The Importance of FACE to the Chinese

July 29, 2014

No, this is not about how a person looks or Botox or face-lifting creams or hairstyles, or tanning salons, or the desire to have a rounder, paler moon face—the standard of beauty to most Chinese.

What I am writing about in this post is the meaning and importance of face to most Chinese

In China, if you do something considered disgraceful, like getting divorced, that may be considered a loss of face for everyone in the family—not just for the individual.

Lin Yutang wrote in My Country and My People, “It is easier to give an example of Chinese ‘face’ than to define it.

Lin Yutang said, “The ‘face’ is psychological and not physiological.  Interesting as the Chinese physiological face is, the psychological ‘face’ makes a still more fascinating study.  It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a ‘face’ that can be ‘granted’ and ‘lost’ and ‘fought for’ and ‘presented as a gift’.”

For instance, when our daughter was a pre-teen, we went on weekend hikes in the hills behind our home. The end of the hike led to a large park across the street from the La Puente Mall. On one fateful day, when she was nine or ten, she was the first to discover a dead man. She came running back with a shocked look to tell us about what she had seen.

It turned out the dead man was an architect from Taiwan and his company had gone broke. His loss of face for failing had driven him to take an extension cord from his mother’s house, find a suitable tree in an isolated portion of that park, and hang himself.

He was dead when we reached him.

The meaning of face may vary between Chinese. It depends on the balance between Confucianism and Daoism along with factors like Buddhism or belief in the Christian, Islamic or Jewish God.

Face is one reason why Chinese tiger mothers ride their children hard to do well in school while telling everyone they know that their child is stupid and/or lazy and has no chance to succeed. In fact, Chinese mothers may often tell their children the same thing they tell family and friends. However, if the child is accepted to a prestigious university, that Chinese mother has now earned bragging rights and “gained much face” for the job she did as a mother

To get a better idea, I recommend reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or watching the film.

Once, we had a house full of my wife’s Chinese friends over for dinner. After eating, the children gathered in our downstairs TV room to watch the The Joy Luck Club, and during one scene, when the Chinese mother was acting very Chinese, all the children looked at each other, nodded ‘yes’ and laughed ironically. Since my wife is Chinese, I knew why they reacted that way. They all had Chinese mothers.

Face is why the Chinese businessman will take great risks or take only a few risks and if given a chance may steal another person blind—that is if they believe they can get away with it. If they are caught and it’s against the law, that is a loss of face—and one possible reason for suicide.

Most Chinese men will wait until they are successful before they let others know. If they fail, it’s possible no one will hear about it beyond the family.

Face is why Chinese men often work twelve to sixteen hour days, seven days a week earning small but saving large. The Chinese will do without luxuries and save to pay for their child’s university education. Chinese women will work just as hard. Studies in today’s China show that the average family saves/spends a third of its income for a child’s education.

Regaining face may be one reason why Mao reoccupied Tibet for China in 1949. Look closely, and you may discover that even Taiwan claims Tibet for the same reason and why mainland China claims Taiwan.

Face may be why China’s mainland leaders get so angry over Taiwan. As long as Taiwan is not ruled by the mainland, it’s probably seen as a loss of face.

Face may by one reason why the Chinese want to walk on the moon, and then reach the other planets before anyone else. In China, the importance of face is universal to most of the population and different for each person.

Because of face, the Chinese are not strangers to risk taking. It’s probably the reason the Chinese invented paper, silk, the crossbow, the compass, the stirrup, developed a cure for scurvy, the printing press, gunpowder, and built multi-stage rockets centuries before anyone in the West did.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s History of Moon Madness

July 27, 2014

This is the year of the Horse.  I was born in the year of the Rooster. To discover your year, use the Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator.  Just feed in your date of birth.

China’s ancient calendar is based on a twelve-year lunar cycle. At one time, the Chinese calendar was confusing and complex. Buddhists have been given credit for simplifying it by replacing a complex system of numerical symbols with the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

There are several Chinese calendars, which are still in use today. Each has its own purpose. Farmers in rural China use one. There’s even a Chinese gender calendar to help conceive a boy or girl.

In addition to the lunar, numerical, astronomical, gender and agricultural calendars, each day also has a name from one of twenty-eight constellations, with a ruling spirit for the day.

In charting the sky, the Chinese divided the heavens into 28 constellations located along the Equator and the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere), each named after a star in the vicinity.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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Tomb Sweeping Day in China to honor the ancestors

July 23, 2014

Ancestor worship may well be the oldest, unorganized religion in China. For instance, take Tomb Sweeping Day. The practice that honors family ancestors started during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) and has been around for more than 2,500 years.

Tomb Sweeping Day is a one-day Chinese holiday where respect is shown to the ancestors. This holiday is celebrated in early April, and families have a reunion and visit their ancestors’ grave sites.

Before this tradition, the first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi had not unified China yet, and the country was divided into several nation states governed by hereditary rulers and worshiping ancestors was important in maintaining a link with the past.

Today, many Chinese homes and businesses have a shrine set up to honor the ancestors. This shrine may have the name of the ancestor carved into wood or rock or there is a photo. Food is often left on the table for the ancestors.

