Learn How the Chinese Relationships Really Work with This Popular Word

HSK 3 quiz

There is one word that I ALWAYS teach my students when they are new to Chinese culture. As with any country/culture, relationship is everything. To interact with meaning with those around you, it’s essential you have an understanding of how business, interpersonal, familial and other types of relationships work. The word that best covers the Chinese philosophy of relationship is:

关系 Guanxi

关系 (Guānxi): Guanxi, relationship.

关 (Guān): close; relation.
系 (Xì): system; line, link.
So what exactly does it mean? A general overview is this: “关系 (guānxi) Guanxi” describes a network of friends, family, colleagues and other relationships which an individual cultivates with other individuals in Chinese society. It comes from Confucianism, and the philosophy that one should associate one’s self with others in a hierarchical way, to maintain social order.
The foundation of “关系 (guānxi) Guanxi” is trust, reciprocity and following through on mutual obligations.

Examples of “关系 (guānxi) Guanxi” :

One example would be a person who is looking to build a solid network or create “关系 (guānxi) Guanxi” to improve his/her prospects of getting a job.
Another would be a friend or family member who is looking to nurture a relationship with you by giving a gift, a red envelope or other tokens of affection on your graduation or wedding day.
I have found that one of the best ways to build “关系 (guānxi) Guanxi” is by simply communicating with those close to me on a daily basis.

In China, there are many different types of Guanxi, such as:

朋友关系 (Péngyǒu guānxi) Friend relationship

亲人关系 (Qīnrén guānxi) Family relationship

同事关系 (Tóngshì guānxi) Colleague relationship

In its most basic form, Guanxi is used to describe the simple connection between two people, the connection that you use to perform a favor for that person, or for them to perform a favor for you. It’s essentially your “standing” with another person. Guanxi also addresses that network of contacts you have to call upon when you really need something.

How Can You Use This Word In a Sentence?

In sentences, we usually use this structure:
Someone + 找/托 + 关系+ do something.


Wǒ kěyǐ zhǎo guānxi gǎodìng zhè jiàn shì.
 我  可以  找      关 系  搞   定    这   件   事。
I can get it done by pulling a few strings.

Jack shì tuō guānxi jìn de nà jiā gōngsī.
Jack  是  托    关 系 进 的  那 家    公  司。
Jack works in that company by using Guanxi.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Lily 是  1 买  2 的房子  3 。


Looking at the sentence above and the corresponding numbers, which numbered location is the correct place to insert the phrase “找关系”?
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —

Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.”
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