Chinese young people are no different from their counterparts anywhere in the world in that a main question they face is the one of whom to marry. China’s rise and modernization has, in some ways, made this a more complicated question as ideas about marriage and qualifications for a spouse have evolved.
There are many lively online discussions about all this, but a recent online article titled “Chinese Men Do Not Deserve Chinese Women” created quite a dust up. Joining the conversation was a Christian who penned his thoughts on the matter in the online publication Territory. The title of the post is “Chinese Men and Women: Who, in the End, is Good Enough for Whom?”
Territory is an online journal for Christian intellectuals that explores matters of faith, culture, and contemporary society. The best place to read Territory is on their Sina Blog. You an also subscribe to receive it directly to your mobile device via Weixin (WeChat). Their Weibo handle is 微信newjingjie.
In the article translated below, the writer addresses the current situation, looks at the historical and cultural standards for men in China, and then highlights what the Bible says about godly manhood.
The article “Chinese Men Do Not Deserve Chinese Women” has received a lot of attention, raising the question, “who then deserves Chinese women”? Men and women have hurled accusations and thrown eggs at each other, demonstrating the brokenness of human nature. Only by facing and acknowledging that their own image has been destroyed by sin, that their own righteousness cannot possibly save them, can men and women experience a longing for redemption. Brokenness is the road that man must walk in order to return to a healthy and glorious image.
Chinese Men and Women; Who in the End is Good Enough for Whom?
Recently, the article “Chinese Men Do Not Deserve Chinese Women” has received a lot of attention online. But to single out Chinese men and roast them over a fire is unfair, since no one man can represent Chinese men on the whole. This type of symbolic discussion can make a person depressed and makes it very difficult to have a constructive discussion.
This viewpoint that “Chinese women have quickly modeled how to carry themselves according to sophisticated standards, while Chinese men are very crass, very unfashionable, and very rigid,” seems appropriate. In fact, it sounds very similar to when we say that “Made in China” products are good quality, affordable, and appealing, but corporate management and innovation are not equally good. The gap between the outward appearance of Chinese people and their internal state is quite big, big enough to ignore the gap in differences between men and women.
Taking a closer look, the popularity and “likes” of these opinions conjures up an image of a thicket of dispirited males over which towers an unyielding superwoman. Acknowledging the mutual attraction between the two sexes and expecting mutual support for each other has been reduced to a joke, not to mention the self-sacrifice and real practice of submission to another’s character necessary to preserve a loving marriage. Speculating from a psychological point of view and from the popularity and spread of similar opinion pieces, perhaps there are a considerable number of Chinese women who had the misfortune to grow up in broken homes, who carry around resentment at the hurt men have caused them, to the extent that they have no way of putting together a healthy family. At the same time due to their choice to love themselves and avoid self-reflection they will project their problems onto their boyfriends, missing the healing opportunity to acknowledge that “I want to get better.”
Therefore, it is not surprising that the question “who on earth is worthy of Chinese women?” would suddenly appear in online discussions. Someone also quipped, “Chinese women say they will not marry without a house, so Chinese men buy property at the world’s highest prices. Chinese women also want cars, so Chinese men have made China into the world’s largest automobile consumer. Chinese women also says that they want Louis Vuitton, Dior, etc., so Chinese men have opened their wallets to make China the world’s biggest consumer of luxury goods!”
Think about if a male author wrote an article called “Chinese Women Are Not Good Enough for Chinese Men” and also chastised women for a variety of things such as how they are prideful, vain, disobedient, do not understand love, and various other displeasing things in his eyes. After all, if people have an unblemished expectation of humanity in their minds then without a doubt men and women will be living within the helplessness of a dream. In God’s view, we all lack the glory and honor with which we originally lived. The fact of the matter is that men and women hurling eggs and insults at each other demonstrates our brokenness.
Are Chinese men really unacceptable?
There was a period when the sophistication of Chinese men was very admirable.* In the “Book of Songs” we read about how stylish and sincere our ancestors were. In the poem 《抑》in the “Major Court Hymns” section of the “Book of Songs,” it says,
A humble and respectful man,
His behaviors are rooted in virtues.
When giving good advice, he yields to them and practices morality.
A gentleman is first a humble person with a refined moral character, and acts in accordance with virtue.
In the poem 《小戎》of the “Odes of Qin” we read,
When I think of my husband, he is gentle like the understated brightness of precious jade.
This means that the sophisticated demeanor of the husband is not flashy, but gentle like jade.
In the poem 《叔于田》of the “Odes of Zheng” we read about “who is truly admirable and kind,” “who is truly admirable and good,” and “who is truly admirable and martial.” The image of a resolute man is someone who is kind, virtuous, and brave; these are the highest standards of this early man.
In those days, Chinese men needed to strive very hard to cultivate their own character.
The poem 《淇奥》in the “Odes of Chen” praises the cultivation of character by a gentleman:
[He keeps learning and improving] As made from knife and the file;
As made from the chisel and the polisher!
To be like gold and tin, to be like a scepter of jade.
He continues to sharpen himself and make progress.
At that time, Chinese men did not parade their wealth.
As the poem 《衡门》 from the “Odes of Chen” says,
Beneath my door made of cross pieces of wood,
I can rest at my leisure;
This means that even if a house were damaged to the point that wooden sticks are used to make the door frame, he can still live peacefully. What powerful inner dignity! They simply do not need money and status to uphold the strength of a man.
In those days, Chinese men valued fidelity. The poem 《出其东门》 in the “Odes of Zheng” speaks of a man persistent in love.
