Sing Chinese Song – Crescent Moon Shines over the Land

There is a Sung Dynasty folk song that starts with these lines:

月儿弯弯照九州,
Yuè er wān wān zhào jiǔzhōu,
The slim crescent moon shines all over the land,

几家欢乐, 几家愁.
Jǐ jiā huānlè, jǐ jiā chóu.
Some families happy and others sad.

九州 (jiǔzhōu) refers to the nine regions of ancient China. This term is still used in songs and poems to refer to China. Please note that 九州 (jiǔzhōu) is also the Chinese word for Kyushu, one of the four main islands of Japan.

Although the moon graces all the people equally, a few families enjoy prosperity while the majority endure hardship.

This old song was later transformed into a theme song for a movie. I am not familiar with the movie, but from the lyrics of the song and a short movie clip on Youtube, I gathered that it’s about a girl from a fisherman’s family who left her village for the city and later became a famous singer. The glamorous new life also brought her unexpected trouble.

Click on this link to hear 月儿弯弯照九州 sung in a female voice.

At this link is the same song sung in a male voice. At this site there is an English translation of this song. The lyrics are provided in Traditional Chinese characters.

Let’s look at some of the terms used in the first three stanzas of the lyrics, which depict the plight of a fisherman’s life.

(wān) means curved or bent. The crescent moon has a curved shape. (zhào) has a few different meanings. Here it means to shine or to illuminate.

渔船 (yúchuán) is a fishing boat, and 渔家 (yú jiā) is a fisherman’s family.

到处 (dàochù) means everywhere. 停留 (tíngliú) means to stop and stay.

风光 (fēngguāng) is a scenery. 青山绿水 (qīngshān lǜ shuǐ) is a commonly used term that describes green hills and clear green water, i.e. a nice scenery.

Among common folks, the male in a couple may be addressed by the female as 哥哥 (gēgē), and (mèi) is the female counterpart.

吹笛 (chuī dí) is to play a flute, and 梳头 (shū tóu) is to comb one’s hair. Both are leisurely activities.

工作 (gōngzuò) means a work (noun), a job, or to work (verb).

几时 (jǐshí) is another way of saying 什么时候? (shénme shíhòu), which means “When?”. (xiū) means to stop or to rest. In regular parlance, 几时休 (xiū) would be expressed as:

什么时候才会停止?
Shénme shíhòu cái huì tíngzhǐ?
When will it stop?

白天 (báitiān) is daytime, and (yè) is night or evening. 摇船 (yáochuán) is to row the boat and, 补网 (bǔ wǎng) is to mend the fishing net.

青春 (qīngchūn) means one’s youth, youthfulness or being youthful.

水里 (shuǐ li) means in the water.

(diū) means to throw, to throw away or to lose something.

风浪 (fēnglàng) are stormy waves. 翻天 (fāntiān) means overturning the sky. It describes the worrisome turbulence of the storm.

使人 (shǐ rén) translates to “causes a person to” or “to enable a person to”. So, 使人愁 (shǐ rén chóu) means “makes one worry”.

那件事使我感到不安.
Nèi jiàn shì shǐ wǒ gǎndào bùān.
That incident made me feel uneasy.

要吃 (yào chī) means needing to eat; 要穿 (yào chuān) means needing to have clothing to wear. (gù) is to care about or to take into consideration. (xiǎn) are dangers. 哪顾得险 (nǎ gù de xiǎn) means not having the luxury to care about the dangers (of fishing in stormy weather).

可怜 (kělián) means pitiable, pitiful or poor. 流泪 (liú lèi) is to weep. (shuāng) is a pair, or two of something. 泪双流 (lèi shuāng liú) indicates there are two people weeping together.

Some Chinese expressions involving the moon

上弦月 shàngxián yuè First-quarter Moon

上弦月 (shàngxián yuè) First-quarter Moon

It is a Chinese tradition for family to gather together and enjoy the harvest of the year when the moon is at its fullest in the middle of autumn. After a scrumptious feast, it is customary for the party to move outdoors to observe the bright moon, chat, drink some tea and eat 月饼 (yuèbǐng moon cakes).

