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Culture of Face in China

Chinese people are very concerned about face-saving. But what is "face"? Of all the idiosyncrasies, the concept of "Face" in China is A Little Boy is Ashamed of What He Had Doneperhaps the most difficult to comprehend. In the context of Chinese culture, the concept of "Face" is rich and subtle. It could be dignity, honor, prestige, authority, or personal connections. It's more subjective and personal. "Face" is most emphasized in front of acquaintances (family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.). Chinese people won't give too much about the "Face" problem in a completely unfamiliar environment. However, if a Chinese is surrounded by acquaintances, he or she will be extra concerned about saving face.

How to Define “Face”?

Over a hundred years ago, an American named Arthur Henderson Smith traveled to China as a missionary. He lived in China for 54 years and authored the book "Chinese Characteristics," which summarized more than 20 aspects of Chinese culture. The first chapter of that book is about "Face." Ten decades later, a world-renowned American sinologist named Lloyd E. Eastman wrote another book, " Family, Fields, and Ancestors," illustrating that one of the most important Chinese social construct characteristics is face-saving. A Man with a good front is revealing his ragged back

He wrote that "Face" is a kind of self-esteem that depends on the judgment of others. A person gains "face" if he or she has a reputation or prestige, among others. Therefore, "having face" means the self-respect a person gains from his or her own high morality and good reputation. It also implies that the person behaves as his or her social status requires.

Westerners also have social codes, such as sacrifice for honor and duel for love. The difference lies in that westerners care more about what they feel about self-esteem, whether the issue is about principle or my self-respect. In contrast, the orientals are more concerned about whether it affects other people's judgment on themselves.

How Was the Culture of “Face” Formed?

Thousands of years of Chinese civilization has formed the Chinese way of thinking centered on group supremacy. Chinese people Cartoon of A Girl's Face Being Brushedalways put collective interests above their personal benefits. The sense of self blurred so much that it doesn't seem to exist. In a sense, an individual is just a small link or molecule in society. His or her behavior has a direct effect on the stability of society. Therefore, the Chinese "face" culture requires everyone not to go beyond what their social role has imposed. "Face" culture becomes not just a social protocol, but a useful tool to manage society. Chinese people are more concerned about how others judge them. A person in high social status tends to be more conscious about Face. A poor person doesn’t care about the intangible face.

There are, although, also ideas borrowed from Buddhism like the afterlife in traditional Chinese culture. However, it's more of a utilitarian belief. For example, Chinese people worship the Kitchen God is to make him speak good things for them in front of heaven. They offer sacrifices to the God of Wealth is to pray for money. Even people burning hell money to the deceased hope the King of Hell makes their dead relatives' lives easier. Thus, Chinese society's entire thinking focuses on the present, which inevitably makes people concerned more about immediate gains and losses and others' opinions of themselves.

“Face” and Shame-based culture

Shame and "face" are two correlated concepts. Sometimes, they seem to be two sides of the same coin. For example, a shameless man is regarded as having no face. While have face is a normal state that a person must remain shy and aware of shame. Therefore, shame causes loss of face, and knowing shame causes having face.

Oriental Shame-based Culture vs. Western Guilt-based Culture A man is chasing after reputation, vain, and brands

Shame-based culture: the world-famous sociologist Ruth Benedict believed that the shame-based culture refers to a society in which external coercive forces forcefully develop the human conscience and morality. It has three significant characteristics.
1. The shame-based culture emphasizes external restraint. An individual is only shamed and punished by others only if his or her sins are exposed.
2. Shame-based culture has a non-subjective knowledge. It concerns more about the evaluation of others and society, not the shamed self.
3. Shame-based culture often imposes intense psychological reactions. It's not easy for people to be forgiven by redemption or confession.
In oriental shame-based culture, personal value is reflected in his or her dedication to others. Therefore, many Chinese are willing to help and care for others.

Guilt-based culture: Benedict believed that the guilt-based culture is a society where the absolute standards of morality are established and relied on to develop human conscience. There are four attributes of guilt-based culture.
1. Western guilt-based culture originates from the "theory of original sin" of Christianity fundamentally.
2. Guilt is universal.
3. Guilt can not be covered or eradicated. People can only be redeemed by "atonement."
4. The relationship between a person's guilt and family is relatively weak. It's a personal issue.
In Guilt-based culture, people have strong ego-centricity and independence. They are self-reliant and relatively ignorant of others’ judgments. They just have to be true to their own heart.

How to “Give Face” in China?

Here are some tips to help you give face to business partners, friends, and colleagues in China. A girl is taking off her mask, uncovering her sad face
1.Don’t embarrass someone publicly, especially avoid personal attacks.
2.Don’t expose someone’s lie or mistake publicly.
3.Don’t steal other people’s thunder, especially when they are hosts.
4.Don’t act too complacent if you are winning a contest.
5.Praise someone publicly.
6.Treat someone with an expensive meal.
7.Give sincere compliments or gifts.
8.Toast someone first at a banquet.

How to Avoid “Face-losing” Situations?

1.Be polite and cope with the dispute privately.
2.Less boasting and fewer self-congratulatory remarks will get you a long friendship with Chinese.
3.Show proper deference to elders or superiors. A Man's Head is Full of How to Make Face Projects
4.Fight for paying the bill.
5.Bring gifts to Chinese hosts.
6.Offer your Chinese guests drinks or food multiple times.
7.Refuse food, drinks, or presents from your Chinese counterparts a couple of times before accepting.
8.Try not to interrupt others when they talk.
9.Turn down an invitation by saying maybe, and we’ll do our best, I’ll need to discuss it with so and so first.
10.Avoid saying disrespectful things about China.

Chinese Idioms about “Face”

死要面子活受罪: keep up the good appearance to cover up the predicament.
措颜无地: nowhere to place face, extremely ashamed. An official is receiving all kinds of honors as he has power in hand
戴头识脸: someone with dignity and high social position.
情面难却: couldn’t turn down the offer or invitation for old times’ sake.
颜面扫地: completely lose face.
僧来看佛面: serve the monk for the Buddha’s sake, treat someone nice for the sake of another related person (often in higher social status).
有头有脸: people have face, bigwigs.
人要脸树要皮: face is as important to man as the bark is to the tree.
家丑不可外扬: family scandal should never be publicly aired.
面子工程: face project, fancy but useless.