Happy Moon Festival


It’s that time of the year again – to visit with your family for 中秋节 (Zhōngqiūjié the Mid-Autumn Festival) and savor the 月饼 (yuèbǐng moon cakes). Moon cakes are typically of two varieties, the firm baked pastry moon cakes and the pliable ones made from steamed glutinous rice dough. How to make them? Be forewarned that it’s a time-consuming process (even if you purchase most of the ingredients in packaged, canned or bottled form) then read Christine’s write-up on Traditional Mooncakes. As a bonus, take a look at her Chinese version of the same recipe and try to figure out the Chinese terms with the help of the English version. If you don’t have the special mold for making moon cakes, you could use your palm to pat down the filled moon cake balls so they’re about the size and shape of a typical moon cake. If you have a cookie stamp handy, you could use it to imprint some patterns on the moon cakes before baking.

For those who are far away from their family, the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival may deepen the feeling of homesickness and nostalgia. This sentiment is best captured in a composition by one of the most talented literary giants in ancient China, 苏轼 (Sū Shì) of the Sung Dynasty. Following is the line from this composition that has been quoted so often that it has become a cliché:

但愿人长久,
Dànyuàn rén chángjiǔ,
Hope you and I will stay alive and well,

千里共婵娟.
qiānlǐ gòng chánjuān.
so we may continue to share this beautiful moon though we are far apart.

但愿 (dànyuàn) means “I only wish that …” or “I wish …”. You could also say 希望 (xīwàng I hope), or 只希望 (zhǐ xīwàng I only hope).

长久 (chángjiǔ) means for a long time.

千里 (qiānlǐ) indicates a very long distance. 千里眼 (qiānlǐyǎn) is clairvoyance.

(gòng) is to share or to do something together, or to have something in common. This word can also be used as an adverb that means “altogether”.

他们两个共喝了五瓶啤酒.
Tāmen liǎnggè gòng hē le wǔ píng píjiǔ.
The two drank five bottles of beer in all.

(chán) and (juān) both mean beautiful and graceful. 婵娟 (chánjuān) refers to the moon, or the beautiful fairy, 嫦娥 (Chángé), who is believed to live on the moon with her pet rabbit.

As a matter of fact, the expression 但愿人长久 (Dànyuàn rén chángjiǔ) is imbedded in the song titled 月满西楼 (Yuè mǎn xī lóu) – Click on this link to hear the song. The verses were written by the very popular romance writer 琼瑶 (Qióngyáo). The music was composed by 刘家昌 (Liú Jiāchāng). The performing artist is 甄妮 (Zhēn Nī). Click here for the lyrics in Simplified Chinese characters.

(mǎn) means full or to be filled with. It also means to be satisfied or conceited. 西 (xī) is the west side. (lóu) is a multi-storied building, or one of its stories. The (yuè moon) in the title of this song refers to the moonlight that shines on and fills the western pavilion.

正是 (zhèngshì) means “precisely”. The setting for this song is right at the time when the flowers are blooming and the moon is full and round.

(lù) is the dew, and 湿 (shī) means wet or to dampen.
胭脂 (yānzhi) is rouge. It refers to the reddish color of the flowers. (chū) means initial or initially. (tòu) means to seep through or penetrate. Therefore, the second line of the verses describes how the dew is moistening the flowers that are just starting to blush.

殷勤 (yīnqín) means to be attentive to someone. 相守 (xiāng shǒu) means to stay close together with someone. (mò) is the formal word for “don’t”. It means the same as 不要 (bùyào). (ràng) means to let, to allow, or to yield to. 消瘦 (xiāoshòu) is to waste away. So, if you love the flowers, then stay by their side and don’t let them wither away.

(yuán) means “round”.

(xī) is to cherish, as in 爱惜 (àixī), or to have pity on, as in 可惜 (kěxī). There is an error in the printed lyrics for the line: 惜月且殷勤相守 (Xī yuè qiě yīnqín xiāng shǒu). The sun is mentioned instead of the moon.

溜走 (liùzǒu) means to slip away.

(sì) is the formal word for “like”, “appear to be”, or “similar.” 这般 (zhèbān) means “such” or “like this”. 似这般 (sì zhèbān) translates to 像这样的 (xiàng zhèyàng de) in everyday speech. Some artists, like 甄妮 (Zhēn Nī), sing this line with 是这般 (shì zhèbān).

In the last line of the lyrics the second character is missing from 但愿 (dànyuàn).

良辰美景 (liángchénměijǐng) means a wonderful time in a beautiful setting. 蜜意绸缪 (mì yì chóumóu) describes how the lovers are sentimentally attached to each other. This brings us to the ending of the song:

“Oh! Such wonderful ambiance! Such sweet and tender feelings! May the flowers keep blooming, the moon stay full, and we be here forever to enjoy them!”

