"Doc, I don't understand these people!"
Tough one. The Chinese are, like the rest of us, a competitive people, always trying to better their environments or their abilities to some extent. But unlike the rest of us, showing their accomplishments or their abilities is not so important. The knowledge that they have themselves as to their abilities is what is important, not what other people think. Gong fu is performed as a tradition, not as a self defense. Gong fu is practiced for an individual's well being, spiritual, mental and physical, not so that one may advance up ranks and get different colored belts. The practice of demonstrating to others one's level of competence by these various means that we in America (and other countries) have come to use, is really contrary to a basic "unwritten code of conduct" among the Chinese. Being an honorable people to a large extent (though their budding capitalistic ways have altered that in some cases), the Chinese feel that keeping one's sense of honor is paramount, and they go out of their way to maintain that sense of dignity, not only for themselves, but for each other. It's called "saving face"; one just doesn't put another into a situation where the other can lose all sense of honor. It continues on in that, a Chinese might not say "No" to someone, just as they might not say "Yes" to someone, either one might be suggestive of an enthusiastic response that could either potentially hurt another's feelings (or cause them to lose face), or put another into a situation where one is caused to deliver a promise that might not be fulfilled because expectations have been elevated. As an example, if you suggest to a monk that it would be nice if he could come to the US and visit for a while, you would get the response "No problem" (which a lot of them seem to know in English). To us, it means that it wouldn't be a problem for them to come and visit. To them, it means "Yes, I want to come". But it is against the whole "saving face" concept that precludes one from saying that, as telling an American that they want to come puts that American into a position of having to deliver, and if he doesn't, he potentially loses face. The opposite is true, in that a Chinese might not say "No" when "No" is warranted; he or she might say something less offensive, such as "I'll think about it". This concept is important in China, and not so here in America, and has led to some fairly comical situations with my Chinese friends, one of whom told me the story about telemarketers here in the US repeatedly calling her everyday trying to sell her stuff, because she tells them "I'll think about it." I explained to her the various ways of saying "No", especially those forms of verbiage we used in New York. "I'll think about it" was not one of them.