Adorn the king with a large tear-drop-shaped precious stone, and one gets the character for jade, or 玉 (yù). The jade symbolizes purity, preciousness, nobility and beauty. This is why it is used in polite written language to represent the word “your”. For example, when writing to one’s grandfather or grandmother, one would often end the letter with:
Jìng zhù yù tǐ ānkāng
Respectfully wishing the best for your health
In fact, to show respect to the reader, the words “I” and “you” are seldom used in a formal or polite Chinese letter; and one has to find ways to rephrase the sentences to get the ideas across without ambiguity.
砖 (zhuān) are bricks, which are common and humble, and quite the opposite of the jade. The Chinese idiom 抛砖引玉 (pāozhuānyǐnyù Cast a brick to attract jade.) was based on a story in which a mediocre poet succeeded in eliciting superb verses from a famous poet by starting a piece of work and letting the latter complete it. Click here for an animated version of this story. So, go ahead and offer your ideas in a brain-storming session. Even if they are not the greatest, they might inspire the group to come up with a valuable solution.
When 玉 (yù jade) is incorporated into a Chinese character as a word radical, the last little stroke is dropped, so that it looks like a “king”, except that the bottom stroke is slightly tilted up. But now you know that it is actually a “jade”. Following are a few examples.
珍 (zhēn) is a treasure. It also means precious, highly valued, or rare. Both this character and the 玉 (yù) character are favorite choices for naming babies, particularly girls.
珍惜 (zhēnxī) is to cherish or treasure something.
Wǒ zhēnxī zhè fèn yǒuqíng.
I cherish this friendship.
珍贵 (zhēnguì) means precious.
Wǒ zhēnxī zhè fèn zhēnguì de yǒuqíng.
I cherish this precious friendship.
袖珍 (xiùzhēn) means pocket-sized, such as in 袖珍字典 (xiùzhēn zìdiǎn pocket dictionary).
珠 (zhū) are beads. It is also the abbreviation for 珍珠 (zhēnzhū pearls). 掌上明珠 (zhǎngshàngmíngzhū) is literally a shiny pearl in one’s palm. This term refers to one’s precious daughter.
泪珠 (lèizhū) are teardrops. 汗珠 (hàn zhū) are drops of sweat.
A number of other jewelry items, or 珠宝 (zhūbǎo), also feature the “jade” radical.
珊瑚 (shānhú) means coral or items made from coral. 玛瑙 (mǎnǎo) is agate. 环 (huán) is a ring, a hoop, or a link in a chain. 耳环 (ěrhuán) are earrings. 环 (huán) also means to encircle or to be surrounded by mountains, such as in 环境 (huánjìng surroundings, circumstances). 污染环境 (wūrǎn huánjìng) means to pollute the environment.
玻璃 (bōli) is glass. A glass tumbler is called 玻璃杯 (bōli bēi). Nylon stockings are called 玻璃丝袜 (bōli sī wà), or 丝袜 (sī wà nylons) for short.
球 (qiú) refers to any spherical object. 地球 (dìqiú) is the earth. The eyeballs are called 眼球 (yǎnqiú) or 眼珠 (yǎnzhū). 有眼无珠 (yǒuyǎnwúzhū with eyes but without eyeballs) is an interesting expression that means lacking perception, failing to discern an essential point, or failing to see an obvious quality or capability in a person you know.
玩 (wán) is to play or to amuse oneself. 好玩 (hǎowán) means interesting or great fun.
Tā xǐhuān wán lánqiú.
He likes to play basketball.
If any of your friends is getting married soon, you might present the new couple with a card bearing these congratulatory words:
Jīnyù Liáng Yuán
Gold and jade, a perfect match.
良 (liáng) is the formal word for “good”, “fine”, or “a good deal of”. 缘 (yuán) has a number of different meanings. It could refer to the edge or fringe of an object, the reason that causes something to happen, or a predestined relationship, which applies in this case.