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè.
Have a happy Moon Festival!

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Learn Chinese word radical – Small Ear

The “small ear” radical, , which is a good graphical representation of the human ear, is officially known as the “mound” radical when it is placed on the left side of a character. When it is placed on the right side of a character, it is known as the “city” radical. You could, if you wish, imagine your ears to be a pair of radar antennas that help determine the location of things within their range.

(péi) is to accompany someone or to keep someone company.

我陪你去.
Wǒ péi nǐ qù.
Let me go there with you.

(suí) means to follow or to go along with someone. When you ask someone what he or she would like to eat or drink, you may get this response: “随便. (Suíbiàn. Whatever is convenient.)”

(duì) is a row of people. 排队 (páiduì) is to form a line, as in a cafeteria.

(fù) is the action of attaching or enclosing something as an appendage. 附和 (fùhè) is to second someone’s opinion. 附近 (fùjìn) means in the vicinity.

他在信里附了一张照片.
Tā zài xìn li fù le yī zhāng zhàopiàn.
He enclosed a photo with the letter.

他家就在附近.
Tā jiā jiù zài fùjìn.
He lives right in the vicinity.

(fáng) as a verb means to guard against someone or something. 防火 (fánghuǒ) means fire-retardant or fireproof. Yes, you guessed it, waterproof is 防水 (fángshuǐ).

A well known Chinese saying goes like this:

害人之心不可有; 防人之心不可无.
Hài rén zhī xīn bùkě yǒu; fáng rén zhī xīn bùkě wú.
Never think of harming others, but do always stay on your guard.

(xiǎn) means dangerous or by a close call. 危险 (wēixiǎn) means dangerous, or danger. 险胜 (xiǎnshèng) means to win by a hair’s breadth.

(lòu) means ugly, crude or otherwise undesirable. In everyday speech, when you want to say that something is ugly or disgraceful, use (chǒu), or 丑陋 (chǒulòu).

(yuàn) could refer to a courtyard, an institute or a government office.

(gé) is to separate or to be separate. 隔壁 (gébì) means next door.

(jì) is a border or a boundary, or that which is between two entities. 国际 (guójì) means international.

You already know that (nà) means “that one”. Following are a few other commonly used Chinese characters featuring the “small ear” radical on the right side.

(bāng) means a nation or a country. Therefore, 友邦 (yǒubāng) refers to a nation that is on friendly terms with one’s own country.

(dū) as a noun refers to the capital or a big city.

(jiāo) or 郊外 (jiāowà) are the suburbs or outskirts of a city.

(xié) or 邪恶 (xiéè) means evil. (xié) also means unorthodox.

(láng) is an official title used in ancient China. Nowadays it is taken to mean a person, usually a male, as in: 新郎 (xīnláng bridegroom), 牛郎 (niúláng, cowherd) and 情郎 (qíng láng lover). An exception is found with 女郎 (nǚláng), which refers to a young woman.

Learn Chinese word radical – Big Ear

(ěr) stands for ears or a thing that looks like ears. Many Chinese characters associated with the ear or hearing take on the word radical (ěr). We often refer to this as the Big Ear radical as there is also a reduced form, which looks like this: . We nickname the latter the Small Ear radical.

You may have heard someone introduce himself or herself to you this way:

我姓陈, 耳东陈.
Wǒ xìng Chén, ěr dōng Chén.
My surname is Chen, the Chen that’s made up of ear and east.

As there are quite a few words pronounced the same as (Chén), naming the components of the character removes the ambiguity.

The everyday word for ears is 耳朵 (ěrduo).

咬耳朵 (yǎoěrduo) does not mean biting someone’s ear. It just appears to be so when you whisper into his or her ear. A more formal word for whispering is 耳语 (ěryǔ). The phrase 交头接耳 (jiāotóujiēěr) aptly describes the act of putting heads close together and speaking into each other’s ears.

悦耳 (yuè’ěr) means pleasing to the ear, while 刺耳 (cìěr) means harsh and grating on the ear.

耳熟 (ěrshú) means to sound familiar.

这名字很耳熟.
Zhè míngzi hěn ěrshú.
This name sounds quite familiar.

耳边风 (ěrbiānfēng) is the wind that passes the ears. It refers to unheeded advice.

她把我的话当作耳边风.
Tā bǎ wǒde huà dàngzuò ěrbiānfēng.
She takes no heed of my words.

If someone gives you good advice, you had better “clean your ears and listen with respectful attention”.

我洗耳恭听.
Wǒ xǐěrgōngtīng.
I’m all ears.

耳环 (ěrhuán) are earrings.

耳鸣 (ěrmíng) is tinnitus or ringing in the ear. If you have a severe case of this affliction, you might want to consult the otolaryngology department, or 耳鼻喉科 (ěrbíhóukē), at your clinic.

