What is Qi? (1)

Qi is the vital energy that circulates in our body. It is the life force, the stamina, that propels our actions. It is the impetus that powers our thoughts and feelings. It is the aura around us that affects how we appear to other people. It also stands for the gases found in the atmosphere as well as the scents and vibes of our surroundings. (qì) is all-pervasive and therefore deserves our special attention.

Physical Qi

As a tangible physical substance, (qì) refers to gases, smells, odours and breaths.

氧气 (yǎngqì) is oxygen, and 氮气 (dànqì) is nitrogen.
体操 (tǐcāo) are physical exercises. Therefore, 有氧体操 (yǒu yǎn tǐcāo) are aerobic exercises.

毒气 (dúqì) means a poisonous gas.
蒸气 (zhēngqì) is steam.
气缸 (qìgāng) is an air cylinder.
气动 (qìdòng) means air-powered.

Do not confuse (qì gas) with (qì), which has the water radical on the left side and refers to a fluid, such as 汽水 (qìshuǐ soda drink) and 汽油 (qìyóu gasoline). Cars, being gasoline-powered, are called 汽车 (qìchē).

So, which character would you fill this blank with? ____球 (qìqiú) balloon.

Our sensation of the gases is called 气味 (qìwèi), which are smells, odors or flavors.
香气 (xiāngqì) means good smell, aroma, or fragrance. 臭气 (chòuqì) is a bad smell or a stench.

When you come across an adjective, such as (xiāng fragrant), you will naturally wonder what the opposite word is. In the book, “Learn chinese through Songs and Rhymes”, many commonly used adjectives are presented alongside their antonyms.

Ambient Qi

(qì) also refers to the air, the atmosphere, the weather and the environment.

空气 (kōngqì) is the air we breathe.
大气 (dàqì) is the atmosphere.
天气 (tiānqì) means the weather.
冷气 (lěngqì) means cold air, or air conditioning. Cold air is construed as unfavorable.
冷气机 (lěngqì jī) is an air conditioner.

Tā dào chōu yī kǒu lěngqì.
He gasped.

景气 (jǐngqì) refers to the economic environment. There are no gases or steams involved here. 景气好 (jǐngqì hǎo) describes prosperity and boom. 景气不好 (jǐngqì bù hǎo) describes poor economy.

Physiological Qi

元气 (yuánqì) means vitality or stamina. The Chinese believe that vital energy circulates in the human body along paths called meridians. Think of the acupuncture points as waypoints on a route, at which one could attempt to influence the flow of vital energy via stimulation. Where there is a deficiency, we seek to augment the energy; where there is an excess, we seek to release it; where there is a blockage, we seek to remove it.

气色 (qìsè) refers to one’s facial appearance, which is believed to reflect one’s health or emotional status.

Nǐ jīntiān qìsè hěn hǎo.
You look great (in the sense of being healthy and vigorous) today.

Niánqīngrén xiěqìfānggāng.
Young people are full of fresh vigor.

力气 (lìqi) is one’s physical strength.

Tā de lìqi hěn dà.
He has great muscular strength.

气功 (qìgōng) is a system of exercises that emphasizes deep breathing techniques.

气管 (qìguǎn) is the windpipe. 气喘 (qìchuǎn) is asthma, but 喘气 (chuǎnqì) means to pant, as when one runs out of air.

嗳气 (ǎiqì) or 打嗝 (dǎgé) means to belch.

“Not yet” in formal Chinese

Like (bú), (wèi) is an adverb that confers opposite meaning to the ensuing word. Whereas (bú) means “not”, “not to”, or “not willing to”, (wèi) means “not yet”, “have not” or “did not”, and concerns the incomplete state of an action. (wèi) is a formal way of saying 还没有 (hái méiyǒu) or 还没 (hái méi).

未知 (wèizhī) means unknown. In mathematics, the unknown quantity is called the 未知数(wèizhīshù). This term is also used in common parlance to refer to something unknown and out of one’s control.

Tā de zhèngzh qiántú háishìyīgè wèizhīshù.
The future of his political career is still uncertain.

闻所未闻( wénsuǒwèiwén) is a formal phrase that means “unheard-of”. It’s interesting that, as a verb, (wén) means both to hear and to smell. In everyday speech, we use (wén) for smelling, and (tīng) for hearing. Therefore, the casual way to say “never heard of” is: 没听说过(Méi tīngshuō guò).

前所未有 (qiánsuǒwèiyǒu) is a formal phrase that means “unprecedented”. The casual way to say this is: 从来没有过(cónglái méiyǒu guò).

结婚(jiéhūn) means to get married. 已婚(yǐhūn) means being already married. 未婚(wèihūn) means not yet married, or single.

丈夫(zhàngfū) is a husband, and 妻子(qīzi) is a wife. 夫妻(fūqī) means husband and wife. Therefore, being not yet married, the fiancé is called 未婚夫(wèihūnfū), and the fianceé is called 未婚妻(wèihūnqī).

未来(wèilái) means the future, or in the future.

成年(chéngnián) is being grown-up. 成年人(chéngniánrén) refers to an adult. So, 未成年(wèichéngnián) means underaged.

未老先衰(wèilǎoxiānshuāi) is a phrase used to describe a person who seems to be prematurely senile and weak.

未免(wèimiǎn) is a commonly used adverb that means “rather” or “a bit too”.

你这样做, 未免太过分了.
Nǐ zhèyàng zuò, wèimiǎn tài guòfèn le.
What you did was a bit too much (inappropriate or unkind).

未必 (wèibì) means “not necessarily”.

