several social workers put it, “We are not like government officials, we are not paternalistic (fumuguan).” But for the most part their funding comes from paternalistic government officials who are mainly concerned with “stability maintenance (weiwen).” In contrast to the ideals of the social workers, the government stresses hierarchy, a top-down exercise of surveillance and control, and it wants to “complete its task (wancheng renwu)” as quickly and efficiently as possible, which leads to a focus on external compliance rather than internal

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consent. Over and over, the social workers complained that the government does not understand their work, will not grant them professional autonomy, and undermines their efforts. Between the social work profession and the political system, there is a clash of values: individualistic versus collectivistic, a stress on open communication versus authoritarian control. But the government has the upper hand. Many of the social work agencies have names like Happy Communities or Happy Families, but when I asked one prominent expert what they do to make people happy, he said ruefully: “What you have to know is, their main job is really not to make the people happy but to make the government happy.” The institutional structures of China therefore undermine the goals toward which the social workers’ profession has directed them. They get a sense of dignity by developing themselves as professionals. They are proud that they are not like the authoritarian paternalistic government, even though the public often sees them as the same. Complains one, “People don’t trust the government. . . .When we knock on people’s doors . . . they won’t answer because they think we are officials.” Nonetheless, to an uncomfortable degree, they are the government. As one social worker put it, much social work is “politicized rather than professionalized.” Social workers’ funding is mostly dependent on the government, which, in the past several years under the Xi Jinping regime, is increasing restrictions on their autonomy. (By 2014 they were being told to establish a party branch in each agency.) Some of their most heartfelt complaints come from having to spend too much time gathering data and filling out paperwork to meet government demands for stability maintenance. Most of their agencies are dependent on government grants, the requirements for which keep changing because of the particular interests of new government officials. Finally, part of the social workers’ professional identity is being an advocate for their clients, but the government does not like such advocacy and social workers are intimidated. “When we explain the principles of social work to students,” said a teacher who was trained in the United States, “the thing they have most difficulty accepting is that social workers should be advocates.” In fact, the very identity of social work as a profession that works according to different principles from government bureaucracy is now being further eroded by a political deprofessionalization. In Shanghai the government is now increasingly certifying cadres in the city’s residential committees (juweihui) as social workers, even though they have little professional training. These

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then take over work that professional social workers think should be their job. For example, the party secretary in one model neighborhood committee (juwei) wears a second hat as the head of an NGO that is located on the ground floor of the residential committee building devoted to mobilizing the community’s women to do environmental protection.10 Although no one in either the NGO or the residential committee has a formal degree in social work, the committee is using social work methods—such as surveying the community to discern felt needs—to govern the community. The party secretary is a very creative and energetic person, and in this case the “soft governmentality” is a benevolent one. But with such local government, there is less need for professionally autonomous social work. The recent government initiatives are accompanied by calls to “indigenize social work” by eschewing foreign ideas and adapting to Chinese culture. The development of the social work profession has thus come into tension with the development of the Chinese party-state, which has become increasingly more authoritarian and more nationalistic. The story that social workers tell about themselves is now diverging from the story the government is telling about itself and the Chinese people. This poses serious challenges to social workers’ sense of identity. It calls into question the goals to which their training has oriented them and thus their ability to achieve a sense of satisfaction by pursuing those goals. The effect is especially strong for mature social workers who entered the profession at its beginnings. At the informal workshop the person who raised the question about the definition of social work was one of the first cohort of social workers to be trained in the early 2000s. Another challenge to social workers’ pursuit of the good life comes from the market economy. Social workers say that their profession involves “human feeling (renqing)” and is fundamentally based on cooperation rather than competition. A social worker who quit a lucrative job in a marketing company said, “In the business world it is more competitive. . . . they don’t care about your family, just work hard, it’s all for the business. . . . This kind of social work involves a pay cut, but there is more human feeling here, and here we do a lot of training, so you can keep developing yourself.” They get a sense of dignity and satisfaction by exercising compassionate human feeling in cooperation for the public good, but they do not get much money. The salaries of social workers are quite low, just 3,000 or 4,000 yuan (US$ 500–600) a month for a beginner, although it could go up to 8,000 yuan for a senior social worker. “If you just want money,” one social work professor tells his students, “don’t

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get into this profession.” Another administrator says, “Don’t look at the money. Look for personal development. That will be happiness.” Such advice might be more credible if the modest salaries at least amounted to a living wage. But most social work salaries cannot buy an apartment or other goods of a middleclass life in Shanghai. The social work professor acknowledges: “There are a few people who don’t care about money or promotions, but just about their work. They are probably happier. But most can’t afford to do that.” One way to bring in more income might be to sell social work services to affluent families, for instance, to provide counseling for their troubled children or quality care for elderly parents. Social work agencies in parts of Shanghai are indeed pursuing this option. But, as some of the participants in the salon wondered, does this compromise the profession’s identity as being of service to the poor and weak? Because social workers’ salaries are low, they themselves often feel poor and weak. This affects the sense of meaning that they get from having been raised in a Chinese household by parents who see happiness as coming from raising successful children who will bring the parents honor and be able to give them support in their old age. “Old people are happy,” said one social worker, “if their children have success.” But it is extremely common to hear social workers say that their parents are disappointed in them because they have such a low-pay and low-status profession. Their parents’ disappointment sometimes causes the social workers moral anguish. They are not very successful, at least not in the economic terms that dominate conversations in Shanghai, and this can conflict with their wish to be obedient adult children. Another set of challenges to a life story structured according to the ideals of filial piety arises from the mobility of social workers. Perhaps most of the social workers in the central parts of Shanghai come from other provinces, some as far away as Xinjiang. (I interviewed some who came from the outer fringes of the city and had stayed there to work. They seemed more content and less conflicted by their profession than many of those in the central city.) From the point of view of parents of social workers from provincial towns and cities, being able to get an advanced education (even in one of the lowest tiers of the Shanghai university system), moving to Shanghai, and working in a profession (even one of the lowest-paid, lowest-status professions) may constitute a genuine source of success. But in this case the social workers live far from their parents and cannot directly care for them in old age. Meanwhile, they often say that their parents do not really understand their profession or their lifestyle in the big city.

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witness to tensions While being pulled themselves among the evolving values of their profession, the government, the market, and their families, the social workers witness the similar troubles that such value conflicts cause for their clients. There are, first of all, troubles within the family. Those who work with the elderly witness a great deal of loneliness and disappointment among the people whom they serve. Today’s elderly lived through political turmoil and worked within a socialist economy. Under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, they hoped that their children would have a better life and would support their elders. In the 1980s and 1990s these parents sacrificed for their children, perhaps even gave up their apartment so that their married children would have a place to live, and provided almost full-time child care for their grandchildren, so that their own children would have time to succeed in the new competitive economy. But the very success of the adult children sometimes causes their parents grief. Children often have to move away, and, even if they stay close to home, they are often too busy because of the pressures of work to visit their parents. There are conflicts too between the ideas that the children get from a good education and those of the parents. Sometimes, the children ungratefully criticize the free child care given by grandparents on the basis of new books (often by American pediatricians) on modern child rearing. Social workers try to reach out to the children to get them to become better connected with their parents—who say even small gestures are much appreciated but that sometimes it is difficult to even get these. Another set of problems stems from rebellious youth, who may have chafed under strict parenting and/or disappointed their parents, perhaps to the point of abandonment. The social workers try to restore communication within such families and to give guidance that may contribute to reconciliation. Such familial problems come from the dislocation of communities. Whole districts have had their homes demolished by the Shanghai city government to make way for new real estate development. The government materially compensates such families, in what many consider reasonably generous payments, but the compensation, say many social workers, has not addressed nonmaterial problems, like the loss of nearby friends and children. Another set of community disruptions comes when rapid urbanization brings multitudes of rural people into Shanghai life. Social workers run courses on how to adapt to the city—everything from how to dress to where to eat and live to

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how to find jobs. But deeper problems are cultural and moral. New urbanites have to learn competitive habits that can contradict older ideals of family solidarity. One social worker who serves villagers whose communities have been swallowed up by Shanghai was very moved by the family solidarity of the children. “When we give them a little gift, they often actually say they will break it in half to give to their little brother or sister.” Yet part of her job is to convince the parents to let their children strive for a kind of education that might separate them from their siblings and maybe even their parents. These are indeed problems common to all modern societies and are certainly not absent in major American cities. What makes China different from advanced industrial societies is its stage of development, coupled with some unique cultural and political factors. Massive urbanization has left hundreds of millions dislocated from their ancestral homes. The transformation of the Shanghai landscape has moved millions from their neighborhoods. The explosion of a consumer culture has quickly brought new tastes and habits and contributed to a widening generation gap. All this took place in American and European cities a century ago, but it has been happening in China only within the past generation. This has taken place within a culture that traditionally laid great stress on the solidarity of the extended family, and the practical challenges of enacting traditional virtues like filial piety cause especially great stress. Over this today is an authoritarian government that claims to want to make people happy but only on its own terms. All this creates a unique Chinese pattern in the obstacles to the good life that are common to all societies under the pressures of global capitalism. One feature of the obstacles is that they are intractable. For example, the social workers claim that they know how to use empathetic communication to integrate rebellious youth into social norms. Sometimes this works, and, when it does, the social workers say it makes them very happy. But often enough it does not work, and social workers speak of being discouraged by their lack of efficacy. Government officials have their own methods, for instance, by making such youth write confessions and study MarxismLeninism. The social workers ruefully note that this does not work either. Meanwhile the social workers try to alleviate the loneliness and anxiety of elderly clients by persuading their children to have more contact with them, which, as I noted earlier, can be difficult because of the stresses in the children’s lives. The government puts out its colorful posters with old-fashioned images of filial piety. But these have only limited effect. And the messages are

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crowded out by spectacular ads for beautiful clothes, fancy cars, luxurious houses, and high-end restaurants.

the search for integrity All these factors and experiences were the context for the questions the social workers passionately discussed at the informal workshop. The goals to which their profession teaches social workers to aspire—goals whose achievement or even honest pursuit should constitute a basic happiness for social workers and clients alike—do not align with the goals of China’s political and economic institutions. Social work goals are also out of alignment with the family goals to which many social workers have been taught since childhood to aspire. The lives not only of social workers but of many ordinary people in China are pulled in different directions. They are shaped simultaneously by different stories that lead to contradictory versions of a happy ending. Most people with whom I spoke—not only the social workers but many other acquaintances—were too busy coping with day-to-day demands (guo rizi, as they say) to reflect constantly about these contradictions. But the symptoms of the contractions emerged in after-hours discussions like those at the salon informal workshop. Although I have systematic interview data only from social workers, casual conversations with people in many other professions suggested that the social workers’ frustrations have wide resonance. A university professor complained that all he can publish is bullshit, to use his word. A journalist said, “All they want to know [when you arrive at a place to gather information] is when you are going to leave.” Clergy are unhappy because their religious practice is constrained by a rigid definition of patriotism. Lawyers who are deeply committed to the rule of law endure the hardships to which Jay Chen alludes in chapter 6. How do Chinese people nowadays deal with these contradictions? As one social work leader put it, there are three options: “Go outside, go inside, detach.” For social workers, going outside simply means leaving the profession or abandoning it right after training. This indeed is common. Over two-thirds (perhaps as much as 80 percent) of those who receive a master’s degree in social work never become social workers, preferring to work in economic enterprises or for the government. Others harbor hope of going abroad or sending their children to study abroad. As one person put it, “I want my child to study abroad because there is so much more integrity in America.”

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Others attempt to work within the system. Most of the active social workers I interviewed were indeed committed to this path. One thing that keeps them in the system is simply the intrinsic satisfaction that they get from working with people. After talking about the frustrations of her job, one social worker simply said, “I’ve become very attached to [my clients] here and I couldn’t bear (shebude) leaving.” Others hold out hope that by constantly studying and learning new things, they can develop themselves in satisfying ways. Still others hop from agency to agency, trying to find a space for increased professional growth. Working within the system requires compromises, usually cultivating personal relationships (guanxi) with government overseers and, to a lesser degree, corporate supporters. Echoing many others, a leading social worker said that “as intellectuals we criticize the government, but many officials are my personal friends.” Through calling on these personal friendships he and others create a space for professional principles. But preserving the space is a challenge to their integrity. The leader talked at some length about his “best social worker.” She was so good because, besides being competent, “her heart is very pure.” “She doesn’t get polluted by society,” he said. “She won’t get into the gray areas that you encounter in doing this work.” This is, the leader thinks, because the social worker is a Christian, who is very deeply engaged in and supported by her church community. (Unfortunately, because of schedule constraints, I was not able to interview this social worker.) This pure Christian social worker is perhaps an example of the detachment strategy. Detachment can simply mean giving up, that is, staying in place but just going through the motions of doing the job. But in this case it can mean pursuing the values of her profession with exceptional vigor by finding a support community that is partially separated from society. The “pure social worker” is actually part of a “house church,” a kind of religious community that is officially illegal because it is unregistered, and it comes under a generalized official suspicion because it is Christian. Their very marginalization can make such communities close knit, with strong mutual support in sustaining more consistent moral standards than the rest of society. For those who are willing to carry out most important social relationships within such boundaries, these communities can provide a comprehensive vision of the purposes of life and work, a sense of personal integrity in a fragmented world. Of course, there are downsides to this, including judgmentalism and repression, and even though the pure social worker’s supervisor admired her, he cannot follow her path.

