Haji (恥) | Klincutan | Xiuchi (羞耻)

Zhang Xinyue, Zhang Jiaojiao, Xuan Fangyuan, and William Ma

1. Overview

​We had a discussion on “Xiuchi/Haji(Shame)” in the Chinese and Japanese context in our “Intercultural Understanding Pedagogy 2” course this semester.

​As for the reason why we think this word is important, because shame is one type of complex emotional phenomenon that is experienced universally in most cultures of the world. However, shame may manifest itself uniquely depending on the idiosyncrasies of each cultural milieu. China and Japan, though they are both high context society, still has some differences which are very interesting. Understanding those differences can help us understanding intercultural stuff better.

​For we had a discussion on in Indonesia context last semester, we will use information from those interviews and do a comparison on these three countries.

​In this paper, firstly, we will give an explanation of Klincutan (Indonesia), Haji (Japanese) and Xiuchi (Chinese), showing the concepts, functions and using some cases to express them. Then, we will find some related expressions to give a further understanding of those words because of some words have a combination of feelings which makes it difficult to understand them. After that, we will do a comparison on these three words and figure out the differences. Finally, we will show our conclusion and some discussion questions/topics.

2. The Three Words

2.1 Klincutan

2.1.1 Introduction

​Klincutan is a Javanese word. It means “The combination of feelings of shame, helplessness and guilt.” People usually use “Klincutan” when they feel shameful after did something wrong or bad, but not too bad. If someone did something very bad (broke the law), they can’t use klincutan.

​As known to all, it’s not enough to understand a word entirely only by knowing the definition of it, and ignoring its language and cultural background. Therefore, gaining a clear idea of the difference between the Javanese language and Indonesian is an important thing in the first place.

​Firstly, let’s talk about the languages background of Indonesia.

​From an Indonesian article, there are 726 languages spoken across the Indonesian archipelago in 2009. According to Paul (2009), there are more than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia. A major part of them belongs to the Austronesian language family, while over 270 Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages are spoken in eastern Indonesia. And from a research by James (2003) we can understand that, the official language in Indonesian is Indonesian (it is called bahasa Indonesia in Indonesian), which is a standardized form of Malay. According to Paul (2009), although the Indonesian language is primarily used in education, business, etc.; most Indonesians also speak other languages in addition to Indonesian, such as Javanese, as their first language and the most widely spoken language, without official status.

​In short, in this section, we will focus on the Javanese word “Klincutan”, giving a introduction of it in different contexts, mainly paying attention on its meanings, functions and giving some cases. and after that we will compare it in Chinese and japanese, to make sure if there is any difference or interesting thing.

2.1.2 Function

​Klincutan can serve the following purposes:

​1) To show someone’s feelings when he/she feels shameful.

​In the first case, which is perhaps the most basic one, the Klincutan initiator must have done something wrong, which could be from a small thing like eat a cake without permission, to a big thing like break a rule. The Klincutan is completed when what he/she done have been caught by others , and that makes him or her realized that he/she has done something wrong.

​2) To show a shifty process from knowing to feeling helpless and guilty.

​The second case is usually found in many relationships and mostly have a shifty process. In such cases, firstly, the initiator has done something wrong, maybe he/she know that it is bad but he/she still did it.And then, his /her action has been found and others people blame his/her activities, that which makes him/her feel bad, and admit that he/she really did something wrong, with feeling guilty. It is a changeful process, from “well, though it’s bad, I still want to do it” to “it was really wrong, actually I shouldn’t do it before! ”.

2.1.3 Cases

​After talking with our group members, we know that we can use klincutan to express one’s feeling in different conditions. So it is necessary to know in which condition we can use the word “klincutan”. When we use klincutan, the following conditions must be met. ​1) Someone must did something bad, but not too bad.

​2) He/she must be found have done the bad thing. At the same time, he/she must realize that he/she did something wrong.

​Briefly, someone didn’t conform to the rules and did something wrong, but not refer to committing a crime, such as robbing, murdering. In the condition when someone did something very bad (broke the law), we can’t use klincutan. what if someone was caught because of killing someone. Which Indonesian word can we use? It may we called keweden (Javanese) and ketakutan (Indonesian) or in English “Afraid”.

​Then, we come back to the word klincutan. For example, when A ate her friend’s cake without permission, her friend found that A ate her cake secretly. A realized that she had done something wrong, at this time, we can say that A feels klincutan.

​Another example, B was born in a poor family, one day, she passed by a toy store and she really wanted to buy a doll but she didn’t have money, she was so sad. After she went back home, she found her mother went out and mother’s bag was on the chair. So B took some money from her mother’s bag because she really wanted to have that cute doll. But a few minutes later, her mother came back and found her bag was opened, she asked B if she had taken her money, B was so shameful and admitted that she took the money because she wanted to buy a doll. And at this time we can also say that B feels klincutan.

