Why “guanxi”?

31 July 2011. This being my first experiment with a blog, all the bells and whistles I hope will come in time, as I learn my way around this format. I thought that traveling in China provides a good a reason as anyway to learn something of this. And I dedicate this blog first and foremost to God, who is, I am finding out more and more, infinitely incarnadine, and as such wonderfully holy, mysterious, and not a little winsome.  I wish also to thank all those friends and family members who have encouraged me and helped walk me through this process.  Perhaps now I will receive the benefit of the encouragement and wisdom of strangers, other pilgrims along the way, who will become friends.  As one expat in China wrote, in reply to the question, “What are the benefits of living in China as a foreigner today?” “Access to endlessly interesting material [the author of these words is a writer], fabulous food, 1.3 billion potential friends.”  If you have a chance to go, you should absolutely go.  And stay as long as you can.”  On this last sentence, TBA.

Some may wonder what is the significance of guanxi (gwahn-she) as part of this blog title.  In a word, it is a very important concept in China.  The brief definition of guanxi is “connections.” However, as I am finding out already about the Chinese language, definitions are multivalent, that is, having various or fluid meanings. Other connotations of guanxi are influence, social or political capital, or anything that helps to move things along. Important to all this is that it is deeply tied, as I understand it, to Chinese etiquette in general. Indeed, I get this from Etiquette Guide to China, by Boye Lafayette de Mente.

The reason I chose guanxi as part of the name of this blog, is that I realize already that I may have not exactly been too savvy in my use of it. Until I read about this idea, I wasn’t even aware of it. Needless to say, I hope to make increasingly skillful, wise and adept use of it as I begin to internalize the nuances of this important facet of Chinese life.

Specifically, in asking direct questions and expecting direct answers, without having any reserve of guanxi at my disposal, has probably been something of a minor gaffe, as I sought information regarding visas and other matters pertaining to my time in China. This is because, as you may well imagine, trust is tied to guanxi  in a fundamental fashion, and trust is not built in the abstract, but in concrete and ongoing circumstances.

Please find here (I hope) some photos of the school where I will meet with the administrators and faculty there to talk more in depth about this Sino-American project.  I am sure that there are far more sophisticated and artful ways to provide links on this site, I just don’t know what they are.

BN2MS – School photos

BN2MS Photos – Canteen

With this brief introduction, let this adventure begin!

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