George Field

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Often used body language by Chinese people part 1 中国人常见身体语言

Posted on May 14, 2018

点头 diǎntóu


When someone nods their head, they mean “Yes” or “I agree”.

摇头 yáotóu


When someone shakes their head at you, they mean “No” or “I disagree”.

耸肩 sǒngjiān


When someone shrugs their shoulders –  they mean “no, I have no idea!” or “So what?”, or “I don’t care”. But this body language is not often used in China. It might cause misunderstanding. So better not do it.

鞠躬 jūgōng


Bowing can be used for welcoming guests. It’s often seen at restaurants or hotels. The waiters or waitress might bow to you slightly and say “Welcome!” (欢迎 光临  huānyíng guānglín )

Unlike Japanese, Chinese don’t bow to one another as a greeting. Bowing might be used for apologizing. The more you feel sorry, the more deeply you bow.

Bowing can also be used for expressing “Thank you”. The more you appreciate, the more deeply you bow.

In traditional Chinese weddings, both bride and groom dress in traditional costumes and bow to each other three times as well.

And be careful of bowing three times. Because bowing is also reserved by Chinese people for mourning their loved ones or ancestors. They bow to a portrait of the deceased three times continuously.

I guess you’re confused already :-). Don’t be! We’re not finished yet. 🙂

There is another type of bow called “点头 哈腰 diǎntóu hāyāo”. Someone humble [humiliate] themselves in serving a master or bow with a great show of respect.

And there is a special bowing you might have seen often in KungFu movies. When Chinese bow they make a fist with their right hand and hold it in the palm of the left at stomach level and bow slightly to deeply depending on how much respect they want to convey. They bow to their masters. They bow before the fight as well.

So, if you go to China, better not bow to the others if you don’t know exactly what the meanings of different bowing are. Besides, it looks and feels pretty weird for a foreigner to bow to a Chinese.

In other Asian countries, like Japan, Korean, bowing is also used but it might have different meanings. So please be careful!

To be continued…

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