Learn Chinese word radical – Square

Grid for writing Chinese characters

Grid for writing Chinese characters

The Chinese character (fāng) means “square”. Like the English word “square”, it can be used and interpreted in a number of different ways. Today we will look at this word as it pertains to square shapes, locations and directions.

So, a square shape is called 方形 (fāngxíng) or 正方形 (zhèngfāngxíng). 长方形 (chángfāngxíng) is a rectangle.

Any square piece is called 方块 (fāngkuài). Chinese characters are often referred to as 方块字 (fāngkuàizì).

方格 (fānggě) is a square grid. When we were in elementary school, we practiced writing Chinese characters by filling pages and pages of square grids. The narrower space on the right side of each square is for adding the zhuyin notation.

方糖 (fāngtáng) are sugar cubes.

(fāng) also means directions. The commonly used word for direction or orientation is 方向 (fāngxiàng). 方位 (fāngwèi) means position or bearing.

东方 (dōngfāng) is the east direction or the East. 西方 (xīfāng) is the west direction or the West.

前方 (qiánfāng) means ahead or the front. 后方 (hòufāng) is the rear of something such as a building or an army.

四方 (sìfāng) are the four directions. It also means a shape with four right angles, i.e. a square or a rectangle. 四方 (sìfāng) and 八方 (bāfāng eight directions) are often used to refer to all sides or all directions. The number eight refers to the eight points of the compass.

方针 (fāngzhèn) is the pointer on the compass. This word refers to a policy or a guiding principle.

地方 (dìfang) means a place, a spot or a space.

zhè piān wénzhāng hái yǒu xǔduō kěyǐ gǎijìn de dìfang.
There is still plenty of room for improvement in this composition.

As flags are usually of a square or rectangular shape, it is not surprising that the word for flags, (qí), takes on the “square” radical.

(fáng) is a house or a room. It features a space under a roof.

(fáng) is to defend one’s turf or guard against someone or something. This word features the “ear” radical as well.

(fàng) is to place, to put or to release.

(páng) means side or on the side.

Tā bǎ nà fēng xìn fàng zài yī páng.
He set that letter on the side.

(zú) means clan, race, nationality or a group with common features.

(xuán) is to spin or revolve around something.

Dìqiú rào zhe tàiyáng xuánzhuǎn.
The earth revolves around the sun.

(fǎng) is to visit, to call on or to interview someone.

Tā jùjué jiēshòu fǎngwèn.
He refused to be interviewed.

(lǚ) is to travel. 旅客 (lǚkè) could be a passenger, a traveler or a hotel guest.

旅游 (lǚyóu) means touring.

If you are traveling to a Chinese-speaking country, you might find the cheat sheet in Chapter 32 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” helpful.

Talking about soccer in Chinese

Soccer is the most watched sports game in the present world. Its rules are fairly easy to understand. Since this game is played using the feet, it is appropriately named in Chinese as 足球 (zúqiú).

(zú) is the formal word for the foot. It features as a radical in many words related to the feet. For example, 踢足球 (tī zúqiú) means to kick or play the soccer ball. To see a few other words featuring the foot radical, please review the lesson posted on 10/16/13.

足球隊 (zúqiú duì) is a soccer team. The soccer team members are called 足球队员 (zúqiú duìyuán). You can refer to the members of any team as 队员 (duìyuán), and you can refer to any ball players as 球员 (qiú yuán).

足球场 (zúqiú chǎng) is a soccer playing field. (qiú) is a ball, and (mén) is a door or a gate. Therefore 球門 (qiúmén) is the goal in a sports game like soccer or hockey.

比赛 (bǐsài) means a match or a competition. As a verb, it means to compete in a match. You can refer to a soccer game as 足球比赛 (zúqiú bǐsài) or 足球赛 (zúqiú sài).

世界 (shìjiè) means the world. (bēi) is a cup or a trophy. Therefore, the Chinese word for World Cup is 世界杯 (shìjiè bēi).

Last Sunday the German team won the World Cup for the fourth time in history. Their formidable opponent had won the World Cup twice before.

