Shame as an incomplete conception of Chinese culture: a study of face

AuthorJin, Yaoji
Ambrose Yeo-chi King

Myers, John T.

TitleShame as an incomplete conception of Chinese culture: a study of face
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateAugust, 1977
Keywords:National characteristics, Chinese

Social life and customs

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

Our intention in this paper has been the modest one of demonstrating that the concepts of face (mien) and shame (chih) have often been interpreted too rigidly by students of Chinese culture. The tendency has been to speak of Chinese culture unidimensionally as a face conscious one in purely the social sense and a shame conscious one on the behavioral level. Our contention has been that such categorical statements reify and conceptually freeze concepts which in Chinese are extremely fluid with a wider domain of application than their English counterparts.

AS DeVos (1967) has convincingly argued in the case of Japan, so we have tried to demonstrate that a single dichotomy between the Chinese face-shame complex and the Western sin-guilt one fails to do justice to the complexities of the Chinese understanding of the key terms utilized in posing such a dichotomy. Mien and chih are not merely external sanctions lacking potentiality of internationalization; the long tradition of Intrinsic Confucianism testifies not only to the possibility of their being internalized as individual moral guidelines but insists that internationalization is a moral necessity. We have not implied that face-shame in a purely social sense was unimportant in traditional Chinese society, but we claim that in itself it was incomplete; yet, it has been this partial component of the traditional complex that has been emphasized by those who branded China as a “shame” culture. It reflects in essence an “under-Confucianized view of Chinese culture.”

NoteBibliography: leaves 25-26
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