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.

Good Fortune

Good Fortune (inverted)

It will be five more days before the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration ends officially on the Lantern Festival. (Click here to see instructions for making a simple paper lantern to display on your desk.) It’s not too late for you affix a good luck charm onto your door or one of the walls. One of the four major blessings for the Chinese is good fortune, or (fú). You will often see this symbol displaeddao up side down because the Chinese words for “inverted”, (dào), and “to arrive”, (dào), sound exactly the same. Hence, the inverted (fú) stands for 福到了 (fú dào le), i.e. good fortune has arrived (at this household). To add excitement and animation, the calligrapher will often write the blessings in the “running” style. Trust me, the character in the displayed image is the word (fú), just inverted.

When we have family who love us, friends we get along with, or things we like to eat or work with, we are said to have good fortune. If we appreciate the good fortune and live and behave accordingly, it will likely stay with us. It’s inconceivable why some people willfully turn away from their good fortune. Fate, or 命运 (mìngyùn destiny), probably plays a role.

Last week we talked about the scholar/philosopher, 胡适 (Hú Shì). Among his younger friends was one named 徐志摩 (Xú Zhìmó), who actively promote the form of modern Chinese poetry. Xu Zhimo was born into a well-to-do family. His parents doted on him, gave him the best education and found him a good wife. How this young man managed to turn his own life upside-down was simply beyond comprehension. You can read the whole story by clicking on this link.

Xu Zhimo wrote many romantic poems that were the rage among the young people in his time, and are still much loved today. The beautiful poem, titled 偶然 (ǒurán “By Chance”), features an ingenius play of metaphors. It has been fitted to a few different melodies, and one westernized version can be found at this link.

Click on this link and locate the second poem to see the verses in simplified Chinese.

There are several adjective phrases and adverbial phrases used in this poem. Please read Chapter 10 in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to learn the proper placement of adjective phrases, and Chapters 17 and 18, for the adverbial phrases.

天空里的 (tiānkōng li de) in the sky
一片云 (yī piàn yún) a cloud
偶尔 (ǒuěr) occasionally
投影 (tóuyěng) to project, projection
波心 (bō xīn) center of the waves
不必 (bùbì) need not
讶异 (yà yì) be surprised, to wonder about
(gèng) further more, and also
无须 (wúxū) is a formal way of saying “need not”
欢喜 (huānxǐ)
转瞬间 (zhuǎnshùnjiān) in a blink
消灭 (xiāomiè) perish, to wipe out
踪影 (zōngyǐng) a trace, a shadow
相逢 (xiāngféng) meet by chance
黑夜 (hēiyè) dark night
海上 (hǎishàng) on the sea
方向 (fāngxiàng) direction
记得 (jìde) remember
最好 (zuìhào) best, it would be best
忘掉 (wàngdiào) forget
交会时 (jiāo huì) to cross path
(hù) mutually
(fàng) release
光亮 (guāngliàng) brightness

If you would like to sing this song in English, you could try my translation:

I am a lone cloud drifting in the sky,
Sometimes I stumble on your waves.
Don’t you be frightened, nor excited.
Soon all this shall pass, without a trace.

By chance we meet in the dark night at sea.
You’ll take your way, and I shall keep mine.
Will you remember? Best to forget it –
In that spellbound moment, two fond hearts did shine.

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