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The word 'Jeong'

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An Important Term

One reason that jeong (정) is a useful word for our work is that metadesigners aim to design with, or for, paradigms, so we need to be able to describe what holds them together. The Korean word jeong describes some of the social conditions that hold groups, families, or tribes together. It can, therefore, be compared with terms such as (e.g. network consciousness, sympoiesis, Ubuntu) and Goethe's term 'elective affinities' (i.e. Die Wahlverwandtschaften).

square-50cm-spacer.jpg jeong.png square-50cm-spacer.jpg Korean_Siamese_twins_1903.jpeg
square-50cm-spacer.jpg The Korean word jeong square-50cm-spacer.jpg Siamese twins (1903)
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Even the syntax is non-egoistic

However, it is difficult to describe within western discourse, as it refers to a complex emotional state that is specific to the belief systems and cultural habits of non-western cultures. Notably, jeong is not only significant in terms of its meaning but, also, for the standpoint of its description. The Korean dictionary defines the word ‘jeong’, (정) as “feeling, love, sentiment, passion, human nature, sympathy, heart” but this series of words do not give an adequate sense of the word. Because it derives from an older Chinese word, it can also found in modern Chinese and Japanese, although each language brings slightly different emphases. It is very different from the English word 'love'.

The English idea of Love

One meaning for the word 'love' is the temporary feeling of excitement that takes place in the early stages of sexual attraction and courtship. Plato characterised this in terms of the feeling of lack that attends an yearning, or unrequited desire for the Other. This idea is echoed in the 14th century (Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale'), when the author describes the instant when love befalls one of his characters. In the description, the protagonist (Palamoun) sees a beautiful lady (Emelya) through the window of a prison cell and is 'struck' by a strong emotion. The account only describes Palamoun's experience, almost as though the 'love' is a transitive agent that appears to target him directly, inescapably and without warning.

He cast his eye upon Emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte, and cryede "A!"
As though he stongen were unto the herte.

He cast his eye upon Emelya,
And his face went very pale, and he cried "A!"
As though he had been stung, right in his heart".

Ambivalence and Complexity

In contrast with the above example of what we might call 'romantic love', Jeong is much more collective and de-centred. Also, whereas Western definitions may explain the logic of a word, jeong is both emotional and ambiguous (even in Korean). Some experts have argued that it has a pre-verbal meaning, in Freudian terms, because it can be experienced before language is acquired. It is, therefore, more lasting than the commonly used word 'love'. In relationship terms it may resemble the complex bonds of attachment that one finds in mature marital relations. The sense of attachment, may be defined by wide range of emotions that serve to bind people together, whether calm, or turbulent, affirmative or antagonistic.

Standpoint of Description

Where the African word Ubuntu suggests a cultural solidarity with common ethical values, 'jeong' more strongly acknowledges the feelings that extend among, and even beyond, the person experiencing them. It may, therefore, be easier to define as (or from within) a feeling, or sense of emotional dependability. Whereas western constructs often seek to identify things objectively (i.e. from an impartial outsider's perspective), 'jeong' seems to be described as though it gains its meaning from within a (shared) field of feelings. Jeong seems to be located not only inside of our hearts but, also, outside. In other words, jeong is located between and among individuals. It can be difficult to understand an emotion as being seated outside an individual’s heart, yet it may be related to the idea of collective emotion.

Are There Similar Concepts in Chinese?

  1. There are many similarities between 情 ('Qing') and the Korean word 정 ('Jeong')
    • But, whereas 情 ('Qing') is not a full word, 感情 (Gan Qing) is similar and refers to 'spirit feeling' or emotion.
  2. 亲情 (Qin Qing) is used to express the feeling, emotion between family members
  3. 爱情 (Ai Qing) is used to express the feeling, emotion between lovers
  4. 友情 (You Qing) is used to express the feeling or emotion between friends
  5. 人情 (Ren Qing), this word is really hard to explain in English even in Chinese.
    • It exists in the social interaction, among social interaction, it is a very important element need to be considered when people make a decision.
    • So we say that Chinese society is a Ren Qing society
  6. 关系 (Guan Xi) is also another very important culture element in Chinese society
    • it plays an irreplaceable role and guides minds and behaviours within a social context (Wang Minglei 2012).

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