Friday, April 13, 2012

Expectations of Friendship

Today was Dr. Shields' "Lunch in the Lounge", and she talked to us about the language of friendship from the Tang Dynasty. She told us that the language of love that we tend to use in Western cultures to define friendship is not used in Eastern culture. She gave us examples of monks writing letters to each other, saying how much they longed to see each other, etc. (Think like the letters of the apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:16 as an example). This language isn't present in Chinese literature - any discussion of friendship that does appear in these texts is an extremely polished, formal writing. She then told us four different words that are used for different kinds of friendship in Chinese, and how these words have evolved over time to the meanings that they have in contemporary China. For example, there's a whole new Chinese word that has evolved to mean internet friendships. Did you know that there are more people in China on social networks than the population of the United States? (by a tiny little bit). That's a LOT of people! Dr. Shields told us that this has changed Chinese young people's expectations of friendship, and even of dating. So after her talk, I asked her if there was a word to describe friendship between a husband and his wife (I mean, it is my parent's anniversary, after all), and she said no, there isn't, because the expectation of friendship in a marriage is a (relatively) new concept. Which I thought was interesting. Don't you? Friendship in a marriage is something I've always expected. Maybe it's because my parents are introverts, but they're pretty close to each other, and they're my obvious model for marriage. Well, whatever the reason for my expectations, happy anniversary to my parents!

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