Multidimensional study of hospitality and the host-guest paradigm in china

Xiaoqing Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to analyse the conceptual bases of the related terms of “host” and “guest” in Chinese and reveal essential, though overlooked, cultural differences that relate to “hospitality” in Western and Chinese cultural contexts. Design/methodology/approach: A presupposition of this conceptual investigation is that culture manifests itself linguistically. The analytic approach used here is textual analysis. Confucian classical texts are the main source of evidence for examining the conceptual commitments of the Chinese characters 主 and 客 and their corresponding practical expressions. Findings: Cross-cultural comparison reveals asymmetries between the term “hospitality” and its Chinese translations, etymologically and culturally. This study demonstrates how the Chinese 主–客 paradigm is both hierarchal in nature and centred on the role and interests of the host. It further compares this paradigm with its Western counterpart along five different dimensions. Research limitations/implications: The specific Chinese norms for the host–guest paradigm synthesized here could prompt both academicians and operators to question the cultural attachments associated with hospitality by participants and the cultural differences in hospitality transactions and management. The cultural sensitivity modelled here is intended to facilitate harmony between a hospitality setting and the culture in which it is embedded. Originality/value: This conceptual paper is the first in the Anglophone literature to explore the Chinese cultural roots of the concepts “host” and “guest”. The linguistic perspective used in this study allows the concept of “hospitality” to be studied cross-culturally and in an interdisciplinary way, addressing a blind spot in the extant hospitality literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-513
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2018


  • Airbnb
  • China
  • Cultural context
  • Hospitality
  • Host–guest paradigm
  • Linguistic approach


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