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Are the following four statements correct? Is one of them better?

1屈身行礼 2弯腰行礼 3弯身行礼 4俯身行礼

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  • Have you explored how they are used in sentences? Can you make any hypothesis from there? – L Parker Apr 22 at 4:32
  • 屈身行礼,弯腰行礼,弯身行礼,俯身行礼 – jinglingmen Apr 22 at 4:44
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  1. Let us look at the dictionary definitions first.

    《辭海》 《教育部重編國語辭典修訂本》
    屈身 1. 降低身份;委屈自身。2. 彎腰(行禮)。 1. 彎下身軀。2. 委屈自己,降低身分。
    俯身 低身彎腰。 彎下身體。
    彎身 Nil Nil
    彎腰 人上身向下彎或屈身。 Only as part of the idiom 彎腰駝背

    Salient points include:

    • 彎身 is not included in major dictionaries. Though understandable by virtually all natives, this is not a common collocation. It may make more sense when rephrased as 彎着身子.

    • Depending on the context, some options, e.g. 屈身 and 彎腰 have negative connotations. The first definition of 屈身 on the left (second on the right) means 'to compromise oneself', apparently applying the figurative meaning of 'to bend' () on the reflexive . Meanwhile, 彎腰 in 彎腰駝背 is a disapproving idiom that describes people crouching.

  2. These are therefore the possible nuance each of the following phrase gives:

    • 屈身行禮: understandable, somewhat archaic. Not to be confused with its alternate meaning, which is slightly derogatory.

    • ?俯身行禮: while 俯身 does mean 'to bend oneself', it is rather literal and seldom means 'to bow'. In fact, consider the following examples:

    校長俯身詢問小朋友的近況,令人感到和藹可親。 The school principal bent down and asked the schoolchildren how they have been recently. He seems very amiable.

    每當他看到錯落在草叢中的含羞草時,總喜歡俯身撫弄。 Whenever he sees mimosas within a bush, he always bends down and caresses their leaves.

    • ?彎身行禮: understandable, but slightly awkward.

    • 彎着身子行禮: understandable, not awkward, but slightly wordy, semantically redundant even.

    • 彎腰行禮: this sounds like an etiquette guide on how to bow.

  3. I would kindly suggest 躬身 as an alternative, for:

    • 躬身行禮 is included in Cihai (《辭海》).

    • 躬身 is unambiguously commendatory.

    《辭海》 《教育部重編國語辭典修訂本》
    躬身 1. 自身;自己。2. 親自;親身。3. 俯屈身體,以示恭敬。 1. 彎屈身體以表示恭敬。2. 親身。
    躬身行禮 指彎下身行禮,常表示臣服或恭敬。 Nil

    However, 躬身 could mean 'oneself' (reflexive) in classical Chinese. Luckily this sense is not derogatory and should not cause much confusion.

References: 辭海、教育部重編國語辭典修訂本

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    thank you for the clear explanation – jinglingmen Apr 25 at 14:01
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弯 (curve; bend) vs. 直 (straight)

弯身 = curve/ bend your body

Although bend your body from your waist (弯腰) is the most common way to bend your body, there are other postures that can be called 弯身. For example, to get under and pass a police tape, you can curve your waist to one side (face sideway)

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俯 (face downward) vs. 仰 (face upward)

俯身 = body faces downward

Although bending your body from your waist (弯腰) does make your upper body face downward, there are other forms of 俯身. For example, you don't need to bend your waist when you 俯身撲向水池 (launch your body faces downward into the pool)

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屈 (bend) vs. 伸 (stretch)

We use 屈 mostly for body parts that can be folded completely, e.g. 屈指一算; 屈膝下跪.

屈身 (bend your body) is similar to but not as commonly used as 弯身

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弯腰 (bend your waist)

Since human's waist naturally bends forward. 弯腰 refers to this specific movement/ posture -- not bend sideways or backward

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