Respect for ancestors is also an important part of Confucianism and there is still an ancestor hall for Confucius (551-479 BC) in Chufu that is maintained by a direct descendant. Next time you are in a Chinese or Southeast Asian restaurant, look around and see if you can spot a shrine to the ancestors.

Confucianism and ancestor worship is not exclusive to China. After all, China was a regional super power in Asia for more than two thousand years and had a big influence over other cultures in the region.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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China Saving the Giant Panda

July 22, 2014

The giant panda is popular.  I just Googled “Giant Panda” and there were almost 27 million hits, and a Google Blog search resulted in 620 thousand hits. The second Blog listed on that search was the Smithsonian and the post was about giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian at the National Zoo.

When we took my sister and her youngest daughter to China in 2008, my forty-year-old niece wanted to see the pandas and have a picture taken of one sitting on her lap. That was one area of China we didn’t visit, so that didn’t happen.

The giant panda—because it’s so cute with its black and white coloring—is considered by many of the bear’s fans as docile, but it has been known to attack humans. It probably isn’t a good idea to have a giant panda sit on your lap. An adult male may weigh 330 pounds and a female 275 pounds. After all, it’s still a wild animal.

In fact, China’s giant pandas are considered a living treasure. Although the dragon has historically served as China’s national emblem, recently the giant panda has also served as an emblem for the country. The Chengdu Research Base is working hard to breed the pandas so the species survives.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Not One Less: a movie review and cultural comparison

July 16, 2014

In the film Not One Less (1999), a thirteen-year-old girl is asked to be the long-term substitute teacher in a small Chinese village.  The teacher tells her that when he returns, if he finds all the students still there, he will pay her ten yuan—less than two American dollars.

When one student, Zhang Huike, stops coming to school, Wei Minzhim, the thirteen-year-old substitute teacher, follows him to the city.

There are several themes in this movie. The most powerful to me was the value of an education and not losing face. If Wei loses Zhang, she will fail the responsibility the teacher gave her. To succeed, she must keep all the students and teach them.

This film reveals one of the greatest cultural differences between the United States and China. More than 2,000 years ago, Confucius taught that an education was the great equalizer and the key to leaving poverty behind.

Today, many Chinese and other Asians still believe this with a passion, and this belief may explain why the on-time high school graduation for Asian-Americans in the United States is the highest when compared to all other racial groups. Culturally, the value of an education may be seen in that high school graduation rate.

On-time high school graduation rate in the U.S. by race for the 2009-10 school year

 Asian/Pacific Islander = 93%
White = 83%
Hispanic = 71%
Black – 66%

In the United States, teachers are often blamed for the lower graduation rates of Hispanics and Blacks, while in China parents take the blame. This is another significant difference between China and the United States. In China it would be unthinkable to wage war against the nation’s teachers for children who don’t learn. Instead, parents, who cared, and teachers would work together to do what they could as partners.

Zhang Yimou was the director. He says, “Chinese culture is still rooted in the countryside. If you don’t know the peasant, you don’t know China.” Because of this, there is a strong message in this movie about the urban–rural divide, which is being addressed as China sews the nation together with high-speed rail and electricity.

This a powerful movie about children, education, and poverty that shows the challenges China faces in lifting the lifestyles of almost eight hundred million Chinese, who don’t live in the cities. The challenge is to do this without losing the cultural values that flow through Chinese history like a powerful river.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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The two-stringed Jing Hu

July 15, 2014

If you Google the name for this two stringed instrument, you may find the same name is used for girls names and a railroad that runs between Beijing and Shanghai. Jing is for the capital and Hu for Shanghai.

Since Chinese is a tonal language, each word is pronounced in a different tone.  The word is also written differently in Chinese when used for a girl’s name or the railroad.

京胡
for the musical instrument

京沪
Beijing-Shanghai

The Jing-Hu I’m writing about is a two stringed instrument often used with Beijing Opera. The Jing-Hu first appeared during the Qing Dynasty.  At that time, the strings were made of silk. Today, they are often made of steel or nylon.  The Jing-Hu is the smallest of the Chinese fiddles and is related to the larger Erhu.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Dream of the Red Chamber: much more than just China’s Romeo and Juliet

July 9, 2014

The Dream of Red Chamber (also known as The Story of Stone) is generally considered one of the four greatest Chinese classical novels; has had several versions and translations and was made into a TV series in China.

The author, Tsao Hsueh-chin (1715-1763) came from a powerful and wealthy family and lived a privileged life as a child in Nanjing. Later, he became poor and struggled to survive. Going from wealth to poverty provided him with the necessary experiences to write this tragic story.

Although this novel (English translation available on Amazon in addition to a film selection) has great literary merit on many levels, there is difficulty keeping the characters straight—there are more than four hundred characters and almost thirty are major.  The plot, like most Chinese novels, meanders and doesn’t always flow in the same direction.

Nevertheless, readers and students of Chinese history/culture should read this book to develop a better understanding of Imperial China during the Ch’ing Dynasty. The novel paints a vivid portrait of a corrupt feudal society on the verge of the capitalist, market economy we see flourishing in China today.

Another plot is the Romeo and Juliet love story between Chia Pao-yu and Lin Tai-yu, who—like Romeo and Juliet—wanted to be free to marry anyone they desired.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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