The moon is commonly referred to as 月亮 (yuèliang). In astronomical science, it is called 月球 (yuèqiú). In literature, one might speak of 月宫 (yuègōng), the palace on the moon where the moon fairly lives. In a moon-lit night, or 月夜 (yuèyè), you will likely see a half-moon shape, 半月形 (bànyuèxíng), or a crescent moon, 月牙 (yuèyá). A lunar eclipse is called 月蚀 (yuèshí).

The word (yuè) also represents the time period of one month. 正月 (zhēngyuè) is the first month of the lunar year. The Moon Festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar year, i.e. 八月十五 (bāyuè shíwǔ).

岁月 (suìyuè) means years. 经年累月 (jīngniánlěiyuè) means year in year out.

他经年累月努力学习, 终于学会了中文.
Tā jīngniánlěiyuè nǔlì xuéxí, zhōngyú xuéhuì le zhōngwén.
After years of endeavoring in the study, he finally mastered the Chinese language.

蜜月 (mìyuè) is a honeymoon.

他们要去哪儿度蜜月?
Tāmen yào qù nǎr dù mìyuè?
Where are they going for their honeymoon?

The word 满月 (mǎnyuè) can refer to a full moon, or it can refer to a baby’s completion of its first month of life, which calls for a joyous celebration. After giving birth to a baby, a woman in the traditional Chinese society would be confined at home for the entire first month and eat nutritious foods and drink herbal soups so as to recuperate quickly and produce ample milk for the newborn. This is called 坐月子 (zuòyuèzi).

When you see (yuè) in front of another word, it often refers to a monthly occurrence. Following are a few examples:

月历 (yuèlì) is a montly calendar.
月刊 (yuèkān) is a monthly magazine.
月票 (yuèpiào) is a monthly ticket.
月息 (yuéxī) is the monthly interest.
月薪 (yuèxīn) is the monthly salary.

Have you ever heard of 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén)? An ancient Chinese story goes like this: One night, a traveling young man happened on an old man who was reading a book under the moonlight. Out of curiosity the young man ask the old what the book was about. The old man replied, “This is the book of marriages. See that woman who is peddling vegetables over there? Her daughter is only three now. In fourteen years, that girl will become your wife.” The young man did not take to the homeliness of that little girl. He paid a local to stab her to death. Fourteen years later, the young man got married. As was the custom at that time, one would see his bride for the first time on the wedding night. When the young man lifted the veil that covered the face of his bride, he saw a scar on her eyebrow. It turned out that girl was the same one he had previously attempted to get rid of. 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén), the old man under the moon, is believed to be the god who unites persons in marriage. Consequently this term is often used to refer to a matchmaker. Chapter 10 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” discusses the song “Lift Your Veil”, which you can learn to sing by following the demo in the associated audio file.

累积 (lěijī) means to accumulate. 日积月累 (rìjīyuèlěi) means accumulated over a long period of time.

(xīn) means new. (yì) is the classical Chinese word for being different. Therefore 日新月异 (rìxīnyuèyì) means changing with each passing day (and month).

The phrase 风花雪月 (fēnghuāxuěyuè) contains the Chinese words for wind, flowers, snow and moon, which was the subject matter of certain types of feudal literature. Nowadays this idiom refers to shallow sentimental writing that is devoid of content. It is also used to describe decadence and indulgence in wine and women.

海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè) means to attempt to scoop up the moon from the bottom of the sea, i.e. striving in vain for the impossible or the illusory.

这像是海底捞月.
Zhè xiàng shì hǎidǐlāoyuè.
This is a hopeless illusion.

When people gather for the Moon Festival, some may play the game of mahjong, which involves completing a winning hand of tiles by forming sets of three tiles (melds). You could form a meld using a tile that you picked up or by using a tile discarded by another player. In the rare instance where no one has won when the tiles almost run out and you pick up the last available tile to complete a winning hand, you are said to have accomplished 海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè).

