Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's Not Just Language

Westerners have trouble understanding the Chinese, and they have trouble understanding us. Our languages are very different-- Chinese writing is ideographic rather than alphabetic, and there are no common word roots to help in learning vocabulary. But the problem is deeper. The Chinese culture is very different from ours, for it rests on fundamentally different assumptions about life.
One cannot understand the philosophical foundations of Western Civilization without reading the Bible and perhaps Plato; similarly, one cannot understand Chinese civilization without studying the Analects of Confucius. My friend, Sir Barry Jowett, is passionate on this matter. His work as director of the Oxford English Academy convinced him that Westerners needed to know more about the heritage of Kongzi (Confucius) and that Chinese might be interested in further study of Confucius as well. The academy's website is See also

There are huge differences between Western and Eastern thought, especially regarding concepts of interpersonal harmony and interfamilial fealty, still there are similarities. Confucius offered a version of the "Golden Rule": If something is hateful to you, do not do it to other people.
Above: Image of the sage imposed on a page from the Analects.
Below 1: A statue of Confucius stands before the School of Interpretation and Translation, Shandong University at Weihai.
Below 2: View from the balcony, Kongzi Academy of Nanjing.

1 comment:

nbta said...

What a great experience you must be having going to China. I hope you get to continue going and learn more about their culture.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...