In recent years, the word yuan （meaning predestined relationship oraffinity） or the phrase yuanfen （fate or chance that brings people together）,has increasingly been used among the Chinese; these words carry ideas thatare rooted in fatalism and destiny. The word yuan is explained by fatalisticphilosophy as the destinies that occur from person to person encounters. Forthose who do not believe in fatalism, the word yuan is not disagreeable; itsimply refers to the possibility of special connections between people, or be-tween people and things.While the outcome of any fated encounter can have either good or badconsequences, in general usage, people tend to leave out the negative impli-cations ofyuan and it is commonly associated with positive destiny. This isperhaps due to people's optimistic expectations of a harmonious society anda world that is enabled by the positive connections between people and be-tween people and things.In early human history, mankind was confined within a small radius. Thesimplicity of their lifestyles meant that people simply worked after sunrise andrested after sunset. The difficulty in feeding themselves and their families leftlittle energy and little curiosity to explore the world outside. During the eraof self-sustained family production, small communities seldom made contactwith their neighbors, even those within their vicinity. Simple commodity ex-changes such as bartering were infrequent. Therefore, connections betweenunfamiliar peoples had a very low probability and making contact with peoplefrom foreign lands was virtually impossible. In this landscape of human histo-ry, there was little room for yuanfen to grow. And even in these rare crossings,connections would be extremely fragile and difficult to maintain. Actually, themost realized sense ofyuan is not simply pre-destiny. It is a shared history andthe communication between people that are fostered by a certain kind of envi-ronment and the development of social production.
Buddha said." When two strangers face each other while passing on a road, yuan is the indescribable sensation for one of them to "turn around and seek the other." This moment of bliss is built with the encounters of the past 500years. Isn't it a wonder that I can catch sight of you, out of the myriad of people, at a significant moment? Then I asked Buddha: According to the saying, if the yuan built with the prayers and practices of 1 O0 years can bring two people to the same ferryboat, and if the yuan built with those of l, 000 years can make them a couple, how many times must one feel the sensation to "turn around and seek the other" in order to amount to a single significant encounter today? Buddha smiled and didn't reply.
Lu Yang, the pen name of YangZhen, a senior journalist of theJapanese-language version ofPeople's China magazine, hasworked in foreign publishing,communications and culturalexchanges for more than 20 years.He has written many articles onChinese history and culture, as wellas China's reform and opening-up,and has won worldwide acclaimfrom readers both at home andabroad. Some articles have beencollected into books and some havereceived awards. In recent years, hehas focused his interests on theconditions of foreigners living inChina, and so was invited to be theleading writer of the book Living inChina and Dreaming Big in China.
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