Hot and Sour in Chinese

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup

When you feel bored, have a bowl of spicy hot and sour soup, and let it wake up your senses. Recipes abound on the Internet for this famous Chinese soup. To search for recipes or videos in Chinese, enter “酸辣汤 (suānlàtāng hot and sour soup)”. Basically, this is an egg-flower soup, or 蛋花汤 (dàn huā tāng), jazzed-up with soy sauce, vinegar, a copious amount of powdered pepper and a few other ingredients.

As the name suggests, the hot and sour soup tastes spicy hot and sour. The Chinese word for the pungent, spicy hot taste is (là), or 辛辣 (xīnlà). This is a characteristic of chili peppers, 辣椒 (làjiāo), and white or black powdered pepper 胡椒 (hújiāo). A chili sauce or a chili paste is called 辣酱 (làjiàng).

Understandably, something that is burning hot might be described as 热辣辣 (rèlàlà scorching).

泼辣 (pōlà) means shrewish and acerbic.

A vicious and cruel person or action might be described as 毒辣 (dúlà). (dú) means poisonous.

Tā shì gè dúlà de nǚrén.
She is a cruel and wicked woman.

心狠手辣 (xīnhěnshǒulà) describes a merciless heart and heinous actions.

Nà dǎitú xīnhěnshǒulà.
That scoundrel is cruel and malicious.

酸味 (suānwèi) is the sour taste, while 酸性 (suānxìng) refers to the acidity of a substance.

酸梅 (suānméi) are sour plums, from which the tasty 酸梅汤 (suānméi tāng sour plum drink) is made.

酸菜 (suāncài) is pickled Chinese mustard or Chinese cabbage.

酸牛奶 (suānniúnǎi) refers to yogurt or sour milk.

胃酸过多 (wèisuān guòduō) is a condition of having too much hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice, or having a so-called sour stomach.

酸痛 (suāntòng) is an aching feeing.

Wǒ liǎng tuǐ suāntòng.
My legs are sore.

The expression, 酸溜溜 (suānliūliū), is often used to describe a sour mind-set.

Tā jīntiān shuōhuà suānliūliū de.
He sounds sour and cynical today.

尖酸刻薄 (jiānsuān kèbó) is a phrase used to describe a harsh and nasty person or harsh and acrimonious words.

辛酸 (xīnsuān) and 心酸 (xīnsuān) are pronounced the same but are used differently. 辛酸 (xīnsuān) describes a sad or miserable experience, while 心酸 (xīnsuān) means feeling sadness in the heart.

想到他, 我就心酸
Xiǎngdào tā, wǒ jiù xīnsuān.
When I think of him, my heart aches.

[See Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for more examples of using (jiù) in complex sentences.]

酸甜苦辣 (suāntiánkǔlà) refers to the joys and sorrows of life.

Tā jīnglì le rénshēng de suāntiánkǔlà.
He has gone through the joys and sorrows of life.

Chinese idioms that follow the AABB pattern (3)

Don’t you just love these fun Chinese idioms? I know you can’t have enough of them. So, here are a few more descriptive phrases that you could learn and keep handy. Applied appropriately, these phrases will make you sound more authentic and less bookish.

迷迷糊糊 (mímíhūhū) means befuddled or being in a state of confusion.

我那时迷迷糊糊, 不知道自己说了什么.
Wǒ nàshí mímíhūhū, bù zhīdào zìjǐ shuō le shénme.
At that time I was in a daze and didn’t know what I was saying.

疯疯颠颠 (fēngfēngdiāndiān) is to behave like an insane person. This phrase is often used to describe a flighty or crazy behavior

Bié zhèyàng fēngfēngdiāndiān de.
Stop acting like a lunatic.

急急忙忙 (jíjímángmáng hurriedly) and 匆匆忙忙 (cōngcōngmángmáng hastily) are opposite to 慢慢腾腾 (mànmànténgténg unhurriedly).

Tā jíjímángmáng gǎnhuíjiā qù.
He hurried home.

