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中国人的“面子”

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小编摘要:上个世纪一个美国人对中国人面子的理解和描述。

导读:

上个世纪之交的中国人究竟过着什么样的生活?经历着怎样的动乱和变化?保持着哪些文化传统和陈规陋习?都市、乡村及社会各层面的具体状况如何?Chinese Characteristics(《中国人德行》)一书将为你解答这些问题。本书首版于1899年,作者Arthur H. Smith系100多年前在中国居住并深谙中国文化的美国人。他在该书中分析了中国人的国民性,比如忍耐、坚韧、节俭、勤劳,也指出了中国国民存在的问题:要面子、守旧、好猜疑、缺乏时间观念与公共精神等等(其中所谈及的很多问题,现代人身上也都或多或少地保留着,需引起注意)。他以外国人独有的视角和眼光打量、考察着中国这块神秘的土地,并以生动形象的语言记录下他的观感和惊奇。他对中国社会的研究深为鲁迅、潘光旦等学人所称道。


本文节选自本书第一章。

 

 

中国人好面子

 

 

At first sight nothing can be more irrational than to call that which is shared with the whole human race a “characteristic” of the Chinese. But the word “face” does not in China signify simply the front part of the head, but is literally a compound noun of multitude, with more meanings than we shall be able to describe, or perhaps to comprehend.

这全人类共有的东西给说成是中国人的一种“特质”,乍看之下似乎荒谬至极。但是在中国,“面子”一词可不是单指脑袋朝前的那一部分,而是一个语义甚多的复合名词,其内涵之丰富,超出了我们的描述能力,或许还超出了我们的理解能力。


In order to understand, however imperfectly, what is meant by “face,” we must take account of the fact that, as a race, the Chinese have a strongly dramatic instinct. The theatre may almost be said to be the only national amusement, and the Chinese have for theatricals a passion like that of the Englishman for athletics, or the Spaniard for bull-fights. Upon very slight provocation, any Chinese regards himself in the light of an actor in a drama. He throws himself into theatrical attitudes, performs the salaam, falls upon his knees, prostrates himself and strikes his head upon the earth, under circumstances which to an Occidental seem to make such actions superfluous, not to say ridiculous. A Chinese thinks in theatrical terms. When roused in self-defence he addresses two or three persons as if they were a multitude. He exclaims: “I say this in the presence of You, and You, and You, who are all here present.” If his troubles are adjusted he speaks of himself as having “got off the stage” with credit, and if they are not adjusted he finds no way to “retire from the stage.” All this, be it clearly understood, has nothing to do with realities. The question is never of facts, but always of form. If a fine speech has been delivered at the proper time and in the proper way, the requirement of the play is met. We are not to go behind the scenes, for that would spoil all the plays in the world. Properly to execute acts like these in all the complex relations of life, is to have “face.” To fail them, to ignore them, to be thwarted in the performance of them, this is to “lose face.” Once rightly apprehended, “face” will be found to be in itself a key to the combination lock of many of the most important characteristics of the Chinese.

为了大体上理解“面子”一词的含义,我们必须考虑到这样一个事实,中国人这整个种族天生就热爱舞台表演。戏剧几乎可以说是他们惟一的全民娱乐方式,中国人之热衷于看戏,就如同英国人喜爱运动、西班牙人喜爱斗牛一样。随便一个中国人,动不动就把自己当成戏中一角,摆出戏剧性的姿态,作揖下跪,伏拜叩头,对于西方人来说,这些举动多余不在话下,更别说是荒唐可笑。中国人的脑子里充满了舞台辞令。当一个人奋起为自己辩护时,面前就算只有两三个人,他也会像面对一大群人那样说话。他会大声宣称:“我敢当着您、您,还有您,当着在座诸位说这话。”如果他的麻烦事得以开脱,他就会说他得以体面地“下台”;如果问题解决不了,那他会发现自己无法“退场”。很明显,所有这一切都与实际情况没有任何关系。问题从来不在于事实,永远只在于形式。如果在合适的时机用合适的方式道出了漂亮的言辞,这戏就算演得合要求了。我们不必去幕后窥探真相,否则将会毁掉世界上所有的戏剧。在生活的各种复杂关系中适当地演出这一幕幕,就是有“面子”。如果自己演不好,或者对别人的演出不买账,又或者自己演出却遭人横加阻挠,就是“丢脸”。“面子”这概念一经正确理解,你就会发现,它就是解开谜团的密码,那藏有中国人那些最主要性格特质的暗码箱由此打开。


It should be added that the principles which regulate “face” and its attainment are often wholly beyond the intellectual apprehension of the Occidental, who is constantly forgetting the theatrical element, and wandering off into the irrelevant regions of fact. To him it often seems that Chinese “face” is not unlike the South Sea Island taboo, a force of undeniable potency, but capricious, and not reducible to rule, deserving only to be abolished and replaced by common sense. At this point Chinese and Occidentals must agree to disagree, for they can never be brought to view the same things in the same light. In the adjustment of the incessant quarrels which distract every hamlet, it is necessary for the “peace-talkers” to take a careful account of the balance of “face” as European statesmen once did of the balance of power. The object in such cases is not the execution of even-handed justice, which, even if theoretically desirable, seldom occurs to an Oriental as a possibility, but such an arrangement as will distribute to all concerned “face” in due proportions. The same principle often applies in the settlement of lawsuits, a very large percentage of which end in what may be called a drawn game.

