Imagine that you are a visitor to China and you wish to talk to a friend who is not right near you. Imagine the volume of sounds that are all around you: others calling to each other, cell phones ringing, the chatter of friends and you want to speak to your friend across the road. What do you do? You use hand gestures to agree on who should go over to the other side of the streets. This can expand to signs of wanting to eat food and a long list of items. So in such a ancient society and the development of hand gestures has evolved, and different in differing areas of China.
But you as an innocent visitor must take care to not use your hands in ways Chinese find offensive. Fortunately that list is low so mostly there is plenty of both in a Chinese streets, lots of talking at various volumes, mostly quiet, and hand gestures. If a Chinese is asking you, or anyone to come to him, he will extend a hand palm down. He or she will then curl their fingers towards themselves. Western eyes at first see this as patronizing as if calling a child, but it is not arrogance as if calling a child, and in China simply part of the way things have come to be.
In community farm or retail or household goods markets, the fingers up to ten and more can be quickly shown by hands held up, fingers held up. Although in Chinese finger counting it gets more complicated after the number five, as the counter then use his other hand in the same way by marking off from finger six to finger ten, which to western minds makes no sense. It is likely the abacus with its beads on a rod came from initial finger counting, although the abacus is used right to left, but as both hands engaged, all fingers counting, multiple fingers on different hands can show the volume or value of a multiple transaction.
Pointing is another difference between the west and China. When a Chinese refers to herself, she, or he will point to their nose, not to their body or chest as we would. Also, when a Chinese person points at another person they point at that third persons nose. In southern China, a tea drinker simply knocks two fingers again the table to say that is enough tea. It also says thank you. There is a legend that many centuries ago an emperor went out with a few attendants to walk in paupers guise.
At a tea room, when one of the emperors attendants poured tea and did not apply the rules in his mind quickly enough. Spilling hot tea into the emperors lap, knowing he must not bow or he would reveal the emperors existence in their presence. So the attendant pressed two fingers thus implying a bow. Not a full kowtow, but it pleased the emperor so much it became part of playful life in the palace. This practice is still observed in a great arc of humanity around Hog Kong and the metropolitan 30 million people inearby.
Even with vast infusions of people, the southern tea and other ceeremonies carry on. This vast urban and industrial area has been created in the frst and greatest Special Economic Zones, which has become engine and exporter to the world. Some of our western habits such as shaking hands occurs now naturally, and western ways are inching their ways into daily life, mostly in the urban coastal cities. As far as obscene gestures the east is quick to follow, with their own twist.
One hand holding cell phone, now there can be a second hand, raised with middle finger raised and all other fingers down. This young person salute has become more popular than any could have ever imagined a few years ago. Chinese antiques shop shop keepers would be in a different world in some modern parts of many cities. The Chinesee have a hand gesture for it.
Derek Dashwood enjoys noticing positive ways we progress, the combining of science into the humanities to measure life at Chinese Antiques