慌慌张张 (huānghuāngzhāngzhāng) means being flustered and doing things chaotically or haphazardly.

Tā huānghuāngzhāngzhāng de chuān shàng yīfu.
He put on his clothes haphazardly.

密密麻麻 (mìmìmámá) means close and numerous; thickly dotted.

Nèi zhāng zhǐ shàng yìn zhe mìmìmámá de wénzì.
That sheet of paper was crammed with closely printed text.

地地道道 (dìdìdàodào) means authentic, genuine, or to the core.

Zhè shì dìdìdàodào de máotáijiǔ.
This is genuine Maotai (a famous Chinese liquor).

Many other four-character Chinese phrases are in popular use but have not attained the status of an official idiom. These are usually descriptive words that are uttered in the AABB pattern for emphasis. We could call them pseudo-idioms.

For example, 清楚 (qīngchǔ) means clear or clearly.

Wǒ yǐjīng qīng qīng chǔ chǔ de gàosù le tā.
I’ve already told him plain and clear.

实在 (shízai) as an adverb means “truly”, such as in “He is truly careless.” As a description of a person or an item, it means being substantial, stable and solid.

Tā shì gè shí shí zai zai de rén.
He is a down-to-earth person.

孤单 (gūdān) means lonely or alone.

Tā gū gū dān dān de zhù zài nàr.
He lives there all by himself.

懒散 (lǎnsǎn) means sluggish or indolent.

Tā zhěngtiān lǎn lǎn sǎn sǎn de.
He dawdles the whole day.

弯曲 (wānqū) means zigzagged or curvy.

Nèi tiáo shānlù wān wān qū qū de.
That mountain road meanders.

If you have a favorite Chinese idiom or pseudo-idiom in the AABB pattern, why not put it in a comment to share with everyone?

Chinese idioms that follow the AABB pattern (2)

Let’s start today with a few four-character Chinese idioms that feature a couple nouns arranged in the AABB pattern.

You know that 妈妈 (māma) means mother, and 婆婆 (pópo) could refer to a married woman’s mother-in-law or an old lady in general. Put together, 婆婆妈妈 (pópomāmā) means to be fussy or mushy like an over-sentimental mother or old lady. You can apply this phrase to anyone (male or female) who behaves in this mawkish way.

Wǒ zuì pà tā de pópomāmā.
I dread her mawkish ways.

As the constituent words suggest, 朝朝暮暮 (zhāozhāomùmù) means mornings and evenings. It implies day and night, or all the time. You may have come across this phrase in a song or a poem.

Tā zhāozhāomùmù sīniàn tā de qíngrén.
She misses her sweetheart every waking moment.

世世代代 (shìshìdàidài) means generation after generation.

Tāmen jiā shìshìdàidài dōu xíngyī.
Their family has for generations practiced medicine.

口口声声 (kǒukoushēngshēng) means to maintain a statement by adamantly making the claim with each utterance. This phrase is shown below in a compound sentence. For additional examples of compound sentences, please see Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

她口口声声说她爱我, 但我看不出她的真心.
Tā kǒukoushēngshēng shuō tā ài wǒ, dàn wǒ kàn bù chū tā de zhēnxīn.
She maintains that she loves me, but I fail to see her sincerity.

(diǎn) is a dot, a point, or a bit. (dī) is a drop of liquid. 点点滴滴 (diǎndiǎndīdī) stands for bits of details. Note, however, that 点滴 (diǎndī) is the medical term for intravenous drip.

Tā yòng yōumò yǔqì miáoshù zhèi chǎng bǐsài de diǎndiǎndīdī.
He used a humorous tone to describe the bits of details of this competitive match.

Here are a few idioms that employ verbs in the AABB pattern.

拖拖拉拉 (tuōtuōlālā) is to drag one’s feet, to procrastinate, or to do things inefficiently.

快一点! 别拖拖拉拉.
Kuài yīdiǎn! bié tuōtuōlālā.
Hurry up! Don’t drag your feet.

指点 (zhǐdiǎn) means to give directions or pointers. On the other hand, 指指点点 (zhǐzhǐdiǎndiǎn) is to point fingers at another person or other people to place a blame or to gossip about them.

