Time flies in Chinese

手表 (shǒubiǎo) Wrist Watch

手表 (shǒubiǎo) Wrist Watch


后天是大年初一.
Hòutiān shì dàniánchūyī.
It will be the lunar New Year’s Day the day after tomorrow.

春节快要到了.
Chūnjié kuài yào dào le.
Soon it will be the Spring Festival.

Another lunar year has slipped away. Time flies. It zips by like an arrow – 光阴似箭 (guāngyīnsìjiàn).

Following are the lyrics from a cute children’s song (author unknown) that uses the movement of the pointers on a traditional clock face to remind people how time passes relentlessly and why we must not waste time. On a clock, 时针 (shízhēn) is the hour hand (long hand), 分针 (fēnzhēn) is the minute hand (short hand), and 秒针 (miǎozhēn) is the second hand.

时针慢走, 秒针急.
Shízhēn màn zǒu, miǎozhēn jí.
The hour hand moves slowly, the second hand rushes on.

滴答, 滴答, 滴.
Dīda, dīda, dī.
Ticktock, ticktock, tick.

分针跟着走下去.
Fēnzhēn gēnzhe zǒu xiàqu.
The minute hand follows along.

滴答, 滴答, 滴.
Dīda, dīda, dī.
Ticktock, ticktock, tick.

一时一刻不停留,
Yīshíyīkè bù tíngliú.
Not stopping for a single moment,

整天整夜走下去.
zhěngtiān zhěngyè zǒu xiàqu.
all day, all night, they continue on.

若不及时多努力,
Ruò bù jíshí duō nǔlì,
If you don’t work hard now,

后悔来不及.
hǒuhuǐ láibují.
it will be too late to regret later on.

On the first line, (màn slowly) serves as an adverb that modifies the verb (zǒu). When these two words are combined together, the phrase takes on a few different extended meanings, depending on the context. 慢走 (màn zǒu) means “Don’t go yet.” or “Wait a minute.” On the other hand, when you see a guest off after a party and say 慢走 (màn zǒu), you are saying, “Take care.”, “Walk slowly (safely).”, or “Good-bye.”.

(jí) means anxious or anxiously.

及时 (jíshí) means in time (not missing the deadline).

停留 (tíngliú) is to stay. On this line, 不停留 (bù tíngliú) is the combination of (bù not) and 停留 (tíngliú stay). The context tells us not to read it as 不停 (bù tíng without stopping, continue to) and (liú stay), which makes no sense.

Some people use 成天成夜 (chéngtiān chéngyè all day all night) instead of 整天整夜 (zhěngtiān zhěngyè). These adverbs pertain to duration or frequency of doing something. Read Chapter 18 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to learn more words in this category.

努力 (nǔlì) means to exert effort or to try hard. (nú) means slaves. (lì) means strength, power or making every effort. You can see how much effort is embedded in the word 努力 (nǔlì).

来不及 (láibují) can mean too late, or it can mean not having enough time to do something.

快点儿, 要来不及了.
Kuài diǎnr, yào láibují le.
Hurry up, or we’ll not be able to make it.

By the way, if you’ve not been able to keep the resolution you made for the new calendar year, there is an opportunity to renew it for the Chinese New Year, which is what matters to most Chinese people anyway.

恭贺新禧!
Gōnghèxīnxǐ!
Happy New Year!

Don’t be mad in Chinese

It’s human nature to get angry sometimes for various reasons. The Chinese word for getting mad or angry is 生气 (shēngqì) or 发脾气 (fāpíqi). (pí) is the spleen. It seems the ancient Chinese viewed anger as being a sort of qi coming out of the spleen when one gets fumed. Therefor losing one’s temper is apt to be bad for one’s health.

When a friend is mad about something, you are apt to advise him:

不要生气.
Bùyào shēngqì.
Don’t be mad.

At some small local Chinese eateries, you may see plastered on the wall a paper poster with the following lines on it. The colloquial verses are meant to help reduce quarrels between married couples, but the unknown author speaks truth that applies to everyone else as well.

莫生气 (Mò Shēngqì Don’t Be Mad)

人生就像一场戏;
Rénshēng jiù xiàng yī chǎng xì,
Life is like a theatrical play;

因为有缘才相聚.
yīnwei yǒu yuán cái xiāng jù.
we’ve met because of fate.

相扶到老不容易,
Xiāng fú dào lǎo bù róngyì.
It’s not easy to have come thus far through thick and thin,

是否更该去珍惜?
shìfǒu gèng gāi qù zhēnxī?
shouldn’t we cherish our relationship the more?

为了小事发脾气,
Wèile xiǎoshì fāpíqi,
Getting mad over trivial things,

回头想想又何必?
huítóu xiǎng xiǎng yòu hébì?
when you think about it, what for?

别人生气我不气;
Biérén shēngqì wǒ bù qì.
Others may get mad, but I won’t;

气出病来无人替.
Qì chū bìng lái wú rén tì.
’cause if I get sick, who’s to replace me?

我若气死谁如意?
Wǒ ruò qì sǐ shéirúyì?
Should I die from fury, who will benefit?

