Hanxu, which is difficult comprehended by foreigner, is a classical culture and a kind of virtue in China. It means euphemistic express, valuing to thought, which is originated from a Chinese ancient poem of Hanyu. In other words, it means that people are supposed to express indirectly and should consider other people’s face. It also means people should unassertive rather than show off. It is an essential quality in Chinese communication, which can maintain relationships and observe business and social hierarchies (Tony 2011). On the other hand, hanxu is certainly important in people’s daily behavior.

How to use ‘Hanxu’ in communication

–      how to say ‘No’ with friends

In China, saying no directly would cause problems with friends, as refusing people directly can cause embarrassment. For Chinese, when they want reject to some requirement, they usually tell some white lies to protect people’s face.

 For example, when your friend want to invite you to his party on weekend but you do not want to go as you do not know other people, in this case you are supposed to tell your friend another reason, like ‘Sorry, I want to go but I have a date with my girlfriend. I would like to go next time.’ rather than tell the truth. On contrary, if you tell your friend that ‘sorry, I do not want to go your party because I do not know other people’, your friend may feel embarrassed and believe you do not give his face.

This is not equal to lying!

–  how to point out problems to leaders

When working in China, express problems with leaders directly is taboo, needing roundabout and vague (Mclaughlin 2014).

To be specific, when manager gives some advice, which may be not effective, you should not give reflection directly, especially when in front of many people. You should choose an optimal occasion and be implicit, instead of saying like ‘I think it is not effectively’ to say ‘ I think your advice id good but I believe that there is a better strategy for this problem, because …..’ . Hanxu 1

Thus, your leader would accept your suggestion easily, since you have stand in the leader’s shoes. In this situation, you can leave a good impression on your leader, attracting the attention of manager and benefiting for your work.

Taboo!  Employees give advice to leaders directly, especially in front of many people!

Tip!     Giving advice using email or face-to-face.

When point out mistakes, pointing its advantages firstly.

How to use ‘Hanxu’ in behavior

–      learning ‘refusing’ gifts

In China, sending gifts is common in some festival and is common in daily life, such as when people visit someone, they usually bring some gifts.

The host need to ‘refusing’ those gifts at the moment when people come in their house.

For example, they usually say that ‘you do not need bring gifts for me as it is my honor that you come to visit my house’. After dinner, they usually ask visitors to bring those gifts back to show their generosity.

The guests should refuse to bring the gifts back.

–      learning ‘refusing’ praise

When the people who are commended, they generally deny it. Because to reject the high reputation is a main refection of hanxu, it is a good character of humility in China.

For instance, Huangbo, a famous actor in China, is regard as the most powerful celebrity. When he was interviewed on television, he said that there are many people who have created record while he is merely one common actor.

Taboo!  Accept praise directly!

–      learning ‘sharing’ places

The most common phenomenon of ‘sharing’ places is during feast especially with the person who have similar age or job position. In this case, when they need sit down based on different sequence, the person who have higher situation will abdicate the higher position for the other one to show their respect. And the other person generally refuse this suggestion and express thanks for that.

 Taboo!  Sitting on the place directly which belongs to the person who has higher position!

–      trying to dress conservatively

China is a traditional country that has approximately 5000 years’ historical background. There are plenty of regulations still effect on people’s life and consciousness. Chinese regards hanxu as a significant personality, especially for women. They should dress conservatively. Otherwise, they would be attracted the discussion of society, damaging their reputation.

  Taboo!  Women wear low-cut clothes especially with too much colors!

Women wear low-cut clothes in front of elder!



Tony, F 2011, ‘Chinese communication characteristics: A Yin Yang perspective’, Journal of culture and society, vol. 3, issue 2, pp. 108-138.

Mclaughlin, SU 2014, ‘Saying ‘NO’ in China’, Journal of culture and society, vol. 3, issue 4, pp. 54-68.


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