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information on Chinese society and culture

The Importance of "Face"

The concept of 'face' roughly translates as respect, 'good character or 'honour'.
 There are four types of 'face':

  • Diu-mian-zi – this is when one's behaviour or conduct has been uncovered publicly.
  • Gei-mian-zi – involves the giving of face to others in the course of presenting admiration.
  • Liu-mian-zi – this is created by evading mistakes and showing intelligence in deed.
  • Jiang-mian-zi – this is when face is improved through others, i.e. someone complimenting you .

It is critical you avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all times.


A system that is set as obligations of behaviour and ethics towards people who are related to each other in any way is said to be Confucianism.

The basic doctrine is based upon five different relationships:

  • Ruler and subject
  • Husband and wife
  • Parents and children
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Friend and friend

The main aim is to pressurize on the understanding and fulfilment of the duty, honesty, loyalty, faithfulness and respect for age and seniority. This is the key to maintain pleasant and healthy relationships.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

  • In general, the Chinese are a commonage society with a requirement for group association. It may include their families, their schools, their workplace or even the country as a whole.
  • In order to uphold a sense of affinity, they will act with good behaviour at all times and will never be the reason for anyone to face embarrassment in public.
  • They are big-hearted people who are always ready to sacrifice their own emotions for the good of the society/group.
  • In structured meetings, if someone has a different opinion to what another person says, he will stay quiet instead of arguing publicly.
  • This gives face to the other person, while speaking up would make both parties lose face.

Chinese Non-Verbal Communication

  • The Chinese have great skills when it comes to Non-verbal communication.
  • Chinese are said to be people of discipline and manners and people who work hard to maintain their harmony. These people rely on facial expressions, voice and other postures to convey to others what they feel.
  • To glare during a conversation is interpreted as a sign of disagreement and therefore most Chinese uphold an expressionless face while communication.
  • Chinese avoid eye contact to grant others and themselves privacy. In addition this, staring into the other’s eyes while talking is considered a disrespectful act.


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