A handy fan

Is the weather getting too hot for you? Quick, take a piece of letter-size paperboard and write this word on it: 扇子 (shànzi a hand-held fan).

Now, wave it back and forth to enjoy your personal man-powered fan. You will feel 凉快 (liángkuai nice and cool) and 舒服 (shūfu comfortable). Why not add these words to your new fan as well? In between the fanning sessions, take a look at these words and exclaim:

好凉快呀! (Hǎo liángkuai ya!) How nice and cool!
好舒服呀! (Hǎo shūfu ya!) How good it feels!

The character (shàn) contains the character (yǔ), which means feather (and which resembles a pair of wings). Indeed, the ancient Chinese fans were made of feathers. After the paper fans were introduced, it became fashionable for artists and calligraphers to decorate the fans with brush paintings and literary scripts.

The word (shàn) can also be used as a verb. The well-known story,
黄香扇席 (Huáng Xiāng shàn xí Huang Xiang Fans the Mat), tells of
a little girl who lived in ancient China. In the hot summer days, before her parents retired to their bedroom, Huang Xiang would be seen with a fan in hand, diligently wafting over the mat on her parents’ bed. When asked what she was doing, she replied, “I want to cool down the mat so my parents will be able to sleep well in the hot weather.” This heart-warming story earned Huang Xiang a place among the top twenty-four most respected names in China that are associated with filial piety.

If you find that seeing an item labeled with its Chinese name helps you learn the Chinese term, then it may be a good idea to label a few other household items with their Chinese names. (Caution: Use stickers that you can easily remove from the items when you don’t need them anymore.) Following are some common compartments you may find in a house:

客厅 (kètīng living room)
饭厅 (fàntīng dining room)
书房 (shūfáng study)
厨房 (chúfáng kitched)
卧室 (wòshì bedroom)
客房 (kèfáng guest room)
洗衣间 (xǐyī jiàn laundry room)
浴室 (yùshì bathroom)
厕所 (cèsuǒ lavatory)
车房 (chē fáng garage)
楼上 (lóushàng upstairs)
楼下 (lóuxià downstairs)
阁楼 (gélóu attic)
地下室 (dìxiàshì basement)

What all do you have in your living room? Here are my guesses:
电视 (diànshì TV)
电灯 (diàndēng electric lamp)
沙发 (shāfā sofa)
茶几 (chájī teatable, side table)

Look up in your dictionary the names for the commonplace items in the other rooms of your dwelling and make a label for the ones that you still need to learn. Imagine how many sentences you could make by using all those words in the sentence pattern shown below:

Wǒde kètīng lǐ yǒu yī gè chájī.
In my living room there is a tea table.

Don’t just imagine. Say these sentences out loud and, better yet, write them down in your notebook.

Ask and ye shall receive

There are a few ways of saying, “He gave a purple silk scarf to me.”

Tā gěi le wǒ yī tiáo sī jīn.
He gave me a purple silk scarf.

Tā sòng le yī tiáo sī jīn gěi wǒ.
He gave a purple silk scarf to me.

Tā bǎ yī tiáo sī jīn sòng gěi le wǒ.
He gave a purple silk scarf to me.

(gěi) means to give to, to grant to, or to allow.
(sòng) is to deliver, to escort, to see someone off, or to give as a gift.
送给 (sòng gěi) means “to give as a gift to”.
拿给 (ná gěi) means “to hand to” or “to take something to (someone)”.
寄给 (jì gěi) means “to mail to (someone)”.
交给 (jiāo gěi) means “to hand over or deliver to (someone)”. The thing you transfer over could be a physical object or an intangible item. For example,

这件事, 交给我办.
Zhè jiàn shì, jiāo gěi wǒ bàn.
Let me handle this matter for you.
(This matter, hand it over to me and let me deal with it.)

As we have seen before, you can change a statement into a request or question by adding “Yes or no?”, or “OK or not?” at the end. This also serves to soften the tone of a demand. For example,

给我一杯水, 好吗?
Gěi wǒ yī bēi shuǐ, hǎo ma?
Give me a glass of water, okay?

Wǒ xiǎng jì qǐngtiē gěi tā, kěyǐ ma?
I’d like to mail an invitation to her. Is it okay?

给我三天的时间, 可不可以?
Gěi wǒ sān tiān de shíjiān, kě bù kěyǐ ?
Give me three days of time (to think about or work on it), all right?

可不可以 (kě bù kěyǐ) is an abbreviation of 可以不可以
(kěyǐ bù kěyǐ okay or not).

Here is a song with Chinese verses fitted to the lively music of “Seven Lonely Days”. The humerous Chinese lyrics don’t correspond to the English verses. In my opinion, this has resulted in a much more effective song than if the renowned songwriter 陳蝶衣 (Chén Diéyī) had implemented a faithful translation instead. And, like the unforgettable Patsy Cline, 张露 (Zhāng Lù) belted out this fun song with a punch.

Can you tell what the singer is asking for? Click here to display the lyrics in simplified Chinese characters.

Click here to watch Hugh Jackman perform this song.

Anyway, this song contains many practical words and phrases that will be good for you to learn.

(gē) are songs, and 歌词 (gēcí) are the lyrics for a song.

(wěn a kiss) can be used both as a noun and as a verb. (fēi) means flying, or to fly. 飞吻 (fēi wěn) is a blow kiss.

(liǎn) is the face. (shàng) means “up”, “on”, “above”, “previous”, or “better”, and refers to the upper side or a superior position. It can also be used as a verb that means to apply, to tighten (a spring or a screw), or to submit. Therefore, 脸上 (liǎn shàng) means on the face, and 心上 (xīn shàng) means on the heart or mind.

(liú) means to remain, stay, keep or leave behind.

标记 (biāojì) is a symbol or a mark. 爱标记 (ài biāojì) means love-token. You could also translate “a token of love” as 爱的标记 (ài de biāojì).

(ràng) means to let, allow, or yield to.

想念 (xiǎngniàn) is to long for or to miss someone.

纵然 (zòngrán) is an adverb that means “even though” or “even if”.

(dèng) is to glower at someone or something.

嘴唇 (zuǐchún) are the lips.

(mén ì) is a door. (bì) shas the latch set in the door, and therefore means to close up or being closed.

请求 (qǐngqiú) means to make a request, and 恳求 (kěnqiú) means to implore.

决不 (juébù) means definitely not.

灰心 (huīxīn) means to be discouraged, and 伤心 (hāngxīn) means to be sad or to feel hurt.

答应 (dāying) means to reply or to consent to. 回音 (huíyīn) is a reply or a response.

没关系 (méiguānxi) means “It doesn’t matter.”, or “It’s all right.”

感谢 (gǎnxiè) and 感激 (gǎnjī) both mean to be thankfur or grateful.

敷衍 (fūyan) means to be perfunctory or to act tongue-in-cheek

甜蜜 (tiánmì) means honey-sweet, or happy.

By the way, the Chinese phrase 有求必应 (yǒuqiúbìyìng) could serve as a translation for “Ask and ye shall receive.” It is also used to describe a supreme being, like the Goddess of Mercy, who will always respond to any request for help, or a person who is unable to say no to anyone asking for help.

What color represents friendship?

Let’s get into a good mood for studying Chinese by listening to a delightful fast-paced song, titled “Rose, Rose, I Love You”, in both Chinese and English.

This Chinese version was sung by Liu Wenzheng. The lyrics are shown in traditional Chinese characters. Click here to see the lyrics in simplified Chinese. Don’t worry about all the new Chinese vocabulary in this song. We are mainly interested in the word 玫瑰 (méigui roses).

The English version was first recorded by Frankie Laine. The verses do not correspond to the original Chinese lyrics, but rather depict one facet of the life of a GI stationed in Asia around WWII.

Most everyone knows that red roses, or 红玫瑰 (hóng méigui), represent love, while yellow roses, or 黃玫瑰 (huáng méigui), represent friendship.

Huáng méigui dàibiǎo yǒuqíng.
Yellow roses represent friendship.

Dàn lǜsè yě xiàngzhēng yǒuqíng.
Light green also symbolizes friendship.

A word of caution: Beware that the Chinese term, 黃色 (huángsè) also refers to decadent, obscene stuff, such as in 黃色小說 (huángsè xiǎoshuō x-rated fiction).

(hóng red) and 绿 (lǜ green) are a popular colors for dying silk and other fabric. What radical is shared by these two words? The radical on the left side of these words is (mì fine silk). The characters in the following list also contain this radical, albeit in its simplified form. As you can see, all of these words have something to do with silk, threads or fabric.

