Learn Chinese word radical – Eye

眼睛 (yǎnjīng)

The formal word for eyes is (mù). In ordinary speech we call the eyes 眼睛 (yǎnjing).

The eyebrow also takes on the “eye” radical. It is called (méi) or 眉毛 (méimao).

(kàn) and (qiáo) both mean to look or to see.

(pàn) is to look forward to, or to long for.

睁开眼 (zhēng kāi yǎn) is to open the eyes, as when one wakes up in the morning.

Tā bù zhēng kāi yǎn.
He will not open his eyes.

In the following sentence, (bù not) is the adverb associated with (kāi). This results in a different meaning.

Tā lèi de zhēng bù kāi yǎn.
He is so tired he cannot open his eyes.

(zhǎ) is to blink.

Tā xiàng wǒ zhǎ zhǎ yǎn.
He winked at me.

打盹 (dǎ dǔn) is to doze off.

睡眠 (shuì mián) means slumber. It is used as a noun.

(xiā) and (máng) both mean to be blind. These words are often used as adverbs to describe how things are done haphazardly or without purpose.

According to an old English proverb, the eyes are the window to the soul.

Yǎnjing shì línghún zhī chuāng.

The song named (chuāng Window) expresses this idea through some cute verses and a lilting melody. Click on “Show more” to see the lyrics in Traditional Chinese characters.

You can find the lyrics in Simplified Chinese characters here.

会说的眼睛 (huì shuō de yǎnjing) means eyes that can talk.

含有 (hán yǒu) means to contain.

多少 (duōshao) can be construed as either “how much” or “quite a bit”, depending on the context. Here it is used to indicate that the eyes convey quite a bit of feelings.

情意 (qíngyì) is tender affection or goodwill.

默默 (mòmò) means quietly or silently, without saying anything

In the context of this song, 相对 (xiāngduì) means facing each other.

欲言又止 (yù yán yòu zhǐ) is a commonly used expression that describes how you have something to say but hesitate because of shyness, concern for the consequence of saying it, or some other reason.

In the second stanza, the singer tries to make out what this pair of affectionate eyes is really trying to say. Is it an encouragement, 鼓励 (gǔlì)? Is it a revelation, 启示 (qǐshì)? Is it the glory of life, 生的光辉 (shēng de guānghuī), or is it the seed of love, 爱的种子 (ài de zhǒngzǐ)?

All things big and small

The Chinese character (dà big, large, major) was derived from the pictograph of a person with legs spread out and arms extended on both sides. On the other hand, the character (xiǎo small, petty, minor) assumes a much humbler form. Knowing these two simple characters, you will only have to learn the other 50% of many of the following expressions.

大摇大摆 (dàyáodàbǎi) describes how a self-satisfied person swaggers.

Tā dàyáodàbǎi de zǒu le jìnlai.
He walked in with a swagger.

大吃大喝 (dàchī dàhē) is to gorge on food, or to have an extravagant meal.

Tāmen dàchī dàhē le sān tiān.
They gluttonized and binged for three days.

The following four expressions can also be used as verbs in a sentence:

大吹大擂 (dàchuīdàlèi) is to make a big noise blowing one’s own horn.

大吵大闹 (dàchǎodànào) is to make a big racket.

大惊小怪 (dàjīngxiǎoguài) is to make a fuss about nothing.

大呼小叫 (dàhūxiǎojiào) is to shout and scream up and down.

大材小用 (dàcáixiǎoyòng) means to place talented people on unimportant jobs, like using top-quality timber for ordinary products.

派他当邮差, 真是大材小用.
Pài tā dāng yóuchāi, zhēnshì dàcáixiǎoyòng.
Assigning him the postman position is truly a waste of talent.

没大没小 (méidàméixiǎo without manners) is an expression used to chide someone who fails to show deference to a superior or a senior person. If you are supposed to bow to a person, but instead give him a pat on the shoulder, then you are guilty of this offense.

On the other hand, 不大不小 (bùdàbùxiǎo) means just the right size.

大同小异 (dàtóngxiǎoyì) means generally the same but with minor differences.

Tāmen de yìjiàn dàtóngxiǎoyì.
Their opinions are essentially the same.

因小失大 (yīnxiǎoshīdà) is the foolish act of trying to save a little only to lose a lot more, or trying to gain a small advantage only to lose a greater opportunity. This expression is usually employed in a friendly advice:

Bùyào yīnxiǎoshīdà.
Keep the big picture in mind.

大大小小 (dàdàxiǎoxiǎo) means “big and small”, or all-inclusive, such as in 各种大大小小的商店 (gèzhǒng dàdàxiǎoxiǎo de shāngdiàn all kinds of shops, large and small).

So, 大街小巷 (dàjiēxiǎoxiàng large streets and small lanes) means everywhere in town.

I believe most people will try to avoid confrontations whenever possible. When there is a big problem, you’d try and turn it into a small problem. And when there is a small issue, you’d try to eliminate it altogether. This spirit is captured in the Chinese adage: 大事化小, 小事化了. (Dàshìhuàxiǎo, xiǎoshìhuàliǎo.)

