Chinese checkers, anyone?

Chinese checkerboard modified for marble solitaire

Chinese checkerboard modified for marble solitaire

In Chapters 11 through 14 of the book “Learn Chinese Songs and Rhymes” we studied a number of action words (verbs), one of which is (tiào jump). This same word also means to leap, to hop or to skip.

Fleas are called 跳蚤 (tiàozǎo) because they jump around.

跳动 (tiàodòng) is to move up and down or to pulsate.

Nǐ de màibó měi fēnzhōng tiàodòng jǐ cì?
What’s your pulse rate?
(How many times does your pulse beat in a minute?)

跳班 (tiàobān) or 跳级 (tiàojí) means to skip a grade.

跳槽 (tiàocáo) means to change job. This usually refers to the situation in which one goes to work for another company to the current employer’s disadvantage.

跳行 (tiàoháng) means to skip a line while reading. It can also mean to change one’s 行业 (hángyè trade or profession). In this case, it is synonymous with 改行 (gǎiháng).

心跳 (xīntiào) means heartbeat or palpitation.

我害怕极了, 心跳不停.
Wǒ hàipà jíle, xīntiào bùtíng.
I was extremely scared, and my heart thumped without stopping.

眼跳 (yǎntiào), or 眼皮跳 (yǎnpí tiào), refers to the involuntary twitching of the eyelid. Some people believe that twitching of the lower eyelids predicts a happy event, while twitching of the upper eyelids foretells bad news.

心惊肉跳 (xīnjīngròutiào) describes a state of apprehension, in which the heart beats fast and the flesh shakes.

下棋 (xiàqí) means to play a strategic board game involving small pieces. The game of go is called 围棋 (wéiqí). 西洋棋 (xīyáng qí) is the chess game. Chinese chess is called 象棋 (xiàngqí). The checkers game is 西洋跳棋 (xīyáng), and Chinese checkers is 跳棋 (tiàoqí).

The checkers game is comparatively simple. You can move only diagonally, one space at a time. When an opponent’s piece is in your way, you can jump over it and capture the piece. Whoever captures all of the opponent’s pieces first wins. In Chinese, capturing an opponent’s piece is called (chī eat). This word is also used in the game of mahjong when you are able to form a meld by taking the piece that the previous player has just discarded.

With the game of Chinese checkers, you can move a piece only when there is a neighboring piece that can be jumped over. You don’t “eat” an opponent’s piece. Rather, your goal is to get all of your pieces across the board to the triangular area on the opposite side. Whoever accomplishes this first wins. You can have up to six players in a game, but usually it is played with two or three players.

竞争 (jìngzhēng) means to compete, and 竞赛 (jìngsài) is a competition. If you would like to find out more about the personality of your friends or colleagues, invite them to a friendly game of Chinese checkers.

赖皮 (làipí)

Are the players 冷静 (lěngjìng sober and clam) or 急躁 (jízào impatient)? Do they adhere to the rules or do they try to cheat?

下棋要遵守规则, 不可以赖皮.
Xiàqí yào zūnshǒu guīzé, bù kěyǐ làipí.
When playing the board game, we must follow the rules and not cheat.

Yíng jiā bù yào deyìyángyáng.
The winner should not act too cocky.

Shū jiā yào bǎochí liánghǎo fēngdù.
The loser should maintain good demeanor.

If you have some time to spare, you could try blocking off an area on the Chinese checkerboard as shown in the above photo and play a variation of the marble solitaire. You may move a piece only by jumping over another piece. Remove the piece that was jumped over to uncover a new empty space. The only spaces available are the ones originally occupied by the pieces plus the one empty space at the apex of the triangular area. The goal is to have at the end a single piece remaining at the apex of the triangular area where the empty space is now showing in the photo. A word of caution:

Zhègè mí tí bù róngyì jiě.
This puzzle is not easy to solve.

Chinese word for beans

Shrimp with Young Soy Beans

Shrimp with Young Soy Beans

The Chinese words (dòu) and 豆子 (dòuzi) can refer to beans or peas. Therefore, you’ll need to add another character to the word to clarify what you are talking about.

