Tag Archives: 礼尚往来

One good turn deserves another

17 Sep

I learned another traditional Chinese phrase the other day.  It’s 礼尚往来(Li Shang Wang Lai)translated it is normally “one good turn deserves another” or “courtesy calls for reciprocity.”

In theory then, this should be a similar concept to the English.  However…

Let me share how I came to know the term.

We are going to celebrate the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival in Li’s hometown.  Li’s mom helped us arrange a taxi ride from the train station to their house.  It so happens that the gentleman who is coordinating the driver and car is her neighbor.  Unbeknownst to both of us, this gentleman and his family attended our wedding and gave a gift.   There were over 250 people at our reception – I knew just over 10.  Very possible.

So how are these two events connected?

Nothing – but it so happens that his son/daughter by chance is getting married in Li’s hometown at the same place we had our reception, while we are there.

Li’s family is now convinced that if we don’t go to the wedding he will feel slighted and there will be problems between neighbors later. Because he has coordinated our taxi ride, he now knows we will be in town.

So – “courtesy calls for reciprocity.”

I have problems with this from several angles.

1) We were not invited to the wedding.

2) Neither of us knows this gentleman or his offspring.

3) We were planning on spending time with other members of Li’s family during our short visit which now may have to be skipped.

To my western mind, ignoring your own family to go to the wedding of a neighbor’s kid you’ve never met seems to be showing the wrong kind of courtesy.  But, I am in China.  I tried to explain this point of view to my husband.  At the end of the discussion we agreed to disagree.  Our definitions are different, though the words are the same.

I think (though am not certain) I will be going to a wedding over this Mid-Autumn Festival.  I wonder what my next good turn will be?

Has anything like this happened to you?

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