Using Chinese idioms in writing

Rufous Hummingbird hovering around     Blueberry Blossoms

Here is an account of my recent encounter with a Rufous hummingbird. I have highlighted the popular four-character Chinese idioms featured in this article. It will also be good for you to look at how some of the adverbs and conjunctives are used in the sentences. are discussed in Chapters 17, 18 and 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

又是大地回春, 万象更新的时节.
Yòu shì dàdì huíchūn wànxiàng gēngxīn de shíjié.
It’s that season again when the earth springs back to life anew.

园里的蓝莓灌木开满了小巧玲珑的白花儿.
Yuán li de lánméi guànmù kāi mǎn le xiǎoqiǎolínglóng de bái huār.
The blueberry bushes in the garden are full of little white blossoms.

蜜蜂穿梭其间采集花蜜及花粉.
Mìfēng chuānsuō qíjiān cǎijí huāmì jí huāfěn.
The bees go from one floweret to another to collect nectar and pollens.

偶尔也有蜂鸟光顾,
ǒu’ěr yě yě fēngniǎo guānggù,
Occasionally a hummingbird visits,

但是往往一眨眼就不见了.
dànshì wǎngwǎng yīzhǎyǎn jiù bùjiànle.
but it usually disappears in a blink of the eyes.

我一直希望能够录到蜂鸟的影片,
Wǒ yīzhí xīwàng nénggòu lù dào fēngniǎo de yǐngpiàn,
I’ve always wished to be able to capture a video the hummingbird,

但是没有闲空来守株待兔.
dànshì méiyǒu xiánkòng lái shǒuzhūdàitù
but I don’t have the time to sit there and wait for the bird to appear.

那天我正在为新种的蔬菜拍照,
Nǎtiān wǒ zhèngzài wèi xīn zhòng de shūcài pāizhào,
That day, while taking pictures of the newly planted vegetables,

忽然听到蜂鸟振翅的嗡嗡声.
hūrán tīngdào fēngniǎo zhèn chì de wēngwēng shēng.
I suddenly heard the hum of rapid flapping of wings.

我赶忙切换到录影模式,
Wǒ gǎnmáng qiēhuàn dào lùyǐng móshì,
I quickly switched to the video mode,

竟然录到了小蜂鸟吸允花蜜的景象,
jìngrán lù dào le xiǎo fēngniǎo xīyǔn huāmì de jǐngxiàng,
and actually captured a scene of the little hummer sucking nectar.

令我喜出望外.
lìng xǐchūwàngwài.
I was pleasantly surprised. (This gave me unexpected joy.)

想必你们也会替我高兴能够如愿以偿.
Xiǎngbì nǐmen yě huì tì wǒ gāoxìng nénggòu rúyuànyǐcháng.
I think you will also be happy for me for having had my wish fulfilled.

Chinese idioms involving the chicken

Crowing Rooster

Crowing Rooster

Wake up! Wake up! The Year of the Rooster will soon be upon us!

My grandfather lived on the countryside in his retirement. When I was little, I sometimes stayed over at his place. Every morning, the neighboring farmer’s rooster would hoist himself on the roof of the chicken coop, stretch his neck out as far as it would go and let out a series of three-syllable “O-O-O” cries to wake everyone up, his face red from the excessive straining. To the Chinese, the rooster is far from being “chicken”. Rather, it is the symbol for diligence, dutifulness and righteousness. Naturally, a bit of cockiness goes with that as well.

(jī) refers to all chickens. 公鸡 (gōngjī male chicken) is a rooster and 母鸡 (mǔjī female chicken) is a hen. Little chicks are called 小鸡 (xiǎojī). Please note that 田鸡 (tiánjī) is not a field chicken, but a frog.

(tí) is to crow, to cry or to weep aloud.

早晨听到公鸡啼叫.
Zǎochén tīngdào gōngjī tí jiào.
In the morning I hear the rooster crowing.

晚上听见婴儿啼哭.
Wǎnshàng tīngjiàn yīng’ér tíkū.
In the evening I hear the baby crying.

When talking about the eyes of chicken, say 鸡的眼睛 (jī de yǎnjing) rather than 鸡眼 (jīyǎn) as the latter refers to a corn that could form on one’s feet.

It is interesting that the Chinese talk about chicken bumps, 鸡皮疙瘩 (jīpígēda), rather than goose bumps.

鸡毛 (jīmáo) is chicken feather, light and insignificant. Therefore 鸡毛蒜皮 (jīmáosuànpí chicken feathers and garlic skins) means trivial things.

In ancient China the army made use of an arrow-shaped token of authority. Whoever saw this 令箭 (lìngjiàn) must obey the order the carrier read from it. Now, if you don’t look closely, you might mistake a large rooster’s tail feather for that arrow-shaped token. Therefore the idiom 拿着鸡毛当令箭 (ná zhe jīmáodānglìngjiàn) is often used to describe a situation in which a person makes a big fuss about a superior’s casual remark and justifies actions that lead to undesirable results. This idiom also applies to a person who takes advantage of other people through false authority.

As the rooster’s tail is made up of multiple feathers of different colors, a mixed alcoholic drink is called 鸡尾酒 (jīwěijiǔ cocktail).

鸡蛋 (jīdàn) are chicken eggs, and we all know that eggshells are quite fragile, hence the idiom used in the following sentence.

这就像是鸡蛋碰石头.
Zhèjiù xiàng shì jīdànpèngshítóu.
This is like knocking an egg against a rock (no chance to prevail).

Normally eggs sold at the market would not come with bones. However, a nitpicking person might still pick an egg over and try to find a bit of bone in it. The action of intentionally trying to find trivial faults in others is referred to as 鸡蛋里面挑骨头 (jīdàn lǐmiàn tiǎo gútou).

(shǒu) is the classical word for the head or a leader.

When pronounced in the second tone, the word (wéi) means (shì to be). Would you rather be the leader of a small company than a minion in a large corporation? If so, the following saying reflects your mentality.

宁为鸡首, 不为牛后.
Níng wéi jī shǒu, bùwéiniúhòu.
I’d rather be the head of a rooster than the behind of an ox.

鸡犬不宁 (jīquǎnbùníng) describes general turmoil, in which even fowls and dogs are not at ease. This idiom can be used to describe wartime or a disturbed condition at home.

他们动辄吵架, 闹得家里鸡犬不宁.
Tāmen dòngzhé chǎojià, nào de jiā lǐ jīquǎnbùníng.
They quarrel frequently, upsetting the entire household.

As you can see from the above two sentences, the word (níng) can stand for.
宁愿 (nìngyuàn prefer, would rather) or 安宁 (ānníng peaceful, calm).

Chickens are not known for their physical strength. 手无缚鸡之力 (shǒuwúfùjīzhīlì lacking the strength to truss up a chicken) is an expression used for describing a weak person.

It follows that one should not need a hefty ox cleaver to butcher a chicken. If someone uses a sledge hammer to crack a nut, a bilingual person might laugh at him or her and say, “杀鸡用牛刀 (shājīyòngniúdāo). That’s an overkill.”

Last year we talked about 杀鸡儆猴 (shājījǐnghóu), which means to kill the chicken to frighten the monkey. This method of warning by example has often been employed in the political arena.

杀鸡取卵 (shājīqǔluǎn kill the hen to get the egg) is the equivalent of the western saying: “Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Let’s not be shortsighted, but spare the poor hen.

And forget about stealing the chicken. The chicken might get away and you would have wasted the rice that you scattered on the ground to attract it. If you went for wool and came back shorn, people might say (with a smirk):

偷鸡不着蚀把米.
Ttōujībùzháoshībǎmǐ.
Failed to steal the chicken and lost the grains of rice.

