We have discussed the Chinese character for rain, 雨 (yǔ), a few times before. This character, featuring four drops of water, also serves as a word radical that is employed in words involving precipitation or moisture in the air. As you know, one advantage of being able to recognizing a word radical is that you will only need to learn the remaining part in a new word.
As with many other natural elements, the words containing the rain radical are often used in phrases associated with human nature.
We will start with a simple character, 雪 (xuě snow).
Nǐ huì huáxuě ma?
Do you know how to ski?
雪 (xuě) is also used as a verb in the idiom 报仇雪耻 (bàochóuxuěchǐ), which means to take revenge and wipe out a humiliation.
炭 (tàn) is charcoal. 送 (sòng) means to give or to deliver. The idiom 雪中送炭 (xuězhōngsòngtàn providing charcoal in snowy weather) means to offer needed help and be “a friend indeed”.
霜 (shuāng) is frost. 雪上加霜 (xuěshàngjiāshuāng), means to have frost added on top of snow, to have one disaster after another, or to add insult to injury.
冰 (bīng) is ice. 冰雹 (bīngbáo) are hailstones. Some one who is really aloof might be described as being icy. The following comment is often bestowed on strikingly beautiful women who give their admirers the cold shoulder.
Yàn ruò táo lǐ, lěng ruò bīng shuāng.
Gorgeous as peach and plum blossoms, but cold as ice and frost.
雷 (léi) is thunder, which often strikes a field when it rains. 地雷 (dìléi) are land mines.
雷声大,雨点小. (léishēngdà,yǔdiǎnxiǎo) literally translates to “loud thunder but tiny raindrops”. This idiom implies that much is proclaimed but followed by little action.
暴跳如雷 (bàotiàorúléi) and 大发雷霆 (dàfāléitíng) both mean flying into a rage.
Tā tīng le zhè huà, bàotiàorúléi.
After hearing these words, he flew off the handle.
如雷贯耳 (rúléiguàněr) literally translates to “like thunder piercing the ears”, but this idiom is used for complimenting a person on his or her colossal reputation, implying that everyone is praising that person and the clamor fills the ear like thunder.
露 (lù) as a noun means dew. 雨露 (yǔlù rain and dew) often refers to grace and bounty.
霓 (ní) is the secondary rainbow. What is the primary raindow called in Chinese?
We learned before that 晚霞 (wǎnxiá) is the evening glow at sunset.
震 (zhèn) means to shake or shock, or to be greatly shocked, as in 震惊 (zhènjīng). 地震 (dìzhèn) is an earthquake.
Tā tīng le zhè xiāoxi, shífēn zhènjīng.
He was shocked to hear this piece of news.
霉 (méi) is mildew. 发霉 (fāméi) is to become moldy.
倒霉 (dǎoméi), on the other hand, means to have bad luck.
Jīntiān yòu pèng dào tā. Dǎoméi!
I ran into him again today. Just my luck!
The proper word for “tough luck” is 倒楣 (dǎoméi). However, 倒霉 (dǎoméi) has been so widely used that it has won legitimacy. Either way you write it, it’s not a happy word.
Xià xuě tiān, zǒulù kāichē dōu yào dāngxīn,
In snowy weather, walk and drive carefully.
For a short discussion of other weather conditions please see Chapter 22 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.