况且伤身又费力.
Kuàng qiě shāng shēn yòu fèilì.
Besides, it’s too exhausting and strenuous to get mad.

邻居亲朋不要比.
Línjū qīn péng bùyào bǐ.
Don’t try to measure up to neighbors, relatives and friends.

儿孙琐事由他去.
érsūn suǒshì yóu tā qù.
As for the petty bothers of the children, let them be.

吃苦享乐在一起,
Chīkǔ xiǎnglè zàiyīqǐ.
Together we’ll share our joys and hardships,

神仙羡慕好伴侣.
shénxian xiànmù hǎo bànlǚ.
and let the gods envy our good companionship.

Homonyms of the Chinese Yuan

Now that you’ve learned the word (yuán edge, border, or predestined relationship), you may wonder what other words sound exactly like it. Well, the edge or border could be that of a circular object, such as a disk or a table. The Chinese word for a circle is (yuán). It can also serve as an adjective. A round table would be called 圆桌 (yuánzhuō). Warrior and knights are called 武士 (wǔshì). Therefore, 圆桌武士 (Yuánzhuō wǔshì) refers to the Knights of the Round Table.

As you know, (yuán) is a unit of currency used in China and Taiwan. The Japanese Yen is actually a Japanese simplified form of the same character. In China and Taiwan, the same currency is often written as (yuán).

(yuán) means first, primary, fundamental, or a unit. This is why New Year’s Day is often referred to as 元旦 (Yuándàn).

Place (yuán) in an enclosure, and you’ll get the character for an area for public recreation, (yuán). A vegetable garden is called 菜园 (càiyuán).

她在菜园里浇水.
Tā zài càiyuán li jiāoshuǐ.
She is watering the plants in the vegetable garden.

Take the frame away from (yuán), and you will get the character (yuán), which is a member, or a person engaged in some activity.

运动员一般都很健壮.
Yùndòngyuán yībān dōu hěn jiànzhuàng
Athletes are generally quite healthy and strong.

(yuán) has several different meanings. We’ve learned before that 原因 (yuányīn) is the cause or reason for something. 原来 (yuánlái), 原本 (yuánběn) and 原先 (yuánxiān) all mean original, originally, at first, former, or formerly.

我原先以为他是韩国人. (yuánxiān)
Wǒ yuánxiān yǐwéi tā shì hánguórén.
At first I thought he was a Korean.

原料 (yuánliào) is unprocessed, raw material. 原罪 (yuánzuì) is the original sin.

原谅 (yuánliàng) is to forgive.

请原谅我.
qǐng yuánliàng wǒ.
Please forgive me.

平原 (píngyuán) refers to plains or flatlands.

Add three drops of water to (yuán) to get the character (yuán), which means the source or origin, such as of a river, of money, or of some other resources.

The Chinese idiom 饮水思源 (yǐnshuǐsīyuán) reminds people to be grateful to those who have enabled them to enjoy what they have. So, when you drink water (from a stream), think about its source and be thankful.

(yuán), with the “hand” radical on the left side, means to lend a hand, to offer aid to, to help or to support. On the other hand, (yuán), with the “woman” radical on the left side, means a beauty. When writing to other people in polite formal Chinese, you would refer to their daughter as 令媛 (lìng yuán), which is the equivalent of “your charming daughter”.

(yuán) is a Chinese surname. Add the “dog” radical to it and you will get the word for an ape, (yuán).

Now you can safely claim that you know most of the Chinese words that are pronounced the same as the Chinese Yuan.

Some things are meant to be in Chinese

The Chinese often talk about a predestined relationship, which they call (yuán). This character looks somewhat similar to 绿 (lǜ green). Make sure you do not confuse these two characters.

Notice the “silk” radical on the left side of (yuán)? People come and go in your life. Perhaps there is an invisible silk thread that ties you to those who stay around most of the time, such as your family members, your friends, your classmates, your colleagues, and so on.

In the same sense, many things that happen are linked to a reason or a cause, i.e. 缘故 (yuángù) or 缘由 (yuányóu).

不知什么缘故, 我就是迷恋他.
Bùzhī shénme yuángù, wǒ jiùshì míliàn tā.
Not sure why, but I’m simply infatuated with him.

她无缘无故哭了起来.
Tā wúyuánwúgù kū le qǐlái.
For no reason, she started to cry.

(yuán) also menas the edge, the brink, or to move along such a boundary, or 边缘 (biānyuán).

缘木求鱼 (yuánmùqiúyú) means to climb a tree to catch fish, or to take a useless approach.

缘分 (yuánfèn) is the element of destiny that associates a person with other people or things.

结缘 (jiéyuán) means to form a tie with or become associated with someone or something. On the other hand, 绝缘 (juéyuán) means to sever tie with someone. This word also means insulation or to insulate. 无缘 (wúyuán) means having no chance for, or no possibility of, connecting with someone or something.

我和政治无缘.
Wǒ hé zhèngzhì wúyuán.
I’m not into politics.

By substituting 金钱 (jīnqián money) for 政治 (zhèngzhì) in the above sentence, you’ll have a more interesting way of saying, “I’m never going to get rich.”

