The two-faces of Confucius – Part 1/5

During our debate, when Troy Parfitt wrote, “The essence of Confucianism is obedience,” and “The strains of despotism in these native [Chinese] ideologies speak to communism’s appeal,” I knew he was wrong.

The complexity of Confucianism is much more than just about obedience.

However, to understand Confucianism, it first helps to discover how wrong many Westerners are about so many things when it comes to China, which may explain Mr. Parfitt’s confusion.

To discover the depth of this ignorance, we will explore a few examples before focusing on the two-faces of Confucianism.

The China Law Blog says, “My mother thinks that people in China still ride around on bicycles wearing those green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. While there are still a lot of bicycles, especially in Beijing and Shanghai—where they are proud to wear their silk pajamas while riding their bicycles and smoking at the same time—there are not many people wearing those green outfits.”

Note from Blog host: In 1999, before I first visited China, I thought pretty much the same about the green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. Then I arrived in China and discovered there is a reason that Shanghai is called the Paris of Asia, and it has to do with fashion.

Misconceptions about China

At, Sarah Meik shared, “8 Common Misconceptions about China Debunked“.  If you want the details, click on the link to Sarah’s post. You might learn something.

Then Fred Dintenfass posted, “3 Things I Misunderstood About Chinese People Before I came to China.”

Fred says, “It is way too easy to generalize, to see a Chinese person spit and decide that all Chinese love to hock loogies in the street… I knew the media here was state run. I knew people might be cautious about expressing their political opinions. What I didn’t realize is that young people in the cities are content.”

Then at The Tree of Mamre, we learn from “China Owns Most of the US Debt, and other Misconceptions“.

“Misconception: Most of what Americans spend their money on is made in China.

Fact: Just 2.7% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services. 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on American-made goods and services …”

“Misconception: The United States owe most of its debt to China.

Fact: China owns 7.8% of U.S. government debt outstanding.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Subscribe to “iLook China”
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page.

About iLook China

4 Responses to The two-faces of Confucius – Part 1/5

  1. […] population compared to more than 87% that are not religious who mostly follow the teachings of Confucius and/or Taoism, and Muslims (Islam arrived in China in the 6th and 7th centuries) represent less […]

  2. Aussie in China says:

    yes, Beijing introduced a ban on spitting and littering in 2006. In the lead-up to the games, they went as far as to survey the percentage of ‘spitters’ in Beijing and even had a ‘no spitting day’.

    Also, the tremendous amount of pollution and dust at certain times of the year in Beijing exacerbates the situation.

    In my region they still spit but are more inclined to find a grassy spot or a street bin and the mess is a little less noticeable. Everyone I know including my wife still does it. However, in my wife’s hometown of Lanzhou its a bit like playing hopscotch when walking down the street trying to avoid the spittle.

    The younger Chinese today are more aware and more critical of the habit. Where it was once difficult to find a box of tissues in the shops if at all, it is now common to enter any home and find tissues on the tables. The first thing our son did on his recent visit from Beijing was to go out and buy a mega-pack of tissues. Many women are now making decorative plastic cases for tissue boxes and it’s quite common to receive one as a gift.

    All the Chinese I know are pretty anal about what goes into the stomach and overall cleanliness and there are scores of beliefs and if you like, superstitions too numerous to mention.

    On the shoe front, the first job on arriving home is to discard the street shoes and don the house shoes kept near the door. The second job is to wash the hands in case you’ve touched something ‘dirty’ in your travels. In my wife’s mind the only clean and healthy place in China is in the home. Everything outside is treated as ‘dirty’.

  3. Aussie in China says:

    re: spitting.

    The Chinese will under no circumstances swallow phlegm as it is their belief that doing so is bad for the stomach and their health.

    They also believe that blowing one’s nose into a rag and carrying it around in one’s pocket all day is pretty gross too.

    Spitting in the streets was a common occurance in many places in Australia when I was growing up after the war until laws and fines were introduced to curtail the practice not so much as an objectionable habit but mainly against the spreading of TB. .

    • Aussie in China,

      Thanks for this, which is new to me. My wife told me not to spit when in China because it is against the law [I understand that the CCP passed new laws prior to the 2008 Olympics in an attempt to end spitting before the event]. She also said that most of the people that spit today are either older or are migrant workers from rural China. I was also told that the reason we take our shoes off after entering the house and wear slippers is because we don’t want to track whatever we stepped on while outside into the house due to diseases such as TB.

      I spit all the time and use tissues to blow my nose instead of a cloth handkerchief. My wife doesn’t like spitting at any time, but science has explained that men generate more than twice the amount of saliva than a woman and this may be because back when we were living in caves and were hunter gatherers competing with all of the other carnivores, marking ones territory as most animals do is done through urine and spit to warn away the competition.

      Thousands of years ago before the invention of cities and agriculture, we didn’t live crammed in cities with millions of other people and the earth wasn’t covered with concrete and asphalt.

      What we consider uncouth and unhealthy today may once have been a common practice linked to the cycle of survival and competition for territory and food.

      I also understand that in Singapore, you do not dare chew gum and/or spit in public because the laws are strictly enforced and tough, which may lead to a stiff fine, a good lashing and even jail time.

      I feel that people that look down on, criticize and condemn others for spitting are just ignorant and biased and a product of a modern environment where we spend most of our lives on concrete, asphalt, wood or carpeted surfaces and we are surrounded by millions of people.

      The outside hallways and sidewalks of the public schools where I taught in California for thirty years were covered with the black gobs of chewing gum. Even the carpets in the c classrooms where I taught were littered with those black gobs of chewing gum that had been smashed into the carpet. To get rid of the gum that our children spit out daily and grind into the carpets and sidewalks was a tough task. The district spent several thousand dollars for steam cleaning equipment that would heat and blast the gum off the outside hallways. For the carpets in the classrooms, the custodians and teachers used a spray that froze the gobs of gum making it easier to scrape up but the battle was a losing one as our children could spit more snot and gum faster and in larger quantities than teachers and custodians could keep up with and it was against the school rules for our children to spit and chew gum while on campus.

      Yet, some Westerners that visit China, such as Troy Parfitt, sees someone spitting, and they criticize all of China and its culture as if it is subhuman deserving nothing but contempt and of course these same people will often say that it is not acceptable to compare what the Chinese do to people in Western civilization that do the same exact things—it isn’t germane to the discussion of the Chinese.

      To people such as Troy Parfitt, “How dare we compare the Chinese to the rest of humanity outside of China.”

      And of course, this attitude among “some” arrogant Westerners makes me want to spit.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: