Thursday, August 16, 2018

Observations of Chinese Etiquette

The queue was a specifically male hairstyle worn from the mid-1600s to the early 20th century and abolished (almost forcibly in many areas) in 1912. The queue started with hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples every ten days and the remainder of the hair was braided into one long braid.  Originally worn by the Manchu people from central Manchuria, the queue was later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty. - Photo source Pinterest


“Is this the proper thing to do?”
By Nellie M. Stevenson

Here are some interesting impressions for the newcomer to China: An entire readjustment of self to conditions seems necessary. One is constantly asking, “Is this the proper thing to do?” or “
Is this the proper thing to wear?” To meet a gentleman of one’s acquaintance on the street and to pass without speaking, would be an unpardonable breach of etiquette, according to our Western custom, but here even a nod to one’s husband seems a sin. 

To our Western eyes nothing is better suited to street wear than a closely-fitting tailor suit, but such a style must he tabooed here if one is to be quite respected. “Don’t wear thin waists outside of the compound,” for such is not in keeping with Chinese ideas of modesty. “Don’t wear elbow sleeves when your teacher is giving a lesson.” Chinese women do not cross their arms in such fashion. “Don’t wear your hair in braids coiled about your head,” for if the Chinese appear before you with their queues wrapped about their heads, it is a sign of disrespect. “Don’t shake hands with a Chinese man” as it would surely mean loss of reputation. 

Are there any more “Don’ts?” Yes! “Don’t go outside the door without your sun hat,” “Don’t go outside the compound in the evening, for the tigers will be apt to eat you.” "Don’t brush against the cacti growing along the road,” for the lepers brush against them.” “Don’t eat uncooked green things unless they grow in your own garden.” These and many more, but soon one does not really mind them, and takes them largely as a matter of course, just as he does quinine, with a wry face sometimes, but with the consciousness that it will do you good. 

Each day brings some new interesting experience. One cool day I noticed people walking along the street with their sleeves over their noses and mouths. I thought this was because of toothache until, seeing so many doing it, I inquired and found out that they did not like to breathe fresh air. — Published in the Eagle Rock Sentinel, 1928

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia