Sing Oh, Shenandoah in Chinese

Today we will sing a traditional American folk song in Chinese. Below, on the right side, you will find one version of the lyrics to this song. On the left side is my translation notated with pinyin.

噢, 泄南多啊! Oh Shenandoah,
Ō, xiè nán duō a!
我多想念你. I long to hear you.
Wǒ duō xiǎngniàn nǐ.
再会! 涛涛的大河! Away! You rolling river!
Zàihuì! Tāo tāo de dà hé!
噢, 泄南多啊! Oh Shenandoah,
Ō, xiè nán duō a!
我多想见你. I long to see you.
Wǒ duō xiǎngjiàn nǐ.
再会!来日再会! Away, I’m bound away
Zàihuì! Lái rì zàihuì!
遥念于密苏里. ‘Cross the wide Missouri.
Yáo niàn yú Mìsūlǐ.

噢, 泄南多啊! Oh Shenandoah,
Ō, xiè nán duō a!
我多么爱她. I love your daughter.
Wǒ duōme ài tā.
再会! 涛涛的大河! Away! You rolling river!
Zàihuì! Tāo tāo de dà hé!
我会带她 I’ll take her ‘cross
Wǒ huì dài tā
平安地回家. Your rollin’ water.
Píng’ān dì huí jiā.
再会!来日再会! Away, I’m bound away
Zàihuì! Lái rì zàihuì!
遥念于密苏里. ‘Cross the wide Missouri.
Yáo niàn yú Mìsūlǐ.

这七年多, ‘Tis seven years,
Zhè qī nián duō,
我四处漂泊. I’ve been a rover,
Wǒ sìchù piāobó.
再会! 涛涛的大河! Away! You rolling river!
Zàihuì! Tāo tāo de dà hé!
等我回来, When I return,
Děng wǒ huílái,
当履行承诺. I’ll be your lover.
Dāng lǚ xíng chéngnuò.
再会!来日再会! Away, I’m bound away
Zàihuì! Lái rì zàihuì!
遥念于密苏里. ‘Cross the wide Missouri.
Yáo niàn yú Mìsūlǐ.

噢, 泄南多啊! Oh Shenandoah,
Ō, xiè nán duō a!
我必须离去. I’m bound to leave you.
Wǒ bìxū lí qù.
再会! 涛涛的大河! Away! You rolling river!
Zàihuì! Tāo tāo de dà hé!
噢, 泄南多啊! Oh Shenandoah,
Ō, xiè nán duō a!
我不会负义. I’ll not deceive you.
Wǒ bù huì fù yì.
再会!来日再会! Away, I’m bound away
Zàihuì! Lái rì zàihuì!
遥念于密苏里. ‘Cross the wide Missouri.
Yáo niàn yú Mìsūlǐ.

河 ( hé ) is a river. A small stream or brook would be called 溪 (xī). 涛涛 (tāo tāo) describes the rolling waves.
想念 (xiǎngniàn) means to miss someone. 遥远 (yáoyuǎn) means faraway. Therefore, 遥念 (yáo niàn) means to miss someone from afar.
再会 (zàihuì) and 再见(zàijiàn) are interchangeable. Both mean “See you again.”.
来日 (lái rì) means someday in the future. The Chinese idiom 来日方长 (Láirìfāngcháng) means there will be another day for that.
平安地 (píng’ān di) means safely.
回家 (huí jiā) means to go home or come hom.
四处漂泊 (sìchù piāobó) is to wonder around.
履行承诺 (lǚ xíng chéngnuò) is to fulfill one’s promise.

The Chinese idiom 忘恩负义 (wàng’ēnfùyì) is used for accusing someone of being ungrateful and turning one’s back in return.

七月四日快乐!
Qīyuè sìrì kuàilè!
Happy July 4th!

Qualities of a Great Father in Chinese

爸爸 (bàba) or 爹 (diē) is to 父亲 (fùqin) as papa or dad is to father. 父 (fù) is one of the radicals of Chinese characters, but there aren’t many characters in this group.

It used to be that being a good father meant being a good provider for the family. Nowadays that has become the minimum requirement. A great deal more is expected of a father in modern days. Let’s see how we can phrase it in Chinese. Please pay special attention to the four-character idioms that I’ve highlighted below.

