The water radical

(shuǐ water) is a most important element that sustains living organisms. The Chinese have assigned the “yin” property to water as water is perceived as being soft, cool and ever changing. A Chinese saying goes like this: “The magnanimous take to the mountains; the wise and witty take to the waters.”

Of course, we know that water can wreak havoc when it accompanies a storm. And even little drops of water could cause damage if applied constantly. Hence the Chinese idiom:

Dripping water can wear holes in stone.

Here is another way to put it:

An iron rod can be ground down to a needle.

The corresponding English adage is: “Little strokes fell great oaks.” Therefore, unless your are capable of instant permanent memory, a reliable way to learn a new Chinese word would be to read and write it repeatedly today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and again next week. Also think about how you might use the word in a sentence in a conversation or a composition. Granted, there are words that you will rarely if ever use in the ordinary course of your life. For those words, it suffices to become just familiar enough with them to be able to recognize them when you hear them mentioned or see them in print.

口水 (kǒushuǐ mouth-water) means saliva.

好香! 我流口水了.
Hǎo xiāng! Wǒ liú kǒushuǐ le.
It smells so good! I’m salivating
(i.e. water is flowing in my mouth).

(huò) means disaster or misfortune. 车祸 (chēhuò) is a traffic accident. Many Chinese historical plays depict the downfall of kings and warlords who overindulged in wine and women. The heros are not blamed for their own faults. Instead, we are led to believe that their ruins were brought about by their beautiful concubines. This same logic is adopted by the plebeians, hence the unfortunate general reference to women as 祸水 (huò shuǐ distasterous waters).

水土 (shuǐtǔ water and soil) refers to the climate (and foods) of a new place.

他不服水土. Or, 他不服水土不服.
Tā bùfúshuǐtǔ. Or, Tā shuǐtǔbùfú.
He is not yet acclimatized.

山水 (shānshuǐ mountains and waters) refers to a scenery with mountains or hills and lakes or rivers. On the other hand, 风水(fēngshuǐ wind and water)is a Chinese system of geomancy that claims to be able to divine the most auspicious location and orientation of dwellings and tombs based on the surrounding natural features.

The water radical can appear as the whole character 水(shuǐ) or three representive droplets of water. Following are a few wods that take on the water radical.

泉水 (quán) is spring water.
(bīng) is ice, and (hé) is a river. 冰河 (bīnghé) means glacier.
(hú) is a lake.
海洋 (hǎiyáng) are oceans and seas.
(shēn) means deep or profound.
(qiǎn) means shallow or easy.
游泳 (yóuyǒng) is to swim.
(chén) is to sink.
(fú) is to float.
(yóu) is oil or grease, and 汽油 (qìyóu) is gasoline.
(xǐ) is towash.
(lòu) means to leak or to leave out.

Wǒ xiě lòu le yī gè zì.
I missed one character while writing.

To hear a song in praise of the beautiful scenery on the Ali Mountain in Taiwan and the natives who live there, please click on this link. 高山青 (Gāoshān qīng) was the theme song of a movie filmed in Taiwan. The lyrics were penned by 張徹 (Zhāng Chè) and the music was composed jointly by 周蓝萍 (Zhōu Lánpíng) and 邓禹平 (Dèng Yǔpíng). This song is often referred to as 阿里山的姑娘 (The Girls from the Ali Mountain).

Woven into the song are lines sung in the native language. However, you should have no problem picking out the Mandarin in the first stanza:

高山青, 涧水蓝.
Gāoshān qīng, jiàn shuǐ lán.
The mountains are green; the ravine waters are blue.

Ālǐshān de gūniang
The girls of Ali Mountain

Měi rú shuǐ ya,
Are pretty as the waters.

Ālǐshān de shàonián
The young men of Ali Mountain

zhuàng rú shān a!
Are strong as the mountains.




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