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Rules and Chinese

Rule is the controls of action. From as wide as a nation, to as parochial as a small family, from as big as a building project, to as small as peek-a-boo, nothing is free from rules and regulations in China. The Chinese have been fettered tightly for a long time. Rules can be found in any facet in Chinese society.

No other language in the world has more rules than Chinese. Standard characters should be written in a special square, with allotted space for each stroke, even the strength to spot is settled, and a large variety of calligraphies have been developed.

Chinese architecture shows Chinese attitudes perfectly. Chinese ancient building has its most reputation for palace and metropolis, which are almost the same seemingly, because a set of principles for building palace is strict, especially with details. They have turned up horns, black tiles and exact orientations. Nowadays Chinese buildings, especially for living, tend to be regular. And streets across cities are usually square.

Chinese have a complex table system, even today. Here are some examples. First, there are the superior seat, the second seat, the humble seat, the host seat, etc, each of which has its exact location. The house should be located in the north, toward the south. And before serving a meal, chopsticks are set beside the bowl, with its pole neither towards yourself nor your guest. Never touch your chopsticks before the host begins to use the chopsticks. Next, when toasting wine to your seniority, make sure that the top edge of your cap is lower than the seniority’s.

Chinese are fond of big families, so their kinship is a complicated conception, with many certain terms. In fact, English vocabulary is far lack in terms to describe Chinese appellation in kinship. For example, the word “aunt” in Chinese refers to a lot of people who are called different in China. And a person will be laughed at if he doesn’t know this name net clearly. Besides, there is a big net of rules for ceremonies, especially of marriage, funeral and birth. When and where to hold the ceremonies are calculated ahead and many details are dictated exactly, which are thought to be important.

Pressure is caused by restriction, while restriction is caused by complicated rules. Students are thought to be the most stressful Chinese. As under teachers’ strict tutor and parents’ great expect, students impose themselves to study hard and rarely relax for a moment. Bunches of exams, changeable ranges and endless homework bother them a lot. Students are supposed to devote themselves to working hard in the fierce competition today, because they shouldn’t disappoint their parents, and breaks the general rule in society, “Diploma is an expressway to promotion”.

In some way it is rules that restrict Chinese creativity. First, Chinese believe in complex rules, as they adore sages and take whatever they said as granted. Then they are used to not breaking rules and seldom creating something themselves, except by accident. Second, the idle ideology “Happy is he who is content”, “not to seek to understand things thoroughly” affects people’s thoughts deeply. Third, there’re so many different rules around Chinese that they drown themselves in the swamp of rules long and deep. As the saying goes, “Habit is second nature”, they fit in with the calm circumstances and incline to avoid commotion or changes. They just enjoy the present. Therefore, plenty of perfect rules make Chinese inferior in inventing or creating.

Now that Chinese are immersed in rules, how did they get to this place? Here is the history of changes of Chinese character.

Between 770B.C. to 476B.C., it is the Chunqiu Times. When its neighbors were still uncivilized, Chinese had initiated to develop culture. There were breathtaking and moving stories, like Yue Fei, “Jinke assassinates the Qin emperor”, which indicated Chinese dignity and spiritual impulse. That was called “to value morality and ignore interests”. People were simple, gentle and upright, with live thoughts. Many new theories sprung up. 

Unfortunately, the prosperity didn’t last long. In 221 B.C., the Qin Emperor, Yingzheng, unified China with his sword and built the Great Wall. That was the first time of Chinese unity. However, he was more a great brute than a wise ruler. His teacher, Han Fei, told him that, human is born mean, who goes for nothing but interests and fears nothing but violence. Man doesn’t reserve respect or trust. The only way to rule the country is to use law, strategy and power. In this way Yingzheng, who was known as a great giant, founded his ruling system based on violence. He ordered to burn books and bury intellectuals alive, to fool commons, eliminating their thoughts and dignity. Subsequently people who occasionally complaint were killed in a cruel way, people who complaint to themselves were executed, and when people met each other in streets, they communicated by eye. It was the first time for the Chinese throng to be treated roughly by hurting their self-esteem. Ignorable utilitarian began to adopt the ruthless society better.

 During the next hundred years, Chinese people lived a comparatively simple and calm life, with several dynasties changing, in isolated circumstances. China had had an advantage over other countries. Chinese were confident and proud, while this feeling came to a peak in the Tang Dynasty.

Grand Tang Dynasty is a forever memory to Chinese, when China is the richest, most powerful and prosperous country in the world. Its glory expanded far to Europe, and its neighbors greeted to China, and learnt from China. Goods from European countries and other Asian countries were shown, and people of different colors traded and learnt in streets of Chang’an. Chinese were masculine, extroverted, optimistic, healthy and aggressive. There weren’t so many routines, like little wrapped feet, stone archway, etc. Widows could remarry and estranged couples were allowed to divorce. Excellent poets sang high of life passion in magnificent and fresh words. The healthiest emperor in character, Xuanzong, existed in this period too. He was literary, pacific, considerate, wise and showed respect to commons.

However, in the following 1000 years regimes changed quickly and outlanders aggressed frequently, which had important effect on Chinese mind and character. As “changing regimes” had a different meaning in China, compared to other countries in the world. The essence of Chinese moral quality is being loyal and filial. As a Chinese saying goes, “survive if the emperor survives, and die if the emperor dies”, which is the doctrine of god. One woman can’t have two husbands, as one minister can’t serve two emperors. Changing regimes is a severe trial to every Chinese, especially to gentlemen. When a new dynasty is built, there would be some people killing themselves. But the majority will choose to survive in a shame. There is no doubt that this is a process of self-deny and breaking one’s self-respect.

Nevertheless, dynasties changed frequently just the same. Between the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, which was 54 years, Southern China had experienced 5 dynasties, with the shortest, Late Han for 4 years. So Chinese suffered a lot from this changing. As the changes went on, more and more people began to abandon persistence, trust and seriousness, simplicity and bravery vanished little by little, and the shelf of social morality was broken day by day.

Along with changing dynasties, autarchy became more and more severe. From Yingzheng, every emperor had been thinking about one question, “how to maintain their forever rein?” And almost every of them gave the answer, “ restrict common’s activity and to stabilize the society at all costs.” So Chinese thoughts became stiff under those circumstances.

After Yingzheng, Han Wudi deposed all the other theories, and held Confucius in esteem solely. That was a kind of idealistic dictatorship. Tang Taizong prevented multicultural development effectively by imperial examination. The Qing Emperors used imprisonment or execution to an author if he wrote something considered offensive by the imperial court; literary inquisition; literary persecutionto stop people from thinking or speaking freely.

As a result, liberal atmosphere got thinner and thinner, with the history proceeding. Numeral rules and regulations pile up after thousands of years. Chinese are fettered tightly, and always have an urge to break rules, but with too much difficulty. Seemingly they may break rules in public, because they won’t take responsibility and may get instant benefits.

Chinese disorder in public is due to their extreme repression inside. Chinese are fettered too much. China is a nation burdening with too heavy a load, made of countless rules and regulations.

 

 

References

肖滨. 传统中国与自由理念. 广州:广东人民出版社.1999

http://www.imagegarden.net/bbs/showthread.php?s=&threadid=532521&goto=nextoldest

辜鸿铭. 中国人的精神. 北京:外语教学与研究出版社. 1998

包惠南,包昂. 中国文化与汉英翻译. 北京:外文出版社. 2004

宋天锡. 汉英翻译与英文写作功能表达宝典. 北京:国防工业出版社. 2003

居祖纯. 汉英翻译强化训练. 上海:上海辞书出版社. 2004