Chinese Discourse of Happiness

New Publication
Chinese Discourse on Happiness
Edited by Gerda Wielander and Derek Hird
Hong Kong University Press, November 2018

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Happiness is on China’s agenda. From Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” to online chat forums, the conspicuous references to happiness are hard to miss. This groundbreaking volume analyzes how different social groups make use of the concept and shows how closely official discourses on happiness are intertwined with popular sentiments. The Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to define happiness and well-being around family-focused Han Chinese cultural traditions clearly strike a chord with the wider population. The collection highlights the links connecting the ideologies promoted by the government and the way they inform, and are in turn informed by, various deliberations and feelings circulating in the society.

Contributors analyze the government’s “happiness maximization strategies,” including public service advertising campaigns, Confucian and Daoist-inflected discourses adapted for the self-help market, and the promotion of positive psychology as well as “happy housewives.” They also discuss forces countering the hegemonic discourse: different forms of happiness in the LGBTQ community, teachings of Tibetan Buddhism that subvert the material culture propagated by the government, and the cynical messages in online novels that expose the fictitious nature of propaganda. Collectively, the authors bring out contemporary Chinese voices engaging with different philosophies, practices, and idealistic imaginings on what it means to be happy.

“This distinctive volume creates sustained dialogues around a substantive debate. Rejecting the conventional contrasts between China and the West, and yet deeply immersed in sinophone media, the authors understand Chinese discourse on happiness as multiple but interconnected conversations within a globally shared production of knowledge. Equally concerned with text and image, they exhibit an ethnographic eye as sharp as any orthodox ethnography.” —Deborah Davis, Yale University

“Wielander and Hird have put together a superbly researched and thoughtfully written set of essays on the multiple ways in which that most elusive of all states—happiness—is understood and pursued in contemporary China. A volume that should become required reading for all interested in Chinese society today.” —Julia C. Strauss, SOAS, University of London

Table of Contents

Introduction: Chinese Happiness—A Shared Discursive Terrain
By Gerda Wielander

Happiness In Chinese Socialist Discourse—Ah Q And The “Visible Hand”
By Gerda Wielander

Tibet And Happiness In Chinese Media Discourses – Issues And Contestation
By Jigme Yeshe Lama

Happiness “with a Chinese Taste”: an Interpretive Analysis of CCTV 2014 Spring Festival Gala‘s Public Service Announcement (PSA) “Chopsticks” (Kuaizi 筷子)
By Giovanna Puppin

“As Long As My Daughter Is Happy”: “Familial Happiness” In Parental Support-Narratives For LGBTQ Children
By Elisabeth Engebretsen

Smile Yourself Happy: Zheng Nengliang And The Discursive Construction Of Happy Subjects
By Derek Hird

“Happy Housewives”: Gender, Class, and Psychological Self-Help in China
By Jie Yang

Cultivating Capacity for Happiness as a Confucian Project in Contemporary China: Texts, Embodiment, and Moral Affect
By Yanhua Zhang

Talking of Happiness: How Hope Configures Queer Experience in China
By William F. Schroeder

Chinese Happiness: A Proverbial Approach Of Popular Philosophies Of Life
By Mieke Matthyssen

The Happiness of Unrealizable Dreams: On the Pursuit of Pleasure in Contemporary Chinese Popular Fiction
By Heather Inwood

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