A Word to Describe Chinese Society

At The International Herald Tribune’s Latitude blog, translator Eric Abrahamsen is ten times as concise as Yu Hua, explaining how the character 管 guǎn captures much about Chinese society.

In the traditional Confucian view of society, relationships in the state are mirrored by those in the family; guǎn appears just as often in the home as in government. Pushover parents are “unable to guǎn” (管不了, guǎnbùliǎo) their unruly children. A decade later those children will loose the angst-ridden teenager’s cry: “don’t guǎn me!” (别管我, biéguǎnwǒ). Later still, when China’s tottering social welfare programs are unable to “take care of” (guǎn) the elderly, those now grown-up children may recall their filial responsibilities ….

Contrast guǎn with zhì (治), the more abstract term for “rule,” which appears in China’s hot-button debate about the difference between “the ” (法治, fǎzhì) and “the rule of man” (人治, rénzhì), as well as in official terms like “Autonomous Regions” (自治区, zìzhìqū) and “to punish” (处治, chǔzhì). This high-low distinction is evident in urban safety, where the police are in charge of “keeping the peace” (治安, zhì’ān) while employees of “city management” (城管, chéngguǎn) beat street vendors and migrant workers.

See also Abrahamsen’s recent post, ‘Freedom, with bits missing‘, at literary translation site Paper Republic.

Tweets

SUPPORT CDT

Google Ads 1

CDT EBOOKS

Giving Assistant

Amazon Smile

Google Ads 2

Life Without Walls

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup
X

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.