德国比阿根廷多得一分, 赢得了世界杯.
Déguó bǐ Ägēntín duō dé yī fèn, yíngdé le shìjiè bēi.
Germany got one point over Argentina, winning the World Cup.

A penalty shot or a penalty kick is called 罚球 (fáqiú). At this link is a video showing how a soccer ball sometimes has a mind of its own.

Yìdàlì qiú yuán tī chū yī gè fáqiú.
The Italian soccer player made a penalty kick.

那足球碰到球门框, 反弹了回来.
Nà zúqiú pèng dào qiúmén kuàng, fǎn tán le huílái.
That ball hit the frame of the goal and bounced back.

Duìfāng shǒu qiúmén de qiú yuán xǐchūwàngwài.
The goalie of the opposing team was overjoyed.

Méi xiǎngdào nà zúqiú luòdì hòu jìngrán zìdòng tiào jìn qiúmén li.
Unexpectedly, after touching the ground, that soccer ball actually bounced back into the goal on its own.

Which ball game do you enjoy the most? Why not look up the Chinese terms associated with that activity?

Roughly in Chinese

When you are asked about the quantity or extent of something but you do not know the exact amount or measurements, you could qualify your answer with the help of such words as “about”, “approximately” or “roughly”.

大约 (dàyuē) means roughly or approximately. The formal equivalents are
约略 (yuēlüè rougly, approximately) and (lüè approximately).

Ā pà lā qì yà shānmài yǒu duō gāo?
How long is the Appalachian mountain range?

Dàyuē yī qiān wǔ bǎi yīnglǐ.
About 1500 miles.

大概 (dàgài) also means roughly, but it can also mean generally or probably.

Huǒchēzhàn jùlí zhèr duō yuǎn?
How far is the railway station from here?

Dàgài yào zǒu shífēn zhōng.
It’s about a ten minutes walk.

Tā dàgài bùhuì lái.
She is probably not coming.

Xiànzài jǐ diǎn zhōng?
What time is it now?

差不多 (chàbuduō) means nearly, almost or similar. Literally, 差不多 (chàbuduō) translates to “not much different”.

Xiànzài chàbuduō sān diǎn.
It’s almost three o’clock now.

Tāmen liǎng xiōngdì chàbuduō yīyàng gāo.
The two brothers are about the same height.

There are also words and phrases that give one a rough idea of the amount or the extent.

一点儿 (yīdiǎnr) means a little or a bit.

Qǐng nǐ gěi wǒ yīdiǎnr shuǐ.
Please give me a little water.

稍微 (shāowēi) and 有点儿 (yǒudiǎnr) mean a bit or a trifle. Often they are used together.

Wǒ shāowēi yǒudiǎnr lèi.

一眨眼的工夫 (yīzhǎyǎn de gōngfu) means in a blink.

喝一杯茶的工夫 (hè yī bēi chá de gōngfu) means the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea.

芝麻大小 (zhīmá dàxiǎo) means the size of a sesame seed.

拳头大小 (quántou dàxiǎo) means fist-size.

If you do know the quantities or measurements of the items, then you will need to specify the units for the value you provide. The various units of measure are discussed in Chapters 6 and 7 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

Sing “America the Beautiful” in Chinese

Blueberries ripening

Blueberries ripening

July 4th, 七月四日 (qīyuè sì rì), is the birthday of the United States of America. (zhù) is to express good wishes. 祝福 (zhùfú) is to give blessing to someone. This word can also be used as a noun. 庆祝 (qìngzhù) is to celebrate. There are a number of patriot songs to help us express our feelings while celebrating the national day, or 国庆日 (guóqìng rì), notably the one with lyrics written by Katharine Lee Bates and music composed by Samuel A. Ward – “America the Beautiful”. The Chinese word for America is 美国 (Měiguó). 美丽 (měilì) means beautiful.

忠贞 (zhōngzhēn) means being loyal and steadfast. 爱国 (àiguó) means being patriotic. So, 忠贞爱国 (zhōngzhēn àiguó) describes a person who is loyal to his country and loves it dearly, and patriotic songs are called 爱国歌曲 (àiguó gēqǔ).

