Lead as a Chinese Polyphone

When you see the word “lead” out of context, you might interpret it to mean a clue or the action of guiding. Or you might conjure up a piece of heavy metal in your mind. Words that look identical but are pronounced differently and have different meaningas are called polyphones. In Chinese these are called 破音字 (pò yīn zì).

It just so happens that the Chinese word for “to lead” is also a polyphone. However, as you will find out below, its “alterego” is not a heavy metal.

(shuài) as a verb means to lead or to guide.

率领 (shuàilǐng) means to lead or to head a group. The leader is called 领袖 (lingxiù).

向导率领我们走过木桥.
Xiàngdǎo shuàilǐng wǒmén zǒu guò mù qiáo.
The guide led us across the wooden bridge.

统率 (tǒngshuài) means to command and lead (a troop). 统率三军 (tǒngshuài sānjūn) is to command and lead the three armed services. This duty usually falls on the shoulders of the president of a nation.

率先 (shuàixiān) means to take the lead in doing something.

他率先表示反对.
Tā shuàixiān biǎoshì fǎnduì.
He was the first to voice his objection.

表率 (biǎoshuài) is an examplar. This word is used as a noun. It is synonymous with 好榜样 (hǎo bǎngyàng a fine example) and 模范 (mófàn a model).

(shuài) as an adjective means to be hasty or to be forthright. So, 轻率 (qīngshuài) is being rash and careless.

率真 (shuàizhēn) means candid and sincere, and 坦率 (tǎnshuài) means candid and straightforward, while 率直 (shuàizhí) means straightforward and blunt.

我喜欢她坦率的为人.
Wǒ xǐhuān tā tǎnshuài de wéirén.
I like her candid and straightforward ways.

(lǜ) is a rate, a ratio or a proportion.

速率 (sùlǜ), or 速度 (sùdù), is the speed or velocity.

频率 (pínlǜ) means frequency. It can be the frequency of radio waves, or the frequency of occurrence of an event.

成人的正常呼吸频率约每分钟 12 次.
Chéngrén de zhèngcháng hūxī pínlǜ yuē měi fēnzhōng shí èr cì.
The normal respiratory rate in adults is about 12 breaths (times) per minute.

效率(xiàolǜ) is efficiency.

他做事缺乏效率.
Tā zuòshì quēfá xiàolǜ.
He lacks efficiency in doing jobs.

Sing “It’s A Small World After All” in Chinese

The Globe

The Globe


It’s a ball! It’s a globe! It’s our world! As the surface of the earth approximates a sphere, it is logical to use the latitude-longitude coordinate system as a location reference.

We already know that the earth is called 地球 (dìqiú). 纬度 (wěidù) is the latitude , while 经度 (jīngdù) is the longitude. Therefore, a north latitude would be given as 北纬 (běiwěi), while a south latitude would be given as
南纬 (nánwěi). Similarly, the east longitude is 东经 (dōngjīng), and the west longitude is 西经 (xījīng).

迪斯尼乐园位于北纬33度48分, 西经117度55分.
Dísīní Lèyuán wèiyú běiwěi 33 dù 48 fēn, xījīng 117 dù 55 fēn.
Disneyland is located at 33-48 N and 117-55 W.

Each one of us is at an intersection of a latitude line (parallel), or 纬线 (wěixiàn), and a longitude line (meridian), 经线 (jīngxiàn). A miniscule speck indeed. We are so 渺小 (miǎoxiǎo tiny, insignificant) compared to the entire world, or 世界 (shìjiè).

The good news is that technology has shortened the distance between countries and groups of people. Whereas just a century ago, a Chinese peasant might have to travel on foot for three days to attend a relative’s wedding celebration, nowadays you could fly to any city in the world in less than 24 hours. The world has shrunk, so to speak. The Walt Disney song, “It’s a Small World After All”, captures this sentiment in a happy tune. The Chinese version at this link relays many positive messages.

不管 (bùguǎn) means “regardless of” or “no matter”.
分种族 (fēn zhǒngzú) is to differentiate by race.
阶级 (jiējí) means social class.
充满 (chōngmǎn) means to be filled with.
友情 (yǒuqíng) is friendship.
甜蜜 (tiánmì) means sweet or a sweet and happy feeling.
昨日 (zuó rì) means the same as 昨天 (zuótiān yesterday).
相隔 (xiānggé) is to be apart (by a distance).
千万里 (qiānwàn li) means ten million miles (i.e. a very long distance).
今天 (jīntiān) means today.
在一起 (zài yīqǐ) means to be together in the same place.
奇妙 (qímiào) means marvelous or amazing.
欢笑 (huānxiào) is to laugh heartily, and 欢呼 (huānhū) is to cheer and hail.
自由 (zìyóu) is freedom.
幸福 (xìngfú) is happiness or wellbeing.
歌唱 (gēchàng) means the same as 唱歌 (chànggē to sing).
相亲相爱 (xiāng qīn xiāng ài) is a phrase commonly used to describe how people get along amicably or lovingly with each other.
互相勉励 (hùxiāng miǎnlì) is also a popular phrase describing how people give each other encouragement and moral support.

