What does it mean when the Chinese say to you that you hurt their feelings?

it means that they will no longer care about how you will feel about what they are going to do – it’s almost an unqualified grave threat or warning in some cases.

When the Chinese say someone else has shanghai le tamen de ganqing (伤害了他们的感情) and this expression is translated as they “have gotten their feelings hurt”, something is missing to native English speakers – the part of it that makes this expression really meanful to the Chinese.

How important is ganqing to the Chinese? If ganqing between Chinese people is hurt, it doesn’t simply make the victim “feel bad”. It makes him or her extremely disheartened. The victim interprets the hurt as a denial of all previously established rapport over a long and maybe very difficult time together and his or her past efforts to look after the inflicter’s well-being – it’s how you feel when a friend of yours betrays you, who you think you’re a loyal friend with and who you’ve always believed is a loyal friend with you, too, until the infliction occurs.

After ganqing is totally lost between two Chinese people, nothing else that matters in this relationship survives – either a romantic one or a long-time friendship.

*This post was inspired by Austin Ramzy, an Iowa, U.S.-grown,  Harbin, China-educated, and thus presumably Mandarin-speaking reporterHong Kong-born bastard writing for The Times Time, who again does his subtle China-bashing in the magazine’s blog.

6 thoughts on “What does it mean when the Chinese say to you that you hurt their feelings?”

  1. The inspiring post is behind the GFW, so I copied it here http://china.blogs.time.com/2008/12/11/hurt-feelings-blame-deng-xiaoping/

    Reading the People’s Daily is a bit like recess in elementary school. Someone always gets their feelings hurt. And more often than not, that someone is the “Chinese people.” For reasons that have defied analysis, Chinese state press wordsmiths and government spokespeople love to say that acts by other countries or world leaders which Beijing disagrees with “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” (In the past year Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers and James Fallows of the Atlantic have both pondered the frequent use of this phrase.)

    The playground of international affairs can be a pretty rough place, but some bullies are worse than others. A Chinese reader recently examined 60 years of the People’s Daily and counted more than a 100 cases of hurt feelings, then posted the results on a bulletin board. The survey was “incomplete,” the unnamed author wrote, but one country was far in the lead. Japan hurt China’s feelings 47 times. The U.S. was a distant second with 23 mentions. NATO was next with 7.

    But you don’t have to be a economic or military giant to malign the Middle Kingdom. The Vatican, Guatemala, Albania, Iceland, Jordan, Nicaragua and the Nobel Committee all got their kicks in, too. Jerks.

    Interestingly, there was only one case of “hurt feelings” from before 1978. Getting your feelings hurt, the author concludes, is an inevitable cost of China’s 30-year-old policy of “opening up.” Clearly the ultimate blame lies with Deng Xiaoping.

  2. I think you may be misinterpreting Ramzy’s post. Perhaps he should have talked about the translation problem, but it’s a post about someone else’s work, including the point about the emergence of the phrase after 改革开放. Also, he works for Time, not “The Times,” and you’re probably mixing up his generally reasonable work with that of his boss, Simon Elegant.

    That said, your post is one of the only things on the Internet talking about the meaning of 伤害中国人们的感情. I do wish the Xinhua translation were better.

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