Virtues valued by the traditional Chinese

The virtues most valued by the traditional Chinese people have been grouped into the so-called Four Principles and Eight Virtues. We have already touched upon a number of these virtues in the previously posted articles.

The four principles are regarded as the bonds that hold the fabric of society together.

(lǐ) refers to having good manners and following the protocol.

(yì) means righteousness and proper behavior and deeds.

(lián) means having moral integrity and not accepting bribes. (chǐ) means having a sense of shame. These two words usually go together as 廉耻 (liánchǐ integrity and sense of honor).

不知廉耻 (bùzhī liánchǐ) is a serious accusation that means “shameless”. If it will help you remember this phrase, you could associate it with “not knowing one’s face, (liǎn), and teeth 齿 (chǐ)”. In fact, the familiar way of saying “shameless” or “brazen” is 不要脸 (bùyào liǎn not caring about one’s face or honor).

The Eight Virtues are actually four virtues made up of eight characters.

忠孝 (zhōng xiào) refers to loyalty and filial piety, which strengthen the foundation of a country and a family, respectively.

仁爱 (rénài) is kindheartedness, the good will that connect people to one another.

信义 (xìnyì) is good faith and trustworthiness that keeps things going in a predictable way.

和平 (hépíng) means peace.

If you’ve been to Taiwan, you most likely have passed by streets named after the above four virtues. At school, students are reminded of the importance of these virtues through ethics classes and posters displayed in classrooms and doorways. In fact, many public schools have the classes named with these eight characters as well as the characters representing the following often-cited virtues.

(gōng) stands for 公正 (gōngzhèng being just or impartial) or 公平 (gōngpīng fair or equitable).

Zhè bù gōngpīng.
This is not fair.

(chéng) means being sincere and honest. 诚心 (chéngxīn) and 诚意 (chéngyì) both mean sincere or sincerity.

Wǒ chéngxīn chéngyì yāo tā qù kàn diànyǐng, dàn tā bù lǐngqíng.
I sincerely invited her to a movie, but she did not appreciate it. (She refused.)

诚实 (chéngshí) means being honest.

(qín) is being diligent and hardworking. It often appears in the form 勤劳 (qínláo).

Tā shìgè qínláo de niánqīngrén.
He is a hardworking young man.

(yì) is being determined or resolute. 毅力 (yìlì) is a person’s willpower or stamina.

Wǒmén yào yǒu jiānqiáng de yìlì.
We must have a strong will and perseverance.

(wēn) refers to a temperate personality.

Tā de nǚpéngyou hěn wēnróu.
His girl friend is warm and gentle.

(liáng) means being a good and kind person, as in 善良的人 (shànliáng de rén).

(gōng) meanes respectful and reverent. When you say 恭喜 (gōngxǐ), you are offering your congratulation respectfully.

(jiǎn), or 节俭 (jiéjiǎn), means being thrifty and not squandering money on luxuries.

(ràng let) is to yield a privilege to another person, such as when you say, “After you”.

Zài gōng chē shàng yào ràngwèi gě lǎoniánrén.
When riding a bus, one should offer one’s seat to the elderly.

Which virtues do you value the most? Do you know the corresponding Chinese words?

How to in Chinese

When we were young and the teachers tried to cram all the geography, history, mathematics and, yeah, Chinese lessons into us, we secretly wished for shorter school days and less to learn. Now that we’re older and wiser, we’ve come to realize that there is so much that we’d like to know more about; there is so much out there to learn. One way to obtain information is to ask questions. Ask someone who knows, or search for the information on the Internet. Following are a few words that you could use to initiate a question.

To ask what something is, start with 什么 (shénme).

什么人 (shénme rén) means what person or who.

Shénme rén?
Who’s there?

Shénme rén gàosù nǐ de?
Who told you this?

Zhè shì shénme rén de dōngxi?
Whose thing is this?

Please note that the following three sentences could be uttered with a positive or negative connotation.

Zhè shì shénme yìsī?
What does this mean?
(What’s this supposed to mean?)