​In summary, the word klincutan is a pejorative term. It is used to express some emotions such as shame, helplessness and guilt.

2.2 Haji

2.2.1 Introduction

​The Japanese word, haji, which means “shame,” can be written as ​恥 in kanji. Some kanjis are composed of the other two kanjis, for instance, ​恥 is made of ​耳 and ​心​. ​耳 means “ear” and ​心 means “mind” or “spirit.” Why did the combination of “ear” and “mind” come to mean “shame”? There are some opinions, but one of the most convincing is that shame in human mind shows on the surface of ears. If we have something we feel shameful of in our mind, it brings a blush to our face and the color of ears turns red. In short, ​耳​(ear) represents 恥​(shame) in ​心​(mind). Thus, ​恥​(shame) consists of 耳​ ​(ear) and ​心​(mind).

​In Japan, Haji can be used as an education methods to make children stop some actions or study harder. (example1: Parents say to children “Don’t do such a thing because it is very shameful”. example2: High school teachers say to students “You should study hard because law score is shameful”. example3: Haji education continues in the university. When the November festival was coming, some professors told students “Students who act badly like drink too much and get drunk is a ​haji​action to our school. You should act properly so that you won’t humiliate our school.”)

However, since the society is westernized, the situation is different from old days. It is often said that Japanese aren’t good at standing on the international stage because they tend to feel ​haji​. In the global society, Japanese are required to act positively. So, Kyoto university encourage students to be assertive and active in the international conference.

Worried about the classroom in which no one raise a hand, Japanese government introduced the active learning to high schools. Most high schools adopted it. In the active learning, students take part in the class actively and discuss the problems. Of course, it is more like a formal strategy than a daily class. However, it is very progressive style of the class and Japanese education is formally changing.

Contrary to the change of the society, ​haji ​education secretly remains there. For example, elementary school teachers tell first year students that they will be laughed at by kindergarten children if they can’t remember all ​hiragana.​

2.2.2 Function

​Haji can express various shame from a trivial failure to a serious crime. According to Inoue (1997), people feel Haji in a wide sense in the three case. Each can serve the following purposes between the membership group and the reference groups.

​1) To show the shame when you compare yourself with members of the membership group.

​“An agent of action feels shame when he compares himself with ideal-self and finds he inferior and isolated from his membership group.”In addition, there must be the audience for this type of shame. For example, if you were to feel it, you must make mistakes in public or be caught breaking rules.

​2) To show the shame when you compare yourself with your ideal.

​Whether an agent of action is in public or not, “when he compares with what he is (real self) with what he wants to be (ideal self) and realize the former is inferior, he alone and secretly feels shame by looking at himself as if he were others.”[iv] For example, although a student got 99 points in a test, he feels the private shame because his point isn’t as good as he planned.

3​ ) To show the feelings when you find the difference of recognition between two groups. ​“When an agent of action becomes conscious about the differences in reputation in membership group and reference group,[v]” they feel shame. For example, although a smart student is superior to many ordinary friends, he shames himself in them because he isn’t regarded as a friend by other students against his hope.

2.2.3 Cases

​As stated above, Japanese Haji expresses the feeling of shame which occurs when people compare themselves either with other members of a group they belong to or with their ideals.

​For example, when a student scored 60% in the test while all other members of the class scored over 90%, he finds himself inferior to others, and feels Haji. In this case, Haji occurs in the presence of “audience” (Inoue 1997), that is, his classmates.

​Another example is as follows. Suppose a student who is extraordinary smart and always scores 100% in any tests. One day anyhow the score of his math test is 95%. Although the score is the highest in the class and much higher than the class average, he may feel Haji. In this case, unlike the first example there is no audience, but he feels Haji against his ideal, that is to score perfectly.

2.3. Xiuchi

2.3.1 Introduction

​Chinese culture has long been characterized as a “shame culture”. (Heidi Fung, 1999). According to Bedford (2004), Chinese culture and language have traditionally recognized at least five distinct forms of shame: diu lian(丢脸), can kui(惭愧), xiu kui(羞愧), xiu chi(羞 耻) and two virtually interchangeable embarrassment responses, bu hao yi si(不好意思) and nan wei qing(难为情). Bedford (2004) also stated that:

Xiu chi can be the strongest of the emotions under consideration. … Xiu chi at its strongest is the feeling of having a hei dien (stain) on one’s face, such that anyone who sees one will immediately know of one’s shame and condemn one. One feels inadequate as a human being.

Xiu chi is about the transgression of identity: both one’s own and other people’s.

​Compared to Western people, Chinese people consider themselves more as a group member and construct their identity regarding to the relationship with others.