Nǎina lǎo ài zhǐzhǐdiǎndiǎn.
Grandma always likes to point to people and say this and that.

蹦蹦跳跳 (bèngbèngtiàotiào) means bouncing around vivaciously.

Háizǐ men huópō de bèngbèngtiàotiào.
The children bounced around energetically.

(tōu) means to steal. (mō) means to touch, to stroke, or to grope around. 偷偷摸摸 (tōutōumōmō) describes doing things in a surreptitious way.

Tāmen tōutōumōmō de liū le.
They slipped away in secret.

If you could like to hear some of the above sentences sounded out, please click on this link then select “Idioms in AABB Pattern.mp3”.

Chinese idioms that follow the AABB pattern (1)

Have you ever wondered why many Chinese idioms contain exactly four characters? It’s because a phrase with four syllables simply sounds good, much like the four quarter beats in a measure of a musical composition. Well, that’s just one of the reasons. Written classical Chinese is concise, perhaps to minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to write the characters using a brush dipped in ink one makes by grinding the ink stick on a wet stone slab. A four-character phrase is short in length but can still accommodate a multitude of combinations of single-character and double-character words to form a meaningful expression or even summarize an entire story. Traditional Chinese people like to have things 四平八稳 (sìpíngbāwěn), i.e. very stable, well grounded and well organized. A four-character phrase is like a table that is flat on all four sides and stable in all eight directions. Therefore, generations of students studied text books filled with four-character phrases and idioms, and scholars took pride in being able to judiciously or cleverly incorporate choice idioms in their stereotyped essays. Many of the Chinese idioms are made up of pair of four-character phrases, which further strengthen the robust structure.

Today we will look at a few Chinese idioms that are relatively easy to learn because each consists of just two different characters in duplicate. Most of the examples below are adjectives or adverbial phrases.

You’re probably already familiar with 马马虎虎 (mǎmǎhūhū), which means so-so, not too bad, not very good,or being careless. When someone asks how you’ve been, you could use this phrase as a response.

三三两两 (sānsānliǎngliǎng) means in twos and threes.

Tāmen sānsānliǎngliǎng yīdào huíjiā.
They went home together in twos and threes.

慢慢腾腾 (mànmànténgténg) means unhurried or slowly.

Tā zuòshì mànmànténgténg.
He takes his time in doing things.

鬼鬼祟祟 (guǐguǐsuìsuì) and 偷偷摸摸 (tōutōumōmō) both refer to doing things stealthily or covertly. The opposite is 堂堂正正 (tángtángzhèngzhèng), which means to be open and aboveboard. This phrase also describes an honest and dignified person, with nothing to hide or to be ashamed of.

轰轰烈烈 (hōnghōnglièliè) describes doing something on a grand scale with a bang, as in a revolution.

干干净净 (gāngānjìngjìng) means clean and tidy, or spick-and-span. 规规矩矩 (guīguījǔjǔ) means punctilious or following rules to a T.

断断续续 (duànduànxùxù) means intermittently.

Tāmen duànduànxùxù tōng le jǐ cì xìn.
They wrote to each other off and on a few times.

战战兢兢 (zhànzhànjīngjīng) literally translates to “trembling with fear”. It describes a state of being extremely cautious.

舒舒服服 (shūshūfúfú) means comfortably.

Tā shūshūfúfú di shuì le gè wǔshuì.
He took a sweet nap.

叽叽喳喳 (jījīzhāzhā) means to twitter like birds.

嘻嘻哈哈 (xīxīhāhā) means laughing and acting happily.

她们叽叽喳喳, 嘻嘻哈哈, 非常快乐.
Tāmen jījīzhāzhā, xīxīhāhā, fēicháng kuàilè.
They chattered and laughed, feeling very happy.

哭哭啼啼 (kūkutítí) is to weep and wail incessantly.

Tā kūkutítí di huíjiā qù le.
She went home crying and wailing along the way.

