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On Saving Face

A Brief History of Western Appropriation

An examination of the Western colloquial appropriation of the Chinese concept of “face.”

The colloquial concept of “losing face” and “saving face” has become so normalized in modern Western speech that most speakers are unaware that these sayings originate from Chinese. In East Asian cultures, “face” is a complex and varied concept that involves proper behavior and the avoidance of conflict, encompassing every aspect of one’s place in society as well as one’s relationships with other people. One can “give face,” “get face,” “fight for face,” and “tear up face;” a multitude of meanings that were foreshortened to the dualistic “lose face” and “save face” when appropriated into the Western framework of humiliation and reputation. On Saving Face traces the Western reception and distortion of this Sino-originated concept of “face,” arguing that its appropriation amidst nineteenth-century colonialism deviated the colloquialism into culturally separate meanings.

136 pages | 24 halftones | 6 x 9

Asian Studies: East Asia

Culture Studies

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: Pidgin “Face”
Chapter 2: Pre-“Face”
Chapter 3: Missionary “Face”
Chapter 4: Diplomatic “Face”
Chapter 5: Chinese “Face” Revisited
Chapter 6: Sociological “Face”

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