Respectfully wishing you a Happy New Year

Chinese Caligraphy - Happy New Year
Chinese Caligraphy – Happy New Year

A brand new year is now upon us. Are you ready to continue taking on the challenge of learning a foreign language, such as Mandarin Chinese? If so, congratulations on being inspired with this admirable ambition!

The word 贺 (hè) is an uncommon Chinese surname. As a verb, it means to congratulate. This word often appears in combination with another word.

祝 (zhù) means to wish. Therefore, 祝贺 (zhùhè) is to express good wishes and to congratulate.

庆贺 (qìnghè) is to celebrate.

贺礼 (hèlǐ) is a congratulations gift.

贺年 (hènián) is to extend a New Year greeting. 贺年片 (hèniánpiàn) is a New Year’s card.

道 (dào) as a verb means to say or to speak. 道贺 (dàohè) also means to congratulate. 道喜 (dàoxǐ) is to congratulate someone on a happy occasion. 道谢 (dàoxiè) is to express thanks, while 道歉 (dàoqiàn) is to make an apology.

The phrase 称兄道弟 (chēngxiongdàodì) means to call each other brothers, or to be buddies.

恭 (gōng), or 恭敬 (gōngjìng), means respectful or reverent.

Therefore 恭贺 (gōnghè) means to respectfully congratulate. This expression is what you would use when congratulating your elders and superiors. It is also widely used among peers as a matter of courtesy. As they say,

Lǐ duō rén bù guài.
No one will fault you for being too polite.

礼 (lǐ) means rites, ceremony, politeness or gifts. 有礼貌 (yǒulǐmào) means being courteous and having good manners.

毕恭毕敬 (bìgōngbìjìng) is a phrase describing someone who is extremely deferential.

不如 (bùrú) means not as good as, inferior to, or it would be better to. As a verb, 从(cóng) is to engage in, to follow, or to comply with. 命 (mìng) can mean life, fate, destiny or a command or assignment.

Therefore, 恭敬不如从命 (gōngjìng bùrú cóng mìng ) means “rather than being respectful, it’s sometimes better to do what the other person demands”. For example, you offer to give your aunt a ride home, but your aunt insists that she prefers to take the short walk instead. This gives you an opportunity to say “恭敬不如从命”, and let her have her wish.

玩 (wán) means to play, to enjoy or to have fun. 世 (shì) means life, generation era or the world (世界 shìjiè). Therefore, the phrase 玩世不恭 (wánshìbùgōng) describes someone who is cynical or frivolous (i.e. does not take anything seriously).

洗 (xǐ) is to wash, 耳 (ěr) are ears, and 听 (tīng) means to listen or to hear. Therefore, the phrase 洗耳恭听 (xǐěrgōngtīng) means to listen with respectful attention, or to be all ears.

喜 (xǐ) means being happy or delighted. As a noun, it means a happy occasion (such as a wedding, or a new baby).

恭喜 (gōngxǐ) means to respectfully congratulate someone on some happy event.

禧 (xǐ) means auspicousness. At the beginning of a new year or a Chinese lunar new year, you will often come across the phrase 恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ). It means to respectfully congratulate someone on the auspicious new year.

Sometimes you will see 恭禧 used in place of 恭喜, but 恭禧 is a misnomer.

The coming happy event is the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. The Chinese zodiac sign of Rabbit symbolizes longevity, peace, and prosperity. Rabbits are called 兔 (tù) or 兔子 (tùzǐ) in Chinese. A hare is dubbed “wild rabbit”, or 野兔 (yětù). Following are two popular Chinese idioms associated with rabbits and hares.

Keep watch by a tree, waiting for another hare to come and crash against it.

A farmer got lucky once. He caught a hare that crashed against the tree under which he happened to be sitting. From then on, he abandoned farm work and went to sit under that tree every day, hoping to catch another rabbit. It would be silly to trust to chance and windfalls like that farmer.

A cunning rabbit has three burrows.

I hope you are like this smart rabbit and have more than one backup plan ready for dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

Gōngxǐ tùnián kuàilè!
I/we respectfully wish you a Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Homonyms of the Chinese word for fish

Pan-fried Salmon Fillet
Pan-fried Salmon Fillet – For the recipe, please see
Tame Migraine the Delicious Way“.

The Chinese word for fish is 鱼 (yú).

Most of the Chinese words containing the fish radical are names of various kinds of fish:

鲨鱼 (shāyú) shark
鲑魚 (guīyú) salmon, also called 三文鱼 (sānwènyú)
鲤鱼 (lǐyú) carp
鳗鱼 (mányú) eel
鲣鱼 (jiānyú) bonito
鲟鱼(xúnyú) sturgeon
鳟鱼 (zūnyú) trout
鳕鱼 (xuěyú) cod

鲸鱼 (jīngyú whales) are mammals, not fish. Neither are 鲍鱼 (bàoyú abalone) and 鱿鱼 (yóuyú squids, or calamari in Italian). And of course, neither are mermaids, or 美人鱼 (měirényú), which the Chinese dubbed “beauty fish”.

鱼鳍 (yú qí) are fins.

鲜 (xiān) or 新鲜 (xīnxiān ) means fresh. 鲜美 (xiānměi) means delicious or tasty.

鲁 (Lǔ) is a Chinese surname. 鲁莽 (lǔmǎng) means rash.

What other Chinese words sound like 鱼 (yú)? Here are a few common ones:

With a water radical added, 渔 relates to fishing. Therefore, the fisherman is called 渔夫 (yúfū).

于 corresponds to the English preposition “to”, “at” or “about”. 至于 (zhìyú) means “as for”. 关于 (guānyú) means “with respect to” or “relating to”. 等于 (děngyú) means “equal to”.

芋 is taro, a root vegetable.

余 has a few different meanings. It is a Chinese surname. It could also mean a surplus. This is why the Chinese customarily serve fish on the last day of the lunar year. They usually make sure there is some leftover of this dish for them to enjoy on the first day of the new year.

Nián nián yǒuyú.
Have a surplus every year.

In formal Chinese, 余 means “I”. In formal/classical written Chinese, 余 means “I”. 吾 (wú) also means “I” in formal/classical written Chinese. The great Confucius said:

Wú rì sān xǐngwú shēn.
Daily I reflect on myself in three respects.

Wéirén móu ér bù zhōng hū?
Have I failed to be loyal to the people I work for?

Yǔ péngyǒu jiāo ér bùxìn hū?
Did I fail to keep my words in dealing with my friends?

Chuán bù xí hū?
Did I fail to review the material that I have been taught?

I believe, by saying so, Confucius was encouraging his students to follow his example.

愚 means foolish or a fool. In Chinese, April Fools Day is 愚人节 (yúrén jié).

娱 means to have fun. The Chinese word for entertainment is 娱乐 (yúlè).

愉 means joy or joyful, as in 愉快 (yúkuài).

腴 means plump or fertile. It connotes fattiness, as in丰腴 (fēngyú).

谀 means to flatter or flattery, as in 阿谀 (ēyú).

盂 is a bowl, such as a spittoon, or 痰盂 (tányú).

隅 is a corner. Confucius said, “If I show the student one corner of a rectangular room, and he is unable to figure out that the other three corners are similar to it, then he is not worth teaching.” In classical Chinese, this is worded as follows:

举一隅不以三隅反, 则不复也.
Jǔ yīyú bù yǐ sānyú fǎn, zé bù fù yě.

Yeah, it would be impossible for the instructor to teach the student every single detail of a subject matter. A good student would be able to judiciously apply what was taught in one case to other similar cases or situations. I hope you’ve had a successful year learning Chinese.

Attention: I just read a comment posted by C Jordan for the “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” book on, which informed me that Mac users are unable to download the associated audio files from the Microsoft One Drive. Therefore, I’ve copied the files to my Google Drive. You can find the link to that folder by clicking on the “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” tab at the top of this blog site. Thank you C Jordan for bringing this issue to my attention.

圣诞平安, 新年快乐!
Shèngdàn píng’ān, xīnnián kuàilè!
Peaceful and Safe Christmas, Happy New Year!

A Chinese translation of “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow”

Bean Starts
Bean Starts

The prolonged sunny weather we’re having this fall season has enabled me to continue to harvest from my small garden plot. Thinking about it, I owe Mother Nature many thanks. In our collaboration to produce vegetables and fruits, my contribution is minimal. In fact, there is much truth in the children’s song titled “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barleys Grow”.

Yǒu shéi zhīdào yànmài, wāndòu, gān dòu hé dàmài shì rúhé zhǎngdà de ma?
Does anyone know how oats, peas and barley grow?

首先, 农夫播下燕麦、豌豆、干豆和大麦的种子.
Shǒuxiān, nóngfū bō xià yànmài, wāndòu, gān dòu hé dàmài de zhǒngzi.
First, the farmer sows the seeds for oats, peas, beans and barley.

Ránhòu tā zhàn qǐlái xiē yīhuìr.
Then, he stands up to relax a bit.

他跺跺脚, 拍拍手,
Tā duò duò jiǎo, pāi pāi shǒu,
He stamps his foot and claps his hands,

zhuǎnshēn kàn kan tā de tǔdì.
and turns around to view his land.

接下来, 农夫给种子浇了水.
Jiē xiàlái, nóngfū gěi zhǒngzi jiāo le shuǐ
Next, the farmer waters the seeds.

再接下来, 农夫锄了锄杂草.
Zà jiē xiàlái, nóngfū chú le chú zá cǎo.
Next, the farmer hoes the weeds.

最后, 农夫收获他的种子.
Zuìhòu, nóngfū shōuhuò tā de zhǒngzi.
Last, the farmer harvests his seeds.

Yóu cǐ kějiàn
It can be seen from this,

suīrán nóngfū huā shíjiān hé jīnglì zài tián lǐ xīnláo gōngzuò,
that although the farmer spends time and energy toiling in the field,

shíjì shang shǐ zhíwù zhuózhuàng chéngzhǎng de
what actually makes the plants thrive and grow

shì yī zhǒng shénqí de lìliàng zài fāhuī zuòyòng.
is a mysterious power at play.

Zài shōuhuò hé xiǎngyòng càiyuán chǎnpǐn de shíhòu,
While harvesting and enjoying the garden produce,

wǒ gǎndào shàngtiān cìgěi le wǒ yī fèn tèshū de ài,
I feel a special love bestowed upon me,

ràng wǒ shēn shēn gǎnjī.
making me deeply thankful.

Gǎnēn jié kuàilè!
Happy Thanksgiving!

A Paraphrase of Invictus in Chinese

Victory Hand Sign

Invictus is a well-known poem written in 1875 by the English poet William Earnest Henley while he was recuperating in the hospital after surgeries were performed to save his right foot. He had contracted tuberculosis about ten years before, and a complication had necessitated the amputation of the lower part of his left leg. Despite the suffering and physical limitations brought about by these infirmities, Henley’s spirit remained undaunted. He laughed at fate in its face. The most frequently quoted part from Invictus is: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” You can click here to read the entire poem.

Following is an interpretation of the poem in Chinese prose. The English text corresponds closely to the Chinese. Notice, however, that the word order is necessarily different in some of the Chinese and English sentences. If you have any questions, please post a comment to this blog.

Cóng zhè lǒngzhào zhe wǒ de
From the dark night that envelops me,

hēi dé xiàng cóng nánjí dào běijí de shēn kēng de hēiyè zhòng,
one that is black as a pit going from the South Pole to the North Pole,

wǒ xiàng zhū shén zhìxiè,
I thank the gods

Gǎnxiè tāmen cì gěile wǒ yīgè bùkě zhēngfú de línghún.
for having granted me an invincible soul.

Zài èliè chǔjìng de zhǎoyá lǐ,
In the claws and fangs of adversities,

我没有畏缩, 也没有大声哭泣.
wǒ méiyǒu wèisuō, yě méiyǒu dàshēng kūqì.
I have not winced, nor cried aloud.

Jīngguò èyùn duō cì de de dǎjí,
Having been repeatedly struck by ill fate,

我的头是血淋淋的, 但依然挺直不屈.
wǒ de tóu shì xiělínlín de, dàn yīrán tǐng zhí bùqū.
my head is bloody, but it is still held high and unyielding.

huánrǎo zhe zhège chōngmǎn fènnù hé lèishuǐ dì dìfāng,
Surrounding this place that is filled with indignation and tears,

除了阴影的恐怖, 别无他物.
chúle yīnyǐng de kǒngbù, biéwú tā wù.
there is nothing except the horror of shadows.

然而, 这多年来的折磨与威胁,
Rán’ér, zhè duōnián lái de zhémó yǔ wēixié,
However, what the torment and menace over these years

tāmen suǒ miàn duì de réng shì wú suǒ wèijù de wǒ.
are facing is still the fearless me.

Wúlùn tiāntáng zhī mén yǒu duō xiázhǎi,
No matter how narrow the road to Heaven is,

tiānmìng yǒu duōme kǎnkě,
or how doomed destiny can be,

wǒ shì wǒ mìngyùn de zhǔrén,
I am the master of my fate,

wǒ shì wǒ línghún de tǒngshuài.
and I am the captain of my soul.

Three cheers for all who have such a positive attitude on life!

By the way, one of my readers has made this a particularly enjoyable autumn day for me by sending in his English translation of the beautiful song “Autumn Cicada” to share with us all. You can find it in the Comment section of that blog post.

N.B. Just found out that has slashed the price for the print copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to $6.09. If you have been wanting to get this book, now is a good time to do so, before it goes back to the list price.

Are you the great pretender?

Potstickers pretending to be a pizza

Hm. Let’s see. I’ve pretended to be interested while someone keeps on talking about a boring topic. I’ve prenteded not to feel hurt after losing to a competitor. And I’ve said “Cheese” to the camera while feeling rotten inside. I’m sure you, as well, are guilty of an occasional pretense. Anyhow, I think the setiment of the pretending is best expressed in the song “The Great Pretender“.

In Chinese, the word for pretend is 假装 (jiǎzhuāng). 假 (jiǎ) means fake or unreal, and 装 is an attire. When you pretend, it’s kind of like putting on a costume to disguise yourself to be someone else.

安娜抱怨她的鞋子太旧了, 但弗兰克假装没听到.
Ānnà bàoyuàn tā de xiézi tài jiùle, dàn fúlánkè jiǎzhuāng méi tīng dào.
Anna complains that her shoes are too old, but Frank pretends not to hear.

The word 伪 (wěi) means false or bogus. We could say that 假 (jiǎ) to 伪 (wěi) is like fake to false. The two words appear to have similar meanings, but they are used differently. I’ll leave the distinction between fake and false to the English experts. In Chinese, generally 假 (jiǎ) pertains to pretense, while 伪 (wěi) connotes forgery and deceit. Follwoing are a few examples of how 假 (jiǎ) and 伪 (wěi) are used in Chinese.

假扮 (jiǎbàn) is to diguise as some other person.

假牙 (jiǎyá) are dentures, or false teeth.

假钞 (jiǎ chāo) are counterfeit paper currency .

假如 (jiǎrú) and 假使 (jiǎshǐ) both mean “if”. These two words are interchangeable.

假想 (jiǎxiǎng ) means imaginary or imagination.

假设 (jiǎshè) means to assume. As a noun it means an assumption.

假借 (jiǎjiè ) means to make use of something as a ruse in order to trick or deceive.

假冒 (jiǎmào) means to pose as someone else or to do something under someone else’s name.

弄假成真 (nòngjiǎchéngzhēn) is a phrase used to describe a situation in which falsehood is unintentionally turned into reality.

Please note that 假 (jià) as a noun means vacation. It is pronounced in the fourth tone. For example, 放假 (fàngjià) means to have a holiday or vacation. 请病假 (qǐng bìngjià) means to ask for a sick leave.

虚伪 (xūwèi) means hypocritical. Therefore, 伪君子 (wèijūnzǐ) is a hypocrit.

伪造 (wèizào) is to forge. 伪证 (wèizhèng) is perjury. 伪币 (wèi bì) is counterfeit currency.

伪装 (wèizhuāng) means disguise or camouflage.

装 (zhuāng) as a noun is one’s clothing, as in 服装 (f úzhuāng), 男装 (nánzhuāng menswear), 女装 (nǚzhuāng womenswear) and 古装 (gǔzhuāng ancient costumes).

装扮 (zhuāngbàn) is to dress up.

装备 (huāngbèi) is equipment.

装货 (zhuāng huò) is to load cargo.

装修 (zhuāngxiū) is to remodel or renovate the interior of an architectural structure.

装饰品 (zhuāngshì pǐn) are ornaments or decorations.

包装 (bāozhuāng) means to package or the packaging.

改装 (gǎizhuāng) is to retrofit.

瓶装 (píngzhuāng) means bottled.

装订 (zhuāngdìng) refers to book binding. 平装本 (píngzhuāng běn) is a paperback, and 精装本 (jīngzhuāng běn) is a hardcover copy.

As 装 (zhuāng) involves making changes to the outward appearance, it connotes pretense.

装作 (zhuāng zuò) means to pretend to be.

装门面 (zhuāngménmiàn) means put up a façade.

装糊涂 (zhuāng hútú) menas playing dumb; and the phrase 装聋作哑 (zhuāng lóng zuò yǎ) means to pretend to be deaf and mute (i.e. to turn a deaf ear to). In everyday speech people often say 装蒜 (zhuāngsuàn) instead.

安娜说: “别装蒜!”
Ānnà shuō: “Bié zhuāngsuàn!”
Anna said, “Quit playing dumb!”

蒜 (suàn) is garlic. It has been observed that narcissus plants don’t flower when the temperature is too high, but only produce a bulb that looks like a head of garlic, hence the expression 装蒜 (zhuāngsuàn) – to pretend to be garlic.

装模作样 (zhuāngmúzuòyàng) is to deliberately act contrived or to feign sophistication.

装腔作势 (zhuāngqiāngzuòshì) is to put on airs, displaying self-importance.

Zhōngqiū kuàilè!
Have a Happy Moon Festival!

And remember to get your copy of the “Inspiring Stories in Chinese” paperback from or Barnes & Nobel.

The eBook version is available at,, and a few other eBook outlets.

N.B. has reduced the price of the paperback copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to $6.09 for now. If you have been wanting to get this book, now is a good time to do so, before the discount ends.

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