扭扭捏捏 (niǔniǔniēniē affected, not straightforward, unmanly) describes the mincing manners of some people, particularly ladies.

他扭扭捏捏, 似乎不好意思.
Tā niǔniǔniēniē, sìhu bùhǎoyìsi.
He acts hesitantly, appearing to be shy and ill at ease.

On the other hand, 大大方方 (dàdàfāngfāng) means to behave graciously, naturally and unaffected.

Tā dàdàfāngfāng di shēnchū shǒu lái.
She graciously extended her hand.

里里外外 (lǐlǐwàiwài) means inside and outside of a person, a household or an establishment.

这件事, 里里外外的人都知道了.
Zhèi jiàn shì, lǐlǐwàiwài de rén dōu zhīdào le.
Everybody around already knows about this.

来来回回 (láiláihuíhuí) means going back and forth.

Tā láiláihuíhuí zhǎo le sān cì.
He went back and forth searching (for it) three times.

来来往往 (láiláiwǎngwǎng) means going to-and-fro.

Jiē shàng láiláiwǎngwǎng de rén hěn duō.
On the street many people are coming and going.

Chinese Word for Freedom

Freedom Stamp

At the end of a muggy day, we are finally rewarded with a few cool breezes, followed by a welcome offer for refreshment.

Nǐ yào chī xīguā háishì tiánguā?
Would you like to eat watermelon or muskmelon?

Both sound good to me, and the choice is mine to make. 自由 (zìyóu) means freedom, liberty, unrestrained, or freely.

Wǒ yǒu zìyóu xuǎnzé de quánlì.
I have the right to free choice.

I think of those people who are not so fortunate. Through various characters in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin“, the author Harriet Beecher Stowe tried to help us see the importance of a man’s basic right to freedom. It’s true that many of the colored slaves were treated almost like family, but still, their activities and fates were totally controlled by their masters. Generally the wellbeing or misery of the slaves depended entirely on the kindness or cruelty of their owners. They saw no hope for freedom or autonomy in this world. They could only long for a “better land” that Stephen Collins Foster referred to in his “Old Black Joe”. I’ll share with you the version of this song my father taught me when I was about six years old. I think he did this Chinese translation himself. The lines are different from what you will find when you search the Internet for 老黑奴 (Lǎo Hēi Nú), 老黑乔 (Lǎo Hēi Qiáo) or 老黑爵 (Lǎo Hēi Jué).

Suìyuè bù liú.
Years go by;

nándé qīngnián xīn shuǎngkuai.
The joy of youthful heart won’t stay.

Xǔduō péngyǒu
Many of my friends,

líbié hòu rújīn hézài?
after parting, where are they nowadays?

Chāotuō chénshì,
Risen above this mortal life,

qù dào tiāntáng de lètǔ.
they’ve gone to heaven’s happy place
(i.e. paradise).

Wǒ tīngwén tāmen róu shēng hūhuàn:
I hear them gently calling:

Lǎo hēi nú.
“Old black slave.”

Wǒ lái liǎo,
I’m coming,

Wǒ lái liǎo,
I’m coming.

Zǒu jìn shì jiàn qíqū lù.
I’ve plodded life’s rugged ways.

Wǒ tīngwén tāmen róu shēng hūhuàn:
I hear them gently calling:

Lǎo Hēi Nú.
“Old black slave.”

难得 (nándé) means hard to come by, or “It’s a rare occasion that . . .”.

Nándé nǐ lái kàn wǒ.
What a rare occasion that you have come to visit me!
(This could be uttered either with grateful joy or with sarcasm.)

Back to the present day, I’m finishing up on reading “The Good Food Revolution“, a book co-authored by Will Allen and Charles Wilson. I’m sure Mrs. Stowe would be very pleased to see that the oppressed people she wrote about are enjoying not only liberty but also the awareness that they, like everybody else, are entitled to the freedom of choice on growing and eating wholesome foods.

Měiguó guóqìng rì kuàilè!
Have a Happy July 4th!

Měiguó dúlì jìniànrì kuàilè!
Happy Independence Day!

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