“In contemporary Chinese, Ai (愛) is often used as the equivalent of the Western concept of love, as both a verb (e.g. wo ai ni 我愛你, or “I love you”) and a noun (such as aiqing 愛情, or “romantic love”). However, due to the influence of Confucian Ren, the phrase ‘Wo ai ni’ (I love you) carries with it a very specific sense of responsibility, commitment and loyalty.”
I was able to find the hanji (Chinese character) for ai on wikipedia where I also learned that it is made of parts “indicating a heart (middle) is put inside of accept, feel, or perceive (top + bottom), which shows a graceful emotion.”
I like that. A heart surrounded by acceptance, feeling or perception? Combined with commitment, responsibility and loyalty? Be still my heart.
And of course it makes me wonder about the ways that we communicate with partners, children and other members of the family. Does “I love you” carry unspoken values and expectations for behavior? Do they imply promises and permissions? And how does that stack up with our actions and the way our loved ones perceive them?
And how do we know that it is (or is not) the same for our partners and our kids?