还要再补充一点,“面子”所依据及保全“面子”的种种原则,往往为西方人所全然不解,西方人经常会忘记这种戏剧化因素,而错入毫不相干的事实领域。对于西方人来讲,中国人的“面子”就像南太平洋岛民的禁忌一样,是一种无可否认的强大力量,但变幻莫测,且不受规则约束,应被废除并以常理取而代之。中国人和西方人必须有个共识,就是在这一点上,他们不可能达成共识,因为他们永远不可能以同样的方式去看同样的事物。在调停每个村子里都很常见的那些不断出现的小争执时,“斡旋使者”必须仔细斟酌如何顾及每一方的“面子”,就像欧洲的政客们过去为平衡各国势力而斟酌考虑一样。这样做的目的不是为了公平正义,虽说这目标在理论上可行,但对于东方人来说却不大可能实现,调停的目的在于适当照顾各方的“面子”。同样的原则也常常被用在诉讼裁决中,绝大多数诉讼都以“和气”收场。

 


To offer a person a handsome present is to “give him face.” But if the gift be from an individual it should be accepted only in part, but should seldom or never be altogether refused. A few examples of the thirst for keeping face will suffice for illustration. To be accused of a fault is to “lose face,” and the fact must be denied, no matter what the evidence, in order to save face. A tennis-ball is missed, and it is more than suspected that a coolie picked it up. He indignantly denies it, but goes to the spot where the ball disappeared, and soon finds it lying there (dropped out of his sleeve), remarking, “Here is your ‘lost’ ball.” The waiting-woman who secreted the penknife of a guest in her master’s house afterwards discovers it under the table-cloth, and ostentatiously produces it. In each case “face” is saved. The servant who has carelessly lost an article which he knows he must replace or forfeit an equivalent from his wages, ramarks loftily, as he takes his dismissal, “The money for that silver spoon I do not want,” and thus his “face” is intact. A man has a debt owing to him which he knows that he shall not collect; but going to the debtor, he raises a terrible disturbance, by which means he shows that he knows what ought to be done. He does not get the money, but he saves his “face,” and thus secures himself from imposition in the future. A servant neglects or refuses to perform some duty. Ascertaining that his master intends to turn him off, he repeats his former offence, dismisses himself, and save his “face.”

送人厚礼就是“赏面”予人。而送礼的如果是个人,这礼最好别照单全收,但也很少或者说不应该一点儿也不收。有几个例子足以阐释“保住面子”的这种欲望。犯了错被人揭发出来,就是“丢脸”,所以不管证据多么确凿,也必须否认事实,以保住面子。一只网球丢了,大家都很确定是一个苦力捡走的。他愤愤不平地否认,但是会跑到丢球的地方去,很快,他会发现球就在地上(那球是从他衣袖里掉到地上的),说道:“你‘丢掉的’那只球不就在这儿么。”女仆在主人家里偷了宾客的袖珍折刀,之后又在台布下面把它找回,并装模作样地拿出来。在这两种情况下,“面子”都被保住了。一个佣人不小心弄丢了一件东西,他知道他必须偿还,或是被扣除同等工钱,给解雇时他会高傲地说道:“那把银勺子的钱我就不要了。”这么一来,他的“面子”便保全了。一个债主,即便明知收不回别人欠他的钱,还是会去讨债,大肆搅乱一通,以此表明他知道该如何行事。他没有拿到钱,但是他保全了他的“面子”,而且这么一来,也使得人们以后不再敢赖他的账了。一个仆人疏忽行事,或者拒不履行某些职责,在得知主人打算解雇他之后,他会故技重施,自行请辞来保全自己的“面子”。


To save one’s face and lose one’s life would not seem to us very attractive, but we have heard of a Chinese District Magistrate who, as a special favour, was allowed to be beheaded in his robes of office in order to save his face!

为了保全面子而丢掉性命,对我们而言似乎并没有什么吸引力,但是我们听说过这样一件事,中国旧时一位县官在被斩首时允许身着官服,作为一种特殊的恩准,其目的就是保住他的面子!

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2011-05-09 10:18 编辑:kuaileyingyu
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