At this link is a nice rendition of “America the Beautiful”. If you would like to sing this song in Chinese, here is my translated version:

啊, 多美丽! 蓝天辽阔,
Ā, duō měilì! Lán tiān liáokuò,
Oh, how beautiful – the spacious blue skies

màitián li yàng jīn bō.
and the golden waves rippling in the wheat fields.

高山峻岭, 气势磅礴,
Gāoshān jùn lǐng, qìshìpángbó,
High mountains and mountain ranges, so powerful and majestic,

biàn dì bùmǎn huā guǒ.
and the land covered with flowers and fruits.

美丽家园, 美丽家园!
Měilì jiāyuán, měilì jiāyuán!
Beautiful homeland, beautiful homeland!

Yuàn tiānfù bǎoyòu nǐ.
May the Heavenly Father protect and bless you.

从南到北, 由西到东,
Cóng nán dào běi, yóu xī dào dōng,
From south to north, from west to east,

sìhǎi nèi jiē xiōngdì.
within the four seas we are all brothers.

啊, 多美丽! 同心协力,
Ā, duō měilì! Tóngxīnxiélì,
Oh, how beautiful – the shared aspiration, the concerted effort

bùduàn yīngyǒng jiànguó.
and the endless valor in founding the nation.

Dà chéng xiǎo zhèn tíngtíng yù lì,
Big cities and small towns now stand upright,

zài lèi guāng li shǎnshuò.
shimmering in our tears.

美丽家园, 美丽家园!
Měilì jiāyuán, měilì jiāyuán!
Beautiful homeland, beautiful homeland!

Yuàn tiānfù bǎoyòu nǐ.
May the Heavenly Father protect and bless you.

从南到北, 由西到东,
Cóng nán dào běi, yóu xī dào dōng,
From south to north, from west to east,

sìhǎi nèi jiē xiōngdì.
within the four seas we are all brothers.

辽阔 (liáokuò) means vast and expansive.

高山峻岭 (gāoshān jùn lǐng) is a popular phrase for describing high mountains.

气势磅礴 (qìshìpángbó) is a commonly used four-character idiom describing the power or momentum of someone or something.

英勇 (yīngyǒng) means heoric and courageous, as when speaking of the brave soldiers who help defend our country.

同心协力 (tóngxīnxiélì) is a commonly used four-character idiom describing two or more people working together with one heart and in full cooperation.

What are the things that you love the most or are most proud of about your own country? Would you like to share them with us in a comment either in English or Chinese?

Měiguó guóqìng rì kuàilè!
Have a Happy July 4th!


Měiguó guóqìng kuàilè!
Have a Happy July 4th!

Virtues valued by the traditional Chinese

The virtues most valued by the traditional Chinese people have been grouped into the so-called Four Principles and Eight Virtues. We have already touched upon a number of these virtues in the previously posted articles.

The four principles are regarded as the bonds that hold the fabric of society together.

(lǐ) refers to having good manners and following the protocol.

(yì) means righteousness and proper behavior and deeds.

(lián) means having moral integrity and not accepting bribes. (chǐ) means having a sense of shame. These two words usually go together as 廉耻 (liánchǐ integrity and sense of honor).

不知廉耻 (bùzhī liánchǐ) is a serious accusation that means “shameless”. If it will help you remember this phrase, you could associate it with “not knowing one’s face, (liǎn), and teeth 齿 (chǐ)”. In fact, the familiar way of saying “shameless” or “brazen” is 不要脸 (bùyào liǎn not caring about one’s face or honor).

The Eight Virtues are actually four virtues made up of eight characters.

忠孝 (zhōng xiào) refers to loyalty and filial piety, which strengthen the foundation of a country and a family, respectively.

仁爱 (rénài) is kindheartedness, the good will that connect people to one another.

信义 (xìnyì) is good faith and trustworthiness that keeps things going in a predictable way.

和平 (hépíng) means peace.