豌豆 (wāndòu) are peas.

绿豆 (lǜdòu) are mung beans.

红小豆 (hóngxiǎodòu) are the little red beans used for making sweet red bean paste. They are often referred to simply as 红豆 (hóngdòu), although this term can be applied to any bean that has a reddish color. In fact, the Chinese call the red seeds of the Abrus precatorius (crab’s eye) 红豆 (hóngdòu) or 相思豆 (xiāngsī dòu love bean). 相思 (xiāngsī) is the longing between lovers or close friends. This word can be used as a noun or a verb. Before I looked up information about these seeds at this link, I did not know that they are poisonous. Young people give these to friends as a token of their affection, and I did receive a few of these seeds on a couple occasions before.

There is a well-known poem written by the famous poet 王维 (Wáng Wéi)
during the Tang Dynasty, or 唐朝 (Tángcháo).

Hóngdòu shēn nánguó,
Red beans grow in the country to the south,

chūn lái fā jǐ zhī.
and in spring they issue a few new shoots.

Yyuàn jūn duō cǎixié,
I hope you will pick a bunch of them

cǐ wù zuì xiāngsī.
as this thing evokes the most intense longing for a dear  friend afar.

Soybeans are called 大豆 (dàdòu) or 黄豆 (huángdòu). As they say, “If you plant melon seeds, you will get melons; if you plant beans, then you will get beans.”

种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆.
Zhòngguādéguā, zhòngdòudédòu.
You will reap what you sow.

That is true if the conditions are favorable and the seeds germinate and grow, and the seedlings are not devoured by critters. Young bean shoots and the tender new growth at the tip of the vines are called 豆苗 (dòumiáo). They are delicious stir-fried or added to soups.

When the 豆荚 (dòujiá bean pods or pea pods) have swollen but still green, the seeds that you find in them are young and tender. At this stage, they are referred to as 毛豆 (máodòu fuzzy soybean) because of the fuzz covering the pods. In Japanese they are called edamame. The tender green seeds look somewhat like lima beans but have a smoother texture and a more subtle taste. They are excellent as a snack or in stir-fried dishes.

When fully ripened, the seeds are hard and take on a light yellowish color. Those are the 黄豆 (huángdòu soybeans) used for making soy milk, bean curds, bean pastes and sou nuts.

豆腐 (dòufu bean curd, tofu) is an important source of protein for many Asian vegetarians. Many Chinese drink 豆浆 (dòujiāng soybean milk) as part of their breakfast. 豆腐皮 (dòufupí) is the protein-rich film that floats to the top when you cook soy milk. This term also refers to very thin sheets of bean curd or the outer layer of deep-fried bean curd.

Tofu products are often flavored with 酱油 (jiàngyóu soy sauce), yet another food product made from the amazing soy beans.

Sweet bean pastes are called 豆沙 (dòushā). These are used as fillings for moon cakes, sweet rice dumplings, buns and many other snacks.

If you have a handful of soy beans, you could put them in a jar of water and grow your own bean sprouts, or 豆芽儿 (dòuyár). The soy bean sprouts are larger than the mung bean sprouts that are sold in the supermarkets.

Following are a few words that make use of the “bean” radical.

(duǎn) means short, brief, lacking or a weak point.

(gǔ) is a percussion instrument like a rattle or a drum. As a verb, this word means to strike (a musical instrument), to agitate or to swell.

厨房 (chúfáng) is the kitchen.

逗留 (dòuliú) is to stay or stop at a place.

(dēng) is to ascend or scale a height, as in 登山 (dēngshān mountain-climbing). To put an article in a magazine or newspaper is called 刊登 (kāndēng).

You already know how to draw a horizontal stroke to write the numeral 1 in Chinese. There is a set of more complicated characters used for writing the numerals on checks, banknotes and currencies to help prevent alterations. For the numeral 1, the “official” character is (yī). I’ll let you do some research and find out what the characters are that represent the other nine numerals.

