Two philosophical underpinnings of love exist in the Chinese tradition, one from Confucianism which emphasized actions and duty while the other came from Mohism which championed a universal love.
Ren ("benevolent love", 仁) focuses on duty, action, and attitude in a relationship rather than love itself. One displays benevolent love by performing actions such as kindness from parents, loyalty to the king and so forth.
Ai (愛) was developed in reaction to Confucianism's benevolent love. It was argued that it was not correct for people to care about different people in different degrees. People in principle should care for all people equally. Rather than adopting different attitudes towards different people, love should be unconditional and offered to everyone without regard to reciprocation, not just to friends or family. A passionate caring love, a fundamental desire. Either selfish or selfless, the latter being a key element towards enlightenment.
Ai, the equivalent of the Western concept of love. A verb (e.g. wo ai ni 我愛你, or "I love you") and a noun (such as aiqing 愛情, or "romantic love"). The phrase 'Wo ai ni' (I love you) carries with it a very specific sense of responsibility, commitment, and loyalty. Instead of frequently saying "I love you" , the Chinese are more likely to express feelings of affection in a more casual way. "I like you" is a more common way of expressing affection in Chinese; it is more playful and less serious. The Chinese are also more likely to say "I love you" in English or other foreign languages than they would in their mother tongue.
As seen in the Financial Times recently, the most important factor to have shaped how we love is art. It is through novels, poems, songs and, latterly, films that we have acquired our ideas about what aspects of our feelings we should value and where our emotional emphases should fall.
Photo credits: Jordan Whitfield ~ www.jordanwhitfield.com