phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Saving Face

Posted by Charlie on January 24, 2004

In Reply to: Chinese or Japanese posted by ESC on January 11, 2004

: : : Does anyone know the origin of this idiom, or of it's close cousin "Losing face"? Were they adopted to English from Chinese Japanese? Or did they exist in the language regardless of the Asian concept of "Face"?

: : : Thank to whoever answer this

: : : Rachel

: I thought the phrase was Japanese. This site seems to be saying that "lose face" was a Chinese concept that the Japanese borrowed and then was picked up by English-speaking people.


: : Here's what one reference says:

: : LOSING FACE - "The Chinese have a phrase for losing one's dignity before others, and 'tiu lien' was simply translated into 'to lose face' by English traders there in the late 19th century. These same English, however, invented the phrase 'to save face,' 'to maintain one's dignity,' using the Chinese model." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: : : : I am posing the question: is the notion of "Saving Face" valid within Chinese tradition? Its validity seems blurry in the West. Scriptures usually teach the value of grace and humility (pride goeth before destruction... Western philosophers say that religion restores a man to his only dignity- the courage to live by grace. And I personally put a high value on one's dignity. Dignity lies at the heart of right-to-die issues. Does anyone have any thoughts on this. Is SAVING FACE nothing but selfish, prideful folly or is it a condition to which we should consider ourselves entitled?