Learn Chinese word radical – Dish

Tofu on Plate

Tofu on Plate

The picture at the right shows a small plate of sliced tofu. Looking at it, can you envision the Chinese character (mǐn)? As mentioned last week, this character represents a dish or a container. Not surprisingly, it shows up as a radical in the words for such items as plates, cups or basins.

(pán) is a plate, a dish or a tray. It also stands for other flat items like 棋盘 (qípán chessboard, checkerboard), 地盘 (dìpán one’s own territory), 沙盘 (shāpán sand table) and 算盘 (suànpán abacus). It will be good to note here that 盘算 (pánsuan) is a verb that means to calculate or to plan.
股票 (gǔpiào) are shares of stock, and 股票市场 (gǔpiàoshìchǎng) is the stock market, often abbreviated as 股市 (gǔ shì) or 股盘 (gǔpán). 股市崩盘 (gǔ shì bēngpán) would be a collapse of the stock market.

(zhōng) is a cup without handles. One of my favorite dishes is the 冬瓜盅 (dōngguā zhōng), which is a winter melon soup served in the melon itself. With just a touch of (táng sugar) and (yán salt) and the flavors contributed by the melon flesh, the mushrooms and a variety of quality meats and seafood, this soup is a treat for the taste buds as well as the soul.

(pén) is a pot, a tub or a basin. A flowerpot is called 花盆 (huāpén). A washbasin is called 脸盆 (liǎnpén).

盒子 (hézi) is a box.

Tā dài gěi wǒ yī hé qiǎokèlì táng.
He brought me a box of chocolates.

Please review Chapter 7 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” and read about other types of containers that are often used as units of measure.

(zhǎn) is a small cup, (dēng) is a lamp and 黑夜 (hēiyè) means dark night.

Xīwàng xiàng shì hēiyè li de yī zhǎn dēng.
Hope is like a lamp shining in the dark night.

(yì) means beneficial, increasingly, or a profit.

(shèng) means abundant, plentiful, prosperous or popular.

(yíng) means being full or having a surplus. (yì) is to overflow. (làn) also means to overflow or to flood. This character is used in words that represent excessiveness or indiscriminateness.

Tā lànyòng zhíquán.
He abuses his power (authority).

(dào) means theft, robbery, a thief or a robber.

(jiān) is to watch or to supervise. 监视 (jiānshì) is to keep watch on someone, and 监牢 (jiānláo) is a prison.

(wēn) means warm or lukewarm. In this character we have water (as represented by the water radical), heat (as represented by the sun radical) and the vessel radical. A bowl of warm water comes to mind.

(lán) is the blue or indigo color. You do need a container to prepare the indigo dye.

头盔 (tóukuī) is a helmet. I guess you could look at it as an inverted vessel.

Qí mótuōchē shí yào dài tóukuī.
You should wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

Learn Chinese words and idioms involving blood

面具 (miànjù) Mask

面具 (miànjù) Mask

Halloween offers an opportunity for us to mention such scary things as vampires. In Chinese, they are called 吸血鬼 (xīxuěguǐ), namely blood-sucking ghosts. Actually, there are quite a few other words and expressions we can learn that are related to blood.

The Chinese character for blood is (xuè). It is also informally pronounced as (xiě) or (xuě). At the base is the character (mǐn), which means a utensil, a dish or a container. And, as you can see, there is a drop of blood that is dripping into this container.

The plasma, or 血浆 (xuèjiāng), contains 红血球 (hóngxuèqiú red blood cells) and 白血球 (báixiěqiú white blood cells). These circulate in our body via the blood vessels, or 血管 (xuèguǎn) and provide us with the vital energy the Chinese call (qì). You see, we refer to vigor and courage as 血气 (xuèqì).

Blood that is rich in oxygen has a red color. Therefore, 血红色 (xuèhóng sè) is a blood-red color. Paleness inside the lower eyelids may be an indication of anemia, 贫血 (pínxuè).

