Caleb Powell – Photos

Taking the Heart out of Love

with 4 comments




The original Chinese character for love placed ‘heart’ – , inside ‘receive’ – , to form ‘love’ – 愛. Thus the meaning of love was to receive a heart. Today, though, the character has a horizontal line where the heart had been



Though the linguists in Chairman Mao’s China might not have had any intent of taking the heart out of love when they simplified the writing system, the tragic recent politcal history of China indicates differently. This removal is more than a sentimental metaphor for the losses sustained by China in the latter half of the twentieth century, where complete obedience was dictated by the state, and any chance of caring or loving was poisoned by insanity, evil, and cowardice. The Chinese under Mao suffered greatly during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and this amounted to a debasement of humanity. In the worship of Mao, in kowtowing to his goons, love meant to receive a line, the communist party’s line.


See Love: An Etymology at decomP.

Written by Caleb Powell

December 5, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Posted in Art

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. Great example of the cultural devolution. Mao systematically removed culture and religion while the Chinese mulled and toiled in the fields blindly, until Deng Xiao Ping’s proclamation : “to be rich is to be glorious” created a new religion.
    In the New China, having money is ultimately first in the hierarchy of needs–much more important than love (receiving a heart). Once this is understood, it becomes clear why poisoning 6 month old kidneys is tolerated for the greater good of China’s New Religion: The People’s Religion of the RenMenBi (RMB).

    Kevin Van Dusen

    December 18, 2008 at 1:14 am

  2. Caleb, thank you for your comment on Catherine’s poem. I see you have written far more in depth on the two versions of ‘Love’. Thank you!


    September 1, 2009 at 6:38 am

  3. Having learned Chinese mainly from the Taiwanese tradition, I had not been aware that the simplification of the word heart in the Mainland Chinese tradition was such. Thank you for your insights and reflection on this—it puts my own poem in perspective.

    Catherine Candano

    September 8, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    • Tammy & Catherine,

      I appreciate your comments. My family left Taiwan when I was two, and I didn’t start studying the written language until 25 years later. There is so much culture and history in written Chinese that, for the language buff, it is quite addictive. Love 爱 is just one example.

      I see tangible benefits in the simplified, but the simplified hides some richness of language.

      It must be noted, too, that the lower part of the character, “友”, means friendship and is the second syllable of the word for friend, “朋友”, and thus I am forcing the metaphor. Still, the heart, “心”, is no longer part of the character.

      Caleb Powell

      September 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

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