Find out what 小巫见大巫 (xiǎowūjiàndàwū) means and see if you can think of a situation to which this expression applies. You might want to read the article I posted on 10/31/12.

Learn how to use Chinese words to best another

We humans are competitive by nature. Why, that’s part of our natural survival instinct. What a wonderful world it would be if we could just let all our aggression and physical prowess catapult us to a winning position on the sports arena rather than harm other human beings on the battlefield.

比较 (bǐjiào) means to compare or to compete. It is also used as an adverb that means “rather” or “comparatively”. (bǐ) is a formal word that has the same meaning as 比较 (bǐjiào), plus a few additional meanings, such as “to gesture”, “to be in the proximity of”, and “a ratio”. When announcing a ball game score of, for instance, “5 to 3”, you would say: 5 比 3 (wǔ bǐ sān).

One way to form the comparative of a Chinese adjective is to precede it with 比较 (bǐjiào). For example,

Tā hǎoxiàng bǐjiào yǒushàn.
He seems to be more amicable.

Tā bǐ wŏ gāo.
He is taller than I.

更加 (gèngjiā) means “even more”. It is often abbreviated as (gèng).

Tā bǐ nǐ gèng yǒuqián.
She is even wealthier than you.

With comparison and competition comes frustration. A Chinese saying goes like this:

人比人, 气死人.
Rén bǐ rén, qì sǐ rén.
Trying to measure up to others is totally maddening.

A healthier attitude is expressed in the following idiom:

比上不足, 比下有餘.
Bǐshàngbùzú, bǐxiàyǒuyú.
This may fall short of the best, but it’s still better than the worst.

The superlative is usually formed by preceding the adjective with (zuì).

Wā shì zuì róngyì xué.
Frog style is the easiest to learn.

Probably everyone has heard the following lines at some point:

Good, better, best, never go to rest
’till good gets better, and better, best.

It would be a mouthful to try and translate this adage into Chinese verbatim. No worries. This philosophy has already been condensed into a four-character idiom in Chinese:

Even when you have achieved excellence, still keep improving.

Click on this link to see a video featuring “Anything You Can Do”, a song composed by Irving Berlin for the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun”. See if you can sing the following Chinese lines to the tune of this fun song:

Wúlùn nĭ huì shénme,
No matter what you can do,

Wŏ bǐ nĭ gèng huì.
I can do even better than you.

Wúlùn wŏ zuò shénme,
No matter what I do,

It’s a cinch and doubly good.
(Half the effort brings twice the effect.)

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Now, please calm down and review the usage of (huì to be able to) and other commonly used auxiliary verbs covered in Chapter 16 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

Learn Chinese terms for sports

I thought we’d take a break from Chinese idioms for a while to give some time for the phrases you’ve learned so far to sink in. As everybody’s heart is probably at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, let’s see if we can pick up a few sports-related terms in Chinese.

奥林匹克 (àolínpǐkè) is the transliteration of “Olympic”. The Olympic Games are called 奥运会 (àoyùnhuì), which is an abbreviation of 奥林匹克运动会 (àolínpǐkè yùndònghuì). 运动 (yùndòng) means sports, exercise, motion, movement, or a drive, and (huì) is a meeting or a gathering.

网球 (wǎngqiú) is tennis. It also refers to a tennis ball.
桌球 (zhuōqiú), as you may have surmised, is table tennis, which is also known as 乒乓球(pīngpāngqiú), or ping-pong. This term also refers to the ping-pong balls. The ping-pong paddles are called 乒乓球拍 (pīngpāngqiú pāi).

羽毛球 (yǔmáoqiú) is the game of badminton. It also refers to the shuttlecock. For short, you could say 羽球 (yǔqiú). Notice how (yǔ) looks like a pair of feathered wings.

(lán) is a basket. See the bamboo word radical at the top? Naturally, basketball is called 篮球 (lánqiú). 运球 (yùnqiú) is to dribble, and 带球走步 (dài qiú zǒubù traveling in basketball) is a no-no.

田径 (tiánjìng) is track and field.

跳远 (tiàoyuǎn) is doing a broad jump. 跳高 (tiàogāo) is doing a high jump. 撑竿跳 (chēnggāntáo) is pole-vaulting.

游泳 (yóuyǒng) is to swim. Which style do you think is more difficult, 自由式 (zìyóu shì) or 蝴蝶式 (húdié shì)?

(pái) is a row. This word also serves as a verb that means to arrange in order.
排骨 (páigǔ) are spareribs, literally a row of bones. 牛排 (niúpái) are beefsteaks. I guess 排球 (páiqiú volleyball) is so named because the players stand in rows on either side of the net. Please note that 女排 (nǚ pái) does not mean female ribs, but rather women’s volleyball.

举重 (jǔzhòng) is weight lifting.