A wooden chicken is stiff and unable to move. The Chinese use this term to describe a person who is stunned, dumbfounded or transfixed with fear or amazement.

他站在那儿, 呆若木鸡.
Tā zhàn zài nàr, dāiruòmùjī.
He stood there thunderstruck.

落汤鸡 (luòtānjī) means a drenched chicken, another chicken expression used for describing a person.

雨下得很大, 把他淋得像只落汤鸡.
Yǔ xià de hěndà, bǎ tā lín de xiàng zhī luòtānjī.
There was a downpour, and he was drenched through.

Please note that the unit to use when referring to most animals is (zhī), rather than (gè). Therefore, you would say 一只鸡 (yī zhī jī) and not 一个鸡 (yīgè jī). For a discussion of the commonly used units of measure in Chinese, please see Chapter 6 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

As you may have found out, many of the four-character Chinese idioms are based on legends, anecdotes or historical events and personages. Therefore one should be careful not to take them at face value. For example, 聞雞起舞 (wén jī qǐ wǔ) does not mean “Smell the aroma of the fried chicken, get up and dance with joy.” Here, means to hear, and stands for 舞劍 (wǔ jiàn), i.e. practicing martial art using a sword. The idiom 聞雞起舞 (wén jī qǐ wǔ) is based on an anecdote about a famous general, 祖逖 (Zǔ tì), of the Jin Dynasty who rose at the crack of dawn each day to do physical exercises to strengthen his body. This general was a fine example of diligence in one’s studies and self-improvement. If you assume this attitude in studying Chinese or any other subject, you should see good progress in due time.

Are you ready to celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year? I think the lively song at this link will help get you in the mood.

If you would like to play this tune on your piano keyboard, here is a simple music sheet for Gong Xi Gong Xi I put together using MuseScore: gong_xi_gong_xi

恭贺新禧!
Gōnghèxīnxǐ!
Happy New Year!

Sing “Pearly Shells” in Chinese

Picked Blackberries

Picked Blackberries


Blue, blue my world is blue – the good kind of blue from the luscious blueberries (藍莓 lán méi) and blackberries (黑莓 hēi méi) in my yard begging to be picked. Duty-bound I don a white shirt with long sleeves, grab a 1 1/2 quart plastic container and head outside. It is my responsibility to unleash my gatherer instinct and free those anxious berries from their bondage to the same old bushes under the scorching sun.

What precision it takes to pluck each and every blackberry without being poked or scratched by the vicious thorns! And what delight it is to gently roll or rub a bunch of blueberries and nudge the ripe ones into the container! It does take some nerves, though, to work alongside the honeybees (蜜蜂 mìfēng) and not be intimidated by their constant buzzes and hums. My white shirt makes me basically invisible to these flying stingers. I just need to be careful not to pick from the same bunch the bees are after. Some of them zip around at lower elevations and bump into my long trousers once in a while.

An hour or so later, I come back inside with a quart of each kind of berries, fully intending to elevate their status to velvety berry sauces, to-die-for pies, or glistening jams and jellies. Alas, that is not to be. Eager hands fall upon the berries and plop them into eager mouths. Within minutes all berries are gone.

Oh well. Anyhow it’s too hot to be in the kitchen baking, canning or, for that matter, cooking. I stretch out on my favorite chair and dream about a vacation in Hawaii (夏威夷 xiàwēiyí). I imagine myself walking barefoot along the coastline, now and then picking up a seashell to admire. I come upon a group of adorable kids singing “Pearly Shells“. I smile and say, “Aloha!”

You might try singing the first part of this cute song in Chinese by substituting the English lyrics with the following lines.

小贝壳,来自海洋,
Xiǎo bèiké,láizì hǎiyáng,
Little shells that came from the ocean,

遍布沙滩上,
biànbù shātān shàng,
spread all over the sandy beach,

阳光下发亮.
yángguāng xià fāliàng.
glisten under the sunshine.

