Guan – Manage lovingly


Guan is a very Chinese character and I found it hard to locate an English equivalent. If a junior person is doing something not seen as ‘right’, the senior person would feel the obligation and duty to ‘Guan’. (It never goes the other way). This means a gentle guidance for this person to act according to the ‘correct’ way. I saw somewhere the translation as ‘Manage Lovingly’ which is probably the closest to what it really implies.

protective loveWhen I was a kid, I wrote differently and I walked differently. My neighbours suggested my mom to ‘Guan’ me, ‘ your daughter’s way of writing and walking is very strange and not normal, you need to ‘Guan’ her.’

I was confused and afraid when I heard that comment. I was confused as I felt if I was able to write and walk capably, why I would need guidance.  I was also concerned if the ‘correct’ way was not my natural way, would it be really hard for me to spend a lot of effort in order to mimic the common code.

Luckily my wise mom responded ‘ Oh, just let her be whatever she is’. I was so relieved and happy to hear my mom would not manage me lovingly.

This Guan, meanwhile, is reflected in the formal education system. In primary schools, high schools and universities, one role is created for each class to ‘manage lovingly’. This role is usually taken by a teaching staff who knows the class well due to his/her interaction with the class through teaching activities. She/he communicates with teachers and students to have a good understanding of daily events. Then she/her makes her/his own judgement when and where to step in to interfere, to perform the duty of ‘Guan’.

Once I received a task to help with ‘Guan’. The task was to observe who speaks in class without being asked, to write down their names and report to the ‘Guan’ teacher. Unable to make sense of the task, I just called sick the day I was supposed to be on duty.

Our ‘Guan’ teacher is dear to us and I still meet her today after so many years out of school. However, somehow it is really hard for me to tell her to love us differently.


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