他努力工作以确保一家的温饱.
Tā nǔlì gōngzuò yǐ quèbǎo yījiā de wēnbǎo.
He works hard to ensure the food and clothing of the family.

他爱他的妻子和孩子们.
Tā ài tā de qīzi hé háizi men.
He loves his wife and children.

他不重男轻女.
Tā bù chóng nán qīng nǚ.
He does not favor his sons over his daughters.

他的思想开明,有同理心.
Tā de sīxiǎng kāimíng, yǒu tóng lǐ xīn.
He is open-minded and shows empathy.

他是孩子们的良師益友.
Tā shì háizimen de liángshīyìyǒu.
He is a good teacher and a helpful friend to his children.

他乐意花时间教导儿女, 同他们游戏与沟通.
Tā lèyì huā shíjiān jiàodǎo érnǚ, tóng tāmen yóuxì yǔ gōutōng.
He is willing to spend time teaching his children, playing and communicating with them.

以身作则, 并且耐心矫正儿女的过错.
Tā yǐshēnzuòzé, bìngqiě nàixīn jiǎozhèng er nǚ de guòcuò.
He leads by example, and patiently corrects the faults of his children.

他注重健康, 奉公守法, 热心助人.
Tā zhùzhòng jiànkāng, fènggōngshǒufǎ, rèxīn zhùrén.
He pays attention to health, obeys the law, and is enthusiastic about helping others.

他诚恳, 正直, 值得信赖.
Tā chéngkěn, zhengzhi, zhide xinlai.
HHe is sincere, upright and trustworthy.

他尊重儿女对于宗教, 职业以及配偶的选择.
Tā zūnzhòng érnǚ duìyú zōngjiào,zhíyè yǐjí pèi’ǒu de xuǎnzé.
He respects his children’s choice of religion, career and spouse.

Thinking back, I feel truly grateful to have been blessed with a wonderful father. How I miss him!

祝父亲节快乐!
Zhù fùqīn jié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Father’s Day!

As it happens to be Dragon Boat Festival 端午节 (duānwǔjié) today, you might be interested in watching how the special glutinous rice dumpling is prepared in this video. You can read the associated blog post here.

Great Mothers in Chinese History

Flowering Tree in Spring

In the proverb “Behind every great man there is a great woman.”, the woman referred to is the wife of the great man. Throughout the human history, we can find countless instances to support the fact that behind every great person there is a great mother.

In particular, a number of outstanding mothers in Chinese history have been placed on a pedestal for all to admire. These women did not spoil their children, but rather taught them discipline and planted in their minds sound moral principles. We will talk about one of them today. You should be able to follow this story without much difficulty, as the English translation closely parallels the Chinese text.

在中國, 孟子通常被稱為亞聖.
Zài zhōngguó, Mèngzǐ tōngcháng bèi chēng wèi Yàshèng.
In China, Mencius is often referred to as the Second Sage.
(Confucius is regarded as the Great Sage.)

他相信人性根本上是善良的.
Tā xiāngxìn rénxìng gēnběn shàng shì shànliáng de.
He believed that human nature is fundamentally good.

孟子的母親把住所搬到一所學校的附近,
Mèngzǐ de mǔqīn bǎ zhùsuǒ bān dào yī suǒ xuéxiào de fùjìn,
Mensius’ mother moved their residence to be near a school,

希望使他對學習感興趣.
xīwàng shǐ tā duì xuéxí gǎn xìngqù.
in the hope of getting him interested in studying.

俗話說: “近朱者赤,近墨者黑.”
Súhuà shuō: “Jìnzhūzhěchì, jìnmòzhěhēi.”
As the saying goes, “One takes on the character of one’s company or environment.”
(Those involved with red dye get stained red; those involved with ink get stained black.)

有一天,孟子从他的房间出来时,
Yǒu yītiān, Mèngzǐ cóng tā de fángjiān chūlái shí,
One day, when Mencius came out of his room,

他的母亲正在织一块布.
Tā de mǔqīn zhèngzài zhī yīkuài bù.
his mother was weaving a piece of cloth.

母亲问他: “你的功课做好了吗?”
Mǔqīn wèn tā: “Nǐ de gōngkè zuò hǎole ma?”
She asked him, “Have you finished your homework?”