(sī) is silk, a fine thread, or a trace.
(xì) means fine, thin, slender, or delicate. These are general properties of a thread.
线 (xiàn) is a thread, a string or a line.
(shā) is a yarn.
(zhǐ) is paper.
(gěi) means to give. Beautiful silk would make a nice present.
(jié) means a knot, or to tie together.
(biān) means to wave or to knit.
(zhī) also means to wave or to knit.
(zǐ) is the purple color. Here, the (mì fine silk) radical is placed at the bottom rather on the left side.

Silk comes from the silkworm. It’s fascinating to watch a silkworm wrap itself up in a cocoon of silk.

Cán huì tǔ sī.
A silkworm will extrude silk.

丝巾 (sī jīn) is a silk scarf. The famous Silk Road is called 丝路 (sī lù).

仔细 (zǐxì) means to be careful and paying attention to details.

直线 (zhixiàn) is a straight line. 曲线 (qūxiàn) is a curve.

白纱 (bái shā white ) is the white material from which a Western bride’s veil is made, while 纱布 (shābù) usually refers to the gauze used for first aid.

报纸 (bàozhǐ) are newspapers. (kàn) means to look, to see, or to appear to be. Nevertheless, 看报纸 (kàn bàozhǐ) means to read the newspapers, rather than just looking at them.

结合 (jiéhé) means to combine or unite.

编织 (biānzhī) is the art of weaving or knitting.

How would you say the following sentence in Chinese?
“He gave a purple silk scarf to me.”
A scarf is considered a longish item. Do you remember what unit is used with such an item? If not, please review the post that’s dated June 22, 2011.

Love is blue?

The following sentences use the passive voice. Please compare them with the corresponding sentences in the active voice that I posted here last week.

Diànnǎo bèi tā nònghuà le.
The computer was damaged by him.

Tā bèi nà gōngsī gùyòng le.
She was hired by that company.

Wǒ bèi tā xià le yī tiào.
I was startled by him.

Sentence structures form the framework of language. The simple sentence pattern of “Noun + Verb” can be likened to the frame of a small one-story dwelling. To complete the house, you will still need to install the siding and the roof. Each word you learn is another brick, panel or shingle added to the house. And don’t forget the amenities inside the little house. In other words, it’s important to build up your vocabulary to be able to carry an interesting conversation.

Today we will look at some of the Chinese words that represent the colors, 颜色 (yánsè). (hóng) is the red color, regarded by the Chinese as an auspicious and festive color. (bāo) means to wrap, and you know that 包子 (bāozi) is a bun stuffed with filling. Well, 红包 (hóng bāo) is a red envelope containing money that’s presented as a gift on a happy occasion, such as a birthday, a wedding, or New Year. This same form of gifting is also used in bribing government officials, company managers, and so on. So much so that the term 送红包 (sòng hóng bāo giving a red envelope) is now synonymous with bribing.

The word for “green” is 绿 (lǜ). (qīng) is a blue-green hue often used to characterize green grass or the sky. It is also used when referring to a young person or a young crop. I don’t know how it came about, but the expression 戴绿帽子 (dài lǜ màozǐ wearing a green hat) means to be cheated on by one’s wife.

Obviously, 红绿灯 (hóng lǜ dēng red and green lights), refers to the traffic light.

If you ever see the term, 红男绿女 (hóng nán lǜ nǚ), it has nothing to do with Halloween costumes. It just means “dudes and gals”.

美国国旗的颜色是: 红, 白, 和蓝.
Měiguó guóqí de yánsè shì: hóng, bái, hé lán.
The colors of the American flag is red, white and blue.

(hēi) is the black color. It is associated with 夜晚(yèwǎn nights) and 黑暗 (hēiàn darkness). On the other hand, (bái white) represents 白天 (báitiān daylight), 光亮 (guāngliàng brightness) and 光明 (guāngmíng open-heartedness). Please note that in the West, black is the color of mourning, but in the Chinese communities, people in mourning wear plain and unadorned white clothing.

The lyrics of “Love is Blue” (originally a French song) associates a gamut of feelings with some familiar colors. One might say:

Lánsè dàibiǎo yōuyù.
Blue represents depression.

Huīsè dàibiǎo fáwèi.
Grey represents cheerlessness.

Hóngsè dàibiǎo àiqíng.
Red represents love.

Lǜsè dàibiǎo jídù.
Green represents jealousy (or envy).

Hēisè dàibiǎo juéwàng.
Black represents despair.

What color represents friendship?

______ dàibiǎo yǒuqíng.
________ represents friendship.

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