When someone wants to go out of his or her way to do you a favor, you could make a gesture to refuse it by saying that that would be absurd. The other party would insist on helping you, and you would then graciously accept the good will. On the other hand, when someone says something that is absurd, you could use the very same sentence to express your displeasure.

Zhè shì shénme huà?
What are you saying? (Preposterous!)

什么话! (Shénme huà!)
Shénme huà!
What nonsense!

为什么 (wèishénme) means why.

Wèishénme tā hái méi lái?
Why has she not come yet?

哪个 (nǎge) means which. 哪一天 (nǎ yītiān) means which day. Some people use the short form 哪天 (něi yītiān).

怎么 (zěnme ) and 如何 (rúhé) both mean how. 如何 (rúhé) is the formal form.

怎么做 (zěnme zuò) and 怎么弄 (zěnme nòng ) both mean how to do or handle something.

Zhè jiàn shì zěnme zuò bǐjiào hǎo?
What’s a good way to get this done?

A more formal way to communicate the above would be:

Zhè jiàn shì rúhé jìnxíng bǐjiào qiàdàng?
What’s an appropriate way to proceed with this matter?

Xīfàn zěnme zhǔ?
How to cook rice gruel?

怎么说 (zěnme shuō) can be interpreted in two different ways.

zhègè zì de yīngyǔ zěnme shuō?
How to say this word in English?

Zěnme shuō?
How do you mean? (Could you elaborate?)

怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) also means how or in what manner. It is often shorted as 怎样 (zěnyàng).

Nǐ juéde zěnmeyàng?
What do you think?
(How do you feel about this? How do you feel?)

Bù zěnyàng.
Nothing special. (I’m not impressed.)

Zěnme huí shì?
What’s the matter? (What happened?)

Which day is Father’s Day?

In the United States and a number of other countries the second Sunday of May is designated Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day follows one month plus one week later. In Taiwan, Father’s Day is celebrated on August 8th, because 八月八日 (bāyuè bā rì) can be abbreviated as 八八 (bā bā), which sounds similar to 爸爸 (bàba father, dad).

Liùyuè de dìsān gè xīngqīrì shì Fùqin jié.
The third Sunday of June is Father’s Day.

Traditionally mothers assume all the chores of raising the kids, but the landscape has changed. Nowadays fathers are able to form a close bond with the children and earn a large share of their affection. There are also single-parent families with the father doing double-duty to provide both paternal and maternal love and care. Here is an interesting playlet “My Father”, which I think you will be able to follow with the help of the English subtitles. Following is a discussion of some of the words and expressions used in the video.

单亲家庭 (dān qīn jiātíng) is a single-parent family.

As an adjective, (dān) means single, alone, only, plain or weak. As a noun it can refer to a sheet, as in 被单 (bèidān a bedsheet), a list, as in 菜单 (càidān a menu of dishes of food), or a bill, as in 账单 (zhàng dān a bill or an invoice).

作文 (zuòwén) is to write a composition on a subject assigned by the teacher. The title of the composition is called 题目 (tímù), which also means topic or examination questions on a test.

The kid in the video is to write a composition titled “My Father”. His father also happens to be his school teacher.

身材 (shēncái) is one’s stature or figure.

Tā de shēncái hěn miáotiao.
Her figure is quite slender and fine.

和蔼可亲 (héǎikěqīn) is commonly used to describe an amiable person. The kid describes the father he knows as nice and humorous, or 幽默 (yōumò). However, his father, being his 级任老师 (jí rèn lǎoshī home-room teacher) and a 训导老师 (xùn dǎo lǎoshī) in charge of disciplining the students, is a rather different person during school hours.

罚站 (fá zhàn) is a form of punishment often employed by teachers (and some parents). Standing in a corner and barred from the normal activities, the child is apt to feel humiliated.

相处 (xiāngchǔ) means to get along with someone.

Wǒmén xiāngchǔ de hěn hǎo.
We get along very well.

