Traditional Chinese medicine

A patient is called 病人 (bìng rén) or, more formally, 患者 (huànzhě). 医院 (yīyuàn) is a hopsital, and 诊所 (zhěnsuǒ) is a clinic. You may call the doctor 医师 (yīshī), 医生 (yīshēng) or 大夫 (dàifu). I believe this is the only instance where (dà big) is pronounced as dài.

The doctors will treat people’s illnesses and help them enjoy longevity, or 长寿 (chángshòu). 西医 (xīyī a doctor trained in western medicine) and 中医 (zhōngyī a practitioner of Chinese medicine) take different approaches to treating an ailment. For an acute appendicitis or a broken bone, I definitely would not want to seek help from traditional Chinese medicine. On the other hand, many patients with chronic ailments have been helped by acupuncture and Chinese herb medicine administered by competent and conscientious practitioners.

The Chinese broadly classify diseases into two major groups: 热症 (rè zhèng) the warm or hot type, or excess/inflammations, corresponding to yang, and 虚症 (xū zhèng), the cold type, or deficiency/feebleness, corresponding to yin.

(xū) is the formal word for (kōng), which means emptiness, empty, unoccupied, in vain, or false (as in empty talk). 空虚 (kōngxū) is often used to described a feeling of emptiness. It’s interesting to note that 虚心 (xūxīn) means being modest and open-minded, while 心虚 (xīnxū) describes an uneasy feeling due to a guilty conscience or lack of self-confidence.

So, if you have a 虚症 (xū zhèng), you would be administered 补药 (bǔyào tonic), medication that tend to warm you up or boost your energy. A number of herb medicines and foods are believed to be capable of enriching the blood, ie. 补血 (bǔxuè). A tasty example is a soup made with 薏米 (yìmǐ Job’s tears). 人参 (rénshēn ginsen), (jiāng ginger) and (jiǔ alcoholic drinks) are considered tonics. I’d go for familiar foods that have warming properties rather than taking any dubious herb medicine. The fact is that the herbal tablets are not regulated by the FDA and often contain harmful elements such as mercury and traces of other heavy metals.

Tāmen xǐhuān hē yìmǐ tāng.
They like to drink Job’s tears soup.

If one has an inflammation or a mania, then the aim would be to release the excess of bad energy. (xiè to expel, to discharge, diarrhea) is the opposite of (bǔ boost). 苦瓜 (kǔguā bitter gourd) and 西瓜 (xīgua watermelon) have a cooling effect. With a few exceptions, fruits and vegetables containing large amounts of Vitamin C are believed to be anti-inflammatory.

Then there is such a thing as 虚热 (xū rè), a excess condition that arose from a deficiency. In this case, you would need to take the appropriate measure to address the “yin” root cause and not just deal with the “yang” symptoms.

(liáng) is the formal word for (hǎo good, nice, kind). (yào) is herb medicine. Did you notice the “grass” radical at the top? A popular Chinese adage goes like this:

Liángyàokǔkǒu lìyú bìng.
Good medicine tastes bitter, but it’s beneficial for fighting the disease.

And the matching line, which delivers the main point, is:

Zhōngyánnìěr lìyú xíng.
Earnest advice grates on the ear, but it’s beneficial for your conduct.

As mentioned in my 1/18/12 post, (xíng) has several different meanings. Here, it refers to 行为 (xíngwéi behavior, conduct). As many Chinese adages have been passed down through the ages, they are in the form of classical Chinese. You’d simply memorize them as they are written. 良药苦口 (Liángyàokǔkǒu) and 忠言逆耳 (Zhōngyánnìěr) can also be used separately as idoms. You can utter one of these expressions when someone refuses to listen to your sincere advice.

针灸 (zhēnjiǔ acupuncture and moxibustion) can be helpful in relieving certain symptoms. However, it involves poking needles into the body, and it’s important that the needles be properly sterilized. The practitioner must insert the needle at the correct point, in the correct direction and to the correct depth. If you choose to receive acupuncture treatment, make sure it is provided by a certified physician at an accredited clinic. .

指压 (zhǐ yā acupressure) involves applying pressure to the acupuncture points. It’s similar to massaging and is generally safe to administer to yourself if you are not a child, not pregnant and don’t have a severe health problem, such as a heart condition. The Internet is filled with information about such Asian bodywork therapies. What interests us here is that (zhǐ) means fingers, or to point to, or to indicate, and (yā) means pressure, or to press.

Ěrmíng yào yā nǎli?
For tinnitus, where should one press?

My own experience is that gently pressing on the depression located a little above the tragus makes the ringing go away. However, if the ringing is intense, frequent or prolonged, you’d better get checked out by a physician for possible problems with the ears, the head or the heart.