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè!
Happy Moon Festival!

Chinese word for learning

For some of you, school may have just started after the long summer vacation. It’s time to think less about visits and travels and more about your studies. As this video shows, it is a blessing that we have the capability to learn new things.

The Chinese word for learning or studying is (xué) or 学习 (xuéxí). One is never too old to learn. To put it in Chinese,

活到老, 学到老.
Huó dào lǎo xué dào lǎo.
We live and learn.

(huó) means to live or being alive.
(dào) means to arrive, to reach, or up until.
(lǎo) means old, aged or outdated.

Indeed there is no limit to knowledge and learning. The classical Chinese idiom for this observation is:
学无止境 (xuéwúzhǐjìng)

You should give yourself a pat on the back for taking on the challenge of studying the Chinese language.

学中文不是一件容易的事.
Xué zhōngwén bù shì yī jiàn róngyì de shì.
Leaning Chinese is not an easy task.

We’ve previously discussed a few words that refer to learning at school. (See the article posted on 6/1/11.) Following are several additional words and expressions containing (xué), and I encourage you to look up a few more on your own to study.

大学生 (dàxuésheng) does not mean a big student but rather a university student as 大学 (dàxué) is a university or a college. 学院 (xuéyuàn) is a college or an academy.

同学 (tóngxué) is a schoolmate. Specifically, 同班同学 (tóngbāntóngxué) is a classmate.

学问 (xuéwen) means learning or knowledge. 学科 (xuékē) is a study course, a subject or a branch of learning. For example, 文学 (wénxué) is literature, 科学 (kēxué) is science, and 地质学 (dìzhíxué) is geology.

张先生很有学问.
Zhāng xiānsheng hěn yǒu xuéwen.
Mr. Zhang is very learned.

学位 (xuéwèi) is an academic degree. 学士 (xuéshì) is a scholar or one holding a bachelor’s degree.

学费 (xuéfèi) means tuition, and 学分 (xuéfēn) is a credit one can earn by studying at an academic institution.

今年学费又涨了.
Jīnnián xuéfèi yòu zhàng le.
This year the tuition has soared again.

学徒 (xuétú) is an apprentice.

博学多才 (bóxuéduōcái) is a phrase for describing someone of great learning and abilities.

才疏学浅 (cáishūxuéqiǎn having little talent and learning) is what you might say of yourself to show humbleness.

不学无术 (bùxuéwúshù) means ignorant and incompetent. This phrase could be used when talking about someone of whom you don’t have a high opinion.

(xí) means to practice, to review or to get used to. 习题 (xítí) is an exercise in school work.

练习 (liànxí) is to practice. 见习 (jiànxí) is to learn on the job. Therefore, a student working as a trainee is called 见习生 (shēng).

Confucius said,
学而时习之, 不亦悦乎.
Xué er shí xí zhī, bù yì yuè hū.
To learn and to review the material from time to time, isn’t that delightful?

演习 (yǎnxí) is a drill or a maneuver.

习惯 (xíguàn) is a habit. As a verb it means to become accustomed to. 恶习 (èxí) is a pernicious habit.

我已经习惯她的冷漠.
Wǒ yǐjīng xíguàn tā de lěngmò.
I’ve already gotten used to her cold attitude.

Blackberry in Chinese

Blackberries

Blackberries


As the picture on this page shows, I’m not talking about a PDA device but rather the edible blackberry, 黑莓 (hēi méi), which is now in season here. The summer air is filled with the sweet aroma of the luscious berries that are waiting to be picked and popped into the mouth. If one is not careful, one will pay the price of being pricked or scratched by the thorny brier.

As we have discussed previously, (cì) means a thorn. As a verb, it means to pierce or poke into something.

我的拇指被刺到了.
Wǒ de hēi méi cì le.
My thumb got jabbed.

The sting of a bee or a wasp is called 蜂刺 (fēngcì). Fishbones are called 鱼刺 (yúcì). Not surprisingly, a hedgehog is called 刺猬 (cìwèi).

刺痛 (cìtòng) means a tingle. As a verb it means to hurt by stabbing with a small pointed object like a needle.

Other things can sting without making physical contact with you.

Ear-piercing sounds or harsh words may be described as 刺耳 (cìěr grating on the ear). And things that are offending to the eye are said to be 刺眼 (cìyǎn) or 不顺眼 (bù shùnyǎn).

他说的话句句刺耳.
Tā shuō de huà jù jù cìěr.
Every sentence he uttered grated on my ear.

As an exercise, try making a sentence in Chinese that translates to: “His words stabbed my heart.”

A biting wind is often described as 刺骨 (cìgǔ piercing to the bones).

刺激 (cìjī) means to stimulate, to provoke or to upset.

不要再刺激他了.
Bùyào zài cìjī tā le.
Stop irritating him.

You may wonder why in the above sentence there is not a Chinese word for stopping. In Chinese, instead of asking someone to stop doing something, you would normally just request that someone to not continue the action. Therefore, this is how you would ask someone to stop weeping:

不要再哭了.
Bùyào zài kū le.

刺杀 (cìshā) means to assassinate. The assassin is called 刺客 (cìkè).

刺绣 (cìxiù) is to embroider using a needle with a sharp point. As a noun, it refers to an embroidered article, which is also called 刺绣品 (cìxiùpǐn).

As (cì) means to pierce or to poke, it makes sense that making roundabout or secret inquiries is referred to as 刺探 (cìtàn). And it also makes sense that 讽刺 (fěngcì to mock or satirize) also contains the (cì) character.

Now, take a look at the character (là). If you look closely, you will see it is slightly different from (cì) – the little rectangle is closed off and does not have spikes poking down.

(là) means obstinate, pompous or disrespectful, as in 大剌剌 (dà là là with a swagger).

A word that sounds like (là) but is much more commonly used is
(là).

(là), or 辛辣 (xīnlà), means spicy hot, pungent, biting or ruthless.

辣椒 (làjiāo) are hot peppers, and 辣酱 (làjiàng) is a hot chili sauce or a hot chili paste.

A woman who is unreasonable, shrewish and attacks people with pungent words would be described as 潑辣 (pōlà).

他的妻子是個潑辣的女人
Tā de qīzi shì gè pōlà de nǚrén
His wife is a shrew.

Sing Aloha Oe in Chinese

One of the meanings of the word (bié) is to leave or to part. The “knife” radical on the right-hand side signifies the separation.

离别 (líbié) and 别离 (biélí) both mean to leave or to part for a long period of time.

告别 (gàobié) and 辞别 (cíbié) mean to take leave of, to say good-bye or to bid farewell.

拜别 (bàibié) is to respectively say good-bye or bid farewell.

送别 (sòngbié) is to see someone off. 送别晚会 (sòngbié wǎnhuì) is a send-off soiree.

告辞 (gàocí) is to take leave of one’s host. On the other hand, 不辞而别 (bùcíérbié) is to leave without bidding good-bye.

我不能理解他为什么不辞而别.
Wǒ bùnéng lǐjiě tā wèishénme bùcíérbié.
I cannot comprehend why he took off without saying good-bye.

“Farewell to Thee” is a world-renowned song composed by Queen Liliuokalano. It expresses the sentiments of parting with a loved one who lives in a bautiful place that is Hawaii.

Have you wondered why Hawaii is called 夏威夷 (Xiàwēiyí) in Chinese when (xià summer) sounds quite different from “Ha”? Well, in earlier days, many overseas Chinese were Cantonese, and in the Cantonese dialect the “x” pinyin sound is pronounced like “h”, and (xià) is pronounced “ha”.

We’ve been singing “Aloha Oe” in Chinese since grade school, but I have not been able to find out who the translator was. Although the wording is different from the original lyrics, the Chinese version also aptly portrays the reluctance, the acceptance and the hope at play while bidding farewell to a dear friend. At this link is the song sung by a group of middle school students. I think you will appreciate their clear enunciation of the Chinese lyrics.

绵绵 (miánmián) describes a soft continuous mass. (mì) means dense, thick, fine or secret. Here it refers to the thick clouds. Some versions of the lyrics start out with 浓密密 (nóng mì mì), which also means thick and dense.

乌云 (wūyún) are dark clouds.
(duī) is to pile up. (mǎn) means full of. 堆满 (duī mǎn) describes how the dense dark clouds are piled on on the mountaintop, or 山顶 (shāndǐng).

笼罩著 (lǒngzhào zhe) means enveloping or shrouding. The object of this action are the woods, or 树林 (shùlín).

山谷中 (shāngǔ zhōng) means in the valley.

吹来 (chuī lái) means blowing or wafting towards the observer.

凄凉的 (qīliáng de) means desolate, dreary, sad. 微风 (wēifēng) is a gentle breeze.

激动起 (jīdòng qǐ) means to rouse up or to incite.

(sī ) means thoughts. In formal Chinese it also acts as the verb “to think”. (qíng) are feelings and emotions. 别思 (bié sī) and 离情 (lí qíng) both refer to the thoughts and emotions at parting.

珍重 (zhēnzhòng) means to take good care of yourself and stay well, and 再见 (zàijiàn) is good-bye.

亲爱的朋友 (qīnài de péngyǒu) means dear friend or dear friends.

就在眼前 (jiù zài yǎnqián) means right before one’s eyes, or right at this moment.

从今以后 (cóngjīnyǐhòu) means starting from today.

Here, (dào) means until. 下次 (xiàcì) is next time. 相见 (xiàng jiàn) is to see each other. (qián) means before or in front of.

会感到 (huì gǎndào) means “we will feel”. 心酸 (xīnsuān) means heart ache. The use of (huì) as an auxiliary verb has been mentioned in several articles at this blog site and is discussed in Chapter 16 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

How to dance to this song? Click on this link to watch the lovely hula dance performed by Punihei Anthony.

Learn Chinese word radical – Knife

Watermelon 西瓜 (xīgua)

Watermelon 西瓜 (xīgua)

今天好热呀!
Jīntiān hǎo rè ya!
It’s so hot today!

我去买个西瓜.
Wǒ qù mǎi gè xīgua.
I’ll go buy a watermelon.

How best to cut up a watermelon? At this link is shown a clever way to dissect this large round mass with minimal messiness.

The Chinese word for cutting or slicing is (qiē). (gē) just means to cut. Put the two characters together, and you have a new word, 切割 (qiēgē), which means to make an incision or to cut and sever.

(dāo) is a knife. You can see that there are seven cuts in the character (qiē).

As a verb, (fēn) means to divide, to separate or to differentiate. There are eight cuts in this character. After the division, each portion or part is called 一份 (yī fèn).

(bàn) means to play a part in a drama.

忿 (fèn) means vehement. 忿怒 (fèn nù) means fury or furious (very angry).

(rèn) is the edge of a knife or a sword. The word for endure, forbear or tolerate, (rěn), features a heart being knifed. This is definitely more painful than biting one’s lip. 忍不住 (rěnbuzhù) means unable to bear.

她忍不住哭了出来.
Tā rěnbuzhù kū le chūlai.
She couldn’t help but start to weep.

In some words, the knife radical is place at the top. For example, (jiǎo) is a horn, an angle or a corner. On the other hand, 角色 (juésè) means a role in a drama.

危险 (wēixiǎn) means danger or dangerous.

(miǎn) means to eliminate, to remove from office or to excuse someone from something (i.e. to remove the responsibility from someone).

这样可以免掉不少麻烦.
Zhèyàng kěyǐ miǎn diào bùshǎo máfan.
This way we can avoid a lot of trouble.

(xíng) is a corporal punishment or prison sentence. It features a “knife” word radical in the vertical format on the right-hand-side.

(pàn) means to differentiate, as in 判别 (pànbié) , to make a judgement, as in 判断 (pànduàn), or to issue a sentence, as in 判刑 (pàn xíng). 免刑 (miǎnxíng) means to exempt from punishment.