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An example of such a tight-knit community would be the business advising company, which is really part of a “house church” (an unregistered and hence illicit church organization) organized to provide social services for strengthening families. As a company it is not under the regulation of the religious affairs bureau or the civil affairs bureau. But its CEO is a Christian pastor, all its staffers are members of the house church, and its main activities room doubles as a worship space on Sundays. The company is seen as a bridge from the church to the wider community. “The government knows what we are about,” the pastor told me. “We are completely open. They know the Christian connection. But they are concerned about the stability of the family and they think we are making a good contribution.” In this case the CEO-pastor of this business advising company and house church claims that “Jesus is a very good social worker,” and the pastor and his colleagues try to help troubled families solve their problems by having love, “which you get by accepting Jesus” and providing the strength of a Christian community. The guidance they were giving about family harmony was similar to what many of the professional social workers were giving, but the guidance about sexuality is more directive and judgmental than the latest approach to sex education by the professionals. Christians are not the only ones seeking a life of integrity by connecting to a strong community of believers. I also interviewed the Buddhist nun in charge of a Shanghai branch of the Taiwan-based Buddha’s Light Mountain monastery. Like the Christian company, this is not registered as a religious organization. It presents itself under the ministry for cultural affairs as a “public service organization for promoting Chinese (zhonghua) culture.” It has a large, newly built four-story building staffed by four nuns (two from Taiwan, two from China), various lay staff (the women dress in the long, modified qipao [sheath] typical of their counterparts in the organization’s offices in Taiwan), and about six hundred volunteers. Like the Christian company, the monastery branch runs programs aimed at building strong families. According to their leader, “Buddhists say that if you do not become a monk or nun (chujia), you will get similar karma by practicing filial piety toward your parents.” They run classes that teach children to sing songs and create art that stresses their love for their parents, culminating in a ritual in which they offer tea to their parents. All this is supposedly purely secular activity aimed at disseminating the best virtues of the Chinese cultural tradition: “We teach activities, not Buddhist doctrine.” But at the entrance to the center, there is a large wax statue of Master Xing Yun, the founder of Buddha’s Light Mountain, at prayer. And

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on the second floor there is what they call a large music hall that is actually a worship hall. It has a large altar decorated, as in the monastery’s temples in Taiwan, with elegant vases of orchids. The only difference from other temples is that there are no statues of the Buddha. With statues they would have to be classified as a temple. But the wall behind the altar has a huge bas relief of Buddhist images—statues in all but name. And next to the music hall is a large room with hardwood floors and carefully arranged mats for Chan meditation—the same kind of space as at the main monastery in Taiwan, including little cubicles where practitioners can spend a week in silent Chan meditation. The nun in charge makes it very clear that they are giving a Buddhist answer to the social challenges facing China today. “China is going through a transition from being focused on material things to spiritual things. People are under great pressure. . . . Social workers try to address this, and I am a social worker. We are all social workers.” Although neither the director nor her staff has any formal training in social work, all seem to indeed be doing much the same thing as the professional social workers but with less ambivalence and a higher sense of morale. Such solutions to finding an integrated path to happiness are certainly not for everyone. It is perhaps significant that people must look for integrity by drawing boundaries between their peer support community and the rest of society. As in the case of the aforementioned Christian and Buddhist communities, the sharper the boundaries, the higher the degree of felt integrity and community morale. The professional social workers also try to build boundaries, but these are perforce relatively loose. The social workers speak of how much they enjoy and need to come together in informal workshops and other kinds of meetings with other professionals to share ideals as well as complaints and to give one another support. The challenge for such efforts is that the Xi Jinping regime is intensifying efforts to break down such boundaries and to take away the moral autonomy of groups that may have formed the seeds of a civil society. Nonetheless, there are methods that all can use to maintain some value integrity in the face of countervailing pressure. One of the most popular methods is simply to lie. The Christian organization is a consulting company; the Buddhist temple is a music hall; seeking justice for the poor and marginalized is stability maintenance. For its part the government chronically lies too: its obsession with protecting its power and privilege is presented as care for the happiness of the people, and strengthening the Communist Party is equated

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with strengthening the nation. Strictly speaking, perhaps, none of these are lies because they do not really fool anyone.11 They are like the sign praising socialism hung out by the grocer in Vaclav Havel’s famous essay, “The Power of the Powerless”—convenient shared fictions meant to avoid disruption.12 To a degree, all societies rely on pervasive prevarication to maintain social harmony, and there is certainly a great tradition of Chinese etiquette aimed at keeping up appearances and saving face. But such cultural conventions are raised to an exceptionally high level under an authoritarian state, as in China today. The Buddhist nun mentioned the challenge of adapting a Taiwan-originated Buddhism to China: “The Taiwan people are more straightforward and simple. To some degree this is also the case in Hong Kong. It is partly a matter of being in a more open, free political system. We are still figuring out how to adapt.”

seeking a unifying vision in a fragmented world Citizens in China are presented with a vision of how to adapt—accept the leadership of the Communist Party, which will bring about, as Xi’s book title claims, The Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. In Xi Jinping’s speeches about the Chinese dream, the only institution that can provide the ultimate happiness that comes from disciplined service of the people is the Chinese Communist Party. It will then be the job of dedicated party officials to provide ordinary people with the material benefits that will bring about their day-to-day happiness. The problem with this vision is that the party has been riddled with corruption, which the Xi regime says it is committed to eliminating. Meanwhile, however, it is actually a threat to this vision of legitimacy for there to be groups in civil society with more moral integrity than the party. Moral pluralism, including the pluralism that comes from a genuine commitment to the goals of different professions and different ways of life, is seen as a threat rather than a resource to be built upon. Xi Jinping’s political vision of a unified society marching toward the ultimate happiness of the Chinese dream did not, however, seem to have any deep resonance with everyday experience. I did not seek, nor did I find, any individuals who wanted to disrupt the existing political system. The social workers just wanted to cope day to day with the demands of their work and family life. They paid little attention to the ubiquitous propaganda posters and were interested in the macropolitics of the Xi regime only to the extent that it might have a direct influence on their work conditions. They did acknowledge a

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general need to adapt, to indigenize values and organizational forms that they thought originated in the West (often communicated through Hong Kong and Taiwan) to Chinese realities, but there was no consensus on how to do this. Discerning and achieving the long-term goals of their profession had to be based on experience rather than theory, because most had neither the time nor the energy to reflect deeply on the process. The thirst for theory was not completely absent, however. Many of my interviewees said they enjoyed talking with me because it gave them a rare opportunity to reflect on their lives and work. Usually their reflections led to theoretical hybrids, different ideas juxtaposed in a loose symbiosis. For example, a social worker who works with the elderly noted that many of them use religious language when they talk about dying. “Many people are using religion to understand difficulties in life, whether Buddhism, Christianity, or popular religion. Faith is important. . . . You know, I’m a party member, and we don’t have religious beliefs but I respect people who do, and I see the importance. We think it is important that people have a spirituality (xinling) and we build on what they have.” Similarly, a social worker who supervises people released from prison talked about his way of seeking a common language through traditional philosophy and religion. One of his clients “liked to read,” he said. “I gave him books on traditional Chinese culture: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. . . . So we had a common language. He finished having to see me and left. One day he came back. I wasn’t in but he left two books . . . on traditional Chinese philosophy. I was very moved. . . . . ..[With another offender] we talked about the Yijing. Discussed how the Eight Trigrams affected her life. . . .You have to draw upon both Western and Eastern philosophy. Everything has two aspects.” A better integrated society might have more widely shared, coherent frameworks for discussing common meaning and value. But China today is not a well-integrated society. It is a deeply unequal society undergoing rapid but uneven development, home to many different versions of the good life that are united by fictitious lip service and held together by resignation and fear in the face of a powerful state.

coda I did meet a few people who aspired to develop a vision of the ultimately happy life that was not simply a replication of the official Chinese dream. One was

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an old cadre, now become a social work director, who still thought Mao Zedong’s dialectical method was useful. Another, though, was a younger social work expert, with an academic background in Western existentialism. He told me, “The most important goal is not to make money but to be professional. . . .We provide meaning by treating people as people (ren), not as tools (gongju). . . . Our approach is to give everybody respect and treat everybody as equals. I learned a lot from my studies of Western philosophy. The stress there is on the individual as the foundation of citizenship. . . . I see the world as basically dark or gray. But there are rays of light. . . . Critical understanding is now being suppressed, but it’s like a pendulum, now swinging in this direction but could swing back. I don’t give up hope.”

notes 1. See Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, IND: Notre Dame University Press, 1981). The approach to happiness that I am taking is that of a “virtue ethic,” which has roots in Aristotelian philosophy. 2. Xi Jinping, “Speech at Event to Celebrate the ‘May 1st’ International Labor Day,” Qiushi 7, no. 3, issue no. 24 (July–September 2015): 8. 3. Ibid. 4. Xi Jinping, The Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014). 5. Ren Xiaosi, The Chinese Dream: What It Means for China and the Rest of the World (Beijing: New World Press, 2013), 56. 6. Yunxiang Yan, “The Chinese Path to Individualization,” British Journal of Sociology 61, no. 3 (2010): 491–512. 7. William P. Alford, Kenneth Winston, and William C. Kirby, Prospects for the Professions in China (New York: Routledge, 2011). 8. Ling Han, “The Development of Social Work in China,” PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2015. 9. Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in Amerian Life(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). 10. An organization like the model neighborhood committee is often called a GONGO—government-organized nongovernmental organization—by those in the West. 11. Susan D. Blum, Lies That Bind: Chinese Truths, Other Truths (Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefeld, 2007). 12. Vaclav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, trans. and ed. Paul Wilson (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1986).

chapter 6

Deriving Happiness from Making Society Better Chinese Activists as Warring Gods chih-jou jay chen

This chapter focuses on reform-minded enthusiasts and activists in China; they are an unusual group of concerned actors in public life that includes human rights lawyers, labor rights advocates, public commentators, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) leaders. They are small in number but big in influence as they affect political orientations and collective beliefs of Chinese society under authoritarian rule. Through their experiences and personal journeys as activists, I examine how they define and pursue happiness—a good life in a good society. I highlight the institutions in tension—Weber’s warring gods inhabiting incompatible value spheres—that confront these activists when they devote themselves to pursuing a good public life for all of society. I examine the values to which these activists devote themselves, and the ideals of public life they are pursuing. How are those values embedded in the hearts and minds of activists, and how do they become the driving force of their actions? Their political beliefs and modes of action, as well as personal career advancement, family values, and economic needs, are mostly incompatible with each other; there is always a high degree of tension among them. Through these institutions in tension, we are able to understand an important aspect of contemporary Chinese public life.1 Reform-minded activists in China have always been faced with pressure and harassment from officials and governments. China does not allow free political activities common to modern democratic states. People with a passion and dedication to public and political issues mostly locate themselves in the NGO or media sector. They work on the protection of human rights or the 131

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provision of labor dispute services for workers. Or they become so-called public intellectuals, providing commentary on current political affairs. They care for and serve disadvantaged groups, defend justice, and fulfill their ideals in life. The careers that these reform-minded activists are pursuing offer no significant benefits regarding monetary income and political power. They often criticize government policies, damage the prestige of the leadership, and are therefore regularly subjected to government threats to their own and their family’s lives. These threats take a commensurate toll on family relations, and the activists have little prospect for professional advancement. Hence, wealth and status are out of reach, while pressure and harassment are a constant reality. Most people in China will not choose to become activists for social or political reform. But on the other hand, the actions of these very few activists are having a very profound impact on public life and political culture in contemporary China. This research was conducted during the Xi Jinping administration, when China is entering a new era, the age after reform. In the more than twenty years before that, in the reform era, China was ruled by leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. During this period, economic development was followed by ideological openness, and although one-party rule could not be called into question and no space was given for people’s right to political participation and association, individual freedoms and autonomy, after all, had improved. With a significant increase in the rapid flow of information and people’s awareness of their rights, so-called rightful resistance also saw a sharp increase. However, since Xi Jinping took office in 2012, civil society associations and activities have all been met with even more severe repression than in the past. For instance, in early July 2015 hundreds of Chinese lawyers, civil rights activists, and their relatives were suddenly arrested, summoned, and detained by the public security authorities. Subsequently, many rights lawyers were either put under house arrest or in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (xunxin zishi) or “subversion of state power.” In December 2015, Chinese authorities launched a serious crackdown on labor rights advocates; at least twenty-one labor activists from four different labor NGOs in Guangdong were apprehended in their homes and offices. In the fall of 2016, a Guangdong province court found four of the detained advocates guilty of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” The arrest of advocates affiliated with labor NGOs has had a chilling effect on the activities of labor NGOs.2 The systematic suppression of civil society under Xi’s rule had

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not been this intense during the two or three decades of the reform era. It suggests that China’s economic development and information flow have not enlarged the space for, or the content of, civil society, and have not directly brought about a better public life. Prior to the mid-2010s, activists, lawyers, and scholars still believed that as long as they did not challenge the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party, and did not organize themselves collectively, even if they criticized policy or government officials, they wouldn’t have to worry about putting their personal safety at risk. However, it turns out that under Xi’s regime the government’s repression of NGOs, rights lawyers, and labor activists was not temporary. The government believes they constitute a challenge to the legitimacy of communist rule. It is evident that the blueprint for the social construction and ideology of the Xi’s regime, and the universal values of freedom and equality that these activists hold dear, have become increasingly distant from each other and incompatible. Although the political situation had become more oppressive, these reform-minded activists would not give up; they kept fighting in their pursuit of an ideal public society.

what is a good public life in china? My interviewees, all intensely involved activists, are eloquent, quick-witted, and thoughtful people. They include labor rights advocates Zhang Zhiru and Chen Huihai, labor rights lawyer Duan Yi, human rights lawyer Teng Biao, media commentator Xiao Shu, and environmental NGO manager Gao Guizi. I conducted the interviews in person between June 2015 and October 2016 in Taiwan, China, or the United States. Even before interviewing them, I had been in private contact with these respondents for years because of our research exchanges and personal relations. Zhang Zhiru, Chen Huihai, and Duan Yi had all been working for workers’ rights NGOs in Guangdong and Shenzhen for many years. In the early 2010s, when I was studying the labor relations of Taiwanese firms in China, I had been in frequent contact with them. They became my sources of choice in my efforts to understand China’s labor relations. I also arranged for my students and graduate assistants to visit their NGOs for internships and research. In the spring of 2014, when the workers at Yue Yuan’s shoe factories in Guangdong went on strike, the workers’ labor NGOs all took on roles of support. I also did fieldwork in Guangdong at the time and stayed in close

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contact with my informants throughout. In 2015, I went to Guangdong and Shenzhen several times to meet with them and to conduct interviews for this research. In 2014–15, while Teng Biao was a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, I was doing research at the Harvard-Yenching Institute. I attended several private lectures and discussions, and I interviewed him several times during the spring of 2015, after which I hosted him in Taiwan for a conference to learn more about his situation and his activities in China. Media commentator Xiao Shu took shelter in Taiwan as a visiting scholar in 2015–16 because of political pressures in China. I used his time in Taiwan to get to know and interview him several times. Since the early 2010s, Gao Guizi’s NGO Service Center in Sichuan has been in close contact with the research team at the Center for Contemporary China at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, of which I am a member. I interviewed Gao during his visit to Taiwan in 2016. Generally speaking, because I have been a friend and colleague of the interviewees for this essay, engaging with them in research and exchanges for many years, we have been able to establish a high degree of trust and understanding. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait share a language and frequently interact socially, and Taiwan’s liberal democracy provides a political environment in which Chinese activists and Taiwanese scholars and media are able to maintain close relations and even friendships. Maybe it is because of the special characteristics of these cross-strait relationships that my friends and I, in addition to professional exchanges, also enjoy personal friendships that are characterized by a high degree of mutual trust and respect. During the interviews, I would always ask the respondents to rate their happiness on a scale from one to five. The answers I got were quite similar: “Personally I am fine. I chose what I am doing; this is a meaningful job and a worthwhile mission to pursue.” “Politically, of course, I am unhappy, frustrated, and upset.” “Socially, I am happy and satisfied with my friends, family members, and colleagues.” Throughout the interviews, I could feel they were particularly happy with the support from large and admiring numbers on social media, and the recognition from and connections with media and intellectuals from abroad. What goals are these actors pursuing in life? Zhang Zhiru, who has been working for workers’ rights and labor services since 1995, stated, “I will devote my life to the promotion of social equality and justice; an equal, democratic, and free society is my life’s pursuit.” Remembering what he had experienced

