Chinese words for the four emotions

An aged relative recently remarked, “In life there is more suffering than joy.” Of course, I’m in no position to argue with this beloved centenarian who has been around since motorized movie cameras first replaced hand-cranked cameras and who has witnessed WWI, WWII as well as the Second Sino-Japanese War. In fact, you may agree with her when you take a look at the Chinese phrase that lists the emotional responses to what life deals to each and every person – 喜怒哀怨 (xǐ nù āi yuàn). Out of the four emotions cited, only one pertains to happiness.

As an adjective, (xǐ) means being pleased or delighted. 欢喜 (huānxǐ delighted) and 高兴 (gāoxìng glad) are synonymous. 惊喜 (jīngxǐ) means being pleasantly surprised, or a pleasant surprise.

As a noun, (xǐ) refers to a happy event, such as a wedding, expecting a baby, or some other occasion for celebration. On plaques or banners displayed at a wedding, you may see two of this character joined together. That is not an official Chinese character, but a symbol to represent the auspicious event for the two families involved.

喜酒 (xǐjiǔ) is a wedding feast.

喜事 (xǐshì) is a happy event, such as a wedding or the arrival of a new baby.

喜气洋洋 (xǐqìyángyáng) is a phrase often used to describe a person sporting a jubilant aura, or a place that is filled with joy.

你看他红光满面, 喜气洋洋.
Nǐ kàn tā hóngguāngmǎnmiàn xǐqìyángyáng.
Look at him, glowing with a ruddy face and beaming with joy.

As a verb, (xǐ) means to like or to be fond of someone or something, as in 喜欢 (xǐhuān) or 喜爱 (xǐài)

喜剧 (xǐjù) is a comedy.

她喜欢看喜剧.
Tā xǐhuān kàn xǐjù.
She likes to watch comedies.

(xǐ auspiciousness, jubilation) has the same pronunciation as (xǐ), but mainly occurs in 恭贺新禧 (Gōnghèxīnxǐ Happy New Year) and 千禧年 (qiānxīnián the millennium).

(nù) is anger, indignation, or being angry. (hǒu) means to roar. Therefore, 怒吼 (nùhǒu) means to roar angrily.

动怒 (dòngnù) means the same as 生气 (shēngqì), i.e. to get angry or to lose one’s temper.

愤怒 (fènnù) is anger or indignation. This word can also be used as an adjective.

怒火 (nùhuǒ) likens fury to flames of fire.

他怒火冲天.
Tā nùhuǒ chōngtiān.
He flared up.

恼羞成怒 (nǎoxiūchēngnù) means to be shamed into anger.

(āi) means sorrow, sadness, or being sad or cheerless. 哀伤 (āishāng), 哀痛 (āitòng) and 悲哀 (bēiāi) all mean being sad or sorrowful. These words can also be used as nouns. In everyday speech, the most commonly used word for being sad or brokenhearted is 伤心 (shāngxīn).

他听到那坏消息, 非常伤心.
Tā tīngdào nà huài xiāoxi, fēicháng shāngxīn.
He heard the bad news and was very sad.

悲观 (bēiguān) means pessimistic. 悲剧 (bēijù) is a tragedy.

她看悲剧会掉眼泪.
Tā kàn bēijù huì diào yǎnlèi.
Watching a tragedy will make her weep.

哀号 (āiháo) is to wail or cry piteously.

哀求 (āiqiú) means to implore or entreat.

那妇女哀求所罗门王不要杀那个婴儿.
Nà fùnǚ āiqiú Suǒluómén Wáng bùyào shā nàge yīngér.
That woman begged King Solomon not to kill that baby.

(yuàn) means to resent, to complain, or being resentful. 抱怨 (bàoyuàn) and 埋怨 (mányuàn) mean to complain or to grumble.

怨言 (yuànyán) are complaints.

In formal Chinese, 佳偶 (jiāǒu) refers to a happily married couple, and 怨偶 (yuàn’ǒu) refers to an unhappy couple.