I went out at the east gate,
Where there were beautifully dressed women, as many as the clouds.
Although there were many, none were in my thoughts.
The one who wears plain and inexpensive clothes is in my heart.
She is my joy!
The man saw women outside the east gate of the city who were as beautiful and numerous as the clouds, but his heart was not aroused, because the only thing on his mind was the girl wearing plain and inexpensive clothing.
For life or for death, however separated,
To our wives we pledged our word. We held their hands;
We were to grow old together with them.
From the poem 《击鼓》in “Ode to Bei,” in which the strong emotion surges over a millennium, a sophisticated man has faith and knows reverence. “As I fear God, I dare not offend righteousness.” (see the “Speech of Tang” in the “Book of History”).
The 《大明》 in the “Greater Odes of the Kingdom,” says,
This king Wen,
Watchfully and reverently,
With entire intelligence served God.
The men of that time believed God was transcendent, not sovereign over one country or one person. He was a god who monitored everything and knew the hardships of the country folk. All people were God’s children. The common people were all children of heaven whom the king cared for; for this reason he was called the primary son.
Although the “god” in which they believed in the ancient past and the God of the Bible have similarities and differences, yet this image is still not enough to dispel the concept of a heavenly law of morality. Prior to the Qin Dynasty, divine constraints on monarchial power became merely figurative practices. “Intercession between Heaven and Earth (绝地天通),” the communication between God and man, was broken off. The Will of Heaven was unpredictable, so there was a decline into fatalism. Only the emperor could be called the Son of Heaven and he replaced God as the recipient of the people’s worship. “Rule by divine virtue” became reduced to the superficial show of “rule by virtue.” Rule according to the beliefs of the leader’s heart became the method of governance and tactic of the legalists who play a wicked game of “driving out good money with bad.” The number of survivors who have had their backs broken by this movement far exceeds those of men with strong character.
After all, what is “decency?”
Since before the Qin Dynasty, the acceleration of autocracy and man-centered worship were two sides of the same process. The healthy image of Chinese men was increasingly being destroyed by sin, nearly damaging the original image of God so that nothing was left. Previously men were still relatively simple and honest. There was a saying that “a circle drawn on the ground could act as a prison (划地.牢),” and that it was better to keep one’s word than “to die holding a column (抱柱而死).” This is a far cry from today where cheap counterfeit products are everywhere and integrity is completely lacking. Confucius wanted to restore “benevolence,” and Mencius advocated “justice;” both were related to types of concepts that people still held at that time. If it was not in a person’s heart, then it would not be heard from his mouth.
When people criticize Chinese men as not being “decent,” the implied premise is that we first have a “model” for decency. What is that model actually like? This model is certainly not from men, but from God. The Book of Genesis clearly states that God made humans “according to his own image and likeness.” A person’s “likeness,” including the body and soul, both come from God.
God put “honor and glory” into the image of man and people therefore became honorable and glorious living creatures. This “likeness” of God belongs to all people, regardless of nationality, race, wealth, gender, health, disability, or age. Even old, decrepit sick people should not be sorrowful because “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” [2 Cor. 4:16]. Similarly, we have majesty and hope.
When people are indecent on the inside, they become indecent on the outside. When people’s spiritual conscience is blinded by lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes, they have a false understanding of the meaning of “likeness.” They take “likeness” to mean the outer appearance of something and therefore culture leads them down a mistaken path — to build up their own appearances according to the so-called advanced worldly standards.
”Likeness” is not like this. The prophecy about our Lord Jesus Christ from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” On the contrary, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief….” But his life was completely like that of God, as “the image of the invisible God.”
As the book “The Silence of Adam” points out, men of this generation are searching after masculinity much more than they are seeking after God. They emphasize self-discovery and self-realization more than they emphasize obedience to God. But they have overlooked a simple truth: the way to have masculinity (to be manly) is to first want godliness (to be godly). Jesus, “the image of God,” is before our very eyes. Men who “imitate Christ,” not who are enamored with themselves, will become the true men of our times.
In the Old Testament God said, “Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy.” In the New Testament Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The Book of Ephesians proclaims the new humanity, that people should cast off the old self and be “made new,” “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
”True righteousness and holiness” carries to us wonderful implications and assurance! A person with this “likeness” is better than all the vigorous, valiant, tough Chinese men from the “Book of Songs” because the image of God in him has been restored! This is not only a portrait for men, rather, regardless of gender, race, and nationality, humanity all shares in this common glorious image.
This world tells men that only those who are strong, tough, smart, and in control can survive, succeed, and “deserve” a beautiful woman. This is similar to one sick patient using his own twisted behavior to cater to the morbid psychological needs of another sick patient. Jesus Christ, through His life and teachings, tells us that mankind’s greatest weakness is actually his greatest strength. The love between these sick people seems promising, but actually it is because we learn how to depend on Him as our healer that we no longer depend on our own wisdom.
Men and women are like this. Only when we face and acknowledge that our own image is destroyed by sin, that our own righteousness cannot possibly save us, and only within our own brokenness can there then emerge a desire for redemption. Start to search for and find the light of life. Brokenness is the path we must take to return to a healthy and glorious likeness.
* The author quotes from a number of Chinese poems found in the Classic of Poetry, part of the Five Classics traditionally said to have been compiled by Confucius.
Original article: 中国男人和中国女人，到底谁配不上谁？(© Territory — translated and posted with permission)
Photo by Chris, via Flickr (Creative Commons License)