As the 2013 UN World Happiness Report shows, happiness indexes and surveys are increasingly adopted as a measure of good governance around the world. And yet, definitions of happiness vary. In the United States, happiness has historically been conceptualized not only as the experiencing of pleasant emotions but as the goal of a 'pursuit' (per the Declaration of Independence), a state of being that is the result of an individual's efforts. In contrast, Immanuel Kant speaks of 'making ourselves worthy of happiness,' regarding happiness as a gift we receive rather than achieve. The Chinese concept of fu is frequently translated 'happiness.' But like the Greek eudaimonia, fu connotes more than hedonistic satisfaction; it is the well-being associated with achieving a 'good' life-one of virtue, honor, and purpose. What constitutes this goodness, however, is not a static understanding. Over the past thirty years, the Chinese government has replaced its Maoist blueprint with a new hybrid of marketsocialism. The country has become wealthy, and most citizens enjoy modest levels of material security. Above certain levels, however, this additional wealth is not equating with increased happiness. This project endeavors to understand how ordinary Chinese define a good life. We will draw on in-depth interviews and participant observation as well as published texts in order to capture the more robust, animating, and foundational aspects of happiness. The research will lead to improved surveys on happiness worldwide and the promotion of mutual understanding between the United States and China.
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