Speaker: Ying Zhong, Valentin Thouzeau, Nicolas Baumard and
Affiliation: Institut Jean Nicod, Département d’études cognitives, École normale supérieure, Université PSL, EHESS, CNRS, 75005 Paris, France
Title: The evolution of romantic love in Chinese fiction in the very long run (618 - 2022): A quantitative approach
Abstract: Literary scholars have long observed the fluctuating popularity of romantic love in Chinese fiction, and the existence of periods when romantic love was particularly central to Chinese fiction: The High Tang Dynasty (short stories), the Yuan Dynasty (plays), the High Qing Dynasty (scholar-beauty novels), and the most recent period (modern series, web novels). However, these observations have remained qualitative, and the overall cultural history of China is still unknown. Is there a pattern in the history of love in China? Can we describe it quantitatively? And can we explain it? Here, we present a new database of summary plots of Chinese fiction (N = 3496) from the Tang Dynasty (618 AD) to the modern era (2022). Using the method of linguistic inquiry, we first confirm that the evolutionary pattern of romantic love in the long run corresponds to qualitative observations reported by literary scholars and cultural historians, with an increase during the ancient and the contemporary phase (post-1978). We then test whether these patterns can be explained by a change in people’s preferences in response to increasing economic development. Consistent with previous work, we show that the rise of romantic love correlates with the ups and downs of economic development in Chinese history.