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at one of his previous jobs, he said: “Whether in the eyes of the factory management or the local government, workers like us possess no value, no dignity. To the factory we are nothing more than a tool to make money; to the local government we are animals that can be sacrificed whenever necessary in exchange for economic development.” This is what strengthened his resolve to fight for the rights and interests of workers. Before 2012, Chen Huihai had been a worker. When his factory owed its workers wages and abruptly closed down, he led the workers in protest, fighting the company to secure their rights. Subsequently, he turned into a full-time labor activist. In our discussions, he mentioned that his transformation from a worker to a labor activist mainly stemmed from his “loving to help other people.” In 2012, he was invited by Duan Yi, a widely respected Chinese labor rights lawyer, to set up a labor services center in Guangzhou. Duan Yi devotes himself to the promotion of collective bargaining for wages for Chinese workers. In 2005, he formed the Guangdong Labor Rights Law Firm in Shenzhen, known as China’s first law firm specializing in the protection of labor rights. He said his goal was to “serve those lower-class workers, such as workers on the assembly line, supermarket clerks, and miners suffering from pneumoconiosis [black lung disease].” He has been engaged in training union leaders, holding workshops, and maintaining a website, all to spread his values and help workers to strengthen their labor rights. Teng Biao became a public figure because of the Sun Zhigang Incident in April 2003.3 Teng Biao, together with his former classmates Xu Zhiyong and Yu Jiang at Peking University (PKU), submitted a proposal to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for the constitutional review of the criminal detention and repatriation system. The committee later accepted the proposal, making Teng and his classmates famous overnight. Between 2003 and 2005, his legal activism was recognized and praised at home as well as abroad, and he received a series of awards.4 But beginning in 2005, because of a series of human rights cases in which Teng was a defense lawyer, including his 2006 defense of “the barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng, and his call for the rescue of human rights activist Hu Jia in 2007, Teng felt strong pressure from government agencies. When he talked about his aims in life, he said: “It’s the ideal of an intellectual, [I am] assuming the responsibilities of a so-called intellectual, that’s why I’m doing these things in opposition to the government.” Xiao Shu is a well-known Chinese writer, journalist, and commentator. In 2011 he was dismissed from his post as a chief columnist at the outspoken

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Southern Weekly newspaper. He said very clearly: “My aim in writing commentary is to spread my values: universal values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights; and to promote the progress of civil society; I advocate an independent, middle way [Confucian golden mean], [a] moderate and rational standpoint.” Gao Guizi, an activist directing a Sichuan social services NGO, claims to be one of China’s few “real intellectuals.” He said: “China’s real public intellectuals account for less than one percent [of all intellectuals], and the others are fake ones. You should not assume that reading some books gives you the right to call yourself an intellectual, [as] more than 99 percent of intellectuals are a fraud and I’m part of the [real] one percent.” Gao takes Mao Zedong as his role model, and Gao stressed that he was not blindly worshiping Mao but had experienced his thought and vision. Gao believed the fundamental principles of socialism and would devote himself to serving people in need.

school and early career The values these activists were championing emerged gradually as we talked: universal values of freedom, equality, and human rights, as well as the moral integrity, righteousness, and ideals of intellectuals serving and speaking out for the disadvantaged. These values are what they identify with a good public life in Chinese society. What distinguishes them from people in Western countries is that the democracy of competing political parties as practiced in democratic countries seems not to be a primary goal of the Chinese activists, nor is a democracy of competing political parties a prerequisite for the ability to exercise the universal values they are promoting. I tried to track down the sources of their values and found that they could be located in the socialist ideology rooted deeply in their minds, as well as in the values of and their faith in traditional Chinese benevolence (i.e., a strong sense of justice and willingness to help the weak). When these activists recalled their experiences while growing up and the development of their journey, I found that all of them had started out as good students or model students who had always liked to read. In their innermost nature, they had always been opposed to dogmatism and dictatorship. They grew up in the 1960s through the 1980s. Some of them experienced the Cultural Revolution and some the 1989 prodemocracy movement. Maoism, the socialist blueprint, and the values of equality and dedication, instilled in them

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during their childhood schooling, are still deeply implanted in their hearts and minds. Zhang Zhiru and Chen Huihai both began their careers as workers. Before becoming full-time NGO advocates, both worked at foreign investment enterprises in Guangdong. After witnessing the bullying and exploitation of workers by their employers, as well as labor disputes in their respective factories, they led workers to protest in defense of their rights. This was their career turning point, turning into professional labor advocates. Zhang Zhiru was born in 1974 to a rural household. From a young age, he excelled at his studies. When he was fifteen and in junior high school, he accompanied his cousin to work as a construction worker, moving bricks without the consent of his parents. His father did not permit him to return to school, and he later realized the importance of knowledge and kept studying on his own while working at his job. In 1993, Zhang Zhiru left Hunan for Guangdong to work at a shoe factory. During this period, he remembered, he once assisted a villager from his home village who had been arrested and held in a police station for more than four months for not having a temporary residence permit. On another occasion, Zhang saw his Taiwanese boss punch and kick employees several times, once even calling in security to beat to death a worker who had been making trouble. The boss was not held accountable. These experiences led Zhang to take on the protection of labor rights as his lifelong struggle. He recalled: “I feel like those of us who do manual labor— whether in the eyes of factory management or the local government—are just money-making tools for the factory and animals that the local government can sacrifice at any time in exchange for economic development. When our interests as migrant workers are violated, no one will stand up and speak out on our behalf. We migrant workers have become lambs waiting to be manipulated and slaughtered. We really need someone to stand up and say no to the government and the factory.” In 1994, Zhang moved to another, larger Taiwanese-funded shoe factory. The next year, when the Dongguan government was promoting the organization of trade unions, Zhang Zhiru successfully gained the support of the town government and established a union inside the factory, recruiting thirty-five members. However, the factory’s owner, displeased with Zhang Zhiru for organizing the union, fired him. Zhang returned to his home village and leased the village’s farmland to cultivate orange trees. In 2002, he moved to Shenzhen to once again become

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a worker. One day, while delivering goods, Zhang was injured in a car accident, but his employer refused to pay the appropriate compensation for a work injury. So Zhang Zhiru borrowed books to research the law and subsequently took the company to court. However, because he wasn’t aware of relevant time limits to provide evidence, he ultimately lost the case. Through the experience of defending his own rights, he met a lot of workers whose rights had also been trampled, which inspired him to establish a workers’ rights organization. In March 2004, he rented a room and formally established the Shenzhen Migrant Workers Association. The family history of labor rights lawyer Duan Yi is unusual. He comes from a Red family; his grandfather had been a commander in the Red Army, and his father a general in the People’s Liberation Army. He grew up in the circles of Beijing’s “red second generation” (Hong erdai). Many of today’s senior officials in Beijing were his classmates and neighbors when he was young. He said that from a young age he had been deeply touched by the stories of the Communist Party’s efforts to gain equality and justice for the people. Familiar with, and heavily influenced by, the classics of Marx and Engels, he wanted to free the Chinese workers from the exploitation of capitalists and fight for their collective bargaining rights. Since his childhood he has also loved to read martial arts novels, whose characters’ chivalrous spirit deeply inspired him. These ideological identities contributed to his decision to fight for the rights of disadvantaged workers. Human rights lawyer Teng Biao comes from a village in the northeastern province of Jilin. He claimed that he was the product of a “brainwash education.” “Up until college, I had never thought independently; I just knew my place [i.e., be law-abiding].” His opposition to authority started in 1991, the year he was admitted to Peking University, when he had to undergo a whole year of military training in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei. After beginning his studies at Peking University, he was influenced by the liberal views of teachers still active on campus in the aftermath of the 1989 prodemocracy movement. In his second year at PKU, Teng Biao put up a big-character poster around “the Triangle,” a famous square and focal point of student activism on the PKU campus. He said: “It was the Peking University’s ideals that attracted and shaped me, [but] back then I just wanted to restore PKU’s traditional spirit of striving for freedom, for democracy. Frankly, at that time I had no intention to oppose CCP or the state.” Beginning in 1971 at the height of the Cultural Revolution, NGO activist Gao Guizi, then seventeen, worked on a rice paddy in Yunnan province. He

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planted rice for eight years until he turned twenty-five in 1979 and passed the college entrance exam, recently resumed after the Cultural Revolution. During those eight years in the countryside, “from the first month on, I ordered the Red Flag Magazine at my own expense. As the voice of the party’s Central Committee, it was the most authoritative publication in the country.” He went on to say: “I was really studying Marxism-Leninism at the time; I read the Communist Manifesto five times to memorize it.” In those eight years in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, “every night at eight, I would tune in to the Central People’s Broadcasting Station to listen to the international news.” Public commentator Xiao Shu was born in rural Sichuan province in 1962; his parents were teachers in village primary schools who had been criticized and denounced during the Cultural Revolution’s “struggle sessions.” His father was teaching at a school in another township and would come home every two weeks or so, bearing gifts such as reading material from the People’s Liberation Army Literature and Art Department. Those were Xiao’s primers but also part of his very early political initiation. From his early childhood Xiao Shu had been demonstrating academic excellence. He was determined to become a writer, and in 1981 he was admitted to the department of history at Sun Yatsen University in Guangzhou. He recalled that the early 1980s were the most liberal era on Chinese campuses. At many universities, students ran their own publications; some were literary, but there were also a lot of political commentaries. He recalled: “I experienced the last spring of ideological liberalization; it had a positive influence on me.” Back in college, he said, “I came into contact with Western democratic liberal thoughts, and my whole old ideological foundation collapsed. . . . China’s intelligentsia at that time was very optimistic, very energetic about the reform policies, and full of hope for the Communist Party.” These advocates and activists pursued their notion of a good public life, focusing on freedom, justice, equality, and helping the weak. Why were they giving priority to these values? Their childhood experiences, including their political socialization, evidently left a mark on their beliefs and ideals. During the Cultural Revolution, the omnipresent slogans of Maoism and socialism also influenced them. Then, in the 1980s, when China’s reform had just begun, its market-oriented reforms led to ideological openness to the outside world. The elements of liberalism turned into a popular trend. Thus their experiences as children and young people, and the social atmosphere they encountered at

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the time, all shaped their idea of a good public life, putting them on track to become professional advocates and activists.

warring gods confronting activists The activities of these activists include expressing support and providing legal defense in court for political dissidents or religious nonconformists, giving advice on mobilization and legal process to striking workers, receiving foreign funds to organize cross-region workshops for NGOs, posting on the internet information that is deemed undesirable by the government, and criticizing government officials and policies, all of which are sensitive actions in today’s political sphere in China. Conflict and tension between the personal values driving officials’ actions and the values inhabiting other spheres are continual. Specifically, when reform-minded activists pursue their values professionally, conflicts tend to arise with the family sphere (e.g., providing a safe and nurturing environment for the family), the career sphere (e.g., moving ahead and earning more money), and the political sphere (e.g., obeying the government). Activists are caught between competing institutions in tension, just like Weber’s warring gods that inhabit incompatible value spheres.

tensions between personal values and family values The biggest value conflict faced by activists is the tension between self-fulfillment and taking care of the family. According to family values in traditional Chinese society, a grown man has to set his parents’ mind at ease by doing something glorious, and he has to take care of his wife and children. Therefore, when activists are engaged in work that carries certain political risk, their families’ lives and long-term relationships face a good deal of pressure. When the activists interviewed for this study assessed the risks of politically sensitive behavior, they thought carefully about it, trying to avoid stepping across the government’s red line. Their key concern was to keep their families safe and unbothered. On the other hand, the understanding and support of family members for the careers of activists have become the driving force for these activists to continue their work. Their spouses were either partners in the common struggle or the forces that supported them behind the scenes. The focus of their worries is their children.

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Zhang Zhiru started out as a migrant worker in Shenzhen in 2004. Between 2004 and 2016, he provided legal aid to more than one thousand workers. Especially in the early days, when he had no external financial support, Zhang relied on his savings and his wife’s wages at a factory. He facilitated collective bargaining training for workers and encouraged workers to organize and defend their rights; he also went against employers and local governments. Beginning in 2009, the government regularly audited his taxes. During the first half of 2012, Guangdong province started cracking down on labor NGOs, forcing some to shut down their offices, others to relocate. Zhang Zhiru’s offices have also repeatedly been sealed. The authorities’ most common tactic has been to force the landlord to rescind the lease agreement for the activist’s office space and private home, seriously impacting Zhang’s normal work and family life. Also, due to the family’s frequent evictions and a lack of permanent residence, his two children could not be admitted to a local school and had to stay home. On September 10, 2014, Zhang Zhiru and his family went to the Shenzhen municipal government to put up protest signs and file a petition demanding a legal investigation into, and compensation from, certain officials who had engaged in forcing his landlords to cancel his lease agreements, leaving him without a fixed residence or office space. At the same time, he was hoping to attract the attention of the wider community. In July 2015 Zhang and his wife of fifteen years filed for divorce, each taking custody of one of their two sons. Chen Huihai, who began working for a labor rights NGO in 2012, acknowledged that one important reason why he has been able to completely devote himself to his work has been his wife’s support and that he doesn’t have to worry about his children. Chen has two children, both married and with children of their own. Although he was just fifty-one when I interviewed him, he already had two grandchildren. He said: “Because my children are both grownups, I don’t need to take responsibility for them; otherwise, honestly, I couldn’t cope with the pressure. I’d surely give up immediately; I couldn’t pull that off. . . . My wife knows that I love helping others, she has also witnessed how many people I have been helping over the years. Sometimes, when we celebrate our success over dinner, we ask her to come along. And when she sees how grateful all those workers are to me, she understands me even better and supports me even more.” Chen Huihai’s younger brother has been his main go-to person in times of economic need. When he was young, he decided not to go to college in order

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to finance his younger brother’s education. Later, his brother became a wellpaid dentist. Chen said that whenever he asks him for money, his younger brother’s response is always very straightforward. Around the end of 2015, when the crackdown on labor NGOs was well underway, Chen Huihai found himself at an economic impasse; the staff of his NGO had not been paid for several months. When Chen returned home and met with his younger brother, Chen said, “ ‘Would it be convenient [to borrow some money]?’ He just asked, ‘How much do you want?’ I told him to give me 50,000 yuan, and in under an hour, he had wired the money to my account.” That was the third time Chen Huihai took money from his brother. The first time was to buy a car. “I had originally asked my brother for 50,000 yuan to buy a small car, but my brother refused, saying a car like that wasn’t safe. He said that no matter what, I should buy a car for 150,000 yuan, one that is safe.” The second time was when Chen Huihai was refurbishing his house; his brother gave him another 50,000 yuan. Chen said: “I’m really lucky I don’t have to worry about things at home, although we have old people in the family who could fall sick or die at any time, and there always needs to be someone to take care of them, all of which costs money. But because I know my brother is around, I dare to let go. Most people are not in a position to do that.” Teng Biao came to the United States as a visiting scholar in 2015. The Chinese government refused to issue passports to his wife and children, preventing them from going abroad. They fled across the China-Thailand border and joined Teng Biao in the United States. Before then, Teng Biao had been kidnapped three times by security police in China. He told me: “After that, my wife was very worried and scared that if I was sentenced to jail our children would be deeply affected. That thought also put me under a lot of pressure. If I really went to prison, you could say the harm caused to our children would be irreversible; that was arguably my heaviest burden. I think it was the hardest part to get to terms with.” Teng Biao mentioned his already deceased parents, saying it was a form of relief to him that they no longer could worry about him. In his home county, no one in his family had ever been admitted to Peking University. So when he got in, his father felt deeply honored. In 2003, when Teng Biao was named one of the top ten figures in the legal system by the Chinese Ministry of Justice and China Central Television, his father was even prouder. His father died in 2005. Teng Biao said: “It was only shortly after he had passed away that I became an enemy of the state. I feel really glad [that he didn’t live to see this].”

