Common Chinese words containing the food radical

Cream Puffs
Cream Puffs – For the recipe, see “Tame Migraine the Delicious Way

In the “Records of the Grand Historian“, a colossal writeup and compilation of ancient Chinese history, you can find the following line, which has become an idiom. In particular, the second half is well known to most Chinese and often quoted.
Guó yǐ mín wéi běn, mín yǐ shí wéi tiān.
The country is based on the people, and the people rely on food.
食 (shí) as a noun means food. In classical Chinese, 食 (shí) is also used as as a verb and means to eat. Colloquially, to eat is 吃 (chī).
天 (tiān) means sky or heaven. Here, 天 refers to the fundamental factor that dominates everything. “民以食为天” points out the fact that food is the first necessity of man. It is an advice given to the ruler/administrators of a country to the effect that if everyone in the country is properly fed, there will be a stable society and the country will prosper. Does this still apply today?
In the traditional Chinese character system, 食 is kept intact when it serves as a radical for another character, whereas in the Simplified Chinese character system, it is reduced to 饣, and in some cases entirely omitted!
In the traditional Chinese character system, the word for surplus or remainder is 餘(yú). In the Simplified Chinese character system, only the right side of the character remains: 余(yú).
饭 (fàn) is cooked rice. Literally, 吃饭 (chīfàn) means to eat rice. However, this expression means to have a meal.
Míngtiān lái wǒjiā chīfàn.
Come to have dinner at my house tomorrow.
Similarly, 煮饭 could mean cooking rice or the action of cooking in general.
饥饿 is hunger. 饿 means hungry, while 饱 means having eaten to one’s fill.
餐厅 (cāntīng) is a restaurant or the dining room of a house. 食堂 (shítáng) is a dining room or a mess hall.
Wǒmen qù cāntīng chī jiǎozi ba.
Let’s go to the restaurant to have dumplings.
食物 (shíwù) is the general term for food and edibles. 食品 (shípǐn) means foodstuff or provisions.
粮食 (liángshi) refers to such foods as grains or cereals.
主食 (zhǔshí) is the staple food, or principal food.
零食 (íngshí) are snacks.
饮料 (yǐnliào) are drinks or beverages.
甜食 (tiánshí) are sweets. 饼干 (bǐnggān) are cookies.
素食 (sùshí) is a vegetarian diet.
饮食 (yǐnshí) means a diet or food and drinks in general.
食谱 (shípǔ) are recipes or a cookbook, such as “Tame Migraine the Delicious Way“.
饲料 (sìliào) is fodder, or feed for animals.
饵 (ěr) is a bait, such as a fish bait, or 鱼饵 (yú’ěr).
食用 (shíyòng) means edible or for eating, as opposed to being for industrial use (such as rubbing alcohol).
节食 (jiéshí) means to go on a diet, while 绝食 (juéshí) is to fast or to go on a hunger strike.
食指 (shízhǐ) is the index finger. Imagine a westerner using the forefinger to point to things, while a Chinese dips the forefinger in the sauce and then places it on the tongue to savor the taste.
食盐 (shíyán) is table salt. 食言 (shíyán) is pronounced exactly the same way, but it means going back on one’s word, or breaking one’s promise.
Now, let’s look at a few commonly used Chinese idioms:
自食其果 (zìshíqíguǒ) means to eat one’s own bitter fruit or to reap what one has sown.
食而不化 (shí’érbùhuà) means to eat without digesting, i.e. to read without understanding.
因噎废食 (yīnyēfèishi) means to give up eating for fear of choking, in other words, to refrain from doing something necessary for fear of a slight risk.
The idiom 弱肉强食 (ruòròuqiángshí) points out the unfortunate fact that the weak are often the prey of the strong. In other words, it’s a jungle out there. Now, as human beings, we strive to cultivate ourselves to tone down our primal instincts and rise above all others in the animal kingdom. Let’s leave aggression and wars behind, but put our efforts in working toward peace and harmonious coexistence.

How to say not to worry in Chinese

Blue Sky After Rain

In everyday life we encounter situations in which someone owes you an apology. If it’s not a big issue, there are a few things you could say to ease their mind.

It’s fine.

No matter. It’s OK.

It doesn’t matter; it’s nothing; never mind.

Méi wèntí.
No problem.

不要紧 or 不打紧
Bùyàojǐn or bù dǎjǐn.
It doesn’t matter; that’s all right.

Bùyào fàng zàixīn shàng.
Don’t worry about it.

Bùyào jièyì.
Don’t mind it.

In case where someone is worried about something, you could try to tell them to relax.

别着急. 着急是没有用的
Bié zhāojí. Zhāojí shì méiyǒu yòng de.
Don’t worry. It’s no use worrying.

