A closer look on what ‘Face’ (面子) exactly is in China
So, we’re sure if you’ve been to China or if you are familiar with Chinese culture you have come across the term “miànzi”(面子).
The direct translation of “miànzi” is face. Similar to the Western idea of reputation, ‘face’ describes one’s reputation or dignity in social contexts.
In this article we will dive into the many different concepts of ‘face’, and we hope this will help you gain more insight into the importance of ‘mianzi’ in Chinese society.
- Having Face 有面子(yǒu miànzi): This is always a good thing, if you have face then you have a good reputation and giving your word is considered as good as gold!
- Giving Face 给面子(gěimiànzi): This refers to certain actions that show respect and thus ‘give face’ to people. Common examples are giving someone a compliment, toasting at a banquet, paying a bill, giving a present or gift, keeping one’s word, or helping someone in need.
- Losing face 丢脸(diūliǎn): This occurs if a certain action causes someone to ‘lose face’. It is often referred to an action that causes embarrassment, for example if your gift is turned down by a friend or colleague this could be costly for one’s reputation.
- Win face 爭面子(zhēng miànzi): A classic example that explains this concept is fighting to pay the bill in a restaurant. Winning face is a testament to how powerful this concept is in Chinese society as it is still very important to one’s prestige.
- Saving face 挽回面子(wǎnhuí miànzi): This implies a situation whereby someone’s reputation is threatened or has been lost and it is then subsequently restored. For example, if it turns out the person was not in the wrong then it is often said they have ‘saved face’.
- No face 没面子 (méimiànzi): Similar to losing face, this is more serious. Having ‘no face’ implies that one’s reputation is at rock bottom.
- Not wanting face 不要脸(bùyào liǎn): If somebody does something shameless or just doesn’t care about their appearance it is said to be ‘not wanting face’.