The sick radical

The flu season is arriving late this year. Hopefully it will leave sooner than usual. 感冒 (gǎnmào) is to have a common cold, and 流行 (liúxíng) means widespread, in vogue or trendy. Therefore, the flu is called 流行感冒 (liúxíng gǎnmào) in Chinese.

Xiànzài zhèzhǒng duǎnkù hěn liúxíng.
Right now this kind of shorts are very popular.

Tā ài tīng liúxíng gēqǔ.
She loves listening to pop songs.

Wǒ dé le liúxíng gǎnmào.
I have the flu.

An epidemic disease is called 流行病 (liúxíngbìng). If you see any word with the (nè sick) radical, you’ll know it is associated with some kind of physical or mental illness, disease or pain.

A disease or illness is referred to as (bìng), 疾病 (jíbìng), or (zhèng). For example, 心脏病 (xīnzàngbìng) is heart disease.

生病 (shēngbìng) means to fall ill. 症状 (zhèngzhuàng) are the symptoms of a disease.

疾苦 (jíkǔ) means hardship or suffering. (jí) also means speedy. Therefore, 疾风 (jífēng) is a strong wind.

我不舒服. 头有点儿疼.
Wǒ bù shūfu. Tóu yǒudiǎnr téng.
I don’t feel well. My head hurts a bit.

(tòng) and (téng) both mean pain or painful.

疫苗 (yìmiáo) is a vaccine. 肝炎疫苗 (gānyán yìmiáo) is hepatitis vaccine. The character (yán) contains one fire character on top of another. It means scorching hot, or an inflammation. Therefore, 肺炎 (gānyán) is pneumonia, and 皮肤炎 (pífūyán) is inflammation of the skin.

冻疮 (dòngchuāng) is a frostbite, (zhěn) is a rash, and (zhì) is a mole. (tán) is phlegm.

肿瘤 (zhǒngliú) is a tumor. 良性肿瘤 (liángxìng zhǒngliú) is a benign tumor. 恶性肿瘤 (èxìng zhǒngliú) is a malignant or cancerous tumor. (ái) is cancer. 肺癌 (fèiái) is lung cancer, 肝癌 (gānái) is cancer of the liver, etc.

Now, a couple diseases of the mind. (fēng) is pronounced the same as wind, but with the “sick” radical, it means to be insane or crazy. 疯狂 (fēngkuáng) is to be frenzied.

你疯了? (fēng)
Nǐ fēng le?
Are you out of your mind?

(chī) means to be idiotic, or to be crazy about or obsessed with someone or something. 痴心 (chīxīn) means infatuation.

I’ll leave you with this Chinese adage to think about.

祸从口出; 病从口入.
Huòcóngkǒuchū; bìngcóngkǒurù.
Trouble stems from what comes out of your mouth; illness starts from what goes into your mouth. (Trouble comes from what you say; illness comes from what you eat.)

The clothes radical

It’s easy to confuse the “altar radical” with the “clothes radical”. The “clothes radial” distinguishes itself by having on the side two short strokes instead of one. If you examine the character (yī clothes, garment), it should be easy to see why.

龙袍 (lóng páo dragon gown) or 黄袍 (huáng páo yellow gown) is the splendid yellow robe worn by ancient Chinese emperors. 长袍 (chángpáo) is a long gown worn by Chinese gentlemen. For formal occasions, you will often see them wearing a 马褂 (mǎguà a vest or a short jacket) over the long gown. 旗袍 (qípáo cheongsam) is a lady’s body-hugging dress with a high collar and a slit skirt.

Shirts are called 衬衫 (chènshān), and sleeves are called (xiù) or 袖子 (xiùzi). Trousers or pants are called (kù) or 裤子 (kùzi). Similarly, skirts are called (qún) or 裙子 (qúnzi). If you wish to purchase a pair of socks, then ask for 袜子 (wàzi).

(bǔ) means to mend, to make up, to replenish, to nourish, or to enhance and strengthen. How about using “boost” as a mnemonic for this word? 补充 (bǔchōng) is to replenish. As an adjective, it means supplementary. 补课 (bǔkè) is to make up a missed lesson. 修补 (xiūbǔ) is to mend or repair.

充裕 (chōngyù abundant, ample) is interchangeable with 充足 (chōngzú ample, sufficient).

包袱 (bāofu) is a bundle wrapped in cloth. Now that manufactured bags are readily available, few people would bundle things up in a cloth-wrapper to carry around with them. This term is mostly used to refer to a mental or emotional burden.

被褥 (bèirù) refers to bedding. A quilted comforter is called 被子 (bèizǐ). A blanket is called 毯子 (tǎnzi).

(bèi) is also used in conjunction with transitive verbs to indicate the passive voice in a sentence. We have seen a few examples of such sentences in my 7/6/11 blog post.

