Chinese Culture – What is Stealing?

Chinese have two words that are instructive on Chinese attitudes toward theft.

The word 偷   (tou1) means to steal.   The word 捡  (jian3)  means to pick up something and take it as your own.

Chinese often take pride in succeeding in ‘jian.’  They see something someone has dropped and pocket it.   They go home and tell their friends excitedly about how they ‘jian’ this item.

As a family, we have lost many things over the years to people who are proud of their ability to jian.  Our favorite story is of our first child riding behind my wife on the bicycle near home and getting home and seeing she had kicked off one shoe. She retraced her steps the half mile to where she got on the bicycle and the shoe was not there. Someone had prized picking up one nice child’s shoe. This person definitely does not see themselves as a thief.  They are an upright respected person and people around them feel the same.

Not all Chinese people would take that shoe, but almost all would feel that pull to ‘jian.’

Thought you might like to know. It definitely is part of your suppliers, workers and customers thinking here in China.

Any thoughts to add?

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Posted in: China, Chinese Culture

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