Our third lecture at Sanya University discussed the topic of art and calligraphy in Chinese culture. We learned about Chinese painting and poetry and why artists/poets expressed themselves the way that they did. We also explored the language; what various characters mean, how we can express different things, and why certain words mean what they do.
For example, the word “hăo” means “good.” As part of the phrase “ni hăo” it means “hello.” However, it does not simply mean “hello.” It actually has a deeper meaning of extending good wishes to not just the person receiving the greeting, but to their family as well.
This was something that stood out to me as extremely powerful. In English, when someone says “hello,” that is all they are saying: a simple hello. They can choose to ask how you are and further the conversation, but if not, all you are left with is “hello.” In Mandarin, you are truly saying so much in such small phrase.
The importance of the meaning of phrases like “ni hăo” is not just that it means more than it says. In fact, I think that phrases like these that have a greater meaning speak to the nature of Chinese culture itself.
Based on my short yet action-packed time in China, I have come to notice that everything the Chinese people say and do revolves around the idea of respect. I felt very welcome in China; everyone was genuinely happy that we were there and they wanted to make sure that we enjoyed our experience. Not only that, but they were all extremely respectful to each other. Everything from the greetings they share, to the titles they give to each other, and even the way they give “cheers” at dinner is a show of respect for those around them. I think that the rest of the world could benefit from incorporating a little bit of this tradition into their everyday lives.