In a blog about China, it’s a bit hard to overlook a WordPress Challenge entitled ‘”FACE”. The concept of losing face, gaining face, just simply “face”, is deeply engrained in Chinese culture. Every culture has societal and cultural clues for honouring others and not causing embarrassment – but with “face”, China has elevated this to an art form!
丢人， 丢脸，diu ren, diu lian, are both words used to describe “losing face”.
There’s an assortment of other words too. You could be 没有脸 meiyoulian,without face, shameless, no concern for your reputation, but preferably you would 给链子geilianzi, or give face to others by showing them respect.
“Face” is so deeply embedded into Chinese culture that even Reality TV shows are affected. China’s version of “American Idol”, a show called Supergirl, spends much time not disparaging the losers a la Simon Cowel, rather the judges are so concerned with the losers not ‘losing face’ that an exceptional amount of time is spent consolling them!
A show from a few years back, loosely based on “The Apprentice”, saw the three ‘losers’ receive half the prize money as the winner ( 5 million RMB and 10 millionRMB respectively) !
Face – losing it or gaining it – extends to the nation. Previous President Hu Jin Tao’s visit to the USA under the Bush regime needed to be handled by the Chinese media carefully. Bush – his minders either did not understand Chinese culture or chose to ignore it – organised a “state lunch” for the visiting President, and not a “state dinner”. To the Chinese, for whom food is also an integral part of the culture, not offering a visiting dignatatory a state banquet for the evening meal was such a slight, that the local media did not show the lunch – it would have been nationally understood as “losing face”. When Hu returned to the USA under the Obama administration, Obama provided the full evening State banquet. “Face” was successfully restored.
Whilst other bloggers, like Sydney blogger Lignum Draco, aka The Wood Dragon, excel in ‘street photography’ – happily snap away at strangers – or take extraordinary shots of their relatives, like the inimitable Lucile de Godoy and her series about her Aunt, I’ve never been that comfortable with photographing strangers, and have had a life-long policy to keep my daughter’s photographs away from the world-wide-web. Now she’s 12, I can relax that rule a bit – and being a child of the digital area, she has her own multi-faceted digital collections by now…..
This sweet photograph of when my daughter was younger, hugging a child statue in the old town.. breaks two of my rules – included in the photo is a background stranger!
When I started this blog, I ventured into the stranger-snapping, as this guy selling Black Cherries, and my daughter scathingly said to me, “Mum, you are losing your principles!” Such a criticism was really too much to bear, so for the purposes of “Face” rather than photographs of real live humans, I’ve taken photographs of the many statues around Suzhou.
Like this guy, who is casually talking on his mobile phone whilst out walking – you’d be forgiven for thinking he was real!
who surely would be losing face…. 🙂