输血 (shūxuè) is to transfuse blood. 捐血 (juān xuè) is to donate blood. Before conducting a blood transfusion, the health care professional will need to know the patient’s blood type, or 血型 (xuèxíng) to make sure the donated blood is compatible. Doing a blood test is called 验血 (yànxiě). Here is a link to information about blood type compatibility.

Tīngshuō B xíng de rén wàixiàng.
I heard that people with the B blood type are outgoing.

出血 (chūxuè) and 流血 (liúxuè) both mean to bleed, while
止血 (zhǐxuè) is to stop the bleeding.

血糖 (xuètáng) is blood sugar. 糖尿病 (tángniàobìng) is diabetes.

高血压 (gāoxuèyà) is hypertension.

Tā de fùqin yǒu gāoxuèyà.
His father has high blood pressure.

血口喷人 (xuèkǒupēnrén) means to launch a malicious and unfounded verbal attack or slander on someone.

Nǐ bùyào xuèkǒupēnrén.
Don’t make such crazy false accusations.

血肉相联 (xuèròuxiānglián) describes a deep and strong connection, as close as flesh and blood.

杀人不见血 (shārénbùjiànxiě) is to kill without spilling blood, or to hurt people in a subtle way.

一针见血 (yīzhēnjiànxiě) means to point out the truth with a single pertinent remark.

心血来潮 (xīnxuèláicháo) means by a sudden impulse or whim.

Nǐ jīntiān zěnme xīnxuèláicháo pǎo lái kàn wǒ?
What wind brought you here to see me today?

血浓于水 (xuè nóng yú shuǐ) is the Chinese translation for “Blood is thicker than water.”

热血 (rèxuè) means hot blood or righteous ardor. 沸腾 (fèiténg) means boiling over. Together these form the phrase 热血沸腾 (rèxuè fèiténg), which can be used to describe a person fervently advocating for a cause. 冷血动物 (lěngxuèdòngwù) are cold-blooded animals such as insects, reptiles and fish. This term is often used to refer to an unfeeling, cold-hearted person.

Learn Chinese word radical – Literature

(wén) means literature, language, writing, culture or civil and refined. Literature is called 文学 (wénxué). 文明 (wénmíng) is civilization, and 文化 (wénhuà) covers civilization, culture, education and literacy in general.

文字 (wénzì) refers to writing, scripts or languages. 文法 (wénfǎ) is grammar.

外文 (wàiwén) means foreign languages, such as 法文 (fǎwén French), 德文 (déwén German) and 日文 (rìwén Japanese).

文件 (wénjiàn) are documents. Official documents are called 公文 (gōngwén).

文具 (wénjù) means stationery.

The character (wén) occurs in its original form as the “literature” radical in a number of words.

(wén) are fine lines, such as 指纹 (zhǐwén fingerprints)
and 皱纹 (zhòuwén wrinkles).

(bān) are specks or stripes. A zebra is called a striped horse in Chinese – 斑马 (bānmǎ), and a crosswalk is called 斑马线 (bānmǎ xiàn zebra crossing).

蚊子 (wénzi) is a mosquito.

吝啬 (lìnsè) means stingy or tightfisted. Stingy people are also said to be 小气 (xiǎoqì stingy or petty).

The traditional Chinese character for (biàn change) is (biàn), the lower portion of which is the modified “literature” word radical. This radical is found on the right side in many Chinse words. Last week we came across the words 改变 (gǎibiàn) and 政治 (zhèngzhì), both of which feature this “literature” radial. Following are a few additional examples.

(shōu) is to receive, to collect, to gather, to put away, to restrain or to put an end to, whereas (fàng) is to let go, release, give out or leave alone.

Tā shōuyǎng le liǎng gè háizǐ.
He adopted two children.

Tā bǎ xínglǐ fàngxià.
He put down his luggage.

(gù) is a reason, a cause or an incident. It is the formal word for hence, consequently, former, or to die.

对不起, 我不是故意的.
Duìbùqǐ, wǒ bùshi gùyì de.
Sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose.

Wǒ de qìchē gùzhàng le.
My car broke down.

(zuò) is to do, to make or to be used as.

效果 (xiàoguǒ) is an effect or a result.

