ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (6): 746-756.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00746

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Bidirectionality metaphorical effect of Chinese ritual culture: Contractive postures make people humble

LI Xiaodan1; DU Jianzheng2; YE Haosheng2   

  1. (1 Education School of Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China) (2 The Center for the Psychology and Brain Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China)
  • Received:2015-06-05 Published:2016-06-25 Online:2016-06-25
  • Contact: YE Haosheng, E-mail:; DU Jianzheng, E-mail:


Ritual is an important social interaction tool for human in their everyday experience. Most of ritual and religions have metaphorical implications about postures, space and sociocultural status of individuals. The bodies connect with environment meaningfully when people are performing the ritual. Chinese Ritual was a system about righteousness, love, rule, power. Ritual is an important part of Chinese culture, no matter in the ancient China or modern China society. The main parts of ancient Chinese ritual contained specification of body perception, language, clothing, eating utensils which accorded with social status and kinship. From a perspective of embodiment, the ritual of Confucianism was a interpersonal communication system included body metaphors and spatial metaphors. To investigate the embodiment of some characteristic metaphors in Chinese ritual culture, we studied the bidirectionality metaphorical effect of the humble postures such as kneel, bow, look down and status’ estimate by means of three scenario–based experiments. The setting of experiment 1 was user acceptance testing of furniture. The participants were asked to keep a contractive posture or a expansively posture to watch an interview video and scored the status and acceptance of the interviewed person by a 6 point scale from 1(very low) to 6(very high). The retrorse effect of experiment 1 was examined in experiment 2 by ecological design paradigm. Participants were instructed to call a person of high status(headmaster) and a person of low status(student). The dependent variables of experiment 2 was the change in body movement of participants. The same setting with experiment 1 was used in experiment 3, except the independent variables were the posture of kneeling or sitting comfortably and looking down or looking up. The dependent variables were scoring the status and acceptance of the interviewed person by a 6 point scale as experiment 1. Experiment 1 showed that keeping a contractive posture made participants judge the object higher status than participants sitting expansively. Experiment 2 found that compared with people of low social status, the curl degree of subjects’ body is bigger when they talk with high social status characters. Experiment 3 showed that participants who kept kneeling position scored the characters' social status higher than participants who kept sitting, participants who kept looking down accepted the character’s opinion more than the participants who kept looking up. The above to prove that the bidirectionality, mulriple metaphorical effect of humble postures and vertical space of Chinese ritual, but the coupling effect of humble postures and spatial metaphors worked independently. In Confucianism, Confucius established the traditional practice of kernel. The self–cultivation of practice of kernel which was constituted of ritual studies mainly focused on the transformation of body and mind. Ritual is a cognitive and behavioral model that make the conscience rooted in the body. At the same time, ritual constructed social ethics to civilize the body and mind of people of the whole society.

Key words: Chinese ritual, embodiment, body metaphors, spatial metaphors, social situation