Learn the Chinese words for luck and probability

同花大顺 (tónghuā dà shùn)
Royal Flush

命运 (mìngyùn) is a person’s destiny or fate. 运气 (yùnqi) is one’s fortune or luck.

幸运 (xìngyùn) means lucky.

好运 (hǎoyùn) is good luck.

好命 (hǎo mìng) means being a fortunate person.

Tā zhēn hǎo mìng!
He is such a fortunate man!

唉, 运气不好, 有什么办法?
Ài, yùnqi bùhǎo, yǒu shénme bànfǎ?
Oh, well, just my luck; what can I do?

Perhaps the secret to your luck in 2013 is in the stars.

Nǐ shǔyú shénme xīngzuò?
What’s your Zodiac sign?

I know next to nothing about astrology, but I thought it would be fun to learn the names of the 12 signs of the Zodiac as they involve a number of animals and inanimate items. We’ve already learned that is a seat.

牡羊座 (mǔ yáng zuò) Aries, the male goat
金牛座 (jīn niú zuò) Taurus, the golden ox
双子座 (shuāng zǐ zuò) Gemini, the twins
巨蟹座 (jù xiè zuò) Cancer, the giant crab
狮子座 (shīzi zuò) Leo, the lion
处女座 (chǔnǚ zuò) Virgo, the virgin
天秤座 (tiān chèng zuò) Libra, the heavenly scale
天蝎座 (tiān xiē zuò) Scorpio, the heavenly scorpion
射手座 (shèshǒu zuò) Sagittarius, the hunter
魔羯座 (mó jié zuò) Capricorn, the mystical goat
水瓶座 (shuǐ píng zuò)Aquarius, the water bottle
双鱼座 (shuāng yú zuò) Pisces, the pair of fish

One thing I do know is that the odds of a good thing coming your way increase with the efforts you put in to make it happen. For example, if you wish to be able to speak Chinese fluently, your chances of doing so will increase greatly if you immerse yourself in a Chinese-speaking environment or otherwise interact with Chinese-speaking people and read many Chinese articles at your own level or slightly above.

或然率 (huòránlǜ) is the probability of occurrence of an event. In mathematics, probability is called 机率 (jī lǜ) or 概率 (gàilǜ).

In a card game, the probability of getting a pair, or 一对 (yī duì), in a hand is much higher than getting a royal flush, or 同花大顺 (tónghuā dà shùn). This is because there are very many ways to form a pair from a deck of cards and only 4 ways to make a royal flush.

When shooting basketball hoops, or 投篮 (tóu lán), it’s not unlikely for you to make three tries and fail all three times. However, if you try one hundred times, you might actually make a few baskets. This could be due to pure luck or it could be due to the fact that you have figured out from the repeated executions of the same motions how to align your knee, hip and elbow with the basket and how to flick your wrist to make the ball spin into the ring in a graceful arc.

Zhèi wèi qiú yuán de tóu lán mìngzhòng lǜ hěn gāo.
This player has a high shooting proficiency.

By the same token, the probability of your achieving your goal is proportional to the amount of time and effort you put into working toward it. We should work hard and be ready when opportunity knocks. The Chinese saying, 十年磨剑 (shí nián mó jiàn sharpening the sword for 10 years), could be paraphrased as follows:

多做准备, 等待时机来临.
Duō zuò zhǔnbèi, děngdài shíjī láilín.
Be well prepared and wait for the opportunity to come.

Following are a few samples of 2013 New Year’s resolutions:

Wǒ jīnnián juéxīn yào zuò gè gènghǎo de rén,
My new year resolutions are to be a better person,

bǎ zhōngwén xué de gènghǎo,
improve my Chinese,

bìngqiě shùnlì bìyè.
and get graduated.

For “improve my Chinese”, you could also say:

zài zhōngwén fāngmiàn gèngjiā jìnbù
make even more progress with respect to Chinese

Wǒ juédìng jīnnián yào duō zuò xiē yùndòng.
I’ve decided to do more physical exercises this year.

With a resolution made, it takes perseverance, 毅力 (yìlì), and hard work, 努力 (nǔlì), to obtain the anticipated results. A bit of good luck won’t hurt either. May all your wishes come true.

Zhù nǐ xīn xiǎng shì chéng.
May you achieve your heart’s desires.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anthony Bogadek
    Jan 10, 2013 @ 10:55:50

    Hi dear Miss Lin,
    Great post as usual. Oh, it will take me ages to memorize all those Zodiac names!
    I’ve got two points to put to you: (1) a spelling error and (2) a question:
    1. in the introductory “likeabridge” section you have: “How to say lucky in Chinse”:
    It’s “Chinese”, I guess.
    2. about 机 in 机率 (jī lǜ), my Chinese dictionary (mainland China publication) gives 幾率. I would be grateful for your comment.
    Anthony B.


    • likeabridge
      Jan 10, 2013 @ 16:55:10

      Hi Anthony,

      1. Didn’t you know that this is how you spell the word in the Simplified English System?
      Just kidding. Thanks for pointing out the typo. Correction has been made.

      2. Good point raised. In the Simplified Chinese Character System, it is 几率, which is used in Mainland China. 机率 is mostly used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. People on the two sides would argue about which character makes the most sense in this word. In fact, both terms are “unofficial”. 概率 (gàilǜ) is the official math term. I have revised the article accordingly.


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