Phil, the Groundhog, was right. :(


Right after the offcial start date of the spring season, our town woke up to a tranquil snow sceen. It seems old man winter is not yet ready to relinquish his hold on this part of the world. Now I remember that Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow on Groundhog Day last month, and six more weeks of winter weather was to be expected. Oh, well. 下雪 (xiàxuě) means “to snow” or “It snows.”

昨天下了六吋的雪.
Zuótiān xià le liù cùn de xuě.
Yesterday we got 6 inches of snow.

The following verses paint a clear picture of the transition from winter to spring. They are from a children’s song with music by 尹宏明 (Yǐn hóng míng) and lyrics by 沈秉廉 (Shěn Bǐnglián). How many pairs of antonyms (words with opposite meanings) can you pick out from these lines?

春姑娘 Miss Springtime
Chūn Gūniáng

冬老人, 年纪老,
Dōng lăo rén, nián jì lăo,
Old man Winter, very old,

带著冷风慢慢跑.
dài zhe lĕng fēng mànmàn păo.
with the cold wind, bitter and slow.

他不爱花和叶,
Tā bú ài huā hé yè,
He doesn’t like flowers and leaves,

也不爱虫和草.
yĕ bú ài chóng hé căo.
Nor does he like the bugs and grass.

他说: “我来了.
Tā shuō: “Wŏ lái liăo.
He says, “I have come.

你们快睡觉!”
Nĭ men kuài shuì jiào. ”
Now you go to sleep!”

花和叶,虫和草,
Huā hé yè, chóng hé căo,
Flowers and leaves, bugs and grass,

大家都睡了.
dà jiā dōu shuì liăo.
Everyone goes to sleep.

春姑娘, 年纪小,
Chūn gūniáng, nián jì xiăo,
Mis Springtime, in her tender age,

带著暖风轻轻飘.
dài zhe nuăn fēng qīngqing piāo.
With the warm breeze, floats around.

她很爱花和叶,
Tā hĕn ài huā hé yè,
She so loves the flowers and leaves.

也很爱虫和草.
yĕ hĕn ài chóng hé căo.
She also loves the bugs and grass.

她说: “我来了.
Tā shuō: “Wŏ lái liăo.
She says, “I have come.

你们别睡觉.”
Nĭmen bié shuì jiào.”
Please don’t sleep anymore.”

花和叶,虫和草,
Huā hé yè, chóng hé căo,
Flowers and leaves, bugs and grass,

大家都醒了.
dà jiā dōu xĭng liăo.
Everyone wakes from sleep.

This song may be used for a short (and cute) children’s musical play, which I have described in another post.

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The joy of spring

Besides (fú good fortune), (chūn springtime) is another Chinese character that is often displayed upside down because (dào inverted) and (dào arrive) sound exactly the same. The inverted (chūn) represents the arrival of springtime, hence a sense of renewal and happiness.

春季 (chūnjì) is the spring season.
春天 (chūntiān) is springtime.
春节 (Chūnjié) is the Spring Festival, to which the Chinese Lunar New Year is often referred.
春假 (chūnjià) is the spring vactaion.
春光 (chūnguāng) refers to the beautiful sights in springtime.
春风 (chūnfēng) are the balmy breezes in the spring.
You can use 满面春风 (mǎnmiànchūnfēng) or 春风满面 (chūnfēngmǎnmiàn) to.describe a person who is feeling very happy, satisfied and triumphant.

It’s possible to embrace the joy of spring in your heart all year long. If you like, you could download and print out the image showing the crocuses, and make a bookmark, 书签 (shūqiān), out of it. I made mine by laminating the image and using a paper-cutter to cut around it. I then rounded the corners, punched a hole at the top and looped a purple ribbon through the hole. To add interest to the bookmark, you could write the following words on the back before the lamination process.

春天的喜悅 (chūntiān de xǐyuè), the joy of spring.

If classical Chinese is your thing, then:

春之悅 (chūn zhī yuè), the joy of spring.

Let’s sing a traditional Japanese children’s song to welcome the arrival of spring. You can listen to a remix of the tune via this link.

春天来了!
Chūntiān lái le!
Spring is coming!

春天来了!
Chūntiān lái le!
Spring is coming!

春天在哪里?
Chūntiān zài nǎli?
Where does spring reside?

春在高山,
Chūn zài gāoshān,
Spring’s on the mountains,

春在乡里,
Chūn zài xiānglǐ,
Spring’s in the village,

春在田园里!
Chūn zài tiányuán lǐ!
Spring’s on the countryside!

This cute little song features no less than three types of sentences: a simple declarative sentence (repeated), a question, and a compound sentence. It is through simple songs, that we can best learn a language. Think of the nursery rhymes you sang as a kid. You never forget them because those simple verses are easy to internalize. In the book “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, you will find many songs that help you effectively learn Chinese words, expressions and sentence structures.

If you would like to tackle something more challenging, then try this story at Dave Flynn’s site.

Learn the Chinese radical for factory

Apricot Blossoms


The word 鹿 (lù), which means deer, makes use of the 广 (guǎng) radical.

If we remove the tick from the top of 广 (guǎng spaceous), we would get the word (chǎng), which is a factory or a depot.

他在工厂上班.
Tā zài gōngchǎng shàngbān.
He works at a factory.

We already came across the word (yā), which means to press, push down or weigh down. It also means to keep under control or suppress. 压力 (yālì) is pressure or stress, and 气压 (qìyā) is atmospheric pressure.

他的工作压力很大.
Tā de gōngzuò yālì hěn dà.
He incurs much job-related stress.

(lì) is to experience or to undergo. 经历 (jīngl) is one’s past experience. This word can also be used as a verb. 历史 (lìshǐ) is history. 历代 (lìdài) refers to past dynasties.

