On Chinese etiquette (Li Jie), patriotism etc...

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On Chinese etiquette (Li Jie), patriotism etc...

Postby long_way » Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:27 am

Written by: Wu Chen Jing on 03.01.2005 (Hanghzou, China)

Some Westerners who come to do business in China have an impression such as: “Complex Chinese people!” They find Chinese people hard to understand. “They tend to hide their emotions and intentions during meetings. They like to analyze your words, movements and choices of positions”. In fact, this impression mostly arises from formal meetings. Chinese people also like expressing their directness, cheer or roaring with friends; it just depends on situations and age groups. In informal meetings, people eat, drink, laugh and talk directly. But in formal ceremonies, we indeed have an etiquette, or “Li Jie” in the Chinese language. This word is a complete way of life for the Chinese people because of Confucianism. In formal meetings, Chinese people tend to be polite and quiet, because we are supposed to consider others’ feelings. People prefer to compliment a person, rather than raise an embarrassing subject; people use delicate hints instead of direct opposing views; in order to avoid arguments. This causes confusion for foreign businessmen. As for the “Li Jie”, there are other behaviors in our daily life. For example, a host should always escort a guest and watch him or her leaving; allow another to take the honorable seat, which is left by the host. Anyway, they are more like traditional manners than so-called formalism in western eyes.


Most Chinese people have a strong sense of belongness to China. This sensation is deep in our soul from childhood. The phrase “motherland” demonstrates it well. Yang Liwei, pilot, who made China's first trip into space, said he succeeded because “motherland” fostered him and needed him to do so; Chinese students who study overseas come back to China after graduation because they want to make a worthwhile contribution to “motherland”; Olympic athletes try hard to win prizes also for the honor of “motherland”. For us Chinese people, the image of “motherland” has been imprinted in the heart, full of gratitude and loyalty. Though many young people today begin to be somewhat individualistic, this sense of belongness and loyalty can’t be ignored.


China is an extremely competitive society. This competitive atmosphere is partly because of the large population; in other words, people here have developed an extremely strong survival instinct. Chinese students are famous for their hard work, because they have to study for a “secure future”. Exams and grades are the only way to survive. Students in schools compete with their classmates for grades. Only those with the top grades can be allowed into the top schools; only those that are in the top schools will be offered good jobs. Everybody in this land tend to snatch. Snatch the way, the space and resources. Our instinct tells us, if you forestall others, you had the priority! This kind of competition not only exists in schools or businesses, daily life is also stressful, even when you are driving, shopping and thinking. China is developing fast, but we also see those tired, fighting, and restless faces behind.


My driving lesson lasted for 6 months. I passed the theory test in May, but I still have the road test to complete. China is famous for its driving culture. I never see any foreigner drives on the roads; I guess our crazy drivers scare them. So the driving training process is hard, because we have to master the skill very well in order to avoid being killed. We need to pass 2 sections that contain many sub-items. We spend the whole day from early morning to evening on the training ground. There’s no fixed schedule for the whole training session, because it has so many trainees that we can’t match each other’s available time. I have to wait for the coach’s call, but chances are when he has time, and then I need to skip class for it. After I congratulate myself for having a chance to take a lesson, I totally forget what I learnt the last time! That’s why my driving lessons have taken me 6 months to do. Sounds inefficient? It is. In fact, in many situations, the only thing we can do is to wait, wait in the queue, wait for a chance.


Many foreigners are interested in the Chinese concept of Yin-Yang, but they may only have a limited or blurred idea of it. I’d like to explain it more to you. Yin-Yang can be traced back 4,000 years. Chinese philosophers consider the opposition and interdependence of Yin and Yang as the fundamental of the universe. What is Yin and what is Yang? The term originally means the sunny side (Yang) and the shady side (Yin). It was later broadened to many aspects. Generally speaking, Yang refers to change, subjective, upward, warmth and brightness. Yin, on the other hand, refers to stillness, objective, downward, coldness and shade. For example, water is considered Yin and fire is Yang, because the former one flows downwards, while the latter goes upwards. Besides, the theory of Yin-Yang is based on relativity. In certain conditions, Yin transforms into Yang and Yang may transform into Yin, and it continues infinitely. Here is another example: day is Yang and night is Yin. While the morning represents the Yang part of the day, and is the Yang within Yang; the afternoon is the Yin part of the day, or the Yin within Yang. We still use the phrase Yin-Yang commonly in daily life. When you get a diagnosis paper in the hospital, you can see some Yins and Yangs that shows the situation of your body. In terms of the Chinese medical field, Yin-Yang is the concept of harmony. When it is applied to drugs, any substance or activity that results in the stimulation, warming and excitation of the human body is classified as Yang; any that results in condensation, moistening and inhibition is classified as Yin.


Nv shu is a special Chinese language that is used only by women. It has been passed down quietly from woman to woman in Jiangyong, a village of Hunan, for unknown centuries. It was finally discovered in 1982. Scholars have shown renewed interest in this language recently. Nv shu, or women script, is a nice calligraphy shared only among women. Men can never read or understand it. It is handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, from elderly aunt to adolescent niece, from girlfriend to girlfriend. According to some research, there is a story behind Nv shu: “The bride received a "Third Day Book” after she was married. The first half part of the book was written by another women; who was her sworn sister, or her intimate friend. Her girlfriend expressed the sadness or wishes for her marriage in the first part of the writing, and the rest was left blank for the blind. The blind then were supposed to finish the book by recording their feelings and experiences after marriage in Nv shu.” Chinese women couldn’t learn Chinese characters as only men went to school at that time, so using Nv shu, they could express themselves, and communicate with their friends freely without interference from men. Today, young girls are allowed to learn Chinese along with the boys at school, but we still appreciate this kind of language, so full of female spirit and life: joys, sorrows and hopes.


The CCTV show started in the 1980s, and runs from 8pm to 12pm on New Year's Eve. This is a big New Year party for all Chinese people, so every year most Chinese people will sit in front of the TV and watch the 4-hour show with their families. The party has to satisfy all kinds of needs for the Chinese people; old or young, rich or poor, in the city or countryside, domestic or overseas. It includes various performances that range from traditional operas to popular songs of today. As society develops, it becomes harder for the director to prepare such a mix dish for so many different tastes. A young host who has a more humorous and casual style began to run the show in recent years, but old people who had been quite used to the old style now complain about those changes. Every year, the New Year's Eve Party is a hot topic that is discussed hilariously in the media or on Internet. Some people think it is not necessary to spend so much time to prepare such a party; some think it needs to have a change in content and performances, but most people think we simply need such a party.

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