In “The Butterfly Lovers”, reference is made to the popular Chinese saying:

有缘千里来相会;
Yǒuyuán qiānlǐ lái xiàng huì,
If predestined, people will come from afar to meet each other;

无缘对面不相识.
Wúyuán duìmiàn bù xiāngshí.
If not meant to be, they won’t get acquainted even when placed together face to face.

注定 (zhùdìng) means destined.

有些事是天注定的.
Yǒuxiē shì shì tiān zhùdìng de.
Some things are meant to be.
(Some things are predetermined by the heavens.)

The fate that brings lovers together into a marriage is called 姻缘 (yīnyuán). It is pronounced the same as 因缘 (yīnyuán), which is the cause or reason that predetermines a certain outcome.

血缘 (xuèyuán) is blood relationship.

他和我没有血缘关系.
Tā hé wǒ méiyǒu xuèyuán guānxi.
He and I are not related by blood.

A sociable person attracts other people like a magnet. He or she is said to have 人缘 (rényuán), i.e. the ability to connect with other people.

露露的人缘很好.
Lùlù de rényuán hěn hǎo.
Lulu is very sociable (popular).

If you would like to meet someone, will you wait for fate to make the connection, or will you take a step forward yourself? A date is called 约会 (yuēhui) in Chinese.

我约了她周末一同去看电影.
Wǒ yuē le tā zhōumò yītóng qù kàn diànyǐng.
I asked her out to watch a movie with me this weekend.

The fact that you are learning Chinese probably indicates that you have some 缘分 (yuánfèn) with the Chinese language. However, it was you who made up your mind to study Chinese, and it is your own determination that will drive you through the process to achieve your goal step by step.

Sing Que Sera Sera in Chinese

Some Chinese people believe that everyone’s fate is compiled in a celestial book called 天書 (tiānshū). In fact, the main character in the novel titled 红楼梦 (Hónglóumèng Dream of the Red Mansion) managed to get a glimpse of this heavenly book in one of his dreams. As 天書 (tiānshū) is in Chinese, the more reason for you to master the written Chinese language. Just kidding.

You’ve probably wondered why you are who you are, where you are and how you are. Is it all in the genes, is it due to your parents’ and your own efforts, or is it the outcome of a predetermined sequence of cause and effect admixed with a bit of magic at times? We will leave the argument of nature versus nurture to the philosophers. The correct answer for us today is, “Que sera sera.” That’s Spanish for “What will be, will be.”

“Que Sera Sera” is a song written by the Jay Livingston and Ray Evans songwriting team and made internationally popular by the adorable Doris Day. The lively tune buoys our spirits despite the fact that there is not really an answer to the big question. Click on this link to hear the Mandarin version performed by Teresa Deng.

The Mandarin lyrics can be found at this link.

世事 (shìshì) is the abbreviation of 世界上的事 (shìjiè shàng de shì), i.e. the affairs of life. Therefore 世事多变化. (Shìshì duō biànhuà.) means things in life change.

(wèn) means to ask. 问题 (wèntí) are questions. 好些问题 (hǎoxiē wèntí) means a good deal of questions.

将来 (jiānglái) means the future or in the future.
幸福 (xìngfú) means well-being or living happily.
或是 (huò shì) means or, perhaps.

有一番道理 (yǒu yī fān dàoli) means makes sense. You could also say 有道理 (yǒu dàoli).

未来 (wèilái future) means the future or future (adjective). 怎能 (zěn néng) means “how could one”. 料得及 (liào de jí) means able to predict. The complete line means “How could one predict the future?”

人生 (rénshēng) is life. 本是 (běn shì) is short for 本来是 (běnlái shì) means “after all is”. (mí) is a riddle. So, life is after all a riddle.

结婚后 (jiéhūn hòu) means “after getting married”. 夫唱妇又随 (fū chàng fù yòu suí) comes from the Chinese idiom 夫唱妇随 (fū chàng fù suí), which literally translates to: “The husband sings and the wife follows.” The traditional Chinese view is that a good wife should dance to her husband’s tune. This line describes a harmonious married life.

不止一回 (bùzhǐ yī huí) means not just once, or more than once.
是否永久 (shìfǒu yǒngjiǔ) means “whether or not if will be forever”.
多虑 (duō lǜ) means worrying too much.

现在的 (xiànzài de) is an adjective that means current or present. 儿女 (érnǚ) are one’s children.

伶俐 (língli) means bright and clever.

提起好些问题 (tíqǐ hǎoxiē wèntí) means to raise quite a few questions.

前途 (qiántú) is one’s future or prospect. 如意 (rúyì) means to have one’s wishes fulfilled.

(quàn) is to advise or to persuade somebody.

(mò) is the formal word for “don’t”, “not” or “no”. 莫多虑 (Mò duō lǜ.) means “Don’t worry too much.” In everyday speech, you would say: 別想太多. (Bié xiǎng tàiduō. Don’t think too much.)

May the New Year bring you health, happiness and good fortune!

新年如意
Xīnnián rúyì!
May your wishes come true in the new year!

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