Learn the Chinese word for a total solar eclipse

Mock-up of the 08/21/17 total solar eclipse I observed


About a week ago, on August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was visible within a band across the entire conterminous USA. Our town happens to be situated smack on this path of totality. Rumor had it that as many as one million eclipse chasers would be flocking to our state to witness this very special natural phenomenon. Fearing that our limited resources would be depleted by these visitors, the locals swarmed the supermarkets and filled up their gas tanks. Observation camps were set up everywhere, and parties were planned for this particular workday. Although the actual size of the crowd that descended on our town fell short of the expectations of many a retailer, traffic was indeed crazy, and our garbage pickup got pushed back by one whole day.

Here I will share with you my own encounter with the wonderful sight of this spectacular total solar eclipse, or 日全蝕 (rì quán shí), in my backyard. It is ironical that the only time one is able to look at the sun directly is when it is totally obscured by the moon. Anyhow this amazing experience has drawn me closer to Mother Nature in a special way. And never again will I take the daily gift of sunlight for granted.

(Simplified Chinese characters; see below for traditional Chinese characters.)

这是我平生第一次亲眼看到日全蚀的景象.
Zhè shì wǒ píngshēng dìyīcì qīnyǎn kàndào rì quán shí de jǐngxiàng.
This is the first time in my life that I have observed the total solar eclipse in person.

起初烈日当空, 阳光普照,
Qǐchū lièrì dāngkōng yángguāng pǔzhào
At first the sun was shining bright in the sky,

和平常没有两样.
hé píngcháng méiyǒu liǎngyàng
not unlike what it does normally.

接著周遭逐渐但明显地转暗.
Jiē zhe zhōu zāo zhújiàn dàn míngxiǎn di zhuǎn àn.
Then the surroundings gradually but definitely darkened.

大地一片寂静, 听不到平日鸟儿的喧嚣.
Dàdì yīpiàn jìjìng, tīng bù dào píngrì niǎo er de xuānxiāo
There was silence all around, no sound of the usual chirping of the birds.

我背对著太阳, 用针孔观察它的投影.
Wǒ bèi duì zhe tàiyáng, yòng zhēn kǒng guānchá tā de tóuyǐng.
I stood with my back to the sun and used a pinhole to observe its projection.

卡片上那半月形的亮点慢慢变成了月牙形;
Kǎpiàn shàng nà bànyuèxíng fr liàng diǎn mànmàn biànchéng le yuèyá xíng.
The half-moon shaped bright spot on the cardboard turned into a thin crescent;

而后, 我期望看到的奇景出现了 –
érhòu wǒ qíwàng kàndào de qíjǐng chūxiàn le –
and then, the extraordinary sight I was hoping to see appeared.

投影变成了一个完美的光圈.
Tóuyǐng biànchéng le yīgè wánměi de guāngquān.
The projected image had become a perfect ring of light.

我转身朝反向望去 –
Wǒ zhuǎnshēn cháo fǎnxiàng wàng qù –
I turned around to look in the opposite direction.

一个黝黑的圆盘平静地高挂半空,
Yīgè yǒuhēi de yuánpán píngjìng di gāo guà bàn kòng,
A pitch-black disc hung serenely in mid-sky,

外围圈著一个晶荧剔透的银环,
wàiwéi quān zhe yīgè jīng yíng tī tòu de yín huán,
framed by a brilliant, clean-cut silvery ring,

由深蓝的天空衬托, 越发美丽醒目.
yóu shēn lán de tiānkōng chèntuō, yuèfā měilì xǐngmù.
its vivid beauty intensified by the backing of the vast dark blue sky.

在那奇妙的一刻, 世上似乎只剩下了我和那颗被驯服了的太阳.
Zài nà qímiào de yī kè, shìshang sìhu zhǐ shèngxià le wǒ hé nà kē bèi xúnfú le de tàiyáng.
In that magical moment, it seemed nothing else existed in the world but me and the tamed sun.

啊﹗我的太阳﹗
Ā! Wǒde tàiyáng!
O sole mio! (Oh, my sun!)

All right, what is the general Chinese term for a solar eclipse? And what would you call an annular eclipse in Chinese? Hint: You can find all the characters for these terms in this article. By the way, this might be a good time to review the Chinese terms for weather conditions as presented in Chapter 22 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

————————————————————

(Traditional Chinese characters)

這是我平生第一次親眼看到日全蝕的景象.
Zhè shì wǒ píngshēng dìyīcì qīnyǎn kàndào rì quán shí de jǐngxiàng.
This is the first time in my life that I have observed the total solar eclipse in person.

起初烈日當空, 陽光普照,
Qǐchū lièrì dāngkōng yángguāng pǔzhào
At first the sun was shining bright in the sky,

和平常沒有兩樣.
hé píngcháng méiyǒu liǎngyàng
not unlike what it does normally.

接著周遭逐漸但明顯地轉暗.
Jiē zhe zhōu zāo zhújiàn dàn míngxiǎn di zhuǎn àn.
Then the surroundings gradually but definitely darkened.

大地一片寂靜, 聽不到平日鳥兒的喧囂.
Dàdì yīpiàn jìjìng, tīng bù dào píngrì niǎo er de xuānxiāo
There was silence all around, no sound of the usual chirping of the birds.

我背對著太陽, 用針孔觀察它的投影.
Wǒ bèi duì zhe tàiyáng, yòng zhēn kǒng guānchá tā de tóuyǐng.
I stood with my back to the sun and used a pinhole to observe its projection.

卡片上那半月形的亮点慢慢变成了月牙形.;
Kǎpiàn shàng nà bànyuèxíng fr liàng diǎn mànmàn biànchéng le yuèyá xíng.
The half-moon shaped bright spot on the cardboard turned into a thin crescent;

而後, 我期望看到的奇景出現了 –
érhòu wǒ qíwàng kàndào de qíjǐng chūxiàn le –
and then, the extraordinary sight I was hoping to see appeared.

投影變成了一個完美的光圈.
Tóuyǐng biànchