Tag Archives: culture

Talking about “Face” in Chinese

From a Bible study perspective, the ancient cultures of the Scriptures are very much honor/shame. Thus, keeping this framework in mind can be helpful in the interpretation of some passages.


How do you use Mandarin to talk about honor and shame (i.e. “face”)?

What if you don’t speak Chinese? For those not interested in speaking Chinese, there’s still plenty here to help you learn about how language reveals culture. Some observations may help people think about how to use language to share God’s message, regardless of one’s cultural settings.chinese-303488_640

Presuming to exhaust the depths of Chinese honor-shame language is laughable. There are hundreds of words and idioms that convey variously related ideas. I’ll offer some basics for now.

Beyond a Superficial Understanding of Honor

Mainly, two words are used to mean “face”:

1) 面子,miànzi–– this is most general word.

2) 脸, liǎn –– is often interchangeable with miànzi, but it does have the ability to connote much more, though many Chinese are not initially conscious of the face. Liǎn can convey a more narrow idea that carries moral…

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