比赛 (bǐsài) is a match. You can also use this term as a verb that means to compete in a match. 竞赛 (jìngsài) also means a competition or a contest. Therefore, 球赛 (qiúsài) would be a ball game, and 网球赛 (wǎngqiúsài) would be a tennis match.

At the Olympics, the 冠军 (guàngūn champion) wins a 金牌 (jīnpái gold medal). The 亚军 (yàjūn runner-up) gets a 银牌 (yínpái).

We all know that Michael Phelps has bested his younger competitors at the London Games to add a few more gold medals to his mind-boggling collection of Olympic medals. He now owns 22 of those in all, 18 of which are gold. As my brother puts it, using a well-known Chinese saying,

Jiāng háishì lǎo de là.
In the end, experience beats youth.
(Mature ginger roots are spicier than young ones.)

If you manage to learn all of the above words this week, plus the names of a few other sports not mentioned here, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve a medal for the Olympics of the mind.

Great minds think alike

As a Chinese saying goes,

人同此心, 心同此理.
Rén tóng cǐ xīn, xīn tóng cǐ lǐ.
All human beings have a similar mindset, which follows the same reasoning.

(tóng) means the same, alike, in common, or together.
(cǐ) is the formal Chinese word for “this”.
(lǐ) is short for 道理 (dàolǐ), which means reason, logic, principle, or truth. 有道理 (Yǒu dàolǐ) means “Makes sense.”

Indeed, no matter one is from the Arctic region or the Amazon Basin, we all have the same basic human needs, feelings and aspirations, and follow similar daily routines. We tend to form similar concepts of, and apply the same logic to, many everyday things. This is evident in the many idioms and figurative expressions that have been passed down through generations. And when you see the multitude of Chinese expressions that have nearly exact western equivalents, you are apt to conclude that East and West are of a like mind in many matters.

For instance, the heart is not just a physical entity, one of our internal organs. It has been designated the site of feelings. So, 心疼 (xīnténg) is a heartache, and 心碎 (xīnsuì) means to be heart-broken. Neither has anything to do with a heart disease. Please note that 心疼 (xīnténg) also means to love dearly. I guess one could love so intensely as to get a pang in the heart.

Mǎlì shì Wang xiānsheng xīnténg de nǚér.
Mary is Mr.Wang’s beloved daughter.

会心 (huìxīn) is a meeting of the hearts, as in:

Wǒmén jiāohuàn le yī gè huìxīn de wēixiào.
We exchanged a knowing smile.

一心一意 (yīxīnyīyì) means heart and soul, or single-heartedly, while
三心二意 (sānxīnèryì) is to be of two minds. Here, the oriental heart seems to be somewhat more undecided than the western heart.

One of the meanings of the formal Chinese word is “here”. 心不在焉 (xīnbùzàiyān) means just that – the heart is not here, i.e. absent-minded.

血汗 (xuèhàn) is the equivalent of “blood, sweat and tears”, and 血肉 (xuèròu) means the same as flesh and blood, but in the reverse order.


Zhè shì tā de xuèhàn qián.
This is his hard-earned money.

Like the westerners, the Chinese also refer to that tiny hole in a sewing needle as the eye of the needle, or 针眼 (zhēnyǎn).

不对味 (bù duì wèi) means not to suit one’s taste, both literally and figuratively. For example,

Zhè gēcí yǒudiǎnr bù duì wèi.
The lyrics are not to my taste.

咬牙切齿 (yǎoyáqièchǐ) is to grit one’s teeth in hatred.

Ever since walls came into existence, people have acknowledged that they have ears – 隔墙有耳 (géqiángyǒuěr there are ears on the other side of the wall).

弦外之音 (xiánwàizhīyīn) are overtones or implications.

(zì) means “self”, and (mǎn) means “full”. 自满 (zìmǎn) is to be self-satisfied or overconfident. An extreme case is to become so full of oneself as to forget one’s place, or 得意忘形 (déyìwàngxíng proud beside oneself).

No one has ever seen time as a physical entity, but we all agree that it flies. The Chinese think time flies like an arrow – 光阴似箭 (guāngyīnsìjiàn).

坏蛋 (huàidàn) is an addled egg (a bad guy). And someone who is too slow for you might inspire you to utter (under your breath):

Bèn de xiàng zhī luó.
Dumb as a mule.

If you have learned the material posted at this blog site on 6/27/12 and 7/18/12, you should be able to use the above sentence pattern to come up with the Chinese for “Lazy as a pig.” And be sure to get yourself a copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to see how you can turn the Chinese words that you have learned into meaningful sentences.

The above examples are but a small sample to support the observation that the Chinese people see many things in the same light as the westerners. There are also a number of idioms that are very similar in Chinese and English because they’ve been borrowed from the other language. For example, “以牙还牙. (Yǐyáhuányá.)” is the translation of “A tooth for a tooth.” And, guess what? “早起的鸟儿有虫吃. (Zǎoqǐ de niǎo ér yǒu chóng chī.)” came from “The early bird catches the worm.”

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