Fear in Chinese

Dark clouds have gathered overhead, heavy with moisture, ready for Halloween, or 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié). It’s time again to talk about words that relate to terror and fear.

As a noun 恐怖 (kǒngbù) means horror or terror. This word also serves as an adjective. 恐怖片 (kǒngbù piàn) is a horror movie.

Wǒ bù xǐhuān tīng kǒngbù gùshi.
I don’t like to listen to horror tales.

恐惧 (kǒngjù) and 惧怕 (jùpà) both mean fear or dread. (gǎn) is a feeling. Therefore, 恐惧感 (kǒngjù gǎn) is the feeling of fear.

Tā duìyú kǎosh yǒu hěn dà de kǒngjù gǎn.
He has an immense dread of taking exams.

(pà), or 害怕 (hàipà), means to fear, to dread, or to be worried about something. What radicals make up the (pà) character? Yes, one could get so scared that even the heart turns pale and white.

Wǒ zuì pà shé.
I’m scared of snakes the most.

Wǒ bù pà tā.
I’m not afraid of him.

To the Chinese, as to many other people, (heaven, sky) and (earth) are both very sacred and powerful. When one wants to exaggerate the dread for something, one would often use the expression: 天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕 . . (Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà zhǐ pà . . ), i.e. “More than heaven and earth, I dread . . “.

In fact, there is a saying that goes like this:

天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕老外说中国话.
Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà, zhǐ pà lǎo wài shuō Zhōngguó huà.
More than anything else, I dread listening to foreigners speak Chinese.

老外 (lǎo wài) is slang for a western foreigner. Also, foreigners are often referred to as 洋人 (yángrén). As these terms have some negative connotations, we do not use them in our family. We usually refer to foreigners by their countries, such as 美国人 (měiguórén Americans) or 澳洲人 (àozhōurén Australians). If the country is unknown, then we’d use 外国人 (wàiguórén).

Click on this link to listen to a humorous self-mockery delivered in perfect Mandarin pronunciation.

If you are still unsure about the five tones used in Mandarin, the video I posted recently on YouTube might help.

怕死 (pàsǐ) means to be afraid of dying. However, 怕生 (pàshēng) does not mean being scared of life. Here, (shēn) is the abbreviation of 生人 (shēngrén) or 陌生人 (mòshēngrén), which is a stranger. Therefore, 怕生 (pàshēng) means being shy of strangers.

Note also that 怕人 (pàrén) does not mean being afraid of people. Rather, it means horrible, or scary to people, same as 可怕 (kěpà).

Just like (ài love) often stands for “to like”, (pà fear) can be used in the sense of “to dislike”.

Wǒ pà chǎonào.
I dislike noises.

只怕 (zhǐ pà) can also mean “I’m afraid that . . .”. In this case, it is used in a similar way as 恐怕 (kǒngpà perhaps, I’m afraid that . . .). The following three statements express the same idea

Zhǐ pà tā bùhuì lái.
I’m afraid that he won’t be coming.

Tā kǒngpà bùhuì lái.
He will probably not be coming.

Wǒ dānxīn tā bù huì lái.
I’m afraid (worried) that he won’t come.

The following sentence illustrates yet another usage of 只怕 (zhǐ pà). In this instance, this expression translates to “as long as”.

天下无难事, 只怕有心人.
Tiānxià wú nánshì, zhǐ pà yǒuxīnrén.
No task is difficult when there is a determined person.
(Where there is a will, there is a way.)

Taboos, 忌讳 (jìhuì) often arise from people’s fear of death, misfortune and unknown factors. It will be worth your while to search the Internet for and read up on some of the common Chinese taboos, particularly with respect to gifting.

Learn the Chinese radical for the heart

I may not have a cell phone, and you may not have a boat, but we all have a heart that pumps the “qi” through our bodies to keep us alive. The Chinese word for this vital organ is (xīn).

心中 (xīnzhōng) means in one’s mind or heart. Who wouldn’t be flattered to hear the following sweet nothing?

