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!

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).

六月的第三个星期日是父亲节.
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.

她的身材很苗条.
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.

我们相处得很好.
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.

父亲节快乐!
Fùqin jié kuàilè!
Happy Father’s Day!

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