(chú) or 厨房 (chúfáng) is the kitchen.

我喜欢这位厨师做的菜.
Wǒ xǐhuān zhè wèi chúshī zuò de cài.
I like the dishes prpared by this cook.

(cè) or 厕所 (cèsuǒ) is the labatory or washroom, and 马厩 (mǎjiù) is a stable.

(yuán) means original or unprocessed. 复原 (fùyuán) is to recover from an illness. 原因 (yuányīn) is the cause or reason for something. 原来 (yuánlái) means originally. This expression also refers to the root of a matter.

她原来是我的女友.
Tā yuánlái shì wǒ de nǚ yǒu.
Orignally she was my girlfriend.

原来是这样!
Yuánlái shì zhèyàng!
So, that’s the story! (I didn’t know that. I see it now.)

(yuán) also refers to open country. For example, 草原 (cǎoyuán) are grasslands.

(hòu) means thick, large or generous. (pí) is skin or hide. Therefore, 厚脸皮 (hòuliǎnpí) means thick-skinned or brazen.

(yuán) primary; original; former; unprocessed; raw; excuse; pardon; level; open country; plain; (Yuan2) a surname.

讨厌 (tǎoyàn) means to dislike. It is also an adjective that means disgusting or repugnant.

他脸皮很厚. 真讨厌!
Tā liǎnpí hěn hòu. Zhēn tǎoyàn!
He is so brazen. It’s really disgusting!

(é) is a domesticated goose, while (yàn) is a wild goose. This is the time for the Canada Geese to fly back north, and time for the apricot trees to bloom.

I originally mislabeled the picture displayed above as Almond Blossoms. Then I realized that those branches were trimmed off an apricot tree. Well, although the apricot and almond trees are related but different, it just so happens that they do share the same name in Chinese, (xìng).

So, (xìng) and 杏子 (xìngzi) refer to apricot. 杏仁 (xìngrén) is an apricot kernel or an almond. 银杏 (yínxìng) is a tree named ginkgo.

Roasted sweet almonds are a nutritious treat (unless you are allergic to nuts). You could make a batch for yourself by following the directions at this link.

If you have a sweet tooth, try the recipe at this link . Click on this link to see it in action. As I’m not a fan of eating bits of stuck-on aluminum foil or waxed paper, I let the coated almonds cool down on a couple large, sturdy dinner plates that have been lightly buttered. If you can wait an hour before sampling the almonds, you will be rewarded with a delightful crunchiness. The almonds will taste even better if you put them in a jar and refrigerate them for 30 minutes or longer. A handful a day is plenty. According to traditional Chinese medicine, nuts tend to elevate the levels of one’s 火气 (huǒqì fire in the vitals).

To your health!

Let’s remove the two carbuncles from the “sick” radical, (nè), and make it a benign radical that is used in such words as wellness and celebration.

So, (kāng) and 健康 (jiànkāng) mean well-being and good health. 小康之家 (xiǎokāng zhī jiā) refers to a family that is relatively well-off.

When you make a toast, you’d usually say “Cheers!” or “To your health!”. The Chinese may wish you happiness and/or wellness when they give you their regards at the end of a letter or email message, but they would normally not wish you happiness or health with a toast unless it happens to be your birthday. Instead, when they raise the glass, they might say one of the following:

请! 请!
Qǐng! Qǐng! (Sounds familiar? Chin-chin!)
Please! Please! (Have a drink, a seat, a meal, etc; come in; this way.)

我敬您一杯.
Wǒ jìng nín yī bēi.
I’m respectively giving you a toast.

来! 我们好好儿喝几杯!
Lái! Wǒmen hǎohǎor hē jǐ bēi.
Come! Let’s have a few hearty drinks!
干杯!
Gānbēi!
Bottoms up! (Empty the glass.)

This goes to show that a verbatim literal translation of English to Chinese will often not work. And as Jacob Rhoden noted in his blog posts, even though people in both halves of the world have similar daily routines, they may not go about them with the same mentality.

(qìng) and 庆祝 (qìngzhù) mean celebration or to celebrate.

我们一同庆祝吉米的生日.
Wǒmen yītóng qìngzhù Jímǐ de shēngrì.
We celebrate together Jimmy’s birthday.

(chuáng) is a bed. (zuò), or 座位 (zuòwèi), is a seat. (xí) is a seat or a banquet. 出席 (chūxí) means to attend a meeting, or to be present.

昨天他没有出席.
Zuótiān tā méiyǒu chūxí.
Yesterday he was not present at the meeting.

(fǔ) is a government office, an official residence, or a district. (kù) is a warehouse. 车库 (chēkù) is a garage.

(tíng) is a courtyard. 家庭 (jiātíng) is a family. 法庭 (fǎtíng) is a court of law.

(zhuāng) is a village or manor. In older times, it also refers to a bank. (diàn) is a shop or a store. (miào) is a temple.

The Simplified Chinese character 广 (guǎng) means wide or extensive. Therefore, 广播 (guǎngbō) is to boradcast. 广泛 (guǎngfàn) and 广大 (guǎngdà) are commonly used words that mean vast, wide-spread or pervasive.

这方法有广泛的应用价值.
Zhè fāngfǎ yǒu guǎngfàn de yìngyòng jiàzhí.
This method has genearl applicability.

广场 (guǎngchǎng) is a large open venue, such as a public square.

广岛 (guǎngdǎo) is Hiroshima. 广东 (guǎngdōng) is the Guangdong Province in China.

您说广东话吗?
Nín shuō guǎngdōnghuà ma?
Do you speak the Cantonese dialect?

(Liào) is a Chinese surname. This character may look complicated, but there is a fun rhyme in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” that will help you easily remember how to write it.

Can you think of the name of an animal that makes use of the 广 (guǎng) radical?

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