孟子回答:”还没有,但是我想去外面玩耍.”
Mèngzǐ huídá: “Hái méiyǒu, dànshì wǒ xiǎng qù wàimiàn wánshuǎ.”
Mencius replied, “Not yet, but I want to go play outside.”

母亲听了, 拿起一把大剪刀,
Mǔqīn tīngle, ná qǐ yī bǎ dà jiǎndāo,
Upon hearing this, the mother grabbed a large pair of scissors,

剪断了织布机上正在织的布.
jiǎn duàn le zhī bù jī shàng zhèngzài zhī de bù.
and cut the fabric she was weaving on the loom.

孟子大吃一惊.
Mèngzǐ dàchīyījīng.
Mencius was taken aback.

他问母亲为什么要破坏费力织成的布.
Tā wèn mǔqīn wèishéme yào pòhuài fèilì zhī chéng de bù.
He asked mother why she destroyed the laboriously woven fabric.

母亲回答: “这就像你荒废学业, 半途而废.
Mǔqīn huídá:“Zhè jiù xiàng nǐ huāngfèi xuéyè, bàntú’érfèi.
The mother replied, “This is just like your neglecting your studies and giving it up halfway.

这样, 你会一事无成.”
Zhèyàng, nǐ huì yīshìwúchéng.”
This way you will get nowhere.”

孟子深为感动, 牢记在心.
Mèngzǐ shēn wéi gǎndòng, láojì zàixīn.
Mencius was deeply moved and took this advice to heart.

他刻苦学习,成为 了 中国最受尊敬的学者之一.
Tā kèkǔ xuéxí, chéngwéi le zhōngguó zuì shòu zūnjìng de xuézhě zhī yī.
He studied hard and became one of the most respected scholars in China.

You can find additional anecdotes, rhymes and lyrics in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to help increase your proficiency in Chinese.

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

Common Abbreviations in Chinese

Chinese Brush Painting – Chicks in Springtime

As if there weren’t already so many words to learn in Chinese, we must also be able to deal with abbreviations that are thrown at us from time to time, especially by news reporters, who must deliver vast amount of information within a very short time.

Many of the Chinese abbreviations, or 简称 (jiǎnchēng), are sort of like acronyms. When a word is made up of two or more other multi-character words, often a new word is formed by combining the initial character of each of the constituent words. For example,

今早 (jīnzǎo) stands for 今天早晨 (jīntiān zǎochén this morning); 明早 (míngzǎo) stands for 明天早晨 (míngtiān zǎochén tomorrow morning).

Hey, aren’t you glad that spring has sprung? 今春 (jīnchūn) stands for 今年春天 (jīnnián chūntiān this spring); 明春 (míng chūn) stands for 明年春天 (míngnián chūntiān next spring).

流感 (liúgǎn) refers to 流行感冒 (liúxíng gǎnmào, influenza); 股市 (gǔshì) refers to 股票市场 (gǔpiào shìchǎng, stock market).

台湾大学 (Táiwān Dàxué National Taiwan University) is abbreviated as 台大 (Táidà).

中学 (zhōngxué) is middle school. 女子中学 (nǚzǐ zhōngxué) is abbreviated as 女中 (nǚ zhōng).
高中 (gāozhōng) is high school. A girls high school is called 女高 (nǚ gāo).

Obsiously, any word that starts wtih 国 has something to do with a country or nation.
国防 (guófáng) is short for 国家防卫 (guójiā fángwèi, national defense).
国小 (guó xiǎo) is short for 国民小学 (guómín xiǎoxué, national elementary school).
内宣 (nèi xuān) is short for 内部宣传 (nèibù xuānchuán, internal propaganda).
外宣 (wài xuān) is short for 外部宣传 (wàibù xuānchuán, external propaganda, or publicity).

The Chinese transliteration of most of the foreign country names are a mouthful. Luckily we mostly refer to these countries by their abbreviated names. For example:

United States of America 美利坚合众国 (Měilìjiān hézhòngguó) is shortened to 美国 (Měiguó).
China 中华人民共和国 (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) is 中国 (Zhōngguó).
Great Britain 大不列颠 (Dàbùlièdiān) is 英国 (Yīngguó).
France 法兰西 (Fǎlánxī) is 法国 (Fǎguó).

