Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Chinese Visiting Card Etiquette

A depiction of “Chinese Literary Men”

Visiting is made a most serious business in China, and every individual of respectability must have a servant to carry and present his cards. A Chinese card is not a white, glazed little bit of pasteboard, but a huge sheet of scarlet paper, with the name inscribed in large characters; the more mammoth-like the character, the more grand and respectable it is. Cards are of several kinds. There is the plain card, a single sheet of scarlet paper, with the name written or stamped nearest the right hand and topmost sides. This is employed on common occasions. 

Then there is the official card, mostly used by the Mandarins on visits of ceremony. This is also a single sheet, and it contains the name, preceded by the entire title, written down the center from the top to the bottom. Then again, there’s the full card, which is only produced on very grand occasions, such as New Year visits, visits of congratulations or condolence. The full card is folded and must contain 10 folds. It does not give titles, but simply contains the name of the individual, written in the right hand and bottom corner of the first fold, prefaced by the words, “Your stupid younger brother” and followed by the words, “bows his head and pays his respects.” 

Where the person visited belongs to a generation senior to the visitor, the latter styles himself, “Your stupid nephew.” If to two generations senior, the visitor writes, “Your more than stupid nephew.” Should the individual visited belong to a younger generation, the visitor takes to himself the name of “uncle,” instead of “nephew,” retaining, however, the depreciatory appellative of “stupid.” 

There are still further varieties of self-designation, according to the particular gradations of relationship; but those we have quoted will suffice to give an idea of the punctilious rules particular to Chinese visiting. We may add that the card last described is, as a matter of etiquette, always understood to be returned to the visitor, it being presumably expensive to leave such voluminous proofs of regard with a number of friends. —The New York Times, 1871

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

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