看见它们,
Kànjian tāmen,
Seeing them,

我心明白我爱的是你,
wǒ xīn míngbai wǒ ài de shì nǐ
my heart knows that the one I love is you,

尽管那些贝壳有多美丽.
jǐnguǎn nàxiē bèiké yǒu duō měilì.
despite the beauty of all the pearly shells.

来自 (láizì) means to come from a place. In Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes we came across this word while singing the phrase “I come from Alabama” in the song “Oh Susanna”. We use this word more often in writing than in speaking. Colloquially you would say “The little shells came from the ocean.” as follows:

小贝壳是从海洋来的.
Xiǎo bèiké shì cóng hǎiyáng lái de.

明白 (míngbai) as an adjective means clear or obvious. Used as a verb, it means to know, to understand or to realize, as shown in the following example.

现在我明白了.
Xiànzài wǒ míngbai le.
Now I understand.

You probably already know that “I love you” in Chinese is 我爱你 (Wǒ ài nǐ). 我爱的是你 (Wǒ ài de shì nǐ) emphasizes the choice of the person one loves. You would use this form when there is a doubt of which person you actually love and clarification is called for. When you need to clarify your intention or what you’ve just said, you could start the sentence with 我的意思是 (Wǒ de yìsī shì I mean, or what I meant is)

尽管 (jǐnguǎn), as used here, means “even though” or “in spite of”. This word also means “feel free to (do something)”, as shown in the following example:

不要担心. 你尽管去做.
Bùyào dānxīn. Nǐ jǐnguǎn qù zuò.
Don’t worry. Go ahead and do it.

祝夏安!
Zhù xià ān!
Have a nice summer!

Chinese idioms involving goats and monkeys

Prosperous New YearAs the Year of the Ram is transitioning into the Year of the Monkey, I thought it would be good for us to look at some of the Chinese idioms involving these animals.

(yáng) means sheep, ram or goat. Specifically, 綿羊 (miányáng) is the Chinese word for sheep, and 山羊 (shānyáng) are goats. Did you notice the two horns at the top of the Chinese character (yáng)?

A Chinese calligraphy or painting brush made of goat’s hair usually has the word 羊毫 (yángháo) marked on it. They are softer than 狼毫(lángháo), which is made of weasel’s hair.

羊毛(yángmáo) is fleece. The idiom 羊毛出在羊身上(yángmáochūzàiyángshēnshang) describes a situation in which a benefit actually came from one’s own contribution or expenditure. If a sheep receives a fleece blanket as a gift, it will behoove it to remember that the wool came from its own back. In other words, there is no free lunch.

A narrow meandering path is often referred to as 羊腸小道(yángchángxiǎodào). 羊腸(yángcháng) are a goat’s intestines.

掛羊頭賣狗肉(guàyángtóumàigǒuròu) means to display a goat’s head but sell dog meat instead, i.e. to bait and switch.

順手牽羊 (shùnshǒuqiānyáng) means to walk off with someone else’s belonging that is lying around.

亡羊補牢(wángyángbǔláo) means to repair the fence after a sheep is killed (such as by a cayote). This idiom could be used both ways – to say that it’s too late for the lost sheep, or to say that it’s not too late to try to save the other sheep.

Then there is the scapegoat, or 替罪羊 (tìzuìyáng) or 代罪羔羊 (dàizuìgāoyáng). 羔羊 (gāoyáng) is a lamb.

The Chinese character for monkeys is rather interesting in that on the right side is (hóu), which stands for a high official. On the left side is the radical for animals – (hóu). And an idiom comes naturally to mind. 沐猴而冠 (mùhóuérguàn) describes a worthless person who makes himself look impressive, like a monkey that was bathed and dressed in imposing attire. The man in the above image is shown in ancient Chinese government costume, indicating status and power. Now picture a monkey in this outfit.