If you’ve been to Taiwan, you most likely have passed by streets named after the above four virtues. At school, students are reminded of the importance of these virtues through ethics classes and posters displayed in classrooms and doorways. In fact, many public schools have the classes named with these eight characters as well as the characters representing the following often-cited virtues.

(gōng) stands for 公正 (gōngzhèng being just or impartial) or 公平 (gōngpīng fair or equitable).

Zhè bù gōngpīng.
This is not fair.

(chéng) means being sincere and honest. 诚心 (chéngxīn) and 诚意 (chéngyì) both mean sincere or sincerity.

Wǒ chéngxīn chéngyì yāo tā qù kàn diànyǐng, dàn tā bù lǐngqíng.
I sincerely invited her to a movie, but she did not appreciate it. (She refused.)

诚实 (chéngshí) means being honest.

(qín) is being diligent and hardworking. It often appears in the form 勤劳 (qínláo).

Tā shìgè qínláo de niánqīngrén.
He is a hardworking young man.

(yì) is being determined or resolute. 毅力 (yìlì) is a person’s willpower or stamina.

Wǒmén yào yǒu jiānqiáng de yìlì.
We must have a strong will and perseverance.

(wēn) refers to a temperate personality.

Tā de nǚpéngyou hěn wēnróu.
His girl friend is warm and gentle.

(liáng) means being a good and kind person, as in 善良的人 (shànliáng de rén).

(gōng) meanes respectful and reverent. When you say 恭喜 (gōngxǐ), you are offering your congratulation respectfully.

(jiǎn), or 节俭 (jiéjiǎn), means being thrifty and not squandering money on luxuries.

(ràng let) is to yield a privilege to another person, such as when you say, “After you”.

Zài gōng chē shàng yào ràngwèi gě lǎoniánrén.
When riding a bus, one should offer one’s seat to the elderly.

Which virtues do you value the most? Do you know the corresponding Chinese words?

How to in Chinese

When we were young and the teachers tried to cram all the geography, history, mathematics and, yeah, Chinese lessons into us, we secretly wished for shorter school days and less to learn. Now that we’re older and wiser, we’ve come to realize that there is so much that we’d like to know more about; there is so much out there to learn. One way to obtain information is to ask questions. Ask someone who knows, or search for the information on the Internet. Following are a few words that you could use to initiate a question.

To ask what something is, start with 什么 (shénme).

什么人 (shénme rén) means what person or who.

Shénme rén?
Who’s there?

Shénme rén gàosù nǐ de?
Who told you this?

Zhè shì shénme rén de dōngxi?
Whose thing is this?

Please note that the following three sentences could be uttered with a positive or negative connotation.

Zhè shì shénme yìsī?
What does this mean?
(What’s this supposed to mean?)

When someone wants to go out of his or her way to do you a favor, you could make a gesture to refuse it by saying that that would be absurd. The other party would insist on helping you, and you would then graciously accept the good will. On the other hand, when someone says something that is absurd, you could use the very same sentence to express your displeasure.

Zhè shì shénme huà?
What are you saying? (Preposterous!)

什么话! (Shénme huà!)
Shénme huà!
What nonsense!

为什么 (wèishénme) means why.

Wèishénme tā hái méi lái?
Why has she not come yet?

哪个 (nǎge) means which. 哪一天 (nǎ yītiān) means which day. Some people use the short form 哪天 (něi yītiān).

怎么 (zěnme ) and 如何 (rúhé) both mean how. 如何 (rúhé) is the formal form.

怎么做 (zěnme zuò) and 怎么弄 (zěnme nòng ) both mean how to do or handle something.

Zhè jiàn shì zěnme zuò bǐjiào hǎo?
What’s a good way to get this done?

A more formal way to communicate the above would be:

Zhè jiàn shì rúhé jìnxíng bǐjiào qiàdàng?
What’s an appropriate way to proceed with this matter?

Xīfàn zěnme zhǔ?
How to cook rice gruel?

怎么说 (zěnme shuō) can be interpreted in two different ways.

zhègè zì de yīngyǔ zěnme shuō?
How to say this word in English?