这样做, 未必可行.
Zhèyàng zuò, wèibì kěxíng.
Doing it this way may not necessarily work.

(mèi), having the sun obscured by the (wèi) character, connotes haziness or concealment. It’s pronounced the same as the character for a younger sister, (mèi).

昧着良心(mèi zhe liángxīn) or 昧心(mèixīn) refers to doing something unscrupulously, or against one’s conscience.

冒昧(màomèi) is being impudent or taking the liberty to do something that may inconvenience someone else.

愚昧(yúmèi) is a word for describing someone as being foolish and ignorant.

暧昧(àimèi) means ambiguous, dubious or shady.

The sun radical

As the Chinese saying goes,

The whole year’s planning hinges on a good beginning in spring.

This adage is particularly applicable to farmers and gardeners. You must first sow before you can reap. If you expect to harvest fresh vine-ripened tomatoes in late August, 八月 (bā yuè), or early September, 九月 (jiǔ yuè), then this is a good time to get a few tomato starts going. Tomatoes are called 番茄 (fānqié) in Chinese.

You’ll notice that there is a sun in the character (chūn). Let’s talk about the sun radical, (rì), in hopes of coaxing the sun out of its hiding.

The word (rì) can mean the sun, the day, daytime, or daily, while 太阳 (tàiyáng) specifically refers to the sun or sunshine. Solar energy is called 太阳能 (tàiyáng néng), while luorescent lamps are called 日光灯 (rìguāngdēng sunlight lamp).

(zǎo) and 早晨 (zǎochén) mean early morning.
(xiǎo) is day-break. It also means to know, as in 晓得 (xiǎodé).

Wǒ xiǎodé le.
Got it. (I see.)

时间 (shíjiān) is the time, a duration of time, or a point in time.

(wǎn) means evening, night, late, or junior. (xīng) refers to stars or heavenly bodies.

Wǎnshàng xīngxīng liàngjīngjīng.
At night the stars shine brilliantly.

(chāng) means flourishing. No wonder this character is found in the names of many places and localities. The word 昌盛 (chāngshèng) means prosperous.

(wàng) also means flourishing, but more vigorously than (chāng). You can use the word 旺盛 (wàngshèng) to describe a booming business or the vigor of an athlet.

(yì) has multiple meanings. 容易 (róngyìì) means easy. 交易 (jiāoyì) is a business transaction. 平易 (píngyì) means easy-going or amiable. In classical Chinese, (yì) also means to change or to exchange. 易经 (yìjīng) is The Book of Changes

(nuǎn) and 温暖 (wēnnuǎn) both mean warm.

(zhào) is to shine or to illuminate.

Yángguāng zhào zài wǒ liǎn shàng.
Sunlight is shining on my face.

照相 (zhàoxiàng) is to take a photograph. (xiàng) has multiple meanings. Here, it refers to one’s looks.

晴天 (qíngtiān) is fine, clear, sunny day. Too much of a good thing is not necessarily beneficial. Too much sunshine will result in 旱地 (hàndì dry land).

Try to make sentences using some of the above Chinese words. You have truly learned a word when you are able to incorporate it in a dialog or in your writing.

Chinese antonyms

In the lyrics for the song mentioned in my previous post, we see that 老人 (lăorén old person) and 姑娘 (gūniáng girl or young lady) at at opposite ends of the age spectrum. An old person would be characterized as being of old age, or 年纪老 (nián jì lăo), and a young person, as being at a young age, or 年纪小 (niánjì xiăo).

Tā de niánjì tài xiăo, bù shìhé zuò zhè gōngzuò.
He is too young for this job.

不适合 (bú shìhé) means not befitting.

年青 (niánqīng) also means young, whereas 青年 (qīngnián) refers to a youth. 年轻人 (niánqīngrén) refers to young people in general. An older and wiser person can often be heard to remark:

年轻人, 不懂事.
Niánqīngrén, bù dǒngshì.
These young people; they don’t know what they’re doing.
These young people; they don’t know what’s proper.
(The rashness and folly of youth.)

(màn slow, slowly) is the opposite of (kuài quick, quickly).

冷风 (lĕng fēng) is cold wind, while 暖风 (nuăn fēng) is warm wind. 冷笑 (lěngxiào) is to sneer or to grin with dissatisfaction or bitterness. 温暖的微笑 (wēnnuǎn de wēixiào) is a warm and congenial smile.

不爱 (bú ài not to love) is the antonym of (ài to love). In fact, you can add (bú) to any adjective to form its antonym.

How is this for a description of a character in a novel?

Tā bù gāo bù ǎi, bú pàng bú shòu.
He is neither tall nor short, and neither fat nor thin.

青春 (qīngchūn) is one’s youth or youthfulness, while 晚年 (wǎnnián) is one’s old age. Click on this link to watch the kids perform a lively Xinjiang folksong.

This song talks about the sun going down now and rising again tomorrow.
The sun is called 太阳 (tàiyáng).
下山 (xiàshān) is to go down the mountains.
爬上来 (pá shànglai) is to climb up.

Another observation is that the flowers withering now will blooming again next year.
花谢了. (huā xiè le) means the flowers have withered.
花开了. (huā kāi le) means the flowers have burst into blooms.

Then there is mention of a pretty little bird that has flown away, no trace of it to be found.
飞去 (fēi qù) means to fly away.
回来 (huílái) means to come back.

Finally, one’s youth is likened to the bird that will never return. Rejoice, while we are still young (some of us perhaps a century young)!

Eértóngjié kuàilè!
Happy International Children’s Day!


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