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In 2005, Xiao Shu arrived in Guangzhou to join Southern Weekly (Nanfang Zhoumo) and began his career as a media commentator. In 2008, he sent his only child to Australia to attend high school for two years and later for another four years of college. Being able to send his child to study abroad was a major relief. He said: “I didn’t really care whether I got arrested myself, but I was worried how it might affect my child’s studies abroad. So, at the time I engaged in some real estate speculation. I bought and sold two apartments and used the profits to support my child’s studies. What I am trying to say is, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pursue this line of work for much longer.” Similarly, environmentalist Gao Guizi sent his child to Finland to attend university. Gao and his family held the Western value system and educational ideals in even higher regard than did the average Chinese citizen. The fact that their children were abroad made the family back home in China more at ease. As the experiences of these activists show, the moral and material support provided by family members are important factors that allowed the activists to persist in their pursuit of certain ideals. Some wives were direct partners in their endeavor; others lent financial support; at the very least, their wives were morally supportive of their commitment. Of course, children were another focus of the activists’ concerns. They never wanted to sacrifice their children’s well-being for the parents’ activism; otherwise, the activists would not have been able to persevere as they did.

tensions between personal values and work unit values The workplace could also become a source of pressure for activists if their employer refused to support or even suppressed their actions. Employees of environmental and labor NGOs, such as Gao Guizi, Zhang Zhiru, and Chen Huihai, can in some ways be regarded as freelancers or self-employed. Since they have created their own workplaces based on their ideals, they do not have to worry about this kind of tension. However, if they are regular employees, that is, in the media or at a university, they are likely to experience tensions between their values and the expectations of their work environment. On the one hand, activists want to live up to their ideals and values, but they also have to take into account their employer’s requirements. The work units, or professional job environments they find themselves in, are frequently part of the party-state system. In the process of living up to their ideals,

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activists have been confronted with institutional and political constraints. If the tensions between activists’ personal and professional values could not be tolerated or reconciled, the consequence for the activists often was losing their job. Worse, they could no longer subsist inside China and had no choice but to go into exile. In 2003, Teng Biao started teaching at the China University of Political Science and Law. To him, teaching at a top-tier university in Beijing was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That same year, he, Xu Zhiyong, and others set up the charitable NGO Gongmeng, providing legal assistance in Beijing. They started to represent sensitive cases touching upon such issues as underground churches, family planning, and forced relocation. Of these, the persecution of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners was the most sensitive. Teng started to be a source of concern for his university and was being watched. The university leadership put pressure on him, asking him not to participate in politically sensitive activities. In September 2004, when an online student platform at Peking University was shut down by the school, Teng Biao received an invitation to take part in a public lecture in support of the students. However, on the same day, the dean personally came to his home to convey instructions from the university’s president, telling him to stay at home and not to go to Peking University. The dean also forwarded another message from the president, saying that “even if you decide to go, we will stop you at the entrance of Peking University.” The pressure mounted by the university did not stop Teng Biao’s activities as a human rights lawyer outside the school. Because of his achievements as a human rights lawyer, he was selected by Asia Weekly as the 2005 Person of the Year in Asia. Beginning in 2005, Teng Biao and his colleagues became involved in assisting the civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been blind since birth. On several occasions, they conducted field surveys of the brutal family planning practices in Linyi, Shandong province, the hometown of Chen Guangcheng. Their field reports were eventually compiled and published as The Chen Guangcheng Report: Coercive Family Planning in Linyi. In 2006 Teng Biao was counsel for Chen Guangcheng, who was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. In January 2008, when Teng was preparing to travel to Thailand to attend an international conference, his passport was confiscated by customs agents at the airport. In June that same year, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice canceled his lawyer’s license; in December, he became one of the first sponsors

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of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for greater human rights and democratic freedoms in China that was signed by more than three hundred dissidents and human rights activists. His university barred him from teaching; he would receive only a basic salary. He said he had expected something like that would happen. What Teng Biao did not anticipate, however, was that his wife’s highpaying and prestigious job in the private sector would also be severely affected by his actions. His wife, Wang Ling, started working for the Leyard Group, a high-tech LED manufacturer, in Beijing in 2000 and worked her way up to the position of supervisor. When Teng Biao visited the United States in 2014, his wife and daughter sneaked into Southeast Asia and eventually joined Teng in the United States. After that, Wang Ling ran Leyard’s international department in New York for more than a year, until she was forced to leave Leyard in 2016. Wang could only share her experiences online: “After arriving in the United States, I continued to work hard for the company for more than a year. However, ‘relevant departments’ of the Chinese government exerted tremendous pressure on the company, forcing me to leave Leyard’s international department. I didn’t do anything wrong. Teng has already paid dearly himself, and now [they] want to make me guilty by association. This makes me sad and angry. But I am so proud of him.”5 Xiao Shu’s first job after graduating from university was to teach history at a medical school in Wuhan. Back then, he was considered the school’s best teacher. But after the 1989 formation of the prodemocracy movement, the conservatives in the school gained control, and the school launched an investigation into Xiao’s role in the events of June 4; the probe went on for a whole year. The school was originally trying to have him removed, but Xiao Shu’s dean managed to retain him. Xiao was transferred to the library reference room and was not allowed to give classes. Xiao Shu felt wronged and did not show up for work anymore. Instead, he took care of the children at home and received a basic salary to get along. During that time, he spent three years writing a book; in 1995, seven years later, his academic titles were restored and he was finally allowed to return to school. Between 2002 and 2005, Xiao Shu worked as an editor at China Reform Magazine in Beijing and would still regularly post commentary online. When Zhao Ziyang, who had served as China’s premier from 1980 to 1987, died in 2005, Xiao Shu wrote two posts on the internet that brought him to the attention of state security. He was kept under house arrest in a hotel for five days and barred from participating in a

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memorial ceremony for Zhao Ziyang. Later they put Xiao on a train back to Wuhan and warned him not to return to Beijing for work. Beginning in 2005, Xiao Shu worked as the chief commentator at Southern Weekly, and, he told me, from time to time also found himself in a tense relationship between “realizing the ideal of speech and taking his employer’s wishes into consideration.” He believed he was part of a pragmatic faction. While writing editorials for six years, despite angering the government, he did not bring about immediate danger to himself. He told me: “I was not so reckless; I had the risks under control; I understood the internal rules of the system and continued to break through those restrictions on speech. . . . If my remarks could just break through a little, I broke them as much as possible. As long as a breakthrough to 1.5 points is possible, I will never stop at 1.4 points. Probably most people think one can only break through to 1.5 points, but I had chosen to break through to 1.51 and 1.52. . . . But should you break more, you’re done, and you’re not just risking yourself but also the Southern Weekly—I wouldn’t do that kind of thing.” Although Xiao Shu considered himself cautious, using all the space given to free speech at the Southern Weekly, all of his precautions could not prevent his eventual forced exit. During the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Southern Weekly produced a series of investigative reports into the many “tofu-dreg schoolhouses” (Doufuzha xiaoshe). These reports pointed out that the poorly constructed schools were built while Zhou Yongkang was the main official in charge of Sichuan. At the time, Zhou Yongkang had already been promoted to a position in the central government as minister of public security, commanding even more power. During the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, a protest against corruption, poverty and political corruption in Tunisia that forced the president to step down, the Ministry of Public Security set up a task force to investigate Xiao Shu. The group produced two reports that were submitted to Wang Yang, who later became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee but then was party secretary of Guangdong province, stating that Xiao Shu was connected to the Jasmine Revolution. Later, Xiao Shu was put on academic leave; after that he quit his job entirely.

tensions between personal values and personal security On the one hand, activists want to live up to their ideals, but they are also aware of the truth that “where there’s life, there is hope.” They don’t wish to

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become martyrs, and they manage to avoid clashes so extreme that they would result in a prison sentence. However, they continue to test state repression, trying to squeeze out small reforms. If they never collided with the state-set boundaries and did only things the state allowed, they wouldn’t have become activists, let alone able to live up to their ideals. Most of them have been subject to state security surveillance, intimidation, and harassment for years. After all this time they have even grown familiar with some of the state security personnel and also tried to satisfy state security demands for information about their activities. The activists are well aware that whoever is engaged in such actions in China won’t be able to keep any secrets. Everything happens under the state’s watchful eye. If they try to satisfy their ideal values too directly, they will immediately endanger their personal safety. So they almost always are making tiny steps forward amid high tension and constant reconsideration. Especially in recent years under the Xi Jinping administration, in spite of economic development, China’s attitude towards political dissidents, human rights lawyers, and labor activists has not become more liberal, and they believe that the government has become even more repressive. China has seen a growing incidence of harassment, detentions, and disappearances of activists, journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, and publishers. This trend has been reinforced by the passage of new, tougher security and surveillance laws in China.6 The individuals interviewed for this study include lawyers, activists, intellectuals, and journalists. All of them have been subjected to surveillance, intimidation, house arrest, and even assault by national security officers in the past.7 As an active human rights lawyer, Teng Biao probably would have been jailed by now if he hadn’t left China in 2014. Zhang Zhiru, Chen Huihai, and Duan Yi all have close working relationships with and links to labor activists who were detained during the purge of NGOs in Guangdong province in December 2015. Zhang Zhiru has been a long-term person of interest for Shenzhen state security personnel. His labor service center was able to resume work only one year after the government ordered it closed in 2012. In April 2014, during the massive forty-thousand-person strike at Yue Yuen’s shoe factories in Dongguan, Zhang Zhiru provided workers with negotiating tactics and legal advice through QQ groups.8 He encouraged workers to stand up, run for election as workers’ representatives, and negotiate with management. After he and Chen Huihai had finally persuaded six workers to come out and meet with them,

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Zhang was taken away by state security police that same night and placed under house arrest in Guangzhou for three days. The workers with whom Zhang had been in contact during those few days also were approached by state security agents and given a warning the next day. In December 2015, during the purge of NGOs in Guangdong province, Chen Huihai was detained by state security officers in a hotel room for five days. He was not able to contact his family for several days. During that period Zhang Zhiru, Chen Huihai, and Duan Yi all were subject to state security surveillance and warned in person that they would be taken into custody if they publicly voiced concern about the arrest of the labor activist Zeng Feiyang and other labor NGO employees. When talking about his relationship with state security officers, Chen Huihai mentioned that “these state security officers really know all about my situation. They actually agree with our practice of protecting workers’ rights. A sentence the national security officers would often utter was that ‘we are just executing commands from higher up; there’s nothing we can do.’ ” Teng Biao has also been kidnapped by state security personnel three times in the past. On the evening of March 6, 2008, he was snatched off the street and held incommunicado for two days. On February 19, 2011, for echoing the protests of the Jasmine Revolution that spread to several other countries, some activists, who may have been from outside China, called on Chinese citizens to express their displeasure about the country’s lack of reforms and officials’ corruption by silently meeting in front of department stores or other public areas. Teng Biao’s home was raided once again, and he was put in secret detention for seventy days. During that time, he endured unthinkable physical and mental torture. However, he wasn’t particularly fearful of those detentions. He understood the government’s actions as a stern warning. Every time he was released he would restrain himself for several months and not actively participate. He told me: “I call this ‘retreating an inch, advancing a foot.’ I retreat an inch and wait until the attention has passed, then I advance a foot and will do an even bigger, more vigorous thing the next time around. For example, when I planned to do something in the past, the police or my school would try to persuade me, warn me, and I might agree to a compromise, and not go through with it, [thereby] giving them face. After a month or so, I would then do even greater things, seizing the opportunity when they were not paying attention.” Xiao Shu gained his first experience of dealing with state security agents when he worked as the executive editor of China Reform (Zhongguo Gaige)

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magazine in Beijing in 2002. At that time, he often published articles in online forums criticizing the current politics. He recalled: “I was often invited by state security agents to drink tea. They would warn me not cause any trouble in Beijing. Otherwise, they could run me out of the city at any time.” When Zhao Ziyang, China’s reformist party general secretary who was removed from power and put under house arrest after the Tiananmen protests, died in 2005, Xiao Shu published two posts commemorating Zhao in an online forum. It led his being interviewed by state security personnel. He was then placed under house arrest in a hotel for five days. As Chinese New Year was approaching, the state security agents bought him a train ticket and put him on a train back to Wuhan. In addition to intimidating him, state security prevented him from attending Zhao Ziyang’s memorial service and funeral. After that, the magazine where Xiao Shu worked came under pressure by state security, leading the publisher to tell him that while they would continue to edit his articles and pay him for his work, he could not return to Beijing. So Xiao Shu became a senior commentator at Southern Weekly in Guangdong province. Xiao Shu likes to call the time between 2005 and 2011 the “golden age” because during that period there was almost no harassment by state security agents. During that period there was an unspoken rule that China’s state security would not cause news professionals any trouble. News media were supervised either by the Ministry of Propaganda or the party secretary. If state security really wanted to find someone, they would go through the newspaper’s internal management channels and not target a reporter directly. But in 2011, the Jasmine Revolution’s global surge caused China’s national security departments particular concern. The security agents considered Xiao Shu a threat to political stability and therefore put pressure on the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee to relieve him of his duties at Southern Weekly. In the minds of these activists there exists a precise evaluating system that is constantly trying to figure out the severity of the clampdown and what punishment their actions might provoke. They understand the law; they know how state security police are operating. They are also able to assess their own influence, as well as the trend of events at home and abroad. Therefore, they have been able to avoid the greatest risks during each new action they dare to take. For example, organizing political parties, an especially risky undertaking, would not even be a consideration. Nevertheless, since 2013 the power of the Xi Jinping administration to monitor and suppress civil society organizations and freedom of speech, as well as the intensity and the length of the

