The term qing 情 (emotion) has lain at the core of Chinese thinking about literature from antiquity through modern times. It is of profound paradigmatic significance because each major reconceptualization of qing by literary writers and scholars almost invariably signifies and undergirds a new direction of literary production and reception. Mapping out qing's long and complex lexical-conceptual history over the millennia is crucial to the study of Chinese literary thought, premodern and modern alike. In undertaking such a historicized macro study, this article consistently grounds it in the microanalysis of influential and representative statements on qing made since antiquity. Through careful contextualization, it seeks to determine which particular meaning(s) of qing is most likely intended in each instance and if and how an author has reconceptualized the term to present a new understanding of literature. It also strives to assess the theoretical significance of all major qing reconceptualizations in the broader context of Chinese intellectual and literary history. Wherever appropriate, it draws insights from Western emotion studies to illuminate hitherto unrecognized theoretical significance of some major qing reconceptualizations.

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