Learn the Chinese radical for grass

红叶 (hóngyè) Red Autumn Leaves

The grass radical is very easy to recognize in the associated Chinese characters because it is always placed at the top and bears some semblance to a couple blades of grass poking through the ground.

The word (cǎo) means grass. The grass radical is conferred to many herbaceous plants and words directly or indirectly related to such plants. (yào) means medicine. This character takes on the grass radical because many traditional Chinese medicines are based on herbs. In fact, medicinal herbs are called 草药 (cǎoyào), which more often than not taste bitter, or (kǔ).

(miáo) are seedlings. Do you recognize the (tián fields) character beneath the grass radical? 荒田 (huāng tián) means a desolate unfarmed field.

(jīng) are the stems of herbaceous plants.

蔬菜 (shūcài) are vegetables. It is often abbreviated as (cài). However, (cài) also refers to a dish or course of food.

(yá) are the sprouts or new shoots of a plant. 芽菜 (yá cài) are edible sprouts. (dòu) is a general term for beans. Therefore, 豆芽菜 (dòu yá cài) are the bean sprouts.

(máng) are the arista on some grains and fruits. Therefore rays of light are referred to as 光芒 (guāngmáng).

Nǐ xǐhuān chī mángguǒ ma?
Do you like to eat mangos?

If you’d rather have potatoes then ask for 洋芋 (yángyù potatoes).

菊花 (júhuā chrysanthemum) and 荷花 (héhuā lotus) are favorite subjects in Chinese brush-paintings. 茉莉花 (mòli huā) are jasmin flowers. They are often described as 芳芬 (fēnfāng sweet-smelling) or (xiāng fragrant). 摘花 (zhāi huā) means to pluck a flower.

Tā sòng gěi wǒ yī duǒ měilì de mòli huā.
She gave me a fragrant jasmin flower.

Please note that we don’t use “个(gè)” as the unit for flowers. Rather, we say “一朵花 (yī duǒ huā)”, in much the same way that we say “two ears of corn” in English. “耳朵 (ěrduo)” is the Chinese word for ears.

(mǎn) means full. 枝桠 (zhīyā) means the branches and twigs. Therefore, to describe that the branches and twigs are full of blooms, you could say,

Huā kāi le mǎn zhīyā.
The flowers piled on the branches and twigs.

(lán) is the blue or indigo color, which originally came from the indigo plant.

(yè) are leaves. The traditional character for this word contains the grass radical; the simplified character has retained only one half of it. (luò) means to fall. Therefore, 落叶 (luòyè) are the fallen leaves. This term is also used for describing deciduous trees.

You know that (rén) means a person. Well, 人人 (rénrén) means everyone. Similarly, (tiān) is a day, and 天天 (tiān tiān) means every day. There are many other terms that follow this pattern. See if you can find a few on your own.

(kuā) is an abbreviation of 夸奖 (kuājiǎng), which means to praise or commend someone or something.

Rénrén kuājiǎng wǒ jiā de fēng yè hǎokàn.
Everyone says the maple leaves at my place look very nice.
(Everyone praises the maple leaves at my place.)

(jiā) means family, home or an expert in a specialized field. 别人 (biérén) means other people. Please note that 人家 (rén jiā) is a colloquial term that could refer to “those people”, “that other person”, or “I myself”, depending on the context of the sentence.

Now you’re ready to enjoy a well-known Chinese folksong from the Jiangsu Province, called “Jasmin Flower“. Why not look at the lyrics below and sing along?

Hǎo yī duǒ měilì de mòli huā!
What a beautiful jasmin flower!

Hǎo yī duǒ měilì de mòli huā!
What a beautiful jasmin flower!

芬芳, 美丽, 满枝桠;
Fēnfāng, měilì, mǎn zhīyā;
Sweet-smelling, pretty, adorning the twigs;

又白又香, 人人夸.
yòu bái yòu xiāng, rénrén kuā.
White and fragrant, praised by everyone.

Ràng wǒ lái jiāng nǐ zhāi xià,
Let me come and pluck you,

sòng gěi biérén jiā.
and offer you to a certain someone.

Mòli huā ya,
Jasmin flower,

mòli huā.
jasmin flower.


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