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  • Intercultural Press

Turning Bricks Into Jade: Critical Incidents for Mutual Understanding Among Chinese and Americans

Mary Wang, Richard W. Brislin, Wei-zhong Wang, David Williams, Julie Haiyan Chao

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Prose: non-fiction, Cultural studies

The Chinese are fond of using four-character phrases, known as cheng yu, to improve their writing style. The Chinese characters on the cover spell out one such idiom: pao zhuan yin yu. Translated literally, this would be "throw bricks attract jade." It can also express the idea of throwing out something of little value to induce a potential business partner to offer something more valuable.

The authors of Turning Bricks into Jade, a more idiomatic rendering of pao zhuan yin yu, like to think of each critical incident in this collection as a brick, which, when combined with similar bricks, good sense and effort, can be used to construct relationships more valuable even than jade.

A critical incident is a story about cross-cultural conflict or misunderstanding. Many of the forty-one incidents are based on actual events that involved one or more of the authors or their acquaintances. Some are a composite of several authors' experiences. You choose one of four or five possible alternatives that explain the misunderstanding. Following each incident is a discussion of possible solutions, based on the authors' experiences and grounded in current research.

Misunderstandings between Chinese and American interactants are complicated; there is almost never just one thing going on. One result of this complexity is that many of the incidents have more than one

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