褴褛 (lánlǚ) means shabby.

Nàge qǐgài yī shān lánlǚ.
That beggar looks shabby.

I think, after a hard day’s work or studying, you will appreciate the carefree sentiment expressed in this most delightful song, “晚霞满渔船” (Wǎnxiá Mǎn Yúchuán A Boatful of Evening Glow).

The lyrics were written by, 严友梅 (Yán Yǒuméi), a well-known writer who contributed much to children’s literature in Taiwan. Among her works is a Chinese translation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. In this recording by 刘文正 (Liú Wénzhèng), the (ā ah, oh) sound comes across nicely in the singer’s male voice. For a female voice, you may find the original (wū ooh) sound,as in John Lennen’s “Woman”, more pleasing.

轻风 (qīngfēng) a light breeze
(chuī) blow
(piāo) to flow or to flutter
衣衫 (yī shān), or 衣服 (yīfu), or 衣裳 (yīshang), clothes, garment
临流 (lín liú) facing the current
垂钓 (chuídiào) angling
夕阳 (xīyáng) evening sun (we learned this word on 1/28/12)
天边 (tiānbiān) at the boundary of the sky, i.e. on the horizon.
彩云 (cǎi yún) colorful clouds
绚烂 (xuànlàn) splendid
四野 (sìyě) surrounding open country, (sì) referring to all four directions.
炊烟 (chuīyān) smoke from cooking
(qǐ) to rise, to get up or to start
(mù) to herd
(guī) to return
走过 (zǒu guò) walking past
杨柳 (yángliǔ) willow
(àn) riverbank or seashore
You know that (lè) means being happy. 陶然 (táorán) is a literary expression describing a state of being carefree.
晚霞 (wǎnxiá) evening glow
(mǎn) full
渔船 (yúchuán) fishing boat

As a tribute to the memory of 严友梅 (Yán Yǒuméi), whom I had the honor of meeting once in my childhood, here is my singable English translation of her beautiful verses:

Gentle breezes flutter my loose hems.
I sink the line and watch the sun descend.
Chimney smoke soars to meet the tinted sky;
A homeward calf leaves the willowed riverside.
Ooh …
Ooh ….
Glad and free, I sing and tow away
The glow of sunset, my catch of the day.

The altar radical

(shì) means to instruct, to show, to indicate or to give a sign. This character assumes the shape of an altar. Therefore, many words related to deities, ancestors, worship, cemonies and blessings take on this radical.

(shén) refers to deity or divinity. It also means magical, such as in 神奇 (shénqí miraculous).

祈祷 (qídǎo) is to say one’s prayers.

Wǒ xiàng tiānshén qídǎo.
I pray to God in Heaven.

祖宗 (zǔzōng) is one’s ancestry or forefathers. 祭祀 (jìsì) is to worship and offer sacrifice to gods or ancestors. Many Chinese families still perform rituals to pay respect to their ancestors on the major holidays.

宗教 (zōngjiào) refers to religions, such as, in alphabetical order, 佛教 (Fójiào Buddhism), 天主教 (jīdūjiào Catholicism), 基督教 (jīdūjiào Christianity), 回教 (huíjiào Islam), 犹太教 (yóutàijiào Judaism), and 道教 (dàojiào Taoism).

礼仪 (lǐyí) are rites and protocols.

社会 (shèhuì) means society. 社会学 (shèhuìxué) is sociology.

Shèhuì shàng yǒu xǔduō jiànyìyǒngwéi de rén.
In the society there are many who are ready to take up the cudgel for a just cause.

(jìn) is to prohibit. Take heed of any sign with this character on it. For example, 禁止入内 (Jìnzhǐ rù nèi) means entry is prohibited.

吉祥 (jíxiáng) means auspicious or propitious. The Chinese love things and creatures that symbolize good luck and good fortune, such as a dragon, a phoenix, a pair of woodducks, or a jade bracelet. The Taiwanese consider the pineapple, 凤梨 (fènglí), auspicious because in the Taiwanes dialect this word sounds the same as “prosperity coming”. This reminds me of one of the delicacies for which Taiwan is famous, namely, the pinapple shortbread called 凤梨酥 (fènglí sū). If you have been deprived of the pleasure of munching on one of those savory bites, click on the above link for an excellent writeup that will give you an idea of how crazy some of us are about this little snack.

(zhù) is to express good wishes. 祝福 (zhùfú) is to give blessing to someone. This word can also be used as a noun. 庆祝 (qìngzhù) is to celebrate.

Zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè!
Happy Birthday to you!

口福 (kǒufú) is a gourmand’s luck. If you are invited by a friend to a delicious dinner, you could say at the table:

Jīntiān wǒ yǒu kǒufú le!
What a delicious treat!