When talking about two or more countries, each will usually be represented by just one character, as shown below.

台美半导体会议 (Tái Měi bàndǎotǐ huìyì, Taiwan American Semiconductor Conference)
中美贸易 (Zhōng Měi màoyì, Sino-U.S. Trade)

For Hong Kong 香港 (xiānggǎng), the second character is chosen for the abbreviation, as in 台港关系 (Tái gǎng guānxì, Taiwan-Hong Kong relations).

欧盟 (ōuméng) stands for 欧洲联盟 (ōuzhōu liánméng, European Union).

公共 (gōnggòng) means shared by the public, and 公用 (gōngyòng) means for public use. Therefore, a bus is called 公共汽车 (gōnggòngqìchē), or 公车 (gōngchē) for short. Similarly, 公园 (gōngyuán) is short for 公共花园 (gōnggòng huāyuán, a public garden or a park), and 公厕 (gōngcè) is short for 公共厕所 (gōnggòng cèsuǒ, public restroom).

公公 (gōnggōng) is the father-in-law and 婆婆 (pópo) is the mother-in-law, whereas 公婆 (gōngpó) refers to both of them. Similarly, 父母 (fùmǔ) means parents, i.e. 父亲 (fùqīn, father) and 母亲 (mǔqīn, mother).

家用电器 (jiāyòngdiànqì, household appliance) is abbreviated as 家电 (jiādiàn).
驾驶执照 (jiàshǐ zhízhào, driver’s license) is abbreviated as 驾照 (jiàzhào).
空气调节 (kōngqì tiáojié, air conditioning) is abbreviated as 空调 (kòngtiáo).
空中运输 (kōngzhōng yùnshū, air transportation) is abbreviated as 空运 (kōngyùn).
世运会 (Shìyùnhuì) is short for 世界运动会 (Shìjiè yùndònghuì World Games).

Often some other (more significant) characters, rather than the initial characters, in the constituent words are selected to form the abbreviation, as shown in the following examples.

汽车 (qìchē) are cars. Vehicle license plates are called 汽车牌照 (qìchē páizhào), or 车牌 (chēpái).
厨具 (chújù) stands for 厨房用具 (chúfáng yòngjù, kitchen utensils).
糕饼 (gāobǐng) covers the sweet treats, such as 蛋糕 (dàngāo, cakes) and 饼干 (bǐnggān, cookies).

学校 (xuéxiào) are schools. Here, the second character is the one that designates the educational institution and is used for the following abbreviations:
校园 (xiàoyuán) is the school compound.
校花 (xiàohuā) is the generally acknowledged prettiest girl of a school.
校车 (xiàochē) is a school bus.
校长 (xiàozhǎng) is the principal.

专科学校 (zhuānkē xuéxiào) is a specialized school, such as a technical college. It is abbreviated as 专校 (zhuān xiào).

Finally, the four-character Chinese idioms are the ultimate in abbreviations. As we have seen in my previous blog post about 塞翁失馬 (sāiwēngshīmǎ), there can be a long story behind some of those pithy expressions.

Chinese idiom for “Misfortune could be a blessing in disguise.”

Road Block sign

Road Blocked

On life’s journey, it is inevitable that we sometimes encounter setbacks. However, often they are not as bad as they appear to be.

Suppose you baked a chiffon cake, but something went wrong. Instead of a tender and uniformly pale perfection with just the right amount of moistness, the cake features a visible layer of goo settled somewhere in the middle. Before you declare the fruit of labor a failure, let me congratulate you. You have just produced what’s called a “magic cake”, or 魔术蛋糕 (móshù dàngāo).

And suppose, while mixing yeast, flour and water to make bread dough, you were absent-minded and accidentally added way too much water. You look at the poolish (wet dough sponge) and wonder if you should dump the whole thing and start over. Don’t. This is actually the perfect mixture for making the so-called “peasant bread”, or 农家面包 (nóngjiā miànbāo). You might need to add a bit more salt to adjust the taste, and then the dough is ready for proofing and baking. No need to knead, and I’m not kidding. The end product is a coarse bread that lives up to its name, but some people claim that it is the best bread they have ever consumed.

