Traditional Chinese Etiquette

clip image002 thumb8 Traditional Chinese EtiquetteChinese get used to being pushed and buffeted when they use public transportation or go shipping in public stores. They accept this as normal behavior without expecting apologies. At the same time, the Chinese have been conditioned for centuries to ignore “outsiders,” meaning anyone not a member of their family, work unit, or circle of friends. They thus behave more or less if others do not exist.

The concept of humanitarian treatment of our fellow citizens, so succinctly delineated in the pithy phrase “Putting people first”, is not a modern or western invention. It is quintessential Confucian in origin. In pursuit of restoring social order and harmony through individual morality, Confucius advocated a hierarchical social order allowing for individual ability and dedication. He firmly believed that everyone is born with the seeds of virtue and therefore should be treated with equal humanitarianism even as they hail from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

clip image004 thumb6 Traditional Chinese EtiquetteTraditional Chinese etiquette contained situations in which ketou (or kotow) was performed. According to imperial Chinese protocol, ketou was performed before the emperor. During the Spring Festival, younger family members would ketou to members of each generation above them. At a wedding ceremony, the bride and bridegroom had to ketou to everyone from the eldest down to their parents in order. During ancestor worship services and the Bright and Clear Festival, ketou was so often performed. Since the end of the feudal autocratic rule, ketou is no longer as common as usual, but in the rural areas, or a religious occasions it is still an important etiquette to show courtesy and respect.

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One Response to Traditional Chinese Etiquette

  1. fusu says:

    Bowing down on all limbs is a most humble deed. This can be done to elders, those of higher standing and as a token of respect. It should not be taken as a deed of weakness for it is bold and fitting to do such an act and deemed as becoming.

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