慢慢来. 别急.
Màn man lái. Bié jí.
Take it easy. No rush.

唉呀! 别紧张.
Āi ya! Bié jǐnzhāng.
Well, take it easy.

Fàng qīngsōng xiē.

Bùyòng dānxīn.
No need to worry.

你放心吧. 他一定会回来的.
Nǐ fàngxīn ba. Tā yīdìng huì huílái de.
Rest assured. He will definitely come back.

看开一点. 这件事没有你想的那么严重.
Kàn kāi yīdiǎn. Zhè jiàn shì méiyǒu nǐ xiǎng dì nàme yánzhòng.
Take it easy. This issue is not as serious as you think.

Chuán dào qiáotóu zìrán zhí.
The boat will straighten itself when it comes to the bridge.
(Let’s cross the bridge when we come to it.)

不要忧愁; 不久就会雨过天晴.
Bùyào yōuchóu; bùjiǔ jiù huì yǔguò tiān qíng.
Don’t worry; soon the sun will shine again after the rain.
(Every cloud has a silver lining.)

我想, 最后一定会皆大欢喜.
Wǒ xiǎng, zuìhòu yīdìng huì jiēdàhuānxǐ.
I think, everyone will be happy in the end.
(All’s well that ends well.)

Now, what would you say when you decide to shrug away some minor annoyance?

It doesn’t matter.

Guǎn tā.
Who cares.

Suí tā qù
Let it be.

Never mind.

Suàn wǒ dǎoméi.
Just my luck!

Shéi jiào wǒ yùnqì bù hǎo!
Who told me to be so unlucky!
(Just my luck!)

The story goes that once there was a poor old guy riding a rowboat along a river to go home. At lunchtime, the other passengers took out their lunchboxes and enjoyed their nice meals. All the old guy had was a salted duck egg that he had saved from his breakfast. He used a pair of chopsticks to poke a hole in the eggshell and then picked up bits of the egg to savor in his mouth. As he did so, the egg became lighter and lighter. At last, he decided to set the remainder of the egg aside to snack on later. Suddenly, a puff of wind swept by and blew the nearly empty eggshell off his hand. Watching his precious eggshell float downstream, he muttered:

风吹鸭蛋壳, 财去人安乐.
Fēng chuī yādàn ké, cái qù rén ānlè.
Eggshell went with the breeze; fortune’s gone, but mind’s at peace.

Yes, free is the heart that is not tethered by worldly possessions. By the way, when you are worried, you could try singing the refrain of “Worried Man Blues” in Chinese. This song is featured at the end of Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“. Click here to listen to the entire song in English.

Year of the Rat and Chinese idioms associated with rats and mice

Year of the Rat Greeting Card

Year 2020 – Chinese Year of the Rat Greeting Card

Yikes! I’m scared of rats and mice. However, as a Chinese zodiac sign, rats represent wealth and abundance, and the ones pictured on the greeting card here do look kind of cute. If you wish to read up on the rats zodiac information, please click on this link.

Let’s take a closer look at the greeting card design. Notice how the various disks have a square hole in the center? Those represent the ancient Chinese coins. People used to string them together and carry the strings of cash coins around. Also, there are one or more occurrences of the following auspicious phrases on the card image. Are you able to find them all?

迎新年 (yíng xīnnián) Welcome the New year.

迎春纳福 (yíng chūn nàfú) Welocme spring and enjoy a life of ease and comfort.

迎春接福 (yíng chūn jiē fú) Welocme spring and enjoy a life of ease and comfort.

富贵有余 (fùguì yǒuyú) Have ample riches and prestige.

一路发财 (yīlù fācái) Make a fortune throughout the journey of life.

招财进宝 (zhāo cái jìn bǎo) May riches and treasures pour in.

财源滚滚 (cái yuán gǔn gǔn) May the source of wealth keep surging.

大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì) Very good fortune and great profit to you.

吉祥平安 (jíxiáng píng’ān) Auspiciousness and wellness be with you.

事事如意 (shìshìrúyì) Smooth going for everything.

In the above, (yíng) is an abbreviation for 欢迎 (huānyíng), which means to welcome or to greet.

Following are a few other popular New Year greetings:

恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái) Wish you happiness and prosperity.

心想事成 (xīn xiǎng shì chéng) May all your wishes come true.

万事如意 (wàn shì rú yì) May everything go as you wish.

年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú) May you have abundance and surplus each year.

年年高升 (nián nián gāo shēng) May you get a promotion year after year.

岁岁平安 (suì suì píng ān) May you enjoy peace year after year.

(yú surplus) is a homonym for (yú fish). This is why many Chinese families include a dish of fish for the last dinner of the year but make sure to save part of the fish for consumption in the new year.