Compared to 老虎(lǎohǔ tigers), 猴子 (hóuzi monkeys) are weak and powerless. However, when there are no tigers in the mountains, then a monkey could claim to be the king. Therefore the following saying makes fun of people whose abilities do not match the high position they hold.

山上無老虎,猴子稱大王.
Shān shàng wú lǎohǔ, hóuzi chēng dàwáng.

(tóu) is the head, and (nǎo) are the brains. 猴頭猴腦 (hóu tóu hóu nǎo) is an expression used to describe a youngster who is hyperactive, flighty and careless.

A futile attempt to save a situation is often likened to a monky that tries to scoop the moon out of the water but drowns in the process. (jiù) means to rescue, to save or to help.

這就像猴子救月.
Zhè jiù xiàng hóuzi jiù yuè.
This is tantamount to a monkey trying to rescue the moon.

殺雞儆猴 (shājījǐnghóu) or 殺雞給猴看 (shājīgěihóukàn) means to ‘kill a chicken in front of a monkey’, i.e to make an example out of someone. Punishing someone often serves the purpose of frightening others who have a similar plot in mind.

I came across an interesting flower that has an eerie resemblance to a monkey’s face. You can click on this link to see what a 猴蘭 (hóulán monkey orchid) looks like.

The greeting card above shows the following couplet:

財源廣進年年進;
Cáiyuán guǎng jìn niánnián jìn
Financial resources pour in abundantly year after year;

利路亨通日日通.
Lì lù hēngtōng rì rì tōng
Road to profits and riches goes smoothly day after day.

The Chinese believe that the Year of the Monkey brings vitality. Take the “k” out of “monkey”, and you’ll get “money”. May you have all the energy and $ you need to accomplish everything you want in this coming Chinese lunar year.

恭禧发财!
Gōngxǐ fācái!
Have a happy and prosperous New Year!

Peaceful Christmas and Happy New Year in Chinese

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Away in a Manger”. In Chinese it is usually referred to as 马槽歌 (Mǎ Cáo Gē) or 圣婴孩主耶稣 (Shèng Yīnghái Zhǔ Yēsū).

马槽 (mǎ cáo) is a trough for feeding horses. (gē) is a song.

Baby Jesus is usually referred to as 圣婴 (Shèng Yīng), or the Holy Baby. The song uses 圣婴孩 (Shèng Yīnghái) because there is an extra beat in the music that needs to be filled. 耶稣 (Yēsū) is Jesus. 主耶稣 (Zhǔ Yēsū) is Lord Jesus.

The peaceful nativity scene is captured in the beautiful tune composed by James R. Murray in 1887. At this link is John Denver’s rendition of the song.

If you are into improvising in playing the piano by ear, here are a couple helpful instruction videos by Yoke Wong and Rosa Suen.

To be able to improvise and re-harmonize a song on the piano, one will need to have some knowledge of the “rules” based on which many songs are composed. The better your understanding of the structure of a song, the better you will be able to apply the commonly used scale note intervals, chords and variations thereof to play the song your own way. This is not unlike learning a foreign language. You are better equipped to express yourself in the language when you know the underlying grammar and sentence patterns. This is why I put quite a bit of emphasis on grammar and sentence structure in my book “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

Another popular musical setting for “Away in a Manger” is the one by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895). In Book 5 of the Pianoforall piano course, Robin Hall shows you how to play a simple ballad style that you can apply to this version of the song.

To hear it in Chinese, please click on this link: 圣婴孩主耶稣 (Shèng Yīnghái Zhǔ Yēsū)

To see the lyrics in simplified Chinese characters, please click on the link then scroll down to item 15.

天堂 (tiāntáng) is heaven or paradise.

马棚 (mǎ péng) is a horse stall.

(zhěn) or 枕头 (zhěntou) is a pillow, and (chuáng) is a bed.

(wú) means without or nothing.

护卫 (hùwèi) is to protect or to guard. As a noun, this word refers to a bodyguard.

安睡 (ān shuì) is to sleep peacefully.