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crackdown, has far exceeded activists’ previous expectations. The risk to their personal safety is ever more direct and serious. This can surely be described as the period with the most heavy-handed rule in China’s post-1978 era.

tensions between personal values and making a living Activists might overcome considerations of personal safety and family, but they still require economic resources to be able to live up to their ideals. To promote its work, an organization needs funds to buy equipment and hire qualified personnel to organize events. How could activists raise the money they needed to underwrite their activities and pay for their necessities? Many of the NGOs established by Chinese activists, such as labor services organizations and environmental groups, have long relied on the financial support of foreign organizations. In 2004, when Zhang Zhiru began to work in labor services, he and his partners working off loans for three and a half years and were without any form of income. Beginning in 2007, they received the first project-based grant by the New York–based group China Labor Watch (CLW), which subsidized the rent for their office space in Shenzhen, staff salaries, and administrative expenses, or about 10,000 RMB per month. In 2008, also relying on CLW funds, they opened new offices and a worker activity center in the Tangxia and Chang’an townships of Dongguan. Around the same time the U.S. State Department invited Zhang to come to the United States for three weeks as a cultural ambassador and visit the U.S. government’s Department of Labor as well as some labor organizations in the Midwest. This provided him with renewed encouragement and moral support. Duan Yi, another activist involved in a labor NGO, found that his family background and career as a lawyer helped him to accumulate more money and social capital than many of his contemporaries. In the 1990s, Duan Yi practiced law in Shenzhen, where he made a lot of money. In mid-2000, after getting involved in the labor rights movement, he received grants from people and organizations in Beijing and overseas in addition to his private funds. In 2012, he established the Beijing Mingde Labor Relations and Employment Institute (Beijing Mingde Laodong Guanxi Yu Jiuye Yanjiusuo). Beijing Mingde held several conferences focused on collective bargaining. Via the institute, Duan Yi also received funding from friends in Beijing. A labor rights colleague of Duan Yi’s said: “We didn’t know where his money came from. He wouldn’t

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tell us. Every time he ran out of money, he would go to Beijing and come back with a few hundred thousand yuan.” In recent years, labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta, including those led by Zhang Zhiru, Duan Yi, and Chen Huihai, have been receiving a significant amount of funding from Hong Kong’s China Labor Bulletin (CLB). However, the relationship between the labor NGOs and CLB is not characterized by particular trust or harmony. Labor NGO employees have complained that CLB does not regard them as partners and puts very strict regulations on their finances and activities. “Every receipt has to be drawn up clearly; we even need to state with whom we have been eating. Even if we were invited, we need to put down by whom, their phone number, everything. For instance, if we support an individual case with legal fees of 6,000 or 8,000 yuan, they want us to explicitly tell the worker that this money has been provided by CLB Hong Kong.” Complaints by labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta about the dwindling financial support from foreign organizations, combined with the central government’s crackdown on labor NGOs in the area near the end of 2015, temporarily halted the funding partnership from 2015 to 2017. Labor NGOs, including the workers’ rights groups of Duan Yi and Chen Huihai, have now fallen into financial difficulties and can operate only when they receive sporadic donations from friends and private donors. Making matters worse, on January 1, 2017, China’s new Foreign NGO Management Law took effect. It led many foreign foundations and institutions to halt their programs in China and stop channeling funds or issuing new grants to their Chinese partners, in line with the stipulations of the new law.9 After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Gao Guizi and his wife established the Sichuan 512 Civil Relief Services Center to coordinate civil NGOs involved in reconstruction work. In 2012, the center became the Sichuan Shangming Social Development Research Center, mainly providing training, workshops, and the like, as well as information and consulting services, to Sichuan NGOs. It employed four full-time staff, funded by national and international foundations, including Oxfam (United Kingdom), the Ford Foundation (United States), and the Narada Foundation (Guangzhou, China). In 2012, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) also joined as a financial supporter. However, CFPA sponsors quite frequently voiced reservations about the work of the service center, causing tensions in the relationship. This had happened in 2015 when Gao Guizi refused to continue to cooperate with

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CFPA. Gao put it like this: “They are lofty, very bureaucratic. We won’t allow ourselves to be pushed around like that.” The activists also relied on their ability and luck to bring in more revenue, and only then were they able to realize their ideals. Apart from his relatively high salary at Southern Weekly, the political commentator Xiao Shu depended mainly on the investments in real estate he had made in Guangzhou in recent years to underwrite his son’s education at a university in Australia. Xiao Shu said: “I sold the rooms at a profit and made some money, and I felt much more relieved after that. When my son went to Australia to study, I sold two apartments. Now that he is back home, I still have two apartments in Guangzhou, and so right now I have nothing to be afraid of, really.” Lawyer Teng Biao, in fact, had no fixed source of income when he went to Hong Kong as a visiting scholar in 2012, and that situation continued until 2014 when he moved to the United States. Until she was forced to leave her job because of pressure on her employer, his wife had success supervising her company’s international department in New York. Despite her firing, Teng Biao said he has no immediate economic pressure and can fully devote himself to his work as an activist.

concluding remarks This study discusses an aspect of pursuing a good public life in contemporary China. Based on traditional Chinese principles and CCP ideology, activists defined their happiness as pursuing universal values of justice and equality, as well as maintaining the moral integrity and ideals of intellectuals serving and speaking out on behalf of the disadvantaged. Although these values receive validation from Western democracies, they carry traces of Chinese socialist ideology and nationalism in China’s authoritarian regime. These ideals and values are obviously different from concepts of individualism and civil rights in Western societies. They are products of Chinese politics and culture and therefore are indigenous to today’s Chinese society. While practicing their ideals of a public life, activists have been wrestling with conflicting values and competing narratives, the “warring gods” to which Weber referred. Activists must make value choices, which are not grounded in instrumental rationality because they are commitments to causes. These conflicting values and competing narratives are situated in Chinese institutions—Chinese ideology, the Chinese family, and the Chinese authoritarian government—and their con-

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figurations in China today. By coping with conflicting values and competing narratives, activists have been pursuing a better public life for the people of China and for themselves. They derive happiness from making Chinese society better. Looking back at China’s late reform era from the 1990s to 2013, it can be observed that from the start of Jiang Zemin’s term as president of the People’s Republic in 1993 until the first year of the Hu-Wen administration in 2003, domestic and international pressures led China to gradually improved its human rights record, allowing limited space for its nascent civil society. However, since Xi Jinping assumed office as president in March 2013, the suppression of civil society and public space has intensified, and China has lost the liberalization it had achieved in the reform era. In 1998, during Jiang Zemin’s service as general secretary of the CCP, the Chinese government signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and in 2008, then-premier Wen Jiabao promised to implement the Convenant as soon as possible. By 2015, hundreds of lawyers and activists had issued an open letter to representatives and members of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference strongly urged the NPC to ratify the ICCPR and guarantee the political rights entrusted to Chinese citizens by the country’s constitution. Yet, since Xi Jinping’s ascent to power, implementation of the Convenant has seemed less likely. The 2017 Annual Report of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China states that Chinese authorities have continued to use the law as an instrument of repression to expand control over Chinese society, criminalizing human rights lawyers and advocates.10 The experiences of these activists in China in the 1990s and 2000s may not be applicable under Xi’s rule or in the future. Certainly, whether they can continue to derive happiness from making Chinese society better also remains to be seen.

notes 1. I focus on those activists who were allowed to exist in contemporary China. Not included are imprisoned political dissidents. However, some of my interviewees are unable to return to China for political reasons at this point, and some had been deprived of their liberty for a short time in the past. 2. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Prosecution of Labor Advocates Has Chilling Effect on Labor NGOs, Strikes Continue,” January 21, 2016, updated February 22, 2017, http://www.cecc.gov/publications/commission-analysis

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/prosecution-of-labor-advocates-has-chilling-effect-on-labor-ngos. For more information about the December 2015 crackdown, see Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Guangdong Authorities Arrest Labor Rights Advocates,” January 21, 2016, https://www.cecc.gov/publications/commission-analysis/guangdong-authorities-ar rest-labor-rights-advocates. 3. In 2003, university graduate Sun Zhigang was beaten to death in a Guangzhou detention center. He had been detained after being unable to produce his temporary living permit and his identity card when he was stopped by the police. Teng Biao had just received his PhD from Peking University and was working as a lecturer at the China University of Politics and Law. When Sun’s death was reported, it caused a national outrage, and mounting public pressure forced the government to quickly dismantle regulations controlling the movement of migrant workers in an attempt to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. 4. In 2003, he was named one of the top ten figures in the legal system for that year by the Chinese Ministry of Justice and China Central TV. He was also given the Gleitsman Award for Achievement by the Gleitsman Foundation, an organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging leadership in social activism worldwide. In 2005, Asia Newsweek named him one of China’s top fourteen human rights lawyers and one of its People of the Year in Asia. In 2007, Dr. Teng received the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic. 5. Wang Ling, “A Monologue in Light Rain,” Aboluo Wang [Apollo Net], October 4, 2016, http://tw.aboluowang.com/2016/1004/813613.html. 6. China’s new national security law was enacted in July 2015 by the National People’s Congress. The law lacks specificity but is worrying in its scope, potentially including every sphere of activity, foreign as well as domestic, that falls within the realm of national security. 7. While many activists have been sentenced to prison, none of the respondents interviewed for this article were. 8. QQ is a social media application by Chinese Tencent Holding Ltd. that provides microblogging, as well as group discussions and voice chat services. 9. The law requires foreign NGOs to register with the Ministry of Public Security or its local bureaus and subjects foreign NGOs to close government scrutiny and gives the police broad powers to inspect their offices, look into their documents, and even seal off their assets. As of December 2017, no groups advocating human rights, workers’ rights, or the rule of law had successfully registered. As a result, some foreign NGOs have frozen all their work in China, and some have completely retreated from the country. 10. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2017 Annual Report (Washington, DC: USGPO, 2017), https://www.cecc.gov/publications/annual-reports/2017annual-report.

Epilogue richard madsen

What is happiness? How do people in China get it? What are the social obstacles to having it? And what does this tell us about contemporary China’s moral order? These are the big questions addressed by the research that produced the essays in this book. Each essay uses empirical research to focus on part of the answers to these questions. Here, I will try to provide a synthesis, a holistic but inevitably more speculative response.

happiness and the chinese language There is no straightforward translation of the English happiness into Chinese, and the variety of Chinese words for happiness, as discussed by Lang Chen, raises deep philosophical and historical issues that are being played out in the complexity of Chinese society today. An important traditional term is fu, one of the most common words in the Chinese vocabulary. Throughout Greater China, especially at the spring festival, the character for fu is ubiquitous, written on paper, engraved on precious stone or metal, pasted on doors, displayed on T-shirts, worn around the neck, even tattooed on bodies. It is what everyone wants, but what is it? We asked Chinese friends, colleagues, and even people on the street to define fu, and, in casual conversation, most said things like “it’s everything you want, everything just right, good luck.” The vagueness of these answers was not necessarily alleviated by further conversation; indeed, it often got vaguer.1 Indeed, it seemed that people were often most clear and eloquent when 155

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talking about unhappiness, usually in terms of loneliness, stress, frustration, and alienation. Happiness was, then, a liberation from these various forms of suffering. Traditionally, the best sort of fu was having a large family, blessed with wealth and good health, with many sons and grandsons, all of whom were successful. Before the modern era, fu was thus objective and collective. An individual was not fu in isolation. The individual’s fu was derived from the fu of the family (including the ancestors) and the larger community. It was mostly, as Chen notes in her opening essay, unearned by any individual, a matter of fate. But this is an ideal that makes less sense in modern society. As one woman professor noted, “My family can’t be fu, and it’s my fault. I am an only child— they have no sons. And I live far away from them and haven’t gotten married yet. So they can’t be fu. But my mother wants me to be xingfu”—another, more modern word for happy.2 As Chen argues, xingfu originally denoted a low form of happiness. The term xing means good fortune, so that in premodern China, xingfu emphasized the unearned nature of fu. Elite Confucian scholars looked down on this materialistically defined good luck. Real happiness, for which they used the term le, was something one earned through intellectual and moral cultivation, which enabled one to appreciate virtue as its own reward. But in the modern era the meaning of xingfu changed. Xingfu was used as a translation of the English happiness and was transmitted to China via Japan in the late nineteenth century. Chinese modernizers and reformers tried to explicate the meaning of this foreign term in Chinese garb. Influential writings by Liang Qichao understood it in terms of English utilitarianism (still the hegemonic philosophical understanding of happiness in American culture), especially the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, the sum of individual material and emotional satisfactions.3 This kind of happiness was not the product of a passively experienced fate but of an individual’s active achievement, their success defined not as the cultivation of virtue but as material success in this world. The pursuit of this by a nation of striving individuals was supposed to lead to national prosperity and strength. Xingfu today is the official word for happiness in government propaganda. It seems a little formal to many people, and when we talked to them about happiness they used a variety of different words, sometimes without fine distinctions among them. But they usually recognized a distinction between

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happiness as a short-term state and as a long-term life satisfaction. In this book we are especially interested in what people mean by happiness as a longterm satisfaction, denoted by its official modern translation, xingfu. But as we see from Lang Chen’s genealogy of the term, it actually evokes layers of meaning. These layers correspond to different “social imaginaries,” or world visions—different basic visions about the proper arrangement of groups that make up a society. Even in the modern era, the older visions are never completely lost. These different visions come into play when people speak about their lives from within different contexts. So how do Chinese people talk about the comprehensive happiness that we call xingfu today? We can approach this question by comparing its usage with other words that people use when talking about happiness. A team of researchers in Shanghai carried out hundreds of interviews (some with audio and video recording) about happiness with people from different generations and social statuses throughout China, and the researchers supplemented this with ethnographic research and consultations with a variety of Chinese experts. Carried out by scholars with PhDs in sociology and anthropology, the research was commissioned by McDonald’s, which wanted to strengthen its brand as a “happy place” to eat. The market researchers found there was no simple way of talking about happiness. There are words like kuaile or kaixin that people might use when biting into a Big Mac. But as the lead researcher for the McDonald’s project told me, “Words like kuaile and kaixin—everybody knows that they mean [because they express a subjective feeling that people can identify within themselves]. But xingfu is about a more comprehensive kind of happiness—and there is no consensus about that. Different groups have different values, which lead them to define xingfu differently.”4 The essays in this book—done by academic sociologists with an academic research grant—independently bear out many of the insights of the market research group. To the meanings nonacademics apply to xingfu we need to add the meaning promoted by the state. In the contemporary period, the meaning has become politicized. We can look to Xi Jinping’s own authoritative writings on happiness within the China dream. Overall, Xi’s writings seem to resonate with both traditional and modern meanings of xingfu. The China dream is that of a prosperous society in which ordinary people will have the material goods associated with fu—prosperity and good health. These benefits are the result of the good fortune to have an excellent government led by the Communist