(gāo high, tall) is a homonym for (gāo cakes). 年糕 (niángāo), a very sweet cake, is usually served around Chinese New year because it connotes 年年高升. Instead of that sugary cake, I serve my family the wholesome Daikon radish cake, or 萝卜糕 (luóbogāo), the recipe of which can be found in “Tame Migraine the Delicious Way“.

The Chinese word for rats or mice is (shǔ) or 老鼠 (lǎoshǔ). In some dialects, rats and mice are called 耗子 (hàozi). The Chinese word for rats or mice is (shǔ) or 老鼠 (lǎoshǔ). In some dialects, rats and mice are called 耗子 (hàozi). 田鼠 (tiánshǔ) is a vole, 松鼠 (sōngshǔ) is a squirrel, 花鼠 (huāshǔ) is a chipmunk, and 飛鼠 (fēishǔ) is a flying squirrel. Get this: Kangaroos are called 袋鼠 (dàishǔ).

Here are a few popular Chinese idioms related to rats or mice.

抱头鼠窜 (bàotóushǔcuàn) to scurry off like a rat
胆小如鼠 (dǎnxiǎo rú shǔ) timid or faint-hearted like a mouse
过街老鼠 (guò jiē lǎoshǔ) a mouse crossing the street, despised by everyone who sees it
投鼠忌器 (tóushǔjìqì) to hesitate to throw something at a rat for fear of breaking some precious item, i.e. to have scruples about doing something
狗咬耗子 (gǒu yǎo hàozi) dog biting a rat, i.e. to be a busybody
猫哭老鼠 (māokūlǎoshǔ) a cat crying over a dead mouse; to shed crocodile tears
蛇头鼠眼 (shé tóu shǔ yǎn) with a snakes head and rat’s eyes, i.e. hideous and harboring evil intentions

For fun, we could add a couple expressions that make use of the characters (shǔ to count) and (shǔ to belong to), which sound the same as (shǔ).

好运鼠于你 (好运属于你 hǎoyùn shǔyú nǐ) Good luck be yours!

鼠不尽的快乐 (数不尽的快乐 shǔ bù jìn de kuàilè) Countless happiness!

Happy New Year!

Chinese idioms involving the hog

Year of the Hog

Year of the Hog

Soon we will be welcoming the Year of the Hog, or 猪年 (zhū nián). As sounds the same as , a popular greeting for this particular year is:

Everything will be as you wish.

The greeting on the displayed card is:
Zhūshì dàjí
Everything will be very auspicious.

A sow is called 母猪 (mǔzhū), and a hog is called 公猪 (gōngzhū). If you know that 公主 (gōngzhǔ) is a princess, you will definitely understand why it is important to speak Chinese using the correct intonation. The wild boar is called 野豬 (yězhū).

In the popular children’s story “Three Little Pigs”, or 三只小猪 (Sān zhī xiǎo zhū), two of the pigs are dumb and lazy, while the youngest one is intelligent and hardworking. In the Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, or 西游记 (Xīyóujì), the monk’s second disciple 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) is also depicted with faults and strengths, albeit more of the former traits than the latter. In Episode 23 of the Journey to the West by Little Fox, you can see how 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) was fooled into carrying all the luggage for the journeying party, how he shirked the work and wanted to eat all the time.

Generally speaking, most Chinese consider pigs 肮脏 (āngzāng filthy), 愚蠢 (yúchǔn stupid), 贪吃 (tān chī gluttonous) and 鲁莽 (lǔmǎng crude and rash). This is clearly reflected in many idioms involving the pig.

猪朋狗友 zhū péng gǒ yǒ
Fair-weather friends

猪羊变色 zhū yáng biànsè
The pigs and the sheep have discolored.
(The situation has changed completely.)

猪狗不如 zhū gǒ bùrú
Worse than pigs and dogs.

豕突狼奔 shǐ tū láng bēn
Pigs dash forward and wolves flee.
(A scene of hasty retreat of defeated troops.)

 (shǐ) is the formal word for pigs.

一龙一猪 yī lóng yī zhū
One is a dragon, and the other is a pig.
(One is able and virtuous; the other, unworthy.)

泥猪瓦狗 ní zhū wǎ gǒ
Pigs fashioned from mud, dogs made from clay.
(useless things)

指猪骂狗 zhǐ zhū mà gǒ
Point the finger at the pig to chastise the dog.
(Indirectly chide or criticize someone.)

猪头猪脑 zhū tóu zhū nǎo
Having a pig’s head and brains.
(dumb as a pig)

冷水烫猪 lěngshuǐ tàng zhū
Using cold water to scald a pig.
(ineffective; a waste of effort)

人怕出名, 猪怕肥.
Rén pà chūmíng, zhū pà féi.
People shun fame for fear it might bring trouble just like a pig’s fattening calls for slaughter. (Think “Charlotte’s Web”.)