(jiāo) has multiple meanings. 交功课 (jiāo gōngkè) means to hand in one’s schoolwork. If you fail to do so, you get disciplined.

人类 (rénlèi) means humankind, 灵魂 (línghún) is one’s soul, and 工程师 (gōngchéngshī) is an engineer. The kid humorously refers to teachers as 人类灵魂工程师 (rénlèi línghún gōngchéngshī), or engineers of the human soul.

自从 (zìcóng) means “since a certain time in the past”. 自小 (zì xiǎo) and 从小 (cóng xiǎo) both mean “since an early age”.

承担 (chéngdān) is to assume the responsibility of a task. 责任 (zérèn) means duty or responsibility.承担责任 (chéngdān zérèn) is to be responsible for a duty or a problem. 辅导 (fǔdào) means to give guidance to someone.

缺乏 (quēfá) means to be lacking in something.

因此 (yīncǐ) means therefore or consequently.

公司缺乏资金, 因此不容易经营.
Gōngsī quēfá zījīn, yīncǐ bù róngyì jīngyíng.
The company is short of funds, and is therefore not easy to operate.

We learned in December of 2012 that 算了. (Suàn le.) means “Never mind.”, “That’s okay.” or “Let it be.” The kid is unhappy about being punished by his own father, but then he acknowledges that he himself is partly to blame. He loves his father nonetheless.

Fùqin jié kuàilè!
Happy Father’s Day!

Zongzi – Glutinous Rice Dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival

粽子 (zòngzi)

粽子 (zòngzi)

The Dragon Boat Festival just slid by. We talked a bit about this Chinese holiday in Chapter 24 of Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes. The special food for this occasion is the glutinous rice dumpling called 粽子 (zòngzi). Glutinous rice is more flavorful than the regular varieties of rice. It has kind of a sweet taste to it. Cooked glutinous rice is also stickier than regular rice. Hence the alternative monikers “sweet rice” and “sticky” rice. The palm leaves used for wrapping the glutinous rice dumplings also impart a distinct appetizing flavor of its own. These dumplings are a favrite with many people. That is why some eateries serve them on a regular basis. I thought it would be fun for you to know how these are prepared.

Bāo zòngzi hěn huā shíjiān.
Making glutinous rice dumplings is time-consuming,

dànshì mán yǒu qùwèi.
but quite a bit of fun.

Xiān bǎ zòng yè xǐshuā gānjìng.
First clean the palm leaves by washing and brushing

zài yòng gǔn shuǐ zhǔ jǐ fēnzhōng.
then cook them in boiling water for a few minutes.

然后捞起来, 放在一边.
Ránhòu lāo qǐlái fàng zài yībiān.
Then scoop the leaves out of the water and set them aside.

Bǎ nuòmǐ jìn zài shuǐ li sān gè xiǎoshí yǐhòu,
After soaking the glutinous rice in water for three hours,

tóng tiáowèi pǐn jí chǎo hǎo le de xiāmi hùnhé.
mix it with seasoning and pan-fried dried shrimp.

Bǎ zòng yè zé chéng sháozi xíngzhuàng.
Fold the leaves into the shape of a ladle.

Yǎo xiē nuòmǐ fàng jìnqu.
Ladle some of the glutinous rice mixture into it.

Jiā liǎng kuài hóngshāoròu hé xiānggū.
Add two pieces of braised pork and shitake mushrooms.

Zài jiā xiē nuòmǐ zài shàngmiàn.
Then top it off with additional glutinous rice mixture.

Bǎ zòngzi bāo hǎo.
Wrap up the glutinous rice dumpling.

Yòng dàhuǒ zhēng yī gè xiǎoshí jiù wánchéng le.
Steam over high heat for one hour, then it’s done.

Glutinous rice does not contain dietary gluten. However, it is not as digestible as regular rice. My advice is to refrain from eating too much of it at one time, and to chew well.

To see the associated photos and hear some of the above sentences read, click on this link: Glutinous Rice Dumplings. A recipe for 粽子 can be found in the “About” section.

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