After the ingenious inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla 尼古拉 特斯拉 (Nígǔlā Tèsīlā) had a falling-out with Thomas Edison 托马斯 爱迪生 (Tuōmǎsī Aàidíshēng) and resigned from the latter’s company as an electrical engineer, he had to support himself by working as a ditch digger. Luckily, fortune turned in his favor. Had he stayed with Edison, his concept of using alternating current to deliver power would never have been implemented.

So it is that you find yourself in a bad situation, you might try to take it easy, as sometimes the loss might turn out to be a gain. There is a saying in Chinese that conveys this sentiment:

塞翁失馬,焉知非福.
Sāiwēngshīmǎ, yānzhīfēifú.
The old man lost a horse; how would you know if this would not turn out to be a blessing?

In the story on which this idiom is based, the horse of an old gentleman ran away one day. While his neighbors felt sorry for him, the old man did not take this incident to heart. Indeed, a few months later, the horse returned, accompanied by a fine steed. The old man ended up gaining an additional horse.

老人失掉了马, 但是他不在意.
Lǎorén shīdiàole mǎ, dànshì tā bù zàiyì.
The old man lost his horse, but he did not care.

There are a few other ways to say that you don’t care.

不在乎 (bùzàihū) means not minding something; not giving a fig about something.

他失掉了工作,但是他好像毫不在乎.
Tā shīdiàole gōngzuò, dànshì tā hǎoxiàng háo bùzàihū.
He lost his job, but he does not seem to care.

不介意 (bù jièyì) means not minding or not taking offence.

如果你不介意, 我明天就不来了.
Rúguǒ nǐ bù jièyì wǒ míngtiān jiù bù láile.
If you don’t mind, I won’t come tomorrow.

不放在心上 (bù fàng zàixīn shàng) means not taking something to heart.

希望你不要把这件事放在心上.
Xīwàng nǐ bùyào bǎ zhè jiàn shì fàng zàixīn shàng.
Hope you don’t take this matter to heart.

处之泰然 (chǔzhītàirán) is to handle a situation with equanimity.

他凡事处之泰然.
Tā fánshì chǔzhītàirán.
He is at ease with everything.

How would you say “It doesn’t matter.” in Chinese? Yes, 没关系 (méiguānxi), or 不要紧 (bùyàojǐn), or 无所谓 (wúsuǒwèi).

没关系; 我坐哪里都无所谓.
Méiguānxì, wǒ zuò nǎlǐ dōu wúsuǒwèi.
It’s all right; it doesn’t matter where I sit.

When faced with an issue about which one can do little, a person might simply let it be.

那么, 就顺其自然吧!
Nàme, jiù shùn qí zìrán ba!
Then, let it be.

顺其自然 (shùnqízìrán) is to follow nature’s course.

A confident person might be more optimistic and utter one of the following three idioms.

天无绝人之路.
Tiānwújuérénzhīlù.
Heaven never seals off all the exits – there is always a way out..

船到桥头自然直.
Chuán dào qiáotóu zìran zhí.
The boat will automatically straighten itself out when it gets to the bridge.
(We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.)

<font size=”5″>穷则变,变则通.
Qióng zé biàn, biàn zé tōng.
When at an impasse, one will try to change things, and then the path will open.

穷途末路
(qióngtúmòlù) is a literary expression for a dead end or an impasse.

No one knows how a person’s fate might change in the next moment. That’s expressed in the Chinese saying:

天有不测风云;
Tiānyǒubùcèfēngyún;
A storm may arise out of the blue;

人有旦夕祸福.
Rén yǒu dànxì huò fú.
people’s fate may change in a day.

旦夕 (dànxī) is the formal Chinese way of saying this morning or evening, i.e. in a short while.

Let’s hope that whatever problem you are facing now will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

她被开除之后, 找到一个理想的工作, 可以说是因祸得福.
Tā bèi kāichú zhīhòu, zhǎodào yīgè gèng lǐxiǎng de gōngzuò, kěyǐ shuō shì yīnhuòdéfú.
After she was fired, she found an ideal job, which can be said to be a blessing in disguise.

妇女节快乐!
Fùnǚ jié kuàilè!
Happy International Women’s Day!

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