'secular' in Chinese

Gave a little report in my Chinese class the other day about Taiwan’s ‘rentong’ (identity) issues, in which I argued that lots of other countries face similar debates about who they are and what they want as a national group.

I brought up the example of the US as a society that seems pretty neatly divided between those who see the country as a Christian nation, and those who see it in secular terms (shi4 su2 de guo3 jia1). This almost killed the discussion… I’m not sure if it was because of the term I used or because the concept was a little weird to everyone.

I’m the only Westerner in the class and everyone, including the teacher, considered it odd that the US could be considered anything other than a Christian nation… The idea of the US being agnostic or atheistic (wu3 shen2 lun4) was eventually thrown around, but this isn’t exactly what I meant. That is, a nation based on logic and reason rather than faith.

Is this a linguist barrier or a cultural one? Any thoughts?


One thought: Aren’t liguistic and cultural barriers one and the same? Cultural terms are explained with a language that was created by the language’s culture in the first place. Explaing a term in a language who’s culture doesn’t have the concept of the term is damn near impossible. But I don’t know enough about the culture or language to say if this is what is happening with “secular” in Chinese culture/language.

As an American, I have had similar disccusions here in Taiwan… you can’t blame Taiwanese for thinking off the U.S. as a Christian nation, as you said, half the U.S. thinks this way too. It’s a hell of a lot simpler to understand the culture in any country as being attached to an “ism” or “ianity” than to understand the true complexity of any given place. In this case Black and White thinking makes it a hell of a lot easier to understand things like Christmas (for the one’s who understand it as more than the “x-mas” shopping holiday, anyway) Mormon Missionaries and the words “In God We Trust” on our money, etc…

In my opinion, if the U.S. is truly a secular nation we better start acting that way… but we seem to be moving in the opposite direction :frowning:

What about this question: Do people here believe that Taiwan’s government and schools are secular? If so, they should have understood your point about the U.S. and the concept of “secular” at least on a government level.

I’m prone to think that you were dealing with the inherent human tendency to think in absolutes about foreign cultures and nations. People from all cultures do this, check out the IP forum for proof.

政教分離 / zh

Double post

[quote=“Juba”]正教分離 / zh

Now, what is the Chinese word for antidisestablishmentarianism?[/quote]



政/政治= politics[/quote]
You’re right, please excuse the blurry-eyed midnight typo. (Now corrected). But when I see something like that, I PM the other person so they can fix their mistake. It saves face for the other person and keeps the thread neat and tidy.

Why don’t you just say “thank you” to the person who corrected your mistake?