(lù) is the formal word for salary, and connotes income. (xǐ) represents auspiciousness and happiness. These, along with (fú good fortune) and 寿 (shòu longevity) are the four major blessings for the Chinese.

As Valentines day is coming up, a few relevant words seem in order. 表示 (biǎoshì) means to express or to indicate, 暗示 (ànshì) is to suggest or to drop a hint, and 示意 (shìyì) is to send a signal. 求爱 (qiúài beg for love) is to court or woo. 相爱 (xiāng ài) means to love each other. Therefore, within a sentence this word will take on multiple subjects or a pronoun indicating multiple persons. For example,

Tāmen shēn shēn di xiāng ài.
They love each other deeply.

If you have a 心上人 (xīn shàng rén), somebody for whom you have a hot spot in your heart, you might enjoy the song featured in my 3/26/11 blog post. When that person has turned into your spouse, you could call him or her 亲爱的 (qīnài de dear, darling), or 甜心 (tián xīn sweetheart).

If you have a 心上人 (xīn shàng rén), somebody for whom you have a hot spot in your heart, you might enjoy the song featured in my 3/26/11 blog post. When that person has turned into your spouse, you could call him or her 亲爱的 (qīnài de dear, darling), or 甜心 (tián xīn sweetheart), but not 蜂蜜 (fēngmì honey), which, as written, has not yet been adopted as a Chinese term of endearment.

情人 means lover or lovers.

Qíngrén jié kuàilè!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
(Happy Lovers’ Day!)

Good Fortune

Good Fortune (inverted)

It will be five more days before the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration ends officially on the Lantern Festival. (Click here to see instructions for making a simple paper lantern to display on your desk.) It’s not too late for you affix a good luck charm onto your door or one of the walls. One of the four major blessings for the Chinese is good fortune, or (fú). You will often see this symbol displaeddao up side down because the Chinese words for “inverted”, (dào), and “to arrive”, (dào), sound exactly the same. Hence, the inverted (fú) stands for 福到了 (fú dào le), i.e. good fortune has arrived (at this household). To add excitement and animation, the calligrapher will often write the blessings in the “running” style. Trust me, the character in the displayed image is the word (fú), just inverted.

When we have family who love us, friends we get along with, or things we like to eat or work with, we are said to have good fortune. If we appreciate the good fortune and live and behave accordingly, it will likely stay with us. It’s inconceivable why some people willfully turn away from their good fortune. Fate, or 命运 (mìngyùn destiny), probably plays a role.

Last week we talked about the scholar/philosopher, 胡适 (Hú Shì). Among his younger friends was one named 徐志摩 (Xú Zhìmó), who actively promote the form of modern Chinese poetry. Xu Zhimo was born into a well-to-do family. His parents doted on him, gave him the best education and found him a good wife. How this young man managed to turn his own life upside-down was simply beyond comprehension. You can read the whole story by clicking on this link.

Xu Zhimo wrote many romantic poems that were the rage among the young people in his time, and are still much loved today. The beautiful poem, titled 偶然 (ǒurán “By Chance”), features an ingenius play of metaphors. It has been fitted to a few different melodies, and one westernized version can be found at this link.

Click on this link and locate the second poem to see the verses in simplified Chinese.

There are several adjective phrases and adverbial phrases used in this poem. Please read Chapter 10 in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to learn the proper placement of adjective phrases, and Chapters 17 and 18, for the adverbial phrases.

天空里的 (tiānkōng li de) in the sky
一片云 (yī piàn yún) a cloud
偶尔 (ǒuěr) occasionally
投影 (tóuyěng) to project, projection
波心 (bō xīn) center of the waves
不必 (bùbì) need not
讶异 (yà yì) be surprised, to wonder about
(gèng) further more, and also
无须 (wúxū) is a formal way of saying “need not”
欢喜 (huānxǐ)
转瞬间 (zhuǎnshùnjiān) in a blink
消灭 (xiāomiè) perish, to wipe out
踪影 (zōngyǐng) a trace, a shadow
相逢 (xiāngféng) meet by chance
黑夜 (hēiyè) dark night
海上 (hǎishàng) on the sea
方向 (fāngxiàng) direction
记得 (jìde) remember
最好 (zuìhào) best, it would be best
忘掉 (wàngdiào) forget
交会时 (jiāo huì) to cross path
(hù) mutually
(fàng) release
光亮 (guāngliàng) brightness

If you would like to sing this song in English, you could try my translation:

I am a lone cloud drifting in the sky,
Sometimes I stumble on your waves.
Don’t you be frightened, nor excited.
Soon all this shall pass, without a trace.

By chance we meet in the dark night at sea.
You’ll take your way, and I shall keep mine.
Will you remember? Best to forget it –
In that spellbound moment, two fond hearts did shine.

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