Zhèyàng zuò xiàoguǒ bùcuò.
Doing it this way gives pretty good results.

(wēi) means tiny or to a slight degree, as in 微风 (wēifēng gentle breeze).

(ào) means proud or haughty.

Zhègè rén tài jiāoào le.
This person is too arrogant.

Chinese word for change

Qiūtiān li xǔduō shùyè biànchéng huángsè huòzhě hóngsè.
In autumn many leaves turn yellow or red.

Leaves in Autumn  秋天里的树叶 (qiūtiān li de shùyè)

Leaves in Autumn
秋天里的树叶 (qiūtiān li de shùyè)

(biàn) or 变成 (biànchéng) means to change, to become or to transform. This word also serves as a noun. You can use it to refer to a change in the weather, in an object, in a person or in a state of affairs. However, don’t use this word when talking about small change, or changing into different currency or clothing. Those situations call for some other words.

Tā zuìjìn biàn de bǐjiào chénmò.
Lately he has become more reticent.

The word for “easy”, (yì), also means a change or an exchange. In the sense of “change”, this word appears mostly in classical Chinese.

Yes, 变色 (biànsè) means to change in color or to have become discolored. You probably have not guessed that it also means to become angry when it is used in reference to a person. Here we are talking about 脸色 (liǎnsè), a person’s facial expression. Similarly, 变脸 (biànlián) means to suddenly turn hostile.

When the Chinese mention a change in the sky, or 变天 (biàntiān), they are usually talking about a change in the weather for the worse. When there is a change of heart , it is also for the worse – 变心 (biànxīn) means to stop being faithful and to love someone else.

Tā de nǚpéngyou biàn le xīn.
His girl friend does not love him anymore.

As magicians appear to be able to transform things from one form to another, they are said to be able to 变魔術 (biàn móshù perform magic tricks).

变通 (biàntōng) is to be flexible or accommodating.

变形 (biànxíng) means being deformed or having changed shape, while 变质 (biànzhì) means to have changed or deteriorated in quality.

变化 (biànhuà) is a change, while 转变 (zhuǎnbiàn) refers to a transformation or a change in a fundamental way. As a verb 转变 (zhuǎnbiàn) means to transform or to convert.

Wǒ kàn bù chū yǒu shénme biànhuà.
I don’t see any difference (changes).

改变 (gǎibiàn) and 变更 (biàngēng) both mean to change, to modify or to alter. 变更 (biàngēng) can also be used as a noun. In that sense, it is synonymous with 变动 (biàndòng a change or alteration).

Wǒ bùhuì gǎibiàn wǒde yìjiàn.
I will not change my opinion.

变故 (biàngù) is an unforeseen event or misfortune.

占卦 (zhānguà) is to divine by using the Chinese system of Eight Diagrams. 变卦 (biànguà) is a change in the divinatory diagram. In everyday speech it refers to someone’s changing his/her mind or going back on his/her word.

变态 (biàntài) is a change in state, or a metamorphosis. It is often used as an adjective to describe something that is abnormal, as in 变态心理 (biàntài xīnlǐ aberrant personality).

不变 (bùbiàn) means constant or unchanging. It sounds the same as 不便 (bùbiàn), which means inconvenient or inappropriate. 不变的真理 (bùbiàn de zhēnlǐ) is an unchanging truth.

善变 (shàn biàn) refers to a person’s likes and dislikes being prone to change.

Nǚrén de xīn shàn biàn.
Women’s hearts are capricious.

Given that 政治 (zhèngzhì) means politics, take a guess at what 政变 (zhèngbiàn) means.

Sing Chinese song – Autumn Cicada

While enjoying a perfect autumn day, one that the Chinese describe as 秋高气爽 (qiūgāoqìshuǎng), with the sky clear and high, and the air cool and refreshing, I think of a song called 秋蝉 (Qiū Chán Autumn Cicada.).

As mentioned in a lesson posted last fall, the word (chán Zen) sounds exactly the same as (chán cicadas). The cicadas are also called 知了 (zhīliǎo). I still remember hearing them sing in unison in the countryside, their loud chorus reverberating with the waves of the summer heat.