2.3.2 Functions

​The predominant role of Xiu chi is to protect social harmony. It functions to keep people from violations of social custom or tradition which dictate the ‘proper’ behavior for the ideal individual. In other words, Xiu chi functions to keep people adhering to general social norms.

2.3.3 Cases

​One person can transgress values important to another’s identity and cause the other a feeling of xiu chi. For example, if a girl has an affair before marriage, her parents feel xiu chi. Because she is their daughter, her parents think maybe their neighborhoods will laugh for her. Her parents did not raise her well.

​Another way to experience xiu chi is when one discovers that one has inadvertently broken a law or custom. Besides, one can experience xiu chi in this way because of any person, not just because of close others. For example, when one sees other members of one’s own culture behaving in an inappropriate manner, like letting Children Misbehave, Exhibiting Terrible Table Manners While Dining Out, then one might experience xiu chi in recognition of the shared identity.

3. Related expressions

We know that klincutan is a Javanese word. Indonesia has many ethnic groups. Javanese is one of them. Each place in Java maybe have each kind of their dialect. So, east Java, Cetral Java, Jogjakarta, and West Java may have their own. The word klincutan in Prof Dalsky’s list is from Central Java and Jogjakarta (our group member William asked his Indonesian friend and told us it).

In Professor Dalsky’ s list, it means “The combination of feelings of shame, helplessness and guilt.” But if we say a more simple word that mean “shame” we use “isin” in Javanese or “malu” in Indonesian. These two words have similar meaning. But the word “isin” and “malu” refer only to an expression while in “klincutan” it has some gestures. Also, we talked about how to translate klincutan into Chinese and Japanese. We think that the most reasonable translations are ​羞愧,羞耻,难为情​ in Chinese and ​「恥」​in Japanese.

​But from the perspective of Chinese, we think that the usage of ​羞愧,羞耻,难为情 is wider than klincutan. Because when we feel that another person is better than ourselves we can also feel ​羞愧,羞耻,难为情​.

To make these words clear, here is a chart to summarize them.

3.1 Klincutan/ Ketakutan/ Malu /Isin





Describe someone feels “shame” because they were caught by doing sth. wrong.

Sometimes it can be translated as “awkward”.

E.g. Such as stealing, fart in the crowd



The higher level of “klincutan”

Means “scared”.

Has the same mean with “keweden” in javanese





a more simple word that mean “shame”




​3.2 Haji/Hazukashi




( Haji )

means “shame”.

can express various shame from a trivial failure to a serious crime.



(ohazukasii hanasi desuga )

means that it’s a little shy for me to say such a thing, but I have to say…. Japanese often use this expression.


3.3 Xiuchi / Xiukui / Cankui / Duilian 3.3.1 The four words




Ways to cause


Feeling of shame that occurs with perceived social failure.

Of self / for other

Own / other


Feeling of shame occasioned by perceived personal failure resulting in harm to someone else.

Of self

Own / other


Feeling of shame that occurs with failure to attain a personal ideal.

Of self



Feeling of shame that occurs with loss of reputation or standing in the eyes of others.

For self

Own / other

​3.3.2 The relationship between Xiukui and Xiuchi: from Bedford (2004)

Xiu kui can be a strong feeling of shame. … Like nei jiu, xiu kui is a strong personal feeling in two ways. First, it concerns only one’s own self-assessment. … Xiu kui is felt only of oneself. Second, more than being just a feeling of shame of oneself, xiu kui means recognizing that one has harmed another person.

When one transgresses this shared identity so that one’s acts threaten the identity of other people, or when the part of one’s identity that overlaps with other people’s is threatened, then one experiences xiu chi. This is in contrast to xiu kui, in which the shame is personal and arises from the awareness of the consequences of one’s failure: you have hurt others.

… together xiu chi, xiu kui, can kui and diu lian make a distinction in shame experiences that is not made in English. In diu lian, one’s standing with other people is at stake. In the other three, one’s standing with oneself is at stake. The distinction between public shame and private shame can be clearly made in the Chinese language.

4. Comparison

As we have written above, the three words’ meaning, functions and cases have been discussed. And we also found some related expressions of those words to get a deep understanding of them.

To make it more direct and clear, here we made a chart of those three words.





describe someone feels “shame”​because they were caught by doing sth. wrong. Sometimes can be translated to ​“awkward”.

m e a n s ​“ s h a m e ” . ​

can used as​an education methods​to make children stop some actions or study harder.

means ​“having a stain on one’s face”.​

such that anyone who sees one will immediately know of one’s shame and condemn one


not a serious matter

from trivial to serious matters

serious case couples (exception)


sometimes used

often used

hardly used


when A ate her friend’s cake without permission and her friend found A ate her cake secretly, A realized that she had done something wrong and A feels klincutan.

when a student scored 60% in the test while all other members of the class scored over 90%, he finds himself inferior to others, and feels Haji

a girl has an affair before marriage and then her parents feel xiu chi. Because she is their daughter and they think their neighborhoods might laugh at her.

when one sees other members of one’s own culture behaving in an inappropriate manner


it depends on the situation and people

All Japanese are conscious of haji

it depends on you whether you feel xiuchi or not

Social structure

communities take priority over individuals

4.1 Similarities

As we have mentioned above, shame is one type of complex emotional phenomenon that is experienced universally in most cultures of the world.