我判断这消息不真实.
Wǒ pànduàn zhè xiāoxi bù zhēnshí.
I think this piece of information is not true.

(kè) is to carve or engrave. As a noun it means a moment of time. 立刻 (lìkè) means “at once”.

(shuā) is to brush or to eliminate.

(cì) is to pierce or to stab. As a noun it means a thorn or a fish bone.

(duò) is to cut by chopping. (xiāo) is to cut by whittling.

(tì) is to shave. Therefore, shaving a beard is called 剃胡子 (tì húzi).

(guā) is to scrape or fleece. 刮胡子 (guā húzi) also means to shave one’s beard or mustache. In Taiwan, this is a slang expression that means to criticize or refute someone in his or her face.

我被他刮了一个胡子.
Wǒ bèi tā guā le yī gè húzi.
I got a slap in the face from him.

More about the Chinese character – Square

 3 squared equals 9.

3 squared equals 9.

Now we will discuss some of the extended meanings of (fāng).

First, a little math. 平方 (píngfāng) represents “squared”. Therefore 平方公尺 (píngfāng gōngchǐ) means square meters. In three-dimensional space we have 立方 (lìfāng), standing for a cubed quantity.

三的平方是九.
Sān de píngfāng shì jiǔ.
3 squared is 9.

In the above sentence, you could substitute 是 (shì is) with 等于 (děngyú equals).

An equation is called 方程式 (fāngchéngshì). This could be a mathematical equation or a chemical equation.

In so far as (fāng) means a direction or a side, it also represents an aspect of a matter or a party in a transaction.

方面 (fāngmiàn) means an aspect or a side of an issue.

这方面我不很清楚.
Zhèi fāngmiàn wǒ bù hěn qīngchǔ.
I don’t know much about this aspect of the matter.

对方 (duìfāng) means the other party (the party opposite you).

对方同意了吗?
Duìfāng tóngyì le ma?
Did the other party agree?

双方都同意了.
Shuāngfāng dōu tóngyì le.
Both parties agreed.

In a sales transaction, the purchasing party is referred to as 买方 (mǎifāng), while the seller is referred to as 卖方 (màifāng).

官方 (guānfāng) means official or pertaining to the government. 警方 (jǐngfāng) refers to the police.

(fāng) is also the abbreviation of 方法 (fāngfǎ), which means method or means.

这个方法不错.
Zhègè fāngfǎ bùcuò.
This method is not bad.

处方 (chǔfāng) is a prescription. Specifically, a medical prescription is called
药方 (yàofāng).

A 方案 (fāngàn) is a plan or a scheme.

比方说 (bǐfangshuō) means “as an example” or “for instance”.

(fāng), being square and not crooked, implies honesty and uprightness. This may be why it is used as a Chinese surname.

大方 (dàfang) means generous or gracious.

他的女朋友美丽又大方.
Tā de nǚpéngyou měilì yòu dàfang.
His girl friend is beautiful and gracious.

(fāng) can also be used as an adverb. 方才 (fāngcái) means just now and is synonymous with 刚才 (gāngcái).

我方才看到他.
Wǒ fāngcái kàndào tā.
I saw him just a moment ago.

(fāng) and (cái), when standing alone as an adverb, take on the meaning of “not until”. (fāng) is the formal version. Use (cái) in everyday speech.

我现在才知道他真的爱我.
Wǒ xiànzài cái zhīdào tā zhēnde ài wǒ.
Now I realize that he truly loves me.
(Hope it’s not too late.)

As an adjective 方便 (fāngbiàn) means convenient. As a verb, it means going to the lavatory.

Following are a few more commonly used words that take on the (fāng) radical.

仿 (fǎng) means to imitate, as in 模仿 (mófǎng), or to be like, as in 仿佛 (fǎngfú), which is a formal way of saying 好像 (hǎoxiàng).

(shī) is to hand out or to apply or carry out. In the sense of handing out, it is synonymous with the word (gěi to give).

(fāng), with the “grass” radical on top, means fragrant. It is a favorite character for girls’ names.

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