The song, 秋蝉 (Qiū Chán Autumn Cicada.), was composed by 李子恒 (Lǐ Zǐhéng) while attending an apparently boring military education lecture in Taiwan. Later he made a few demo tapes for his girlfriend. Without telling him, his girl friend submitted one of the demo tapes to a major music contest in Taiwan. The song won the 1980 award for that competition and paved the way for Mr. Lee’s long and successful song-writing career.

At this link is a nice video of the song with the subtitles in traditional Chinese characters.

Click on this link to hear the song sung by a female performer. At that site the lyrics are provided in simplified Chinese characters.

The song is written in the first person, which is the cicada. The wording tends to be literary rather than conversational. The beautiful imagery of the autumn scenes float along with the soft, lilting melody.

听我 (tīng wǒ) means to listen to me saying or singing something. 看我 (kàn wǒ) means to watch me doing something.

Tīng wǒ jiǎng gè yǒuqù de gùshi.
Hear me recount an interesting story.

Kàn wǒ lái zhěng tā.
Wait and see me give him a hard time.

春水 (chūn shuǐ) is water in the spring. (jiào) is to call. (hán) means cold.

春天暖和, 冬天寒冷.
Chūntiān nuǎnhuo, dōngtián hánlěng.
It’s warm in the spring and cold in the winter.

绿叶 (lǜyè) are green leaves. (cuī) is to urge. (huáng) is yellow.

In the first two lines, the cicada tells you that its calls has cooled the water that was temperate in spring and urged the green leaves to turn yellow.

谁道 (shéi dào) is a literary way of saying 谁说 (shéi shuō), which means “Who is saying?”. (chóu) means to worry or to feel depressed.

烟波 (yānbō) are mist-covered waters and 林野 (lín yě) are woods in open country. (yì) refers to meanings, ideas, intentions or feelings. 幽幽 (yōuyōu) refers to distant, faint light or sound.

(huā) are flowers. (luò) is to fall down and (hóng) means red. (fēng) are maple trees. 花落红 (huā luò hóng) and 红了枫 (hóng liǎo fēng) are words put together to paint a picture and to sound good, but are not regularly used phrases. In the second phrase, (hóng) is used as a verb in the sense of coloring the maple leaves red.

Qiūtiān bǎ fēng yè rǎn hóng le.
Autumn has dyed the maple leaves red.

展翅 (zhǎnchì) means to spread the wings. (rèn), in this case, means to give free rein to. (xiáng) or 飞翔 (fēixiáng) means to fly. (shuāng) is a pair. (yǔ) are wings. They belong to the wild geese, or (yàn).

Then the cicada refers to his own flimsy wings as 薄衣 (báo yī), or thin clothing. When pronounced as (bó), this word means ungenerous or meager. Many people in Taiwan only use the latter pronunciation regardless of the intended meaning. This is reflected in both of the videos mentioned above.

(guò) here means to pass or to go through. In 残冬 (cán dōng the last days of winter), the (cán) is interpreted as 残留 (cánliú remaining).

总归是 (zǒngguī shì) means “after all it is”. (xià) means summer. (zǒu) and (qù) both refer to the seasons’ passing or leaving. (nóng) means dense, concentrated or intense.

美景 (měijǐng) is beautiful scenery. When autumn passes, the beautiful scenery will be no more, i.e. 不再 (bùzài be no longer). There is a typographic error in the simplified Chinese lyrics. It should read 秋去冬来 (qiū qù dōng lái Autumn leaves and winter arrives.) instead of 春去冬来 (chūn qù dōng lái Spring leaves and winter arrives.). What the singer sang is correct.

means to be busy, while 急忙 (jímáng) or 匆忙 (cōngmáng), or 匆匆 (cōngmáng) means hastily, or hurriedly.

莫教 (mò jiào) means “don’t let”. (shì) is to pass away or to die. It’s wishful thinking not to let the nice spring days slip away.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the cicada himself in the spot light.

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