Wǒ de xīnzhōng zhǐyǒu nǐ.
In my heart there is only you.

On the other hand, 中心 (zhōngxīn) means the center or the core. It also refers to a center (organization), such as a children’s center, 幼兒中心 (yòu’ér zhōngxīn).

The heart is where we perceive our emotions to reside. Therefore you can expect to see many Chinese words that contain the radical for “heart”. In fact, there are two Chinese radicals for “heart”.

I. The normal heart radical
When used as a radical, (xīn heart) is squashed down somewhat to fit in, as shown in the following examples.

Tā shì gè zhōngxīn de péngyǒu.
He is a loyal friend.

Notice how 忠心 and 中心 are pronounced exactly the same? The Chinese language is replete with homophones.

(rěn) means to endure, to tolerate or to put up with. 忍心 (rěn xīn) means to be hard-hearted enough to do something unkind.

Tā rěnbuzhù dàjiào yī shēng.
Unable to bear it any longer, he let out a cry.

(wáng) means to die, to lose or to flee. (wàng) means to forget (to lose one’s memory of something).

Wǒ wàng le.
I forgot.

You know that (ài) means love. Compare it to the Traditional character, , and you will see that the “heart” radical in the Simplified character has been reduced to one mere horizontal stroke. What is love if you don’t put your heart into it? The up side of this change is that the lower half of the Simplified character sports the character for friends, (yǒu).

(ài) also means to tend to do something often. For example:

Tā ài bàoyuàn.
He likes to complain.

想念 (xiǎngniàn), like 思念 (sīniàn),means to long for or to miss someone or some place.

悲哀 (bēi’āi) is sadness or sorrow. 愤怒 (fènnù) means anger or indignation. These words can also be used as adjectives.

恐怖 (kǒngbù) means terror or scary.

Tā bù xǐhuān kǒngbù piàn.
She dislikes horror movies.

(ēn benefaction or gratitude) is the opposite of (yuàn resentment or grievance). 恩怨 (ēnyuàn) refers to a history of feelings of gratitude or resentment between two parties (old scores). Please make sure not to confuse the character (ēn) with (sīn).

休息 (xiūxī) means to take a rest. Therefore, when you see a sign that says: 休息室 (xiūxīshì), you’ll know it’s a lounge.

II. The vertical heart radical
When the heart is placed on the side of a character, it takes on a skeletal vertical format. Following are a few common examples:

(kuài) means fast, quick or soon. It also connotes forthrightness, happiness, or gratification.

means to be busy, while 急忙 (jímáng) means hastily, or to be in a hurry.

忧愁 (yōuchóu) means to be sad or worried. It can also be used as a noun.

As an adjective, (guài) means strange or odd. As a noun, it refers to a monster or evil being. As a verb, it means to put the blame on someone.

Wǒ bù guài tā.
I don’t blame her.

When something frightens you, your heart (or, rather, your face) may turn pale, hence the word (pà), which means to fear, to dread, or to be worried about something. 胆怯 (dǎnqiè) is the adjective that means to be timid or cowardly.

(hèn) is to hate or to have regret.

(qíng) can mean feelings, affection, emotions, passion or a condition or situation. 爱情 (àiqíng)is the feeling between lovers. 一段 (yī duàn)is a segment or a section. It is also used as a unit for a period of time. 一段情 (yī duàn qíng) means an affair. 深情 (shēnqíng) means deep affection. The following two sentences both mean: “How much do you love me?”

Nǐ ài wǒ yǒu duō shēn?

Nǐ ài wǒ yǒu jǐ fēn?

As a verb, (fēn) means to separate, to divide, to distribute or to differentiate. As a noun it means a fraction or a branching off of an entity. It is also a unit of currency as well as a measure for length, area and weight. 十分 (shífēn) is ten out of ten, i.e. totally.

Tā shífēn gāoxìng.
He is utterly happy.

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