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Party. However, as with the logic of utilitarian individualism, such benefits also require the energetic striving of each individual, which within a “socialist market economy” will lead to the prosperity of all.5 Party members, on the other hand, are not like ordinary people, content with the material pleasures of this world. Like the Confucian elite of old, party members sacrifice themselves for the welfare of ordinary people. This sacrifice brings its own rewards. Meanwhile, ordinary people can learn from selfsacrificing party members to be grateful to the party and be inspired to serve the good of the nation. There is a plausibility problem with this rhetoric because the party is widely seen as corrupt. But its leaders promise to clean up the corruption and restore the party to its old idealism. Meanwhile, institutions that are seen as less corrupt than the party, with members more dedicated to self-sacrifice (perhaps like Christian or Tibetan Buddhist communities, or associations of dedicated rights lawyers), will be seen as a threat to the party. As Lang Chen points out, in official party rhetoric Tibetans are not supposed to devote themselves to spiritual fulfillment but to “feel perfect xingfu with an increased salary, larger apartment, and improved transportation system.” The contradictions in this official ideology come from the uneasy mix of world visions that gave meaning to the many different uses of xingfu over time. Meanwhile, these visions are spread throughout Chinese society; are influenced by class, generation, and gender; and find a home in different groups embedded in the many different and rapidly changing institutions that constitute modern Han Chinese society. These different visions of the good life are reflected in the essays that make up this book. The vision that we outsiders present here is of a pluralistic society, a complex mix of groups, institutions, and values deriving from indigenous cultural traditions and modern global imports and giving shape to the welter of ideas and interests that make up contemporary Chinese society—a pluralism that the government is trying to contain within its own contradictory procrustean framework.

stories about happiness Most of the book is based on stories—tales told from within particular groups embedded within particular institutional contexts. When you ask people about their families, they will naturally tell stories about the history of their family, their role within the family, and their aspirations to have a happy

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family. If you ask, say, about their profession of social work, they will tell you how the profession developed, how they got into it, what part they play in it, and how all this does or does not make them happy. Stories arising from different contexts aim toward different goals and express different kinds of frustrations about reaching those goals. In short, they represent different answers to our basic questions: What is happiness, how do you get it, what are the obstacles to having it? It will come as no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with Chinese history and culture that the most emotionally powerful stories are those about the family. The chapters by Becky Hsu and Deborah Davis rightly stand at the beginning of this book because their family narratives are a foundation for the ways modern Chinese talk about happiness. The premise of the stories is that family togetherness is the foundation of happiness. As Becky Hsu argues, that happiness is understood as family being together; it is less about leaving home to find the freedom to do what one wants and more about staying home (or going back) to properly come into one’s own. As she notes, many of the answers we received about unhappy people were actually accounts of someone’s failing to meet an obligation to a parent, spouse, or in-law. The happy people are those who meet their obligations and for whom those around them meet their obligations—their parents (or children) are good to them, and they are able to reciprocate. The togetherness is hierarchical. Children need to give their parents loyalty and deference. This is reciprocity for the nurturance given by their parents, and when the parents are old and feeble it will be the obligation of the children to nurture them. When and if all these hierarchically structured relations are properly maintained, the family as a whole will be fundamentally happy and so will each of its members. This is the very definition of fu—the happiness of the extended family in imperial China. It is also xing, dependent not just on the action of family members but on good luck. Xingfu—as Becky Hsu glosses it, “blessed happiness.” Like most morally loaded stories, the stories one tells about one’s family are often commentaries on the rituals that constitute the key points in the family’s development. There are numerous small day-to-day rituals, but the main ones of course are weddings and funerals. Deborah Davis writes about the quintessential ritual of happiness, the Chinese wedding, particularly weddings in Shanghai. But out of the joy represented by the wedding ceremonies come different stories about what family happiness is or ought to be. Weddings throughout China (and perhaps to an extreme degree in Shanghai) are displays

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of a family’s wealth and social connections. The average price of a Shanghai wedding is the equivalent of US$50,000, much of it recouped through the gifts made by the large number of guests—relatives, friends, colleagues, business associates—of the families of the bride and groom (especially of the groom). This represents familial happiness as the prosperity and status that make for the gathering of many guests. Contemporary urban wedding rituals have evolved in recent decades, but they now take a very stereotyped form. It seems important to perform all the parts in the same ways that other families perform them. When telling the story of these weddings, participants seem compelled to say that all the standard roles were played in the best possible way. These especially involve displays of deference by the bride and groom toward their parents and pledges to the couple of support by their parents. And yet the marrying couples make great effort—often in the face of objective facts—to tell how they made their wedding truly unique. There is usually a video narrating their special, one-of-a-kind love for each other. There are attempts to add little unique touches—like the (disastrous) attempt at having drones deliver the wedding rings as part of the ceremony. The parents, relatives, friends, and the married couple themselves undoubtedly are telling different stories about the happiness brought by the wedding. The married couples interviewed by Deborah Davis seem to emphasize how the wedding is the result of a unique love between two individuals who enter into a contract on an equal basis to find mutual fulfillment by following their special path through life. This is in tension with those parts of the ritual—and probably other stories—that depict the marriage as entrance into an enduring hierarchical structure based on mutual obligations. The centerpiece of the wedding ceremonies is of course a large banquet, and indeed meals are the center of most of the large and small rituals that structure Chinese life. Meals express and bring into being the relationships that constitute groups, and meals offer distinctive, if ambiguous, images of the group’s happiness. James Farrer’s interviews elicited stories about happy and unhappy meals. The stories recount the place of the meals in narratives of relationship. The meals represent a spectrum of the groups through which middle-class Shanghainese see their identity. Surveys show that most meals are taken at home, and the stories told about them see these family meals as a baseline of ordinary happiness. But these are recounted in almost neutral terms, neither especially happy nor unhappy. The unhappiest meals are among the most lavish and expensive—business banquets where commercial deals

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are made, usually accompanied by copious eating and drinking and flattering of the big boss, who pays for the meal. On the other hand, the happiest meals are with friends who come together simply because they like each other and share its costs on an equal basis. A theme in these happy meals with friends is purity. Those who are able to afford pure food seek it out: meals organically produced, unadulterated, and prepared by honest, creative chefs. Such meals bring happiness by offering an escape from pollution—the food pollution that, according to urban lore, is pervasive in the Chinese food chain, and the social pollution that turns true friendship into hierarchically organized, advantageseeking guanxi. These friendships are also seen as a respite from the obligations and entanglements that come from being part of a typical family. Further removed from family entanglements are the social workers interviewed for my essay, chapter 5. They tell stories about developing professional skills with colleagues and applying these skills to help troubled citizens— whose troubles are often connected to dysfunctional families. Their narratives point toward a goal of increasing individual autonomy. The social work motto is “help people help themselves.” The values of the profession are influenced by Western liberal culture. When social work in China was revived in the early 2000s, many social workers got training in Hong Kong, often in Christian organizations, and others in the United States or Europe. Although they say that the specific techniques they learned may not be applicable to China, they affirm that the social work spirit that they learned is of lasting relevance. They try to treat each individual as an equal and to help them develop the interior motivation necessary to autonomously meet external challenges. They recognize that developing this motivation depends on a good social environment, and they try to intervene in that environment when necessary. One part of an unhealthy environment is parents who impose excessively harsh discipline on their children. A good family, as the social workers see it, should be based on genuine love between equal partners. The social workers take pride, not in telling people to do the right thing but in helping them see the consequences of their choices so that they will make the best decisions for themselves. The social workers see this as their mission (shiming), and they say that professional happiness comes from fulfilling that mission. One of them talks about a “pure social worker” who comes closest to fulfilling that mission because she is free of the pollution of compromises—building guanxi with political and economic patrons—that most must make to pursue their goals.

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To a more acute degree, the sense of a mission that transcends social entanglements is strongly present in Jay Chen’s stories from human rights lawyers and other political activists who have put their own lives and that of their families at risk in pursuit of justice and equality for other Chinese citizens. The dissidents tell stories of how they took up this mission, often through inspiration from ancient Chinese tales of chivalry and socialist ideals of the Maoist period, and how they struggle with the tension created by contradictory social, economic, and political values. Yet to the extent they have stayed faithful to the mission and begun to see at least some small results, they say they are happy. Although each person we interviewed was different and told their story in a distinctive way, there was a common structure to the stories told from within the family, friendship groups, professional organizations, and activist networks. The narratives led toward different goals that determined the very meaning of happiness within those contexts. Those meanings touched on one of the many layers that the Chinese vocabulary for happiness has developed over the centuries. Some of the layers come from indigenous Chinese traditions, others from China’s encounter with the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The worldviews may resonate with one or another part of Chinese life today but never completely. And none of them accounts for the diversity of goods being pursued in the many parts of modern Chinese society.

obstacles to happiness The different stories and the world visions that they invoked also told about the obstacles to achieving the kind of happiness that they had defined. Although the stories recounted by Becky Hsu affirm the abiding importance of a harmonious family, they are also about the sorrows that come when job pressures, geographical mobility, and lifestyle changes make it difficult to fulfill the obligations that supposedly make for a harmonious family. People want to have it all—a good education and a meaningful career, along with togetherness with parents and children—but in modern China they often cannot. Behind such obstacles to familial happiness are changes in the social circumstances that once supported the ideal of a hierarchically ordered harmonious family. Central to the vision of a happy, harmonious, multigenerational family was a principle of reciprocity between the old and young, a gendered division of

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labor, and a notion that the good of the family as a whole was more important than that of any individual within it. The political economy of the Maoist era weakened these principles, at least in urban China, and the contemporary socialist market economy weakens them even further. As one interviewee put it, the circle of reciprocity is broken. The traditional principle was that parents would nurture and support their children, and the children would give the parents loyal deference and then would support them in old age. In urban China during the Maoist era, parents had little to give to their children. The material elements of a good life were provided by the state, and especially in the Cultural Revolution the spiritual principle of deference to parents was destroyed by the political imperative to criticize and rebel. Older forms of reciprocity returned in the reform era. Children are now much more dependent on their parents’ financial resources and social connections to become established in life. In recent years, with the explosion of housing prices in cities like Shanghai, married couples are dependent on their parents, especially the husband’s parents, for money to buy an apartment. It is common in fact for parents to give their own apartment to a son about to be married (for a man without an apartment it is virtually impossible to find a bride), while the parents move into a smaller rented place. Parents typically provide the child care for their grandchildren, whose parents are busy at work. Even though children may indeed be grateful to their parents for this, they may nonetheless be unable to reciprocate when their parents are old and in need of care. Work in the new economy may take the grown children far away while keeping them too busy to see their parents regularly. A social worker describes the plight of the elderly who live in a complex of high-rise apartments in a former rural area about an hour and a half from the center of Shanghai. “The people here [who used to live in central parts of the city] have all had their houses demolished [to make room for expensive real estate development]. . . . When they lived in their old places, they had neighbors, friends they could associate with. Now many of them don’t know their neighbors. . . . They got a lot of money when their houses were torn down but suffered a lot of trauma. . . . The kids live with some [but have to commute an hour and a half each way for work]. But for others the children are far away and come back only for holidays.” Other social workers who serve the elderly talk about the loneliness of their clients whose children are too busy to see them. They try to get the children to phone more frequently—many older people are still uncomfortable with the instant messaging service WeChat—and to make

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even small gestures of care. Sometimes the elderly complain bitterly about their children. These problems are not necessarily (and not entirely) due to the selfishness of the children but to stresses and pressures of life in a very dynamic urban economy. The problems are compounded by the legacies of the one-child policy, which left most urban families with only one offspring. Married couples then need to be responsible for the care of both sets of parents even while being pressured with the demands of work. And as for elderly who were not able to have enough children to care for them in their old age, another social worker says, “We have to handle conflict with people who are very concerned with how they will be taken care of in old age and bitter because they weren’t allowed to have [sufficient] children. We try to show them opportunities for elder care. But some are very mad, very emotional. They want to use violence. The government wants to use force to control them. We try to understand their concerns. I hate these conflicts.” Although younger generations in metropolises like Shanghai are not necessarily becoming more selfish, in the sense of lacking any moral concern for others, they are necessarily becoming more individuated, more concerned with placing boundaries between themselves and others. A social worker who serves poor families in a rural area smiles when she tells how, when she arrives, the “families and the kids all flock around—‘Big Sister is here’—and are so happy to see you. Some of the families in the countryside have several children, and when you give a little gift to a child, he will say, ‘I’m going to break it in half and go home and share with my little sister. And those old aunties. They are so friendly. They give us turnips from their garden. One gave me a pillowcase when they heard I was going to get married.’ ” Yet one of the jobs of these social workers is to help rural migrants become adjusted to the city. “Many of them are very lonely. They don’t have any community. Their problems include language, manners, knowing how to dress, education level. We provide training.” The training involves how to blend into the city’s lonely crowd, how to communicate with strangers. The social workers try to impart to individuals a sense of personal autonomy and self-respect. They say that this is the path to happiness, and it is a path to which they aspire in their professional lives. The conditions of modern life force on them a spirit of self-reliance, ideally tempered by a spirit of service to the many strangers they will meet. The ethnographic investigations done by the head of the market research agency mentioned earlier led her to conclude that her parents’ generation had

