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. A core concept to Confucianism is Ren ("benevolent love", 仁), which focuses on duty, action and attitude in a relationship rather than love itself. In Confucianism, one displays benevolent love by performing actions such as filial piety from children, kindness from parent, loyalty to the king and so forth.
The concept of Ai (愛) was developed by the Chinese philosopher Mozi in the 4th century BC in reaction to Confucianism's benevolent love. Mozi tried to replace what he considered to be the long-entrenched Chinese over-attachment to family and clan structures with the concept of "universal love" (jiān'ài, 兼愛). In this, he argued directly against Confucians who believed that it was natural and correct for people to care about different people in different degrees. Mozi, by contrast, believed people in principle should care for all people equally. Mohism stressed that rather than adopting different attitudes towards different people, love should be unconditional and offered to everyone without regard to reciprocation, not just to friends, family and other Confucian relations. Later in Chinese Buddhism, the term Ai (愛) was adopted to refer to a passionate caring love and was considered a fundamental desire. In Buddhism, Ai was seen as capable of being either selfish or selfless, the latter being a key element towards enlightenment.
In contemporary Chinese, Ai (愛) is often used as the equivalent of the Western concept of love. Ai is used as both 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"). However, due to the influence of Confucian Ren, 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" as in some Western societies, the Chinese are more likely to express feelings of affection in a more casual way. Consequently, "I like you" (Wo xihuan ni, 我喜欢你) is a more common way of expressing affection in Chinese; it is more playful and less serious. This is also true in Japanese (suki da, 好きだ). The Chinese are also more likely to say "I love you" in English or other foreign languages than they would in their mother tongue.