What appears irrelevant or negligible to readers of one cultural tradition may be seminal and indispensable to those of another. This article studies a prominent Chinese mode of living—the earnest pursuit of the aesthetic qualities of life—to help bridge the “impasses of noncommunication” in cross-cultural understanding. It constructs the working concept of “the aesthetic dimension of life” from Chinese formative thoughts before it applies the concept to the reading of “Forever by Your Side,” a “short-short story” by a contemporary peasant writer in China. The discussion focuses on how the ethical and the aesthetic are mutually entailing and how aspirations for the aesthetic in life affect human actions in general and ordinary people’s everyday choices and behavior in particular. Approaching the story from Chinese cultural tradition and analyzing it with Chinese conceptual paradigms, this article offers an in-depth understanding of contemporary China in its civilizational context and shows a way to overcome obstacles of cross-cultural communication.

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