Granted that the world around us cannot be a rose garden every day, therefore it is up to us to look at the bright side of things. An optimist, or 乐观的人 (lèguān de rén), tends to hold a positive attitude toward life.

What is Qi? (2)

The word (qì) is also used to represent the emotions, the spirit, the quality or the momentum within a person or the mannerism and airs about a person.

Emotional Qi

We’ve talked about 火气 (huǒqì) before, which is used to describe an inflammation or a rage. 气愤 (qìfèn) is an adjective that means to be angry. 生气 (shēngqì) also means to get angry or to take offense. However, as a noun, this word means vitality or a sign of life.

她听了这话, 非常生气.
Tā tīng le zhèhuà, fēicháng shēngqì.
After hearing these words, she got very angry.

气人 (qìrén) means annoying.

(chōng) means to clash or to flush away with water. 气冲冲 (qìchōngchōng) is to be beside oneself with rage. (hū) is to breathe out or to shout. 气呼呼 (qìhūhū) means panting with rage.

怄气 (òuqì) is to sulk at someone or something. 赌气 (dǔqì) is to feel wronged or offended and act rashly.

他怄气, 不来了.
Tā òuqì bù lái le.
He is upset and does not want to come.

出气 (chūqì) is to vent one’s anger, usually upon another person.

有时大人拿小孩出气.
Yǒushí dàren ná xiǎohá chūqì.
Sometimes grown-ups vent their angers on the children.

脾气 (píqì) is one’s temperament. 脾气大 (píqì) means to have a bad temper. 脾气好 (píqìhǎo) means to have a good disposition. This is akin with 和气 (héqì), which means being friendly and amiabile.

牛脾气 (niúpíqi) means ox-like stubbornness, or pigheadedness.

沉住气 (chénzhuqì) is to keep one’s cool, stay calm and not jump to action.

语气 (yǔqì) is the tone of voice. 低声下气 (dīshēngxiàqì) means talking in a subdued voice and in meek manners. This phrase is commonly used for describing submissiveness.

不服气 (bù fúqì) means to remain resentful and unconvinced, and refuse to accept a settlement or judgement as being reasonable or final.

Qi as Mannerism and Airs

气度 (qìdù) is a person’s comportment or capacity for tolerance, and 气派 (qìpài) are a persons airs, mannerism and style.

傲气 (àoqì) is arrogance, while 流气 (liúqì) is a roguish demeanor.

客气 (kèqi) is being polite and courteous.

小气 (xiǎoqì) means stingy or petty.

幼稚 (yòuzhì) means naïve or childish. 稚气 (zhìqì) and 孩子气 (háizǐqì) are two other terms for childishness.

怪里怪气 (guàiliguàiqì) describes someone who is queer or eccentric.

珠光宝气 (zhū guāng bǎo qì) is a term often used to describe a richly bejewled lady.

Spiritual Qi

正气 (zhèngqì) is uprightness or morality. 勇气 (yǒngqì) is the word for courage. 志气 (zhìqi) means aspiration.

才气 (cáiqì) refers to literary talent. A gifted scholar, like Xu Zhimo, would be called a 才子 (cáiqì).

运气 (yùnqi) is one’s luck, which can be good or bad. 福气 (fúqi) is good fortune. 喜气洋洋 (xǐqìyángyáng) means to be full of joy, as on one’s wedding day.

一口气 (yīkǒuqì) literally means one breath. It can be used as an adverb to describe doing something at one go. For example,

他一口气把那本书念完了.
Tā yīkǒuqì bǎ nà běn shū niàn wán le.
He finished reading that book in one sitting.

On the other hand, 争一口气 (zhēng yīkǒuqì) means to try to win some honor or credit for your family or country. So, 不争气 (bùzhēngqì) is a term often used by parents to criticize their son or daughter for failing to live up to their expections.

Since (qì) is pronounced the same as the initial sound of “cheese”, why not say (qì) next time you pose for a photo?

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