Locations in Chinese

Locations, locations, locations. When it comes to renting an apartment or purchasing a house, an important consideration is the location. Like Mencius’ mother, parents want to select a decent and safe neighborhood for their children. Also, homeowners believe that a nice neighborhood will help ensure a good resale price for their house. So it is that a tiny old 公寓 (gōngyù apartment) in a good area, or 好的地区 (hǎo de dìqū), could cost many times more than a brand new 房子 (fángzi house) elsewhere that comes complete with a double-garage and a large backyard.

他住在城里.
Tā zhù zài chénglǐ.
He lives in town.

我喜欢住郊外
Wǒ xǐhuān zhù jiāowài.
I like to live in the suburbs.

你喜欢住哪儿?
Nǐ xǐhuān zhù nǎr?
Where would you like to live?.

Following are a few choices:

靠近超级市场 (kàojìn chāojíshìchǎng) close to the supermarket
在医院附近 (zài yīyuàn fùjìn) in the vicinity of the hospital
在公园旁边 (zài gōngyuán pángbiān) by the park
在学校对面 (zài xuéxiào duìmiàn) across the street from the school
在高楼大厦 (zài gāolóudàshà) in a high-rise building
在市区 (zài shìqū) in the urban district
在市中心 (zài shìzhōngxīn) down-town
高级住宅区 (gāojí zhùzháiqū) uptown district
在东区 (zài dōng qū) in the eastern sector
靠近海边 (kàojìn hǎibiān) by the ocean
在山坡上 (zài shānpō shàng) on the mountain side
在乡下 (zài xiāngxià) on the countryside
房价便宜的地方 (fáng jià piányi de dìfang) a place with inexpensive quarters
远离铁路的地方 (yuǎnlí tiělù de dìfang) a place far from the railroad
人口稀少的地方 (rénkǒu xīshǎo de dìfang) scarcely populated area
太平洋的小岛上 (tàipíngyáng de xiǎo dǎo shàng) on an island in the Pacific Ocean

Answers to the “where?” questions involve adverbs and adverbial phrases or clauses. Following are a couple additional examples:

广场前面有一株大树.
Guǎngchǎng qiánmiàn yǒu yī zhū dà shù.
There is a large tree in front of the public square.

老师在黑板上面写了三个字.
Lǎoshī zài hēibǎn shàngmiàn xiě le sān gè zì.
The teacher wrote three words on the blackboard.

Please review “17. When? Where? How?” in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

To pinpoint the exact coordinates, or 坐标 (zuòbiāo), of where you are, you could make use of a 卫星定位系统 (wèixīng dìngwèi xìtǒng Geographic Positioning System, or GPS). Whereas clairvoyance, or 千里眼 (qiānlǐyǎn), was once monopolized by fictional characters, nowadays anyone could easily get a 3-D view of any place, even thousands of miles away, by making use of a software program like Google Maps(TM). It’s a small world indeed.

Great Mothers

White Peony

White Peony


Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. I think back to how my mother cared for me and nourished my body and soul in different ways at different times. Not only did she teach her children to be kind to other people, but she also spurred us to do our best in our studies. And I’ve come to realize that my mother was the one behind my father’s career change that opened up favorable opportunities for our education and personal growth.

Fast-rewind to a story that took place about twenty-three hundred years ago. The title is 孟母三迁 (Mèng Mǔ Sān Qiān). 孟母 (Mèng Mǔ) refers to the mother of the great Chinese philosopher Mencius, or 孟子 (Mèngzǐ). (qiān) is to relocate. The common term for moving one’s house is 搬家 (bānjiā).

Watch the cartoon at this Youtube link to find out why Mencius’ mother had to move three times, or 三次 (sān cì).

Are you able to keep up with the speed of the narration? Hope the following vocabulary list helps.

