Search on Google.com for "yuan fen", and this web page appears as number 5 on page 3 on 25th June 2004. Let's see how far up it travels.
Yuan fen: unanswered vs unrequited love
Search on the Internet for "love" and you get the universe.
Search for "unanswered love", and you are answered in the form of poems.
Search for "unrequited love" and you get the likes of "Romeo and Juliet", "The Way We Were", "The Piano", and "Cold Mountain," to name a few.
What is unanswered love? When one party loves the other who doesn't love him/her back, it is not mutual. Such unreciprocated love includes infatuation, crush, and all those words to describe a one-sided love.
What is unrequited love? It is mutual. Two people love each other but they can't be together to show or experience that mutual love for each other.
Unanswered and unrequited love are only two of many types of love that exist between two people. Perhaps it's best explained by looking at how relationships are viewed by the Chinese.
The term yuan fen is used by most Chinese people to describe relationships that are meant to be. For a relationship to work, you need both yuan, which refers to cause, reason, fate, or destiny, and fen, which means a share or a part.
"Don't worry about this year's end bonus," said the boss to his employees. "If it is your fen (share), then you will eventually get it for sure." Fen relates to the concept of "you need two to tango." Both parties have a "part" in a relationship.
So yuan fen refers to predestined relationship or relationship by fate. It is similar to affinity.
Yuan is used to describe the initiation of a meeting. When two people have yuan, it means that they have the possibility to meet.
You cannot have fen without yuan. Yuan precedes fen, otherwise you'd never meet in the first place.
Relationships that don't last are said to have yuan but not fen on a long term basis. Yuan fen can also be a one way street, where you feel yuan fen with someone and select that person on that basis. You can also have yuan fen with a thing - such as a piano, who doesn't love you back.
Note that yuan fen refers to interpersonal relationships of all types, not necessarily romantic love. It explains why two people keep in touch over the years. For example, my friend Lemondrops and I have known each other since we were teenagers. Although we reside on opposite ends of the earth, live very different lives, and rarely get a chance to meet or talk, our friendship continues to grow.
You might also have yuan fen with someone who serves no purpose to you, but you stay in touch simply because you like each other. You enjoy each other's company. You have rapport and mutual understanding/empathy.
Yuan fen explains why a patient in the hospital prefers nurse A over nurse B. It explains why you keep in touch with a certain piano teacher over the years, but you can't seem to stay in contact with your engineering professor, much less remember his name. It explains why someone reappears in your life over and over again. It explains why you long to contact someone but you'd care less if you don't reply to letters from someone else.
Chinese people don't believe in forcing a relationship to work. The word is mian qiang (pronounced like chiang), which means managing with effort or doing it with difficulty. Ironically, mian qiang are the same characters for the Japanese word for study (pronounced "benkyo"). In essence, a relationship cannot be mian qiang, i.e. be forced to work.
Coming back to unanswered and unrequited love, can you see there's a lot more that explains why you want to remain in contact? You might not be able to describe or define the kind of relationship you have now or will ever have. Who cares what it's called anyway. Who knows why you long to stay in touch with the person. You may try to resist the temptation to stay in touch, but you can't resist yuan fen.
31 May 2004 Monday
Related entries & links:
I wonder why - a poem about unanswered love
Woman - poem
Le Bon Journal ezine - Love is actually all around the world (3 page pdf)
The importance of being earnestly Chinese - 2 page Bon Journal newsletter
Interpersonal communications - lecture including Yuan Fen
Yuan-fen defined (also in Chinese)
Sponsored piano guitar duo concert in Eik en Duinen in Den Haag 6 June 2004 at 2 pm (admission free)
Michael Neill's Coaching Tip Number 403 - a free newsletter you can subscribe to.