Lovesickness (xiangsi bing), a disease of qing (sentiment, passion, feeling, desire, and love), emerged as a literary topos in China's medieval lyrical tradition and was developed through late imperial drama and fiction. This article examines narratives of lovesickness in popular literature—both fiction and drama—from the Song (960–1279) to the Qing (1644–1912), including some texts rarely discussed in English scholarship from the perspective of love writing. With thorough documentation, we present two classic plot patterns of the literary malady: one involving mutual affection of separated lovers, the other the one-sided passion, whether of unrequited (usually male) love or of one part of a couple longing for reunion. We argue that the notorious lovelorn figures in late Ming (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) legal cases and Qing scholar-beauty xiaoshuo novels made lovesickness a target for criticism by literati and prompted reflection and revision of traditional narratives. With the modernization and westernization of Chinese literature, this classical literary malady was finally “cured.” The disappearance of lovesickness reflects the gradual replacement of classical ways of thinking with a modern cognitive style and, simultaneously, the transition of Chinese literature from classical to modern.

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