There are some aspects of Chinese culture and history that were surprising to me. Perhaps the most illuminating aspect was the inconsistency of life philosophies and mindsets over time. Each dynasty brought a new approach to governing, warfare, and life philosophy. For example, the Qin dynasty was very brutal and authoritarian in its approach to governing and warfare while the Song dynasty was more easy-going and focused on development of trade and shared societal values. Some dynasties, such as the one that preceded the period of humiliation and degradation in China, were led by invaders that sought to destroy Chinese cultural norms. All of these collectively paint the picture of Chinese history, which is quite confusing and inconsistent in many regards. However, the outside world and even China tend to treat Chinese history as if it was clear cut and consistent across time. I find this both puzzling and intriguing.
An aspect of Chinese culture that surprised me this week is the comfort with lies or partial truths. I have always admired the Chinese for their overwhelming integrity and sense of honor, so I was shocked to learn that lies are accepting in their culture to such a degree. These lies are meant to “save face,” which means preventing public humiliation and shame to one’s name. I shouldn’t be surprised considering the contradictory nature of Chinese society and culture, but it’s still quite the eye-opener. In North American culture, lies of any sort, when exposed, are met with resistance and disapproval. Lying in the United States can bring shame to one’s name, and this causes others to lose trust in the liar. This directly contrasts the Chinese who use lies to preserve the honor of their name. This aspect of Chinese culture was the last thing I would’ve expected.
I believe that I won’t have trouble with the aforementioned aspect of Chinese culture in either the social or professional settings. I don’t mind being lied to if it’s done with good intentions. The last thing I want is to bring shame to someone in their own society. It isn’t my place as an outsider to do so. If I am blatantly lied to, I’ll treat the liar with respect and understanding. Therefore, this cultural aspect won’t have an impact on me. It is interesting though.