白木耳 (báimùěr) is an edible fungus known as “white tree-ear” because of its color and shape and the way it protrudes from the tree bark. 银耳 (yíněr silver tree-ears) is just a prettier name for the same thing. This gelatinous food stuff is often found in a sweet soup served as a dessert. You could also soak the dried tree-ears for 20 minutes or so then chop and add them to a stir-fry to enhance the crunch.

聪明 (cōngmíng) literally means having a keen sense of hearing as well as sharp eyes. This is the Chinese word for being intelligent or smart.

The formal Chinese word for “to hear” is (wén). So, 新闻 (xīnwén) means news. In everyday speech, we use (tīng) as the word for hearing or listening to something. 听话 (tīnghuà) means to heed someone’s words or to obey someone (like your parents). I’d like to point out here that the corresponding traditional Chinese character is (tīng), which clearly shows that listening involves one’s ears, not one’s mouth.

我听到一个奇怪的声音.
Wǒ tīng dào yī gè qíguài de shēngyīn.
I hear a strange sound.

Please note that, in everyday speech, (wén) means to smell.

我闻到一个奇怪的气味.
Wǒ wén dào yī gè qíguài de qìwèi.
I smell a strange odor.

(liáo) as a verb means to chat, as in 聊天 (liáotiān chitchat). This is what you might tell your friend or neighbor:

有空过来聊聊天.
Yǒu kòng guòlái liáo liáotiān.
Come over for a chat when you have some free time.

The extra (liáo) in the above sentence imparts a tone of friendliness and familiarity.

(lóng) means to be deaf or hard of hearing. In this case, a 助听器 (zhùtīngqì hearing aid) might be of help.

How to say seeing is believing in Chinese

(kàn) and (jian) both mean to see or to look.
看见 (kànjian) is to catch sight of someone or something. You could also say 看到 (kàndào catch sight of), as in:

我看到一只老鹰.
Wǒ kàndào yī zhī lǎoyīng.
I saw a hawk.

偷看 (tōukàn) is to view surreptitiously.

他偷看了我的日记.
Tā tōukàn le wǒde rìjì.
He has peeped in my diary.

Certain things look good or interesting, such as pretty girls, beautiful scenery or good movies. You would describe them as 好看 (hǎokàn). Unsightly, ugly or embarrassing things are said to be 难看 (nánkàn).

How pleasing or repulsive something is, you could best make your own judgement by seeing it for yourself.

百闻不如一见.
Bǎiwénbùrúyījiàn.
Seeing it once for yourself beats hearing it a hundred times from others.
(Seeing is believing. A picture is worth a thousand words.)

看不惯 (kànbuguàn) means to frown upon. Here, (guàn) is the abbreviation for 习惯 (xíguàn habit, being used to).

他看不惯她的懒惰.
Tā kànbuguàn tāde lǎnduò.
He frowns upon her laziness.

看不起 (kànbuqǐ) is to look down upon or be scornful of someone or something. On the other hand, 小看 (xiǎokàn) is to underestimate someone or someone’s achievements.

It’s been observed that dogs tend to fawn on well-dressed gents and growl at people in shabby clothes. Here’s a saying that you could precede with 哼! (Hng! Humph!):

狗眼看人低.
Gǒuyǎnkànréndī.
What a snob – like a dog!
(Who does he think he is!)

看中 (kànzhòng) or 看上 (kànshang) means to take a fancy or to settle on someone, like a pretty girl, or something, like a new house.

看作 (kànzuò) or 看成 (kànchéng) means “to regard as”. When you regard something as not what it is, then this action word means “to mistake for”.

他把泳看成冰.
Tā bǎ yǒng kànchéng bīng.
He thought the Chinese character for swimming was that for ice.

When you discern someone’s true feelings or ulterior motive, you could use anyone of these words to indicate that you’ve seen through the veil:

看破 (kànpò)
看出 (kànchū)
看穿 (kànchuān)
看透 (kàntòu)

看法 (kànfa) is a point of view. This word is used as a noun.

你的看法怎么样?
Nǐ de kànfa zěnmeyàng?
What’s your opinion?

Alternatively, you could say:

你看怎么样?
Nǐ kàn zěnmeyàng?
What do you think?

你看怎么办?
Nǐ kàn zěnme bàn?
In your opinion, what should we do?

In the above sentences, (kàn) takes on the meaning of “to think” or “to consider”.

看望 (kànwang) is to visit someone.

看病 (kànbìng) means to see a doctor. This same verb is also used when talking about a doctor seeing his patients.

盼望 (pànwàng) is hope for or to look forward to. 望眼欲穿 (wàngyǎnyùchuān) means to fix your eyes looking forward to something intently. In other words, you are peeling your eyes waiting for a letter, a loved one’s safe return, etc.

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