Cultural Particularism and Intercultural Communication: The Case of Chinese Face

Author: Paweł Zygadło, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Published: November 12, 2018

Citation: Zygadło, P. (2018). Cultural Particularism and Intercultural Communication: The Case of Chinese Face. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 3(2).


In this paper, I argue that the acknowledgement of the particular nature of socio-ethical values and specific modes of communication is a necessary precondition for establishing an effective exchange between members of different cultural circles. For this purposes, I first examine the value of cultural (historical) particularism as a departure from social evolutionism and a unique way of understanding cultures that will serve as a theoretical framework for further deliberation. Following that, I shortly review and evaluate some theories regarding the nature and the functions of the notion of face, that has long been seen as an essential and pervasive element of Chinese culture. Subsequently, I analyse some of the data collected during fieldwork conducted in China and try to show to what degree the phenomenon continues to be present in contemporary Chinese society. In the final section, I argue from a position of cultural particularism that unbiased understanding of cultural characteristics is a sine qua non condition for effective intercultural communication.


Chinese face, intercultural communication, cultural particularism, multiculturalism