Zěnme shuō?
How do you mean? (Could you elaborate?)

怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) also means how or in what manner. It is often shorted as 怎样 (zěnyàng).

Nǐ juéde zěnmeyàng?
What do you think?
(How do you feel about this? How do you feel?)

Bù zěnyàng.
Nothing special. (I’m not impressed.)

Zěnme huí shì?
What’s the matter? (What happened?)

Which day is Father’s Day?

In the United States and a number of other countries the second Sunday of May is designated Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day follows one month plus one week later. In Taiwan, Father’s Day is celebrated on August 8th, because 八月八日 (bāyuè bā rì) can be abbreviated as 八八 (bā bā), which sounds similar to 爸爸 (bàba father, dad).

Liùyuè de dìsān gè xīngqīrì shì Fùqin jié.
The third Sunday of June is Father’s Day.

Traditionally mothers assume all the chores of raising the kids, but the landscape has changed. Nowadays fathers are able to form a close bond with the children and earn a large share of their affection. There are also single-parent families with the father doing double-duty to provide both paternal and maternal love and care. Here is an interesting playlet “My Father”, which I think you will be able to follow with the help of the English subtitles. Following is a discussion of some of the words and expressions used in the video.

单亲家庭 (dān qīn jiātíng) is a single-parent family.

As an adjective, (dān) means single, alone, only, plain or weak. As a noun it can refer to a sheet, as in 被单 (bèidān a bedsheet), a list, as in 菜单 (càidān a menu of dishes of food), or a bill, as in 账单 (zhàng dān a bill or an invoice).

作文 (zuòwén) is to write a composition on a subject assigned by the teacher. The title of the composition is called 题目 (tímù), which also means topic or examination questions on a test.

The kid in the video is to write a composition titled “My Father”. His father also happens to be his school teacher.

身材 (shēncái) is one’s stature or figure.

Tā de shēncái hěn miáotiao.
Her figure is quite slender and fine.

和蔼可亲 (héǎikěqīn) is commonly used to describe an amiable person. The kid describes the father he knows as nice and humorous, or 幽默 (yōumò). However, his father, being his 级任老师 (jí rèn lǎoshī home-room teacher) and a 训导老师 (xùn dǎo lǎoshī) in charge of disciplining the students, is a rather different person during school hours.

罚站 (fá zhàn) is a form of punishment often employed by teachers (and some parents). Standing in a corner and barred from the normal activities, the child is apt to feel humiliated.

相处 (xiāngchǔ) means to get along with someone.

Wǒmén xiāngchǔ de hěn hǎo.
We get along very well.

(jiāo) has multiple meanings. 交功课 (jiāo gōngkè) means to hand in one’s schoolwork. If you fail to do so, you get disciplined.

人类 (rénlèi) means humankind, 灵魂 (línghún) is one’s soul, and 工程师 (gōngchéngshī) is an engineer. The kid humorously refers to teachers as 人类灵魂工程师 (rénlèi línghún gōngchéngshī), or engineers of the human soul.

自从 (zìcóng) means “since a certain time in the past”. 自小 (zì xiǎo) and 从小 (cóng xiǎo) both mean “since an early age”.

承担 (chéngdān) is to assume the responsibility of a task. 责任 (zérèn) means duty or responsibility.承担责任 (chéngdān zérèn) is to be responsible for a duty or a problem. 辅导 (fǔdào) means to give guidance to someone.

缺乏 (quēfá) means to be lacking in something.

因此 (yīncǐ) means therefore or consequently.

公司缺乏资金, 因此不容易经营.
Gōngsī quēfá zījīn, yīncǐ bù róngyì jīngyíng.
The company is short of funds, and is therefore not easy to operate.

We learned in December of 2012 that 算了. (Suàn le.) means “Never mind.”, “That’s okay.” or “Let it be.” The kid is unhappy about being punished by his own father, but then he acknowledges that he himself is partly to blame. He loves his father nonetheless.

Fùqin jié kuàilè!
Happy Father’s Day!

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