Perhaps this is what Master Confucius had in mind when he made the following remark about true gentlemen:

Rrén bùzhī ér bù yùn.
Even if no one takes note of them, they don’t mind.

Chūnjié kuàilè!
Happy Spring Festival!

Using Chinese idioms in writing

Rufous Hummingbird hovering around     Blueberry Blossoms

Here is an account of my recent encounter with a Rufous hummingbird. I have highlighted the popular four-character Chinese idioms featured in this article. It will also be good for you to look at how some of the adverbs and conjunctives are used in the sentences. are discussed in Chapters 17, 18 and 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

又是大地回春, 万象更新的时节.
Yòu shì dàdì huíchūn wànxiàng gēngxīn de shíjié.
It’s that season again when the earth springs back to life anew.

Yuán li de lánméi guànmù kāi mǎn le xiǎoqiǎolínglóng de bái huār.
The blueberry bushes in the garden are full of little white blossoms.

Mìfēng chuānsuō qíjiān cǎijí huāmì jí huāfěn.
The bees go from one floweret to another to collect nectar and pollens.

ǒu’ěr yě yǒu fēngniǎo guānggù,
Occasionally a hummingbird visits,

dànshì wǎngwǎng yīzhǎyǎn jiù bùjiànle.
but it usually disappears in a blink of the eyes.

Wǒ yīzhí xīwàng nénggòu lù dào fēngniǎo de yǐngpiàn,
I’ve always wished to be able to capture a video the hummingbird,

dànshì méiyǒu xiánkòng lái shǒuzhūdàitù
but I don’t have the time to sit there and wait for the bird to appear.

Nǎtiān wǒ zhèngzài wèi xīn zhòng de shūcài pāizhào,
That day, while taking pictures of the newly planted vegetables,

hūrán tīngdào fēngniǎo zhèn chì de wēngwēng shēng.
I suddenly heard the hum of rapid flapping of wings.

Wǒ gǎnmáng qiēhuàn dào lùyǐng móshì,
I quickly switched to the video mode,

jìngrán lù dào le xiǎo fēngniǎo xīyǔn huāmì de jǐngxiàng,
and actually captured a scene of the little hummer sucking nectar.

lìng xǐchūwàngwài.
I was pleasantly surprised. (This gave me unexpected joy.)

Xiǎngbì nǐmen yě huì tì wǒ gāoxìng nénggòu rúyuànyǐcháng.
I think you will also be happy for me for having had my wish fulfilled.

大地 (dàdì) is the earth or Mother Earth.
回春 (huíchūn) means returning to spring or bringing back to life.
万象 (wànxiàng) refers to all phenomena on earth.
更新 (gēngxīn) is to renew.
花蜜 (huāmì) is nectar.
花粉 (huāfěn) means pollen.
蓝莓 (lán méi) are blueberries.
小巧玲珑 (xiǎoqiǎolínglóng) means tiny and exquisite.
灌木 (guànmù) is a shrub or a bush.
蜜蜂 (mìfēng) are honeybees or bees in general.
穿梭 (chuānsuō) is to shuttle back and forth.
其间 (qíjiān), as used here, means “among them”.
偶尔 (ǒu’ěr) means occasionally.
蜂鸟 (fēngniǎo) are hummingbirds.
光顾 (guānggù) is to patronize.
往往 (wǎngwǎng) means often or frequently.
一眨眼 (yīzhǎyǎn) means in an eyewink.
不见了 (bùjiànle) is to disappear or to be missing.
一直 (yīzhí) as an adverb means all along or all the way.
希望 (xīwàng) is to hope or to expect.
(lù) is to record or to write down.
影片 (yǐngpiàn) is a movie or video clip.
闲空 (xiánkòng ) is spare time or leisure.
守株待兔 (shǒuzhūdàitù) describes a person standing by a tree stump to wait for hares to come and dash themselves against it. It means to wait for windfalls.
那天 (nǎtiān) means that day or a certain day.
蔬菜 (shūcài) are vegetables.
拍照 (pāizhào) is to take a picture.
忽然 (hūrán) means suddenly.
切换 (qiēhuàn) is to switch to a different mode.
录影 (lù yǐng) is to record a video.
模式 (móshì) is a mode or method.
竟然 (jìngrán) is an adverb that means unexpectedly.
吸允 (xī yǔn) is to suck up.
景象 (jǐngxiàng) is a scene or a sight.
喜出望外 (xǐchūwàngwài) is a common expression that means to be overjoyed or pleasantly surprised.
想必 (xiǎngbì) means “I think, most likely…”
如愿以偿 (rúyuànyǐcháng) is a common expression for having one’s wish fulfilled.

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