When it comes to similarities among them, we can find there are similarities on meaning and social structure.

Klincutan, Haji, Xiuchi, though they belong to different cultural context and they have different social background, they have a similar meaning which is connected to “shame” in English. We think this might influenced by social structure of those three countries. Because Indonesia, Japan, China, these three countries all located in Asia. Many people living in

Indonesia were from China a long time ago, and Japanese culture also influenced by China from Tang dynasty. Therefore, social communities take priority over individuals in these three countries, people pay attention on others’ thoughts, if they do something, they will not only think of themselves, but also think of how people look at them.

To give a ​detailed explanation, we want to analyze these three words in their culture background. ​Klincutan means someone feels “shame” because they were caught by doing something wrong, which indicates Indonesian people pay attention on others’ thoughts. And in Japan, the feeling of shame which occurs when people compare themselves either with other members of a group they belong to or with their ideals, so Haji sometimes leads people to do something which is same to others. Japanese people don’t want to ​push themself forward and be different from the others, because they have a proverb called “出る 杭は打たれる(​Deru kui ha utareru)​”. Translated literally, it means the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. It shows that Japanese people think a brilliant person will be criticized for his merits. Unlike in Japan, Chinese people are not afraid to attracting other’s attention, they do not think it is a “Xiuchi” thing. Since Chinese society were westernized, parents and teachers advise children not to feel shameful. They say like “Be active and confident! Act bravely!” “It’s ok! You have only to stand up! Don’t feel negative!”. But “Xiuchi” also has a similar meaning of “shameful”, though “Xiuchi” only be used on serious case like a girl has an affair before marriage.

From these examples we can understand that the meaning of those three words is influenced by the society. For Indonesia, Japan and China have a similar social structure, there is a similarity on the meaning.

4.2 Differences

For s​hame may manifest itself uniquely depending on the idiosyncrasies of each cultural milieu, we did a analysis and found that there were some differences on scale, frequency and power.

Indonesia, Japan and China have different scale and frequency, and that will lead to different social power. In Indonesia, Klincutan is not a serious matter, Indonesian people sometimes use it when they realise they did something wrong and been caught by others. It is just little things including eating a cake without permission or fart in the crowd. Because of Klincutan not refer to committing a crime, such as robbing or murdering, it is different with “Xiuchi” in China. Unlike in Indonesia, only serious case can be described as “Xiuchi” in China, which is a little bit similar to the word “Ketakutan” in Indonesia. If someone commit a crime, such as robbing or murdering, his family will feel “Xiuchi” for his action. Chinese people hardly ever use this word for there is not a clear connection to their daily life. After that, we all think Japanese society is a little bit special because “Haji” in Japan has a really large scale and social power. Japanese people use “Haji” from trivial things to serious matters, and they almost use it everyday. Hence there is also a “Haji education” in Japan that can not even been imagined by Indonesian or Chinese people. All Japanese are conscious of “Haji” and it is an important idea in their society.

From these examples we can find that the scale, frequency and social power of those three words are different and they are all influenced by the society.

5. Conclusion ​and Applications for Intercultural Understanding

As we have written above, there are both similarities and differences of Klincutan (Indonesia), Haji (Japanese) and Xiuchi (Chinese). To make it clearer, here is a picture to summarize them.

​From this picture, we can see that the biggest difference among those three words is the scale. Klincutan is not a serious matter, it describes something trivial and it has a small scale. Unlike Indonesia, because of only serious case can be described as “Xiuchi” in China, we make it on the right to show serious matters. Finally, because of Japanese people use “Haji” from trivial things to serious matters and they almost use it everyday, we think it has the largest scale and strongest power in the Japanese society.

​In this article, we have discussed three concepts Klincutan, Haji, Xiuchi respectively in Indonesia, Japan and China. We realised that though Indonesia, Japan and China have similar cultural background, there are still some differences existing. It is significant for us to understand different culture and countries not only by doing some readings or searching some materials, but also by asking different people, discussing with “real person” in that culture. Therefore, we all think we have learned a lot this semester.

6. Discussion questions/topics

(1).​How is ​“Shame” expressed in your language/dialect and how might it be different in your country/area?

(2).Have you experienced some shameful things? What did you learn from that?

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