听见 (tīngjiàn) is to hear. (líng) is a bell.

梦醒 (mèng xǐng) means to wake up from a dream. 啼哭 (tíkū) is to cry or wail. 笑容 (xiàoróng) is a smiling face.

(cǎo) is grass. Here, it refers to the hay, or 干草 (gāncǎo).

(yuàn) is to hope for, wish for or be willing. As a noun, it means a wish. (qiú) is to beg, to beseech or to seek.

靠近 (kàojìn) is to be near or close-by or to get near. 身旁 (páng) means one’s side.

照顾 (zhàogu) is to look after or to give favorable consideration to.

(xì) as a verb means to tie or fasten.

身心 (shēnxīn) means body and mind. 受伤 (shòushāng) means to be hurt or harmed.

(cì) is to give, to grant or to favor someone with something as a superior. 恩惠 (ēnhuì) is a benefaction.

(zhòng) means the many or the multitude. 孩童 (hái tóng) are children.

世上 (shìshang) or 世界上 (shìjièshàng) means “in the world”.

相会 (xiàng huì) is to meet each other or to get together.

It’s been a very pleasant four years since I started blogging at this site to share my knowledge of Chinese and exchange ideas with you. As I’m having to deal with a health issue, I will not be posting any more lessons here in the foreseeable future. I may work on some other projects that are less demanding and do not have a time constraint. There are 210 lessons at this site that you are welcome to revisit anytime. Feel free to post your questions as a comment, and I will try to answer them as best I can. I thank you for your readership and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

恭祝圣诞平安, 新年快乐!
Gōng zhù shèngdàn píngān, xīnnián kuàilè!
Respectfully wishing you a Peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

P.S. I’ve added a few of my paintings and calligraphy to the “About” page of this blog site. You are welcome to take a look there as well.

11/1/15 I just posted a fun song “Down by the Bay in Chinese” at youtube. Please check it out and see if you can make other funny rhyming verses that the mother in the video might say.

Sing “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” in Chinese

Tongue-in-cheek

Tongue-in-cheek

There are usually a few different ways to translate an English name to Chinese. Over the years standardized translations have evolved for many well-known names. For example, when I see 林肯 (Línkěn), I know right a way that it most likely refers to President Abraham Lincoln. (It would be interesting, though, for a Chinese guy with the last name Lin to give his son this famous name.)

The folk song “I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago” names a number of prominent figures from the Bible, or 圣经 (shèngjīng). I first came across this song in Jerry Silverman’s “Beginning Folk Guitar”. At this link is Elvis Presley’s spirited version of this song.

Now, Elvis Presley’s Chinese name is a mouthful that I don’t care to mention here. In Taiwan, he is simply known as 猫王 (Máo Wáng King of Cats). By the way, Ann-Margret was dubbed 女猫王 (Nǚ Máo Wáng Queen of Cats).

Anyway, one of the verses of “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” goes as follows:

Yeah, I was born about ten thousand years ago.
Ain’t nothing in this world that I don’t know.
Saw Peter, Paul and Moses playing ring around the roses.
I’ll lick the guy that says it isn’t so.

Perhaps you will be inspired to sing my translation in Chinese:

我出生在一万年前的时候.
Wǒ chūshēng zài yī wànnián qián de shíhòu.
I was born around ten thousand years ago.

天下没有一件事我不吃透.
Tiānxià méiyǒu yī jiàn shì wǒ bù chītòu.
There isn’t a single thing under the sky that I don’t know.

见过彼得,保罗,摩西,
Jiàn guò Bǐdé, Bbǎoluó, Móxī;
I met Peter, Paul and Moses,

他们一同玩著游戏.
Tāmen yītóng wán zhe yóuxì.
Who were playing games together.

谁敢說不信? 莫非他想挨揍?
Shéi gǎn shuō bù xìn? Mòfēi tā xiǎng áizòu?
Who dares to say he doesn’t believe so,
unless he is asking for a spanking?

