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This paper aims to explore the cultural foundations of polite speech and analyze its usage and practice in modern Chinese. A language mirrors the culture it is associated with. Grounded in the Chinese tradition and the teachings of Confucianism, the emphasis on rites, propriety and humility led to the development of polite language from the early imperial time. Because of the absence of related syntactic features, Chinese linguistic politeness is predominantly manifested on the lexical level. A rich array of decorous terms and expressions has been evolved accordingly to express courtesy or respect either verbally or in formal writing. In general, the lexicon of politeness can be classified into four major categories, namely, honorifics, humble language, courteous speech, and euphemisms.