小的时候 (xiǎo de shíhòu) means in one’s childhood.
靠近 (kàojìn) is to be near some place or someone.
墓地 (mùdì) is a graveyard.
学会 (xuéhuì) as a verb means to have learned to do something.
祭奠 (jìdiàn) is to hold a memorial service.
动作 (dòngzuò) are actions or movements.
Here, 不能 (bùnéng) means “should not”.
孩子 (háizǐ) is a kid.
(zhù) is to live at a place.
城镇 (chéngzhèn) means cities and towns.
集市边上 (jíshì biān shàng) means by a market.
模仿 (mófǎng) is to imitate.
商人 (shāngrén) are merchants.
做买卖 (zuò mǎimài) means to do buying and selling business.
吹牛 (chuīniú) and 夸口 (kuākǒu) both mean to boast and brag. (In this story, these words are used to describe how the merchants touted their merchandise.)
模样 (múyàng) are looks and appearances.
维妙维肖 (wéimiàowéixiào) means “in close resemblance to”.
不行 (bùxíng) means “no good” or “won’t do”.
还得 (hái děi) means “still must”.
不久 (bùjiǔ) means not long afterward.
书塾 (shū shú) refers to an old-style private school in China.
附近 (fùjìn) means vicinity.
小伙伴 (xiǎo huǒbàn) are little companions.
遵守秩序 (zūnshǒu zhìxù) means to follow rules and regulations.
讲究礼貌 (jiǎngjiū lǐmào) means to pay attention to good manners.
适合居住的地方 (shìhé jūzhù de dìfang) means a suitable place for living.
生活环境 (shēnghuó huánjìng) means the environment in which one lives.

You can get this story in English and also find out more about Mencius and his philosophy by reading this article at Wikipedia.

母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!
Happy Mother’s Day!

Chinese idioms containing the flower character

Camellia Blossoms

Camellia Blossoms


It’s the first day of May, or 五月初一 (wǔyuè chū yī).

(chū) means initial, elementary, or for the first time, as in 初级 (chūjí elementary) and 初吻 (chūwěn first kiss). 初次 (chūcì), 首次 (shǒucì) and 第一次 (dìyīcì) all mean “for the first time”.

What joy it is to take a stroll in a garden where all flowers are in bloom. In Chinese, we use 百花齐放 (bǎihuāqífàng) to describe such a lovely scene.

Today we will learn a few commonly used words and idioms that involve the “flower” character, (huā).

The phrase 花枝招展 (huāzhīzhāozhǎn) is often used to describes women who are flamboyantly dressed, like showy flowers and foliage.

王小姐穿得花枝招展.
Wáng xiǎojie chuān de huāzhīzhāozhǎn.
Miss Wang is dressed to the nineth.

花花绿绿 (huā​huā​lǜ​lǜ) means colorful and showy.

花花世界 (huāhuāshìjiè) refers to the sensuous world.

花花公子 (huāhuāgōngzǐ) is a dude or a dandy.

花天酒地 (huātiānjiǔdì) describes the ways of people who indulge in wine and women, leading a life of decadence.

花言巧语 (huāyánqiǎoyǔ) are sweet, flowery words (said with an ulterior motive in mind).

天花乱坠(tiānhuāluànzhuì) is a phrase used to describe an extravagantly colorful description that can be likened to a shower of flowers from heaven. Please note that in medicine 天花 (tiānhuā) means measles.

眼花缭乱 (yǎnhuāliáoluàn) means to be dazzled and bewildered.

那儿的商品五花八门, 看得我眼花缭乱.
Nàr de shāngpǐn wǔhuābāmén, kàn de wǒ yǎnhuāliáoluàn.
The multifarious merchandise there bedazzled me not a little.

绣花 (xiùhuā) is to embroider. This word is also used as an adjective to characterize embroidered articles. For example, 绣花枕头 (xiùhuāzhěntóu) is an embroidered pillow.This term is often used as a pejorative, implying that a person looks handsome on the outside but is worthless inside.

明日 (míngrì) is the same as 明天 (míngtiān tomorrow). 明日黄花 (míngrìhuánghuā) are flowers past their prime. This is an expression used to refer to things that are stale and no longer of interest, such as older women who are no longer attractive.

(huā) as a verb means to spend or to expend.

花钱 (huāqián) is to spend money.

你今天花了不少钱吧?
Nǐ jīntiān huā le bùshǎo qián ba?
You spent quite a bit of money today, didn’t you?

心血 (xīnxuè) means toil and efforts or painstaking care.

他花了许多心血教导聋哑学生.
Tā huā le xǔduō xīnxuè jiàodǎo lóngyǎ xuésheng.
He put in a lot of time and effort teaching hearing and speech impaired students.

叫花子 (jiàohuāzi) is an informal word for beggars. The formal word is 乞丐 (qǐgài beggar).

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