出生 (chūshēng) as a verb means to be born. As a noun it refers to the status of the family into which one was born.

他出生卑微.
Tā chūshēng bēiwēi.
He was born petty and low.

吃透 (chītòu)means to have a thorough grasp of something.

The Pharaoh is called 法老 (fǎlǎo). King David is 大卫王 (Dàwèi wáng). Jonah is 约纳 (Yuēnà). And Noah’s Ark is called 诺亚方舟 (Nuòyà fāngzhōu).

莫非 (mòfēi) means the same as 除非 (chúfēi unless).

(ái), when pronounced in the second tone, means to suffer or endure. For example, 挨打 (áidǎ) and 挨揍 (áizòu) refer to taking a beating, 挨骂 (áimà) means to be chided, and 挨饿 (áiè) is to starve.

Chinese word for hypocrisy

We know that being polite helps us get along with strangers as well as acquaintances. In particular, when we have a visiting guest, or 客人 (kèrén), we would be extra courteous and try to make them feel comfortable.

客气 (kèqi) means being polite, courteous or modest. On the other hand, depending on the situation, 不客气 (bùkèqi) could mean impolite, rude, or “Don’t mention it.”

好客 (hàokè) describes one who is gregarious and loves to entertain guests. Notice that, in this word, (hào) is pronounced in the fourth tone and means “to love to”. 做客 (zuòkè) means to be a guest.

王先生好客. 他时常在家里请客.
Wáng xiānsheng hàokè. Tā shícháng zài jiā liqǐngkè.

客房 (kèfáng) is a guest room, whereas 客厅 (kètīng) is a living room or parlor.

The passengers on a bus, a train or an airplane are also referred to as (kè). So,
客车 (kèchē) is a bus or a passenger train, 客机 (kèjī) is an airliner, and 乘客 (chéngkè) are the passengers.

顾客 (gùkè) are customers or shoppers. 政客 (zhèngkè) are politicians.

Understandably 客观 (kèguān) means looking at things in an objective way.

客套 (kètào) are civilities. 客套话 (kètào huà) is the polite platitude exchanged among guests. This often includes some compliments or flattery called 恭维 (gōngwéi a compliment; to flatter).

Sometimes the compliments we give or receive may be insincere. 虚伪 (xūwěi) and 虚假 (xūjiǎ) both mean being false or hypocritical. This word can also be used as a noun that means pretense or hypocrisy.

我不喜欢她的虚伪做作.
Wǒ bù xǐhuān tā de xūwěi zuòzuò.
I don’t like her insincere and affected ways.

我看穿了他的虚情假意.
Wǒ kànchuān le tā de xūqíngjiǎyì.
I have seen through his false display of affection.

(xū) means empty, false, nominal or physically weak. 虚无 (xūwú) is nothingness.

空虚 (kōngxū) means hollow or empty. 心里的空虚 (xīn li de kōngxū) means the emptiness in one’s heart.

心虚 (xīnxū) means lacking self confidence or having a guilty conscience and afraid of being found out. A commonly used Chinese idiom describing the latter condition is 做贼心虚 (zuòzéixīnxū). A thief is apt to have an uneasy feeling and fears being found out.

On the other hand, 虚心 (xūxīn) means being open-minded or modest.

我会虚心地向他学习.
Wǒ huì xūxīn di xiàng tā xuéxí.
I will learn from him with humility.

谦虚 (qiānxū) also means being modest. 谦虚的话 (qiānxū de huà) are self-effacing remarks.

虚荣 (xūróng) is vanity.

虚弱 (xūruò) means weak and feeble because of poor health.

(xūjiǎ) and (wěi) mean false or fake.

伪造 (wěizào) means to forge or fabricate.

伪君子 (wěijūnzǐ) is a hypocrite.

How to 辨别真伪 (biànbié zhēn wěi), i.e. tell the true from the false? It definitely requires a keen mind’s eye.

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