Self-actualization and self-transcendence in China. The paradoxical role of fate as an agent for spiritual and psychological wellbeing

Zelfactualisering en zelfoverstijging in China. De paradoxale rol van het lot als middel tot spiritueel en psychologisch welbevinden
Start - End 
2020 - 2024 (ongoing)



This research proposes to investigate the characteristically Chinese concept of fate (ming) in terms of spiritual-psychological agency. Fate has always played a pervasive role in ancient Chinese thought and folk religion. However, fate as we know it in the West as an uncontrollable force does not have the same meaning in China. Chinese conceptions of fate display different dimensions, most commonly expressed in the concepts ‘Heavenly Command’ (tianming), ‘changeable fate’ (mingyun), and ‘interpersonal fate' (yuanfen). Paradoxically, these dimensions on the one hand embody self-transcendence through surrendering to fate, and on the other hand self-actualization through (moral) self-cultivation. Through analysis of discussions on fate in the Chinese intellectual tradition, of popular discourses dealing with fate (blogs, motivational books, TV (shows), and of interviews with common people on their experiences with fate, this research attempts to clarify the seemingly paradoxical dimensions of fate as an agent for spiritual-psychological wellbeing.

The project will also investigate how the Chinese traditional notion of fate should, in contemporary society, be understood as a sociocultural reality that despite popular re-interpretation and ‘modernization’ has not lost its powerful function in the quest for meaning and happiness.