This is a must read for anyone who seriously wants to learn about culture: Readers’ tipping nightmares and fairytales
1. Kenneth McLeod, Xiamen, China: I live and work in China; last year at a trade conference we were invited to a banquet by our Chinese hosts. The waitress was giving top class service and an American tried to give the waitress a tip, which she refused. However he still forced the tip into her pocket; at this juncture the waitresses manager saw the money go into the waitress’ pocket, the manager came across to the waitress and sacked her on the spot. She took the money out of the waitress’ pocket and tried to give it back to the American, who refused to take it back and an altercation started, much to our Chinese hosts’ embarrassment. I had to take him aside and explain to him that he was insulting our hosts and Chinese people in general. He couldn’t understand that it was insulting to tip in China, that the employer paid staff a wage set by the government. All I could get from him was: “Oh we do that in in America all the time.” He seemed mystified that customs in countries other than America are different. The waitress didn’t get her job back, because the manageress would have “lost face” with the rest of her staff, if she admitted that she had made a mistake.
…4. Ian H.Thain, Banbury, UK: I found that giving tips to hotel staff in the Philippines was met with embarrassment. But equally, I didn’t want to be seen as tight-fisted when I know how little they earn compared with us, and I felt embarrassed if I didn’t tip. One restaurant in the USA had a large notice by the cash desk: “We pay our staff well. Please do not insult them by leaving tips.” However, beside the till itself was a jar labelled “Insults”.
Translating and closely analysing contemporary Chinese material, Gernet show that it was not merely clerical squabbles, doctrines, rituals or customs which separated missionary and potential convert. The twain were unable to meet because their respective world-pictures differed radically: the Chinese mind-set, for instance, rooted in concepts from the Sino-Tibetan family of languages, found literally inconceivable Christian ideas evolved from the Graeco-Roman- Judaic-Scholastic mental world. And vice versa. The literati, by and large untroubled by metaphysical anxieties, showed keen interest in Ricci’s technology, moral tracts and memory exercises (see History Today, December, 1985) but laid aside with contumely his religion and his Tridentine ‘Ptolemaic’ theology.
Would love to read this book. The above shows that there is an area which students of inculturation should look into – the definition of ‘mind-set’, its relation with language (and vice versa) and how these affect evangelism. If China is having a revival today – how are the barriers of ‘mind-set’ and language overcome? Perhaps inculturation doesn’t work at all if worldview (mind set and language included, philosophy) is to be separated from culture (behaviour)?
Traditionally people ‘blame this first ‘Failure in the Far East’ upon the Jesuits’ ‘narrow-minded’ co-workers, the friars, whose machinations, we read, misled nine successive popes into denouncing, and finally prohibiting the Jesuits’ ‘China Strategy’, thereby destroying the plan to convert Asia.’ But the review highlighted how the author of this book opined that the mistake was Ricci’s as he failed to notice that the key barrier is not cultural (hence Confucianism) but philosophical (Taoism). A more scholarly review from The Journal of Asian Studies summarises the author’s view succinctly: ‘He doubts that many of the early seventeenth-century literati-converts were “really” Christians, because they were so insistent on reconciling Christianity with Neo-Confucian notions; they were attracted to the Jesuits’ behavior and moral rigor, not to Christian doctrine.’ (China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures. by Jacques Gernet; Janet Lloyd, Review by: Daniel H. Bays, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Feb., 1987), pp. 114-116)
I will try to find a copy of this book!
I have enjoyed reading Martin Jacques’ opinions published in the BBC website and I though it would be good to share them here:
As a Chinese whom speaks, writes and breath Chinese I am please to see that someone in the West has finally cracked it! Jacques understands China. He is also able to put in words the very differences which distinguish Chinese worldview and that of the West.
Among the interesting points he made is the fact that Chinese has a deep sense of superiority, and this is due to their view on history and culture. Jacques also refers to China as a civilisation state, effectively differentiating it from the West’s understanding of ‘nation state’. The Chinese simply has a very different worldview and culture. It is true, from my own reading and feeling, that China, or the Centre State (中国), has never thought itself as any less, than being the centre and most supreme. History does attest this. In fact, there have been records of people as far as Africa living in China as early as Tang Dynasty, and all those who have come to China has accepted the superiority of the Chinese culture and many have since been assimilated. So there has never been a desire to be superior or world domination. Instead, having people coming to China and wanted to stay and willingly becoming a part of the society has always been a norm. Furthermore, stronger neighbours have, over the ages, came to China for learning. The Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese have all been a part of the grand Chinese sphere of influence and the Chinese are so used to being the centre of civilisation admired by others. Thus, with this so-called resurgence of China, the Chinese are just relishing a return to what they used to be.