Chinese Song – Words from the West Wind

Lotus Pond at the Botanical Garden in Taipei, Taiwan

Thanks (but, no thanks) to slugs, deer, squirrels and wild rabbits, we did not have much to harvest from our vegetable garden this year. Still, I am happy to have autumn come and ease us into winter. Admiring the fall scenery of green, gold and red, I think of an old song named “Words from the Westwind”, with music by 黄自 (Huáng Zì), and lyrics by 廖辅叔 (Liào Fǔshū). Here is the link to a nice performance of this song.

Xīfēng de Huà
Words from the West Wind

Qùnián wǒ huílái,
When I came back last year,

nǐmen gāng chuān xīn mián páo.
You had just donned your new gown.

Jīntiān wǒ lái kàn nǐmen;
Today I come to visit you,

Nǐmen biàn pàng yòu biàn gāo!
How stout and tall you have grown!

Nǐmen kě jìde,
I wonder if you still remember,

chí lǐ héhuā liánpeng?
The lotus in the pond formed pods?

Huā shǎo bù chóu méi yánsè,
Blooms are scarce, but there’ll still be colors,

wǒ bǎ shùyè dōu rǎn hóng
For I shall tint the leaves with red.

As you may know, west winds are associated with fair weather. Therefore, you would expect kind words from the west wind. In fact, you can tell that the west wind is talking to a bunch of children. (xīn) means new, and 棉袍 (mián páo) are quilted cotton gowns or jackets. Before winter arrives, parents usually give their children new jackets to wear to keep them warm. The big give-away is on the forth line. Only children and youth can keep growing big and tall. (biàn) means to change or to become. (pàng) means plump, chubby or stout, and (gāo) means tall. (yòu) means again or also.

There is no mention of the season of the year in the lyrics. However, you can guess from the context that it is autumn, or 秋天 (qiūtiān). In the fall, the lotus flowers turn into pods, which contain edible lotus seeds. Lotus seed paste makes delicious filling for moon cakes. Here is an interesting article about lotus pods and lotus seeds.

不愁 (bù chóu) means need not worry about something.

Wǒ xīwàng shìjièshàng suǒyǒu de rén dōu bù chóu chī bù chóu chuān.
I hope all the people in the world won’t have to worry about want of food or clothing.

There are fewer flowers in autumn than in spring, but we need not worry about lack of colors. The west wind will color the leaves red for us. Here the word (rǎn) means to dye. This word also means to contaminate, to acquire a bad habit or to catch a disease.

Dāngxīn bùyào bèi chuánrǎn dào gǎnmào.
Take care not to catch a cold.

Please see Chapter 23 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for additional words, expressions and songs related to the four seasons.

Thinking logically in Chinese

帽子 (màozǐ) Hats

帽子 (màozǐ) Hats

You probably already know that 帽子 (màozǐ) is a cap or a hat. When it rains, you would put on your 雨帽 (yǔmào a rain cap or a hood). When it’s hot and sunny, girls may put on their 草帽 (cǎomào straw hats).

礼貌 (lǐmào) means politeness or manners. 有礼貌 (yǒu lǐmào) is being polite and courteous. On the other hand, 礼帽 (lǐmào) is a hat that goes with formal dress, such as a top hat.

军帽 (jūnmào) is an army cap. 脱帽致敬 (tuōmào zhìjìng) means to salute by taking off one’s hat.

The unit for hats is (dǐng). With regards to clothing articles or ornaments, (dài) means to wear or to put on.

Tā dài zhe yī dǐng màozi.
He is wearing a hat.

Please note that 戴高帽子 (dài gāomàozi) means to give someone gratuitous flattery.

Nǐ bié gěi wǒ dài gāomàozi.
Quit your flattery.

Now, on to a well-known puzzle that calls for putting on your thinking cap.

Three intelligent gentlemen are detained for some reason. Their captor agrees to set them free if they are able to solve a puzzle. He orders them to stand in a line, one behind the other, all facing the same direction, and to close their eyes. After placing one hat on the head of each of the three gentlemen, the captor lets the gentlemen open their eyes. He announces that altogether there are two black hats and two white hats, and that the fourth hat is hidden in a closet. If any one of the gentlemen correctly guesses what color hat he is wearing, without looking in a mirror or communicating with the other two gentlemen, all three will be set free. Given that the gentleman at the very back can see what hats the two gentlemen in front of him wear, the gentleman in the middle can only see what the first gentleman wears, and the gentleman at the front cannot see what anyone was wearing, how do you suppose they will be able to resolve this dilemma?

Wǒmén zhīdào yīgòng yǒu liǎng dǐng hēi màozi hé liǎng dǐng bái màozi.
We know that altogether there are two black hats and two white hats.

Yī wèi shēnshì zhàn zài qiánmiàn.
One gentleman stands at the front.

Yī wèi shēnshì zhàn zài zhōngjiān.
One gentleman stands in the middle.

Yī wèi shēnshì zhàn zài hòumian.
One gentleman stands at the back.

Rúguǒ qiánmiàn liǎng wèi shēnshì dài xiāngtóng yánsè de màozi,
If the two gentlemen in front are wearing the same color hats,

zuì hòumian de nèi wèi shēnshì jiù huì cāi dào zìjǐ de màozi de yánsè.
the gentleman in the very back will be able to guess the color of his own hat.

Rúguǒ zuì hòumian de nèi wèi shēnshì bù shuōhuà,
If the gentleman in the very back says nothing,

nàme biǎoshì qiánmiàn liǎng wèi shēnshì dài zhe bùtóng yánsè de màozi.
then this indicates that the two gentlemen in front have different color hats on.

Yīnwei zhōngjiān de nèi wèi shēnshì kàn de dào qiánmiàn de màozi,
Because the gentleman in the middle can see the hat in front of him,

suǒyǐ tā kěyǐ cāi dào zìjǐ de màozi de yánsè.
therefore he will be able to correctly guess the color of his own hat.

Sentences involving such word pairs as 如果 (rúguǒ) + 那么 (nàme), and 因为 (yīnwei) + 所以 (suǒyǐ), are complex sentences. Please review Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to see how to construct complex sentences using the 5 W’s.

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