The Chinese character for a mountain is 山(shān). It is quite easy to memorize if you visualize the three vertical strokes as three mountain peaks. 丘(qiū) is the Chinese word for a mound or a small hill. However, the Chinese equivalent of the idiom “making a mountain out of a molehill” involves neither the mountain nor the hill.
Nǐ bùyào xiǎotídàzuò.
Don’t make a big deal out of nothing.
Nevertheless, to the Chinese, mountains do signify weight and importance. 泰山(Tàishān) is a well-known mountain in China. In older times, one would refer to one’s father-in-law as 泰山(tàishān).
靠山(kàoshān) is a patron or a backer, where 靠(kào) means to lean on, to depend on or to be nearby.
The Chinese word for camellia is 山茶(shānchá), although this plant is not related to the tea plant used for beverage.
Goats are called 山羊(shānyáng), and leopard cats are called 山貓(shānmāo).
山村(shāncūn) is a mountain village. 山地(shāndì) is a mountainous territory. There’s where you might hear people sing 山歌(shāngē folk songs).
We already know that 山谷(shāngǔ) is a valley. The foot of a hill is called 山腳(shānjǎo). 山坡(shānpō) is the hillside. 山洞 (shāndòng) is a cave. 山頂(shāndǐng) is the top of a mountain. It’s not fun when there is a landslide, or 山崩(shānbēng).
Shānmāo duǒ zài shāndòng lǐ.
The leopard cat is hiding in the cave.
山水(shānshuǐ) refers to a scenery consisting of mountains and rivers. A landscape painting is called 山水畫(huà).
江(jiāng) is a river. It is also a common surname. 江山(jiāngshān) can be construed as a landscape, but often this term is used to refer to the country encompassing the geographic features, or to the power of ruling over the land.
These two are straightforward: 火山(huǒshān) is a volcano, and 冰山(bīngshān) is an iceberg.
A solemn pledge of undying love is called 山盟海誓(shānménghǎishì) or 海誓山盟(hǎishìshānméng). The idea is that one’s love would last forever like the mountains and the seas.
Confucius once said:
Zhì zhě yào shuǐ, rén zhě yào shān.
The wise take to the waters; the benevolent take to the mountains.
In this ancient statement, 樂 is pronounced as “yào” and means to enjoy or to delight in. As water is associated with movement, fluidity and liveliness, it fittingly represents intelligence and wisdom. On the other hand, mountains are envisioned as stable and calm. They have become a symbol for kindness, tolerance and stability.
What Confucius meant was “to each his own”, or 人各有志 (rén gè yǒu zhì), but when I first heard of this saying as a child, I seriously tried to figure out which of these two types of people I belonged to. So, which do you like better, hills and mountains or rivers and oceans?
It will be Earth Day next Monday. As we look around at our beautiful surroundings, let’s think about what each of us can do to help protect and preserve our planet.
环境 (huánjìng) is the environment or the surroundings. 保护(bǎohù) means to protect. Therefore, environmental protection is 環境保护 (huánjìng bǎohù), or 環保 (huán bǎo) for short.
Bùyào pà; yǒu wǒ bǎohù nǐ.
Don’t be afraid; I’m here to protect you.