The Chinese have long been called "inscrutable." And with good cause. I think of many Chinese friends and of their built-in "inscrutability." And I find a comparative honesty, and an engaging wisdom, in their phlegmatic moon-faced visages.
Often, when faced with a photographer, we are told to "smile." As though the smile makes us more attractive. But does it?
I think that the Chinese appear phlegmatic because of their psychology, which is predicated on a long philosophy, incorporating the yin and yang. From their childhood they have learned an admixture of good and bad, of strong and weak; and they have incorporated this awareness into their psychology. So their experience of life cannot be faced with "smiles." To them, nothing is unabated "good." All "good" incorporates "bad," just as all "bad" incorporates "good."
It seems to me that, as we search out the essence of our personal lives, we will all find, for our own selves, the validity of the admixture. We were young , and disadvantaged, which was "bad," but at the same time we were cared for, which was "good." We grew up and had a newfound independence, which was "good"; but we had, at the same time, additional responsibility, which was "bad."
I think it is only the Chinese who -- from their ancient philosophy of "yin and yang," or the grand composite of the good and bad, or weak and strong -- absorb a dual sense of experience. And I think, further, that it is because of this that they are "inscrutable." Who would not be inscrutable, when he believed that good is bad and bad is good?
It is not that the Chinese are unemotional. To the contrary, they are highly emotional. While Westerners tend to operate simplistically, seeing everything as good or bad, they operate in complexity and see everything as good and bad at the same time. And they vibrate simultaneously to both aspects of experience.
I think that there seems to be a difference between what they seem to be and what they are. They seem to be expressionless, emotionless, but in reality they are so emotionally charged, with opposing sensitivities, that there can be no overt expression.
If we can take a page from the Chinese book and realize the interrelationship of everything in all facets of experience, we may smile less for the next photographer; but we will have an inner smile for ourselves, based upon a new comprehension of life and its experiences.