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Vietnamese Culture v/s Chinese Culture

Short Arcicles by Vu Huu San

Did you ever watch a Chinese Movie?

Surely, you heard the expressions: "The Need for Revenge"

There are "something" every Chinese knows and believes that the non-Chinese, like Vietnamese, cannot possibly understand.

For centuries the "Great Wall" of the Chinese language and writing system has served to diminish the impact non-Chinese have had on Chinese society. These same linguistic and cultural walls that preserved Chinese culture also transmit it from one generation to another in what amounts to a "secret code."

Please take some minutes to read the following article of Boye Lafayette, from "NTC's Dictionary of China's Cultural Code Worlds", De Mente, 1996 : "The Need for Revenge Baochou (Bah-oh-choe-ou)" - "Bao Oan Tra Oan" in Vietnamese."


Chinese history is gory with stories of Imperial usurpers, victorious warlords, generals, criminal chieftains and others wiping out entire families, including uncles, aunts, and cousins, as a way of ending family lines and future threats.

The same ''final solution" has also traditionally been used by those in power to eliminate intellectual dissidents and military leaders who failed in revolutionary attempts.

Part of this propensity for killing one's enemies came under the heading of baochou (bah-oh-choe-ou) or 'revenge," the need for which was built into Chinese culture.

The Chinese were never restrained by any religious beliefs in the sanctity of life or in the concept of forgiving one's enemies and thereby avoiding sin and gaining favor in the eyes of some deity.

Quite the contrary, they felt under deep obligation to extract their own revenge because there was no God in Chinese heaven who would eventually do it for them, and no body of law on earth that could be depended upon to protect and preserve them.

They were ruled by personal, hierarchical relationships rather than by laws based on equality and human rights. It was left up to individuals to keep these relationships in order.

Without equitable laws to guide, restrain and protect them, the Chinese had to depend upon their personal connections and their reputations or "face" to survive and function within their society.

Because this system was based on personal rather then objective factors, the Chinese developed extreme sensitivity to slights, insults and actions they perceived as threatening to their "face."

Every blemish that they suffered or believed that they had suffered had to be wiped clean. If they were not in a position to revenge themselves overtly, they felt compelled to do it behind the scenes, no matter how long it took.

Baochou thus became a characteristic trait of Chinese behavior, and survived from tribal times down through the ages. Much of the mass slaughter that occurred during the 20-year war between the Nationalists and Communists resulted from this revenge factor.

Chinese Communist Party leaders have routinely taken revenge against critics as well as against competitors within the Party, either imprisoning them or exterminating them.

It is not likely that this trait will be fully exorcised from the psyche of most Chinese until they have lived for two or three generations in a society in which human rights are protected by law, and behavior is based on rational, universal standards of fairness rather than political power and personal idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, the growing number of Chinese who are exposed to Western educations and cultures, and become involved in foreign trade, are leading the way in putting this tribal trait behind them.



Vietnamese people are open-ended. One will find in Vietnam a tradition of tolerance inherited from the ancient culture. To them, even one religion is right, others are not necessarily wrong. There is not a such traditional "Bah-oh-choe-ou".

We are proud to be born Vietnamese!

Vu Huu San

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