In Mandarin, 愛 means romantic love. However, New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer has this to say about its use in literary Chinese:

This character [愛] usually does not imply "romantic love" in literary Chinese, as it does in the modern East Asian languages.

So which character(s) are used for romantic love in classical Chinese?

  • I guess 戀 is quite close...and you can contrast this with erotic passions (艷). 愛 is a kind of benevolent love.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:34

2 Answers 2


This should be a clever question!

In classical Chinese
“爱” should be love to culture, nature, mess people or emperor(the culture emblem)
“恋” should be romantic love to another person, a butterfly loves a flower (蝶恋花) “情” is a noun of “exist love/adore”, more clearly --“恋情”

For further,
“慕” should like “adore”, always use as “爱慕”, “倾慕”

In traditional/full Chinese writing these words are



1, 愛, is traditional Chinese, be used it HongKong, Marcau, and Taiwan. 2, 愛,can be a noun, can be a verb. But 戀 is more focusing on verb. and they are not in same meaning. We say 我爱她。but never say 我戀她。 3, passions=激情, alluring=艷, 艷 more means on color. 4, In Chinese, every character is already very basic meaning, it must use in context, otherwise you hardly can use a basic character to present more meaning. 5, From a Chinese option, I never think / study Chinese in this style, hope you just read newspaper or book could improve your Chinese.

I am a developer, would like to find some technique thing, I don't know how / why I go into here, but whatever, hope I can explain well.

  • 1
    The question is about classical Chinese (古文, 文言, 漢文), and not about vernacular modern Mandarin (普通話, 華語, 白話文).
    – Flux
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 14:16
  • OK, I get you now. The previous statement also stands. You can not use just one character to stand for love(爱情) because, in traditional Chinese, this verb should be decorated. I provide you a website for your reference(if your Chinese is good enough): ruiwen.com/wenxue/shiju/296128.html @Flux Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 16:11

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