Face—Excerpt of Chinese Characteristics
中国人的“面子”

——节选自《中国人德行》


By Arthur H. Smith

雪桐

      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. Smith100多年前在中国居留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。
本文节选自该书第一章。

        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 1)Spaniard for bull-fights. Upon very slight 2)provocation, any Chinese regards himself 3)in the light of an actor in a drama. He throws himself into theatrical attitudes, performs the 4)salaam, falls upon his knees, 5)prostrates himself and strikes his head upon the earth, under circumstances which to an 6)Occidental seem to make such actions 7)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 8)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 9)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 10)potency, but 11)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 12)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 13)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 14)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。