Who She?

Seriously, I’m talking about the great Chinese scholar 胡适 (Hú Shì), and you know better than to pronounce this name as “Who She”. Mr. Hu was born in China in 1891. He made vital contributions to Chinese liberalism and language reform by advocating the use of written vernacular Chinese and promoting new forms of literature. The vision and efforts of this great scholar has helped tremendously in reducing illiteracy among the Chinese as it is a lot easier to read written words that correspond to what one says, than to decipher and interpret the terse scholarly classical Chinese.

The vernacular Chinese language is called 白话 (báihuà). As you know, (bái) means white or bright, as in 白天 (báitiān daytime). It also means understandable or to understand, as in 明白 (míngbai). On the other hand, written classical Chinese is called 文言文 (wényán wén).

Following are two lines from a maxim composed by an ancient Chinese calligraphy expert:

Wù dào rén zhī duǎn;

wù shuō jǐ zhī cháng.

(wù), in this case, = 不要 (bùyào) = do not
(This word also means “not haveing or “without”.)
(dào) = (shuō) = speak, say
(zhī), in this case, = (de) = a particle used for indicating the possessive case
(duǎn) = 短处 (duǎnchu) = 缺点 (quēdiǎn) = shortcoming, faults
(cháng) = 长处 (chángchu) = 优点 (yōudiǎn) = strong points, strengths

In modern times, we write this maxim the same way as we say it, namely:

Bùyào shuō biérén de duǎnchu;
Don’t talk of other people’s faults.

bùyào shuō zìjǐ de chángchu.
Don’t boast of your own strengths.

Please click on this link to read a poem written by Mr. Hu that illustrates how one can compose sensible and enjoyable verses out of ordinary words taken from the vernacular language.

都是(dōushì) all are
平常(píngcháng) ordinary
情感(qínggǎn) emotions
言語(yányu) speaking
偶然(ǒurán) by chance
碰著(pèng zhe) encounter
詩人(shīrén ) poet
變幻出(biànhuàn chū) tranform into; conjure up
多少(duōshao) how much; this much
新奇(xīnqí) novelty
詩句(shījù) verses
醉過(zuì guò) after having beeen intoxicated
(cái) then
(zhī) know
(jiǔ) wine,alcoholic drink
(nóng) thick, dense, strong
愛過(ài guò) after having loved
(qíng) sentiment, feelings
(zhòng) intense, deep, heavy
不能(bùnéng) unable to
(zuò) do, make
正如 (zhèngrú) just like
(mèng) dream


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