The Chinese Handshake

The Chinese Handshake

Ivan Zy Lim, Psy.D.

In today’s society, people usually shake hands when meeting like in western society. Shaking hands is a form of human contact subject to the finest variations and distinctions. Possible variations as regards pressure, duration, emotional response, sex, the height of the person, the condition of the skin affected by social classes and professional work. There can be objection to this custom for hygienic and many other reasons.

Now consider the hygienic objections. Some people describe money especially coins as regular reservoirs of bacteria and some may not touch them especially when they are in countries where the environment is not so clean, but will think nothing of shaking hands with any Tom, Dick or Harry in the street. This is highly illogical for how are you to now that the person has not just touched those coins which you shun. Worst still, sometimes you may see a person who hygienically cover his mouth with his hand while coughing and in the next moment stretches his hand to give you a friendly shake.

Then there are aesthetic and romantic objections to hand shake. When you put your hand out, you are at the mercy of the other person, who is at liberty to shake it as hard as he likes and hold it as long as he likes. Some profess that you can tell a man character from his type of handshake, distinguishing between the assertive, the retiring, the dishonest and the weak. Personally I wish to be spared the trouble of analyzing a person’s moral character every time I have to meet him or reading from the degree of his pressure the increase or decrease of his affection towards me.

In this respect our Chinese customs are really more scientific, for the Chinese, each of us shakes his own hand. I don’t know what was the origin of this Chinese custom, but it’s advantage from a medical or hygienic point of view cannot be denied.
In traditional Chinese etiquettes, there are certain rules when comes to meet people of different identities. For example, people should do the hands ceremony (拱手礼gǒngshǒu lǐ) for a general greeting. Hands ceremony is the most common meeting etiquette. It is to hold both hands (usually the right-hand fist, put left hand on the right hand) to the chest, and stand for a little while, to show the general courtesy.

If you visit someone at home, when you get into the door and ready to be seated, you and the host should Zuoyi (作揖zuòyī)at the same time in order to show courtesy. Zuoyi also holds both of the hands, first arch and then press down the fist while bowing to each other at the same time. Zuoyi ritual as a common etiquette in daily life is also used in many other social occasions, such as show gratitude, congratulations, apologize. When you ask someone to give you a favor, this ritual is also very useful. High-status people also do this Zuoyi ceremony to the status of low people back as a courtesy.

Maybe this is the time to change hand shake to the Asian ways of greeting

  • Posted by Bill Bergquist
  • On March 30, 2020
  • 0 Comment

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