Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Yuan (缘) or Yuanfen (缘份; pinyin: yuan2 fen4) is a Buddhist-related Chinese concept that means the predetermined principle that dictates a person's relationships and encounters, usually positive, such as the affinity among friends or lovers. It can be defined broadly as the "binding force" that links two persons together in any relationship. Yuanfen belongs to the family of concepts known in theology as determinism.
Some believe that the driving forces and causes behind yuanfen are the actions done in the previous reincarnations. This aspect is therefore similar to karma of Buddhism. However, while karma often refers to the consequences of an individual's actions on him- or herself, "yuan" is always used in conjunction with two persons.
Unlike other Chinese social relations, which describe abstract, but easily noticeable, connections between people, nowadays, Chinese merely use this word poetically or to emphasize a meant-to-be relationship, and almost never in a serious business or legal situation.
- When one meets a person (of either gender) who is hard to find, one can exclaim: "It is yuanfen that has brought us together!"
- When one encounters another repeatedly in various locations that it seems to be beyond coincidence, one can refer to yuanfen.
- On the contrary, when two persons who know each other (maybe as penpals) but never get a chance to meet face-to-face, it can be said that their yuanfen is too superficial or thin.
- Literally: It takes hundreds of reincarnations to bring two persons to ride on the same boat; it takes a thousand eons to bring two persons to share the same pillow.
Often yuanfen is said to be the equivalent of "fate" (as is with the title of a 1984 movie starring Leslie Cheung) or "destiny". However, these words do not have the element of the past playing a role in deciding the outcome of the uncertain future. The most common Chinese term for "fate" or "destiny" is mingyun (命運 ming4 yun4), literally "the turn of events in life".
"Providence" and "predestination" are also not exact translations, because these words imply that the things happen by the will of God or gods, whereas yuanfen does not necessarily involve divine intervention.
See also: Chinese social relations
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