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a “relational self—their identity was given in and through the family.” But her son’s generation is that of an individualistic and egoistic self. She feels caught in the middle. Although overgeneralized, these distinctions do ring true for many of the life situations we observed. The ideals of a harmonious corporate family are still alive and indeed reinforced by ubiquitous government propaganda posters, done in a faux traditional woodblock style, depicting children serving their parents and parents serving the grandparents. Yet as Yu Yingshi once said of Confucianism, this family ideal of happiness has become a “wandering ghost,” cut off from its home in the social fabric.6 But the alternatives to the family ideal of happiness are themselves not entirely realistic. An oft-repeated theme in interviews was that it is hard to make new friends in big cities like Shanghai, especially if you come from outside. And the informal friendship groups that love to hang out over a good meal are unstable because members move away. Moreover, the culture of bonding over unpolluted, pure meals—even for those who can afford them— is frustrating because restaurants based on good craftsmanship but low profit margins rise and fall in the competitive market economy. The social workers I describe in chapter 5 tell stories of frustration in achieving a meaningful professional autonomy and helping their clients achieve a socially responsible personal autonomy. A common problem is pressure from government bureaucrats. “Our real priority is not making the people happy but making the government happy.” As an interviewee who was not quoted in that chapter also complained, the government officials “ask us to gather all sorts of information for the sake of stability maintenance, want us to do all sorts of things that we’re not supposed to be doing. Make us fill out so many forms, so many receipts, and the forms keep changing. The government officials keep moving from job to job, place to place. When new officials come in, they give new kinds of demands, make us use new materials. . . . They don’t understand what we do.” Most social workers in Shanghai work for agencies that depend on government grants for funding, and their vision of the good, happy life based on individual self-awareness and autonomy stands in tension with government demands for outward conformity and social control. In addition to these vertical tensions there are horizontal ones. While trying to heal broken families, the social workers also feel tension with their own families. Parents do not understand or see the value in what they do and are disappointed in their children who became social workers because their income is low

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compared with other professions. Finally, in a results-oriented world, there are disappointments when social work methods run into recalcitrant human nature and simply do not work. Like other modern activists in pursuit of a version of happiness, social workers find it difficult to account for the importance of sheer random chance—something that looms large in a world where opportunities and disappointments rise and fall according to forces seemingly beyond anyone’s control. Finally, Jay Chen has eloquently described the tensions that activist rights lawyers, journalists, and labor advocates face because of the demands of family, state, and economy. As Chen notes, the activists manage to survive such pressures through social support not only from family members but also from “large and admiring numbers on social media, and the recognition from and connections with media and intellectuals from abroad.”

the moral order of contemporary china Taken together, the essays in this book suggest a holistic vision of Chinese moral order. It is commonplace today to say that China lacks moral values, that all people care about is money and power. Many people whom we interviewed said as much. Communist Party members said this, as did Christians and Buddhists. There is certainly some truth to this. With the collapse of the revolutionary Maoist vision in the 1970s, the way forward during the Deng Xiaoping reform era was one of seeking an economically comfortable life and seeking to “get rich first.” At a dinner I attended with middle-aged businessmen and government officials, after copious amounts of drinking one declared, “My god is the renminbi,” and others described how they had suffered in the Cultural Revolution and were now going to make up for it by getting plenty of money, wine, and women.7 But now it is common to hear people say that money is not enough, that it is important to have meaning (yiyi) in life. But by both actions and words, many of our interviewees contradicted the cliché of living in an amoral society. They deeply valued family ties, deeply valued professional ethics, cherished good friendship, respected honest craftsmanship, and were committed despite daunting obstacles to building a more just society. If there is an overarching moral problem in Chinese society today, it is not because of a lack of values but a certain kind of plurality of values—the “warring gods” that Jay Chen, following Max Weber, evokes in his essay. There are different values, and indeed different moral visions, that form a frame of reference for the

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different groups and institutions described in this book. In a longer book we could have explored a wider range of social groups bound together with their own typical stories with their own moral goals—Buddhist, Daoist, and Christian groups, academic groups, formal and informal migrant associations, workers associations, associations striving to develop good management—not to mention ethnic groups like Tibetans and Uyghurs. Members of these groups include flawed people, saints and sinners, and most in between, but the groups themselves are bound together by standards for judging the degree to which members are upholding common ethical values. The result has been the efflorescence of what one might call a moral civil society. The standard Western conception of a civil society is an assemblage of independent interest groups. In China today most such groups are controlled and co-opted by the state, and scholars debate whether to consider them part of a true civil society. For example, although most of the social work agencies that I studied called themselves NGOs, they were totally dependent on government funding, given through periodically renewable grants. Yet their training and their experiences fostered aspirations toward individual autonomy that persisted even when frustrated by bureaucratic interference. These aspirations are raised to heroic stature by the activists studied by Jay Chen. They are part of a civil society of long-range moral hope, not of short-term realizable interests. But the forms of hope are different in different social contexts. This condition of multiple goods and multiple definitions of happiness is common in all complex modern societies and certainly in the United States. What may be distinctive about China is the level of dissonance and tension between the competing visions of the good life. Visions derived from indigenous traditions jostle uneasily with visions that have come from outside. For example, Confucian visions vie with Marxist visions, with Christian visions, liberal individualist visions, scientific humanist visions. The rapid speed of China’s development, along with the traumatic disruptions it went through in the twentieth century, have all produced a condition that some scholars of Asia are calling “compressed modernity.”8 In this situation, none of the pluralistic values satisfactorily corresponds to the rapidly changing social circumstances of today—especially in dynamic metropolises like Shanghai. Different political traditions offer different ways to keep the moral pluralism that comes with modernity from pulling society apart. The liberal democratic tradition erects a government framework that gives each citizen the right to pursue their own version of happiness, so long as the pursuit does not

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infringe on the rights of others. The assumption is that civil competition and communication will lead to social compromises that will advance the common good. This vision is under challenge today because of pressures created by extreme inequality, persistent racism, and a breakdown of trust in major institutions. Official China today has a different vision, based on Confucian and legalist traditions mixed with Western Leninist and fascist traditions. In this vision it is the state that gives people happiness. The role of the state is analogous to the role of a family patriarch in making his family happy, except that now the state has at its disposal powerful modern means of organization, coercion, and propaganda. As shown by Anna Sun, the Chinese government was very unhappy in 2012 when the World Happiness Report ranked China around ninety-third in the world. This came during a sharp spike of articles in the People’s Daily about happiness, some criticizing misleading surveys, others pledging to make the Chinese people happier, partly by raising their standard of living and partly by teaching them the real meaning of happiness.9 Since the ascendance of Xi Jinping, the propaganda apparatus has filled public spaces by urging people both to adopt traditional ideals of a harmonious family and to “learn from Lei Feng,” the humble revolutionary soldier of the Maoist era who supposedly wrote in his diary that he wanted only to be a “small screw in the great locomotive of the revolution.” These two paths to happiness supposedly gain their meaning because they contribute to the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” a nationalism embodied in and directed by the paternalistic Chinese Communist Party, with “big daddy” (as he is popularly called) Xi Jinping as its head. As articulated in Xi Jinping’s speech to the Nineteenth Party Congress, this is to be accomplished by the “sinicization” of all Chinese institutions, which in practice seems to mean the homogenization of their values through submission to the authority of the party. With the exception of Jay Chen, we did not encourage our interviewees to criticize the party and its propaganda. (We did not want to get them into trouble.) Often, however, they criticized the propaganda not by bitter denunciation but in that most subversive of ways—by gently laughing about it. Meanwhile, they try to reconcile in their own hearts the tensions they feel between political, economic, familial, professional, and societal pressures. They talked wistfully about the need for integrity. They looked for ways to find purity of heart by escaping from social pollution. Around the world, such exterior and interior tensions are leading to a social restlessness that threatens long-standing arrangements for political and social

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order. In China they are for the time being confined within the integument of a powerful, intrusive state. But it does seem that the continually developing complexity of Chinese society will keep generating new forms of association with new practices, new stories aimed at new forms of hope, and that these will resist being subsumed into a homogenized “sinicization.” Chinese people will continue to seek different forms of happiness in different ways in different realms of life, and they will endure the tensions and frustrations that come when these realms conflict with one another, externally and within their own hearts. They will seek a happiness beyond the accumulation of material wealth and will get contradictory bits and pieces of it from time to time. Like people around the world, they will be anxiously happy, and the anxieties will not be harmonized forever.

notes 1. Interviews by author, Hong Kong, 2013. 2. Ibid., Wuhan, 2011. 3. See Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler, Steven Tipton, Habits of he Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). Also see the discussion in the chapter by Lang Chen and accompanying notes. 4. Unless otherwise indicated, this and all other quotations in this epilogue are from my interviews in Shanghai in fall 2015. 5. Xi Jinping, The Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation (Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 2014). 6. Yu Yingshi, Xiandai Ruxue Lun (On Modern Confucian Learning) (Shanghai: Renminchubanshe, 1998), 5, quoted in Yong Chen, Confucianism as Religion: Controversies and Consequences (Boston: Brill, 2013), 173–74. 7. Interviews by author, Wenzhou, 2010. 8. The term was originally applied to South Korea by Chang Kyung-Sup in “Compressed Modernity and Its Discontents.” 9. Anna Sun, “The Official Discourse of Happiness in Contemporary China,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Philadelphia, March 2014. The Chinese ranking in the World Happiness Report, first published in 2012, had been improving. In 2016 it was eighty-third, in 2017 seventy-ninth. But in 2018 it went back to ninety-third.

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CONTRIBUTORS

chih-jou jay chen, PhD, is deputy director and Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, in Taiwan. He is the president of the Taiwanese Sociological Association for the 2018–19 term. He is also a jointly appointed professor at National Tsing Hua University and an adjunct professor at National Taiwan University. He served as director of the Center for Contemporary China, National Tsing Hua University, in 2007–12 and was a visiting scholar at Harvard-Yenching Institute in 2014–15. His current research focuses on popular protests and changing statesociety relations in China, labor relations in Taiwanese companies in China, and China’s growing impacts on Taiwanese society. He is the author of Transforming Rural China: How Local Institutions Shape Property Rights in China (Routledge, 2004), and the coeditor of Social Capital and Its Institutional Contingency: A Study of the United States, China and Taiwan (Routledge, 2014). lang chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Chinese Culture at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She received her PhD from the Department of Religious Studies, Yale University, and was formerly a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute at National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on religious thoughts and practices in China, especially Buddhism. deborah s. davis is professor emerita of sociology at Yale University. Her primary research interests are inequality and stratification, contemporary Chinese society, and methods of fieldwork. Davis is a trustee of the Yale China Association and serves on the editorial board of the China Quarterly and China Review. In 2004 she helped start the Yale China Health Journal. She is the author or editor of ten books, and her publications have analyzed the politics of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese family life, social welfare policy, consumer culture, property rights, social stratification, occupational mobility, and the impact of rapid urbanization and migration on health and happiness. In 2009 Stanford University Press published Creating Wealth and Poverty 183

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contributors

in Post-Socialist China, which she coedited with Wang Feng, and in 2014 Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China, coedited with Sara Friedman. She is completing a book entitled His, Her, and Their Marriages, which analyzes the social consequences of the one-child policy and privatization for the institution of marriage and urban kinship. james farrer is professor of sociology and director of the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo. His research focuses on cities in East Asia, including ethnographic studies of sexuality, nightlife, expatriate communities, and urban food cultures. His publications include International Migrants in China’s Global City: The New Shanghailanders; Opening Up: Youth Sex Culture and Market Reform in Shanghai; Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Global City (with Andrew Field); and, as editor, Globalization and Asian Cuisines: Transnational Networks and Contact Zones. James Farrer has lived in Asia for more than two decades; he spends part of every year in Shanghai while based in Tokyo. becky yang hsu is associate professor of sociology at Georgetown University, where she is also affiliated with Asian Studies, the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, and the graduate school’s program on health and the public interest. Hsu studies culture and religion, with an interest in morality and personhood. She is the author of Borrowing Together: Microfinance and Cultivating Social Ties (Cambridge University Press, 2017), which details how participants in microfinance programs in rural China use the loans to cultivate their social networks. Hsu explains why microfinance’s articles of faith failed to comprehend the influence of long-standing relationships and the component of morality. Her other works include articles in the British Journal of Sociology and the Journal of Health Psychology. richard madsen is Distinguished Research Professor, adjunct professor of the Graduate School of Global Policy and Strategy, and director of the UC-Fudan Center for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is a coauthor (with Robert Bellah et al.) of The Good Society and Habits of the Heart; the latter received the Los Angeles Times Book Award and was jury-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. He has authored or coauthored seven books on China, including Morality and Power in a Chinese Village for which he received the C. Wright Mills Award; China’s Catholics: Tragedy and Hope in an Emerging Civil Society; and China and the American Dream. His latest single-authored book is Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan.

INDEX

Note: figures are indicated by page numbers followed by fig. activists: backgrounds of, 137–40; challenges of, 166; competing institutions and, 140; economic resources and, 150–52; family relationships and, 140–43, 162; happiness and, 134, 152–53; labor rights, 134–35, 137–38; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and, 131–32, 136–37, 144; personal security and, 146–50; public life and, 131–32, 139–40; reform-minded, 131–32, 140; Taiwan and, 134; values and, 131, 136, 140–53, 162; warring gods and, 131, 140, 152; workplace and, 143–46 Analects of Confucius, The, 23, 25 Aquinas, Thomas, 1 Aristotle, 110 bad eating, 85–86 banquets, 92–96, 106. See also wedding banquets Bauer, Wolfgang, 22 Beck, Ulrich, 99 Bentham, Jeremy, 27–28, 156 Bite of China, A, 85, 97 Blessed Happiness Survey (BHS), 8–9, 11, 18n16, 18n17, 18n21, 48, 56, 59, 65n21, 81n6, 88 Book of Documents (Shangshu), 22 Book of Rites (Li ji), 23 Book of Songs (Shijing), 26

Brother’s Happiness, 7, 60 Buddha’s Light Mountain, 126–27 Buddhism, 12, 24, 32, 34, 38n18, 40n55, 105, 126–27 Cameron, David, 102 Cantril Ladder, 2, 4 Chen, Chih-Jou Jay, 124, 162, 166, 167, 168 Chen, Karen, 101–2, 104 Chen, Lang, 107, 156–58 Chen Guangcheng, 135, 144 Chen Huihai, 133, 135, 137, 141–42, 147–48, 151 China: civil society in, 132–33, 167–68; government repression in, 127, 132–33, 147, 149, 153; institutional structures of, 119; labor relations in, 132–35; moral order in, 166–67; moral strands in, 10–15, 16fig.; political activity in, 131–33; prodemocracy movement, 136, 138; professions in, 114; public intellectuals in, 132, 135–36; risk society and, 99; social environment of, 6–7, 12–17; urbanization in, 123; values in, 111–12 China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), 151 China Labor Bulletin (CLB), 151 China Labor Watch (CLW), 150

185

186

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index

Chinese culture: face concept in, 51, 54, 128; happiness in, 19–37; individualization of, 112–13; material prosperity and, 49–50; moral incoherence of, 113–15, 124; party ideology and, 35–37, 111–12; social expectations and, 53–54; yielding to authority in, 27, 31 Chinese Dream, 111–12, 114, 128 Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation, The (Xi), 111, 128 Chinese party-state: deprofessionalization of social work by, 119–20; happiness and, 128, 157, 168; individualism and, 76; marketoriented economic reform and, 14, 49; oversight of social work by, 118–20; prosperity and, 157–58; xingfu and, 20, 35 Christian institutions, 115–17, 125–27 civil society, 132–33, 167–68 Class Struggle Theory (Mao), 10 collectivism, 14, 112, 119 Communist Party: happiness and, 19, 128, 157–58, 168; ideology of, 138–39; nationalism and, 168; political control of, 112–13, 127–28, 133; repression of wedding rituals, 66 Confucianism, 12, 23, 25–26, 29, 32–35, 165 Confucius, 25 cuisine: authentic dining and, 101–3; disorder and, 85; domesticity and, 102–3; dystopian, 97–100; food safety and, 85, 97–100; foreign foods, 96, 108; gutter oil and, 98–99, 102; nationalism and, 97; nostalgia and, 85, 100, 104; private clubs and, 99, 104, 108; private kitchens and, 103; public discourse on, 85; purity in, 101–2, 105; risk society and, 99; utopian, 100–104; vegetarian, 105; virtue in, 105–6; Western-style fast food, 92, 95, 100, 108. See also eating Cultural Revolution, 116, 136, 139, 163 Daoism, 12, 24, 32, 38n18, 40n55 Davis, Deborah S., 55, 85, 107, 159–60 day-to-day happiness, 110–11 de, 31, 34 Deng Xiaoping, 87, 112, 122, 166 desire theory, 44 detachment strategy, 125 Dong Zhongshu, 26 Duan Yi, 133, 135, 138, 147–48, 150–51

Easterlin, Richard A., 6 eating: bad, 85–86; banquets and, 92–95, 106; “black shops” and, 97–98, 101; emotional experiences in, 107–8; family relationships and, 89–90; food scandals and, 100–101; foreign foods, 96, 100, 108; good life and, 84–87, 92, 96–97, 104, 109; individualized, 95–96; intergenerational tension and, 108; outside the home, 85–86, 89, 92, 95–96, 107–8; restaurant banquets and, 92–93; rituals and, 86, 91, 96, 107; social hierarchies and, 84–85, 96; social relationships and, 84–92, 96, 106–8; street foods and, 97–100; Western-style fast food and, 92, 95, 97, 108. See also cuisine; happy meals; unhappy meals eudaimonia, 2, 110 face-work, 50–51 family relationships: Chinese, 4, 8, 10–12; financial success and, 12; happiness and, 10–12, 61–62, 158–59, 162–65; happy and prosperous, 10–12, 15–16, 16fig.; reciprocity in, 162–65; rituals and, 159–60; social workers and, 161; tension in, 51–52. See also filial piety Farrer, James, 49, 160 feeling, 50–51, 57 Fichte, Johann G., 31–32 filial piety: changes in, 45–46, 62–64; desire theory and, 44; emotional influence of, 51; happiness and, 42–44, 47–48, 50–56, 63–64; ideal of, 50–51, 112–13, 121, 123; importance of, 64n1; individualism and, 44; restrictions of, 56 Focus on the Family, 116 food safety, 85, 97–100 Foreign NGO Management Law, 151, 154n9 friendship: happiness and, 165; happy meals and, 87–89, 91, 106–8, 161; individual fulfillment and, 14–15 fu: attainability of, 29–30; critique of, 22–25; de and, 34; families and, 4, 8; health and, 7; high status and, 7; le vs., 25–26, 35; long life and, 7; meaning of, 3–4, 20–26, 155–56; prosperity and, 6–7, 32; virtue and, 2–4, 22–24, 26. See also happiness Gao Guizi, 133–34, 136, 138, 143, 151 generational continuity, 51–55 Goffman, Erving, 51

index

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187

good life: cosmopolitanism and, 50; eating well and, 84–87, 92, 95–97, 104, 109; families and, 10–12, 16, 16fig., 57–59; greater good and, 12–14, 16, 16fig.; individual fulfillment and, 14–15, 16fig.; official ideology of, 157–58; tension in, 16–17 grandchildren, 51–55 greater good, 12–16, 16fig. Guangdong Labor Rights Law Firm, 135 Guan Xiaozhi, 46–50, 63 gutter oil, 98–99, 102

happiness and, 14–16, 16fig., 56; pluralist values and, 10; young adults and, 44–50 individualism: American dream and, 112; family relationships and, 164–65; increase in, 45; obligation to parents and, 44; party-state and, 14–15, 76, 158; pluralism vs., 10; values clash and, 119 individualization, 74–76 individualized eating, 95–96 interaction, 50–51, 57–58 intergenerational living, 45, 56, 62, 65n24 Intoxicated with Shanghai, 96–97

happiness: activists and, 134, 152–53; Chinese concepts of, 3–6, 17, 155–58, 167; cognitiveevaluative approach to, 2–3, 9; community opinion and, 53–54; conceptualizations of, 1–3, 21–22; day-to-day, 110–11; desires and, 44, 57–58; family relationships and, 10–12, 61–62, 158–59, 162–65; filial piety and, 42–44, 47–48, 50–56, 63; generational continuity and, 51–53; greater good and, 12–14; ideal of, 32–33; individual fulfillment and, 14–15, 44–51, 56; moral weighting and, 43–44, 46; obstacles to, 162; party-state and, 36–37, 128, 157, 168; profit and, 28–29; social workers and, 110–11, 114–15, 120–21, 127, 129–30; teleological narrative of, 35–36; theories of, 43–44; ultimate, 110–11; utilitarian approach to, 27–28, 31; xingfu as, 21, 27, 32–33, 156–57, 159; young adults and, 42–44, 57, 59–62. See also fu happiness studies, 2–3, 43 happy meals: banquets as, 92–95; family and, 89–90; friends and, 87–89, 91, 106–8, 161; identity and, 160; peasant farmers and, 104; purity and, 101–2, 161; social relationships and, 100, 106–7; Westernstyle fast food as, 92, 95, 97. See also eating Havel, Vaclav, 128 hedonic psychology, 2, 43 Ho, T. Koon-ki, 22 Hong Kong Christian Service, 116 house churches, 125–26 Hsu, Becky, 85, 107, 159, 162 Hu Jia, 135

Jiang Zemin, 153 Jin Yan, 57–59, 64 Johnston, James, 47 Jullien, François, 21, 33

individual fulfillment: friends and, 14–15; good deeds and, 15; good life and, 14–15;

Kang Youwei, 29 Kant, Immanuel, 1 kuaile, 24 Kuan, Teresa, 15 Kurtz, Joachim, 31 labor rights, 132–35, 137–38 Laudan, Rachel, 84–85, 107 le: Confucius on, 25; fu vs., 25–26, 35; as inner joy, 24–25, 32; meaning of, 27–28, 31; political nature of, 36; as virtue, 21, 28, 32 Lei Feng, 112 Liang Qichao, 26–29, 31–32, 34, 156 Liaofan’s Four Lessons (Liaofan sixun), 25 Ling Han, 114–15 Liu Tingchen, 30 Madsen, Richard, 3, 4 Maoism, 136, 139, 163 Mao Zedong, 10, 112, 130, 136 market economy: Deng Xiaoping and, 87, 112, 122; eating well and, 87; party-state encouragement of, 14, 49; pressures of, 63, 114–15, 120–22 marriage: cohabitation before, 67, 78; contract, 55; family pressure for, 51–52, 54–57, 61; financial pressure of, 69; legal transaction for, 68; matchmaking and, 48, 67, 81n6; parent happiness and, 54–55, 65n17, 67; rates of, 66; weddings vs., 79–80 Marxism, 35, 123, 139 matchmaking, 48, 67, 81n6

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Mathews, Gordon, 3 McDonald’s, 95, 98, 157 moral order, 166–67 moral pluralism, 128, 167 moral weighting, 43–44, 46 Mou Zongsan, 34 neo-Confucianism, 25, 34 New History of the Tang, 23 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs): activists and, 131–32, 136–37, 144; foreign support for, 150–52; government crackdown on, 132, 147–48 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 66 Osburg, John, 93 Peng Zini, 103–4, 108 Platform Sutra, 38n18 pluralism, 10, 128 positive psychology, 2 private clubs, 99, 104, 108 prodemocracy movement, 136, 138 professional ethics, 111, 115, 119 profit, 28–29 prosperity, 6–7, 10–12, 15–16, 16fig., 32 public intellectuals, 132, 135–36 public life, 131–33, 136, 139–40, 152 Qian, Jianan, 16 rationality, 32 Reaching the Grass Roots, 19 ring exchange, 12, 55, 70, 72–74, 82n21 risk society, 99 rituals: banquets and, 69–70, 73, 93, 160; defining, 77; eating and, 86, 91, 93, 96, 107; family relationships and, 159–60; group dynamics and, 77; happiness and, 77. See also wedding rituals Rofel, Lisa, 76 rural-to-urban migrants, 97, 99–101 “Selected Words on Political Theory” (Liang), 27 Seligman, Adam, 67, 77, 79 Shanghai: cohabitation before marriage in, 67, 78; community dislocation in, 122–23; cuisine in, 86–87, 92, 95–96; dating relationships in, 67, 78; family meals in,

95; personal freedom in, 79–80; tea ceremony in, 71–72; wedding banquets in, 68–70; wedding rituals in, 77–78 Shenzhen Migrant Workers Association, 138 Sichuan Shangming Social Development Research Center, 151 social expectations, 53 social hierarchies, 84–85, 96 social imaginaries, 3 social workers: Buddhism and, 126–27; challenges of, 120–25, 165–66; Christian institutions and, 115–17, 125–27, 161; community and, 125–27; conflict with authority by, 118–20; deprofessionalization of, 119–20; detachment strategy of, 125; family conflicts and, 121–23, 165; happiness and, 110–11, 114–15, 120–21, 127, 129–30; house churches and, 125–26; institutional structures and, 119; mission of, 115–16; professional ethics and, 111, 115, 119; professional goals and, 114–15, 118–20, 124–25, 129; self-reflection and, 129; values and, 110–14, 119, 121–22; Western liberal perspective and, 117–18, 161 Solitary Gourmet, The, 106 Song Yuanbo, 105–6 “Spencer’s Critique on [the idea of] the Greatest Happiness,” 28–29 street foods, 97–100 Sun, Anna, 5, 168 Sun Yat-sen, 30–31, 35 Sun Yat-sen University, 139 Sun Zhigang, 135, 154n3 Swidler, Ann, 85 Swislocki, Mark, 85 Taylor, Charles, 3 tea ceremony, 55, 70–72 “Teachings of Bentham, the Founder of Utilitarianism” (Liang), 27 Teng Biao, 133–35, 138, 142, 144–45, 147, 148, 152 Three-Self Patriotic Movement, 116 Tibet, 36, 41n71, 158 Tso, Vienne, 79 ultimate happiness, 110–11 unhappy meals: food safety and, 85, 97–100; gutter oil and, 98–99; individualized eating and, 95; rural-to-urban migrants

index and, 97, 99–101; social obligation and, 90–91, 107; treating guests and, 95; untrustworthy strangers and, 99–100, 104, 109; work-related, 49, 160–61. See also eating utilitarianism, 27–28, 31 values: activists and, 131, 136, 140–53; filial piety and, 112–13, 123; health, 7; high status, 7; long life, 7; official rhetoric of, 111–12; pluralism and, 10; social workers and, 110–14, 119, 121–22 vegetarianism, 105 virtue: cuisine and, 105–6; fu and, 22–24, 26; greater good and, 12; happiness and, 2; premodern China and, 32; young adults and, 44 Wang, Fei, 6 Wang, Shun, 6 Wang Fuzhi, 23 Wang Jing, 59–62 Wang Ling, 145 Weber, Max, 131, 140, 152, 166 wedding banquets: cash gifts at, 68–69, 82n13; costs of, 82n12; importance of, 68, 82n11; parent pressure for, 75; reciprocal relationships at, 69; ring exchange in, 73; rituals in, 69–70, 73, 160 wedding rings, 55, 70. See also ring exchange wedding rituals: Communist Party repression of, 66; embellishments and, 74–75; emotions and, 70, 72–73, 77; gold jewelry exchange as, 72; happiness and, 67; individualizing, 74–75; loyalty vows in, 70, 73, 79; parents and, 69–72; performance of, 67, 70, 77, 79–80; ring exchange as, 55, 70, 72–73; scripted, 75, 160; social relationships and, 75–80; tea ceremony as, 55, 70–72 weddings: anxiety and, 78–80; commodification of, 78, 80; costs of, 66, 160; elaborate ceremonies at, 55, 66, 68, 78; emotions and, 68, 70, 80; happiness and, 12, 66–67; marriage vs., 79–80; parentchild relationships and, 79; parent happiness and, 12, 55, 67–68, 78–80; preference for destination, 55, 68; social constraints on, 76; uniqueness of, 12, 75–76 Wei, Yuan, 33 Weller, Robert, 67, 77, 79

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189

Wen, Amy, 102–4, 108 Wen Jiabao, 153 Western-style fast food, 92, 95, 97, 100, 108 Wong, Kimberley, 106 Xiao Shu, 133–35, 139, 143, 145–46, 148–49, 152 Xi Jinping: anti-corruption campaigns of, 93; Chinese Dream and, 128, 157; Communist Party control and, 113–14, 119, 128; government repression and, 127, 132–33, 147, 149, 153; official rhetoric of, 111, 168 xing, 5, 22–24, 156 xingfu: CCTV interviews on, 19–20; defining, 19–21, 86; as happiness, 21, 27, 32–33, 156– 57, 159; ideal of, 30, 32–33; as joy and profit, 28–29, 33–35; material prosperity and, 21; meaning of, 5, 19–23, 26–35; pejorative use of, 23–24; political nature of, 20, 30–31, 33, 35–37; rationality and, 32; regional specific, 36; role specific, 36; as self-deprecation, 24; weddings and, 66 Xingfugate, 20, 35 Xing Yun, 126 Xu, Bin, 16 Xu Zhiyong, 135, 144 Yan, Yunxiang, 47, 69, 76, 95, 99, 101, 112 Yan Hui, 25 YMCA, 115–16 young adults: drive for success by, 47, 50, 59; family obligations of, 44–45, 48, 50, 58–59; filial piety and, 42–48, 50, 63–64; happiness and, 42–44, 57, 59–62; individual fulfillment and, 44–50, 56; intergenerational living by, 45, 56, 62, 65n24; matchmaking and, 48; virtue and, 44 Yue Yuan, 133 Yu Jiang, 135 Yu Yingshi, 165 Zeng Feiyang, 148 Zhang, Weiwei, 57, 60 Zhang Zai, 23 Zhang Zhiru, 133–34, 137–38, 141, 147–48, 150–51 Zhao, Anthony, 102 Zhao Ziyang, 145–46, 149 Zhou Dunyi, 25 Zhou Yongkang, 146 Zhu Daogang, 51–57, 64