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Home  /  Inside China  /  A Strong Minded Host and a Passive Guest - Chinese for Subjective and Objective
A Strong Minded Host and a Passive Guest - Chinese for Subjective and Objective print version

When looking at the literal Chinese meaning of the words 主观 zhǔguān (subjective) and 客观 (kèguān)(objective), which is 'the host's perspective' and 'the guest's perspective' respectively, it is hard not to think upon the cultural reasoning for this choice of characters.

主观 (zhǔguān) and 客观 (kèguān), the two Chinese terms for 'subjective' and 'objective' respectively. Literaly speaking, 主观 means 'the host's perspective (观 = view, perspective), while 客观 is the perspective of the guest.

This intriguing choice of character to express both words could perhaps teach us some things about Chinese manners and culture, making such a 180 degrees distinction between the 'host' and the 'guest'. This two terms emphasize the host's position as the decision maker, having a say about everything and having personal concern about what's heppening, while the 'guest' apparently has less to lose and is in a situation where he/she is free of specific expectations or prior judgements and can accept things as they are.

'Home' is portrayed as a location where the host neccessarily holds his personal interests and see things from his own distinct (and perhaps narrow) perspective, while the visitor is less picky and can handle the results much more smoothly. He or she is likely to gladly, or politely, accept any thing offered to him by the host.

The 'help yourself' moto often said to guests in the West isn't so common in the Far East, where the host 'helps' the guest, by choosing for him and taking care of his needs as the guest sees them. Not only a contrast between 'subjective' and 'objective' exists between 'host' and 'guest' but also between 'active' and 'passive'.

Clearly the common host-guest relationship in China isn't as distinct as described above, but the origin and structure of 主观 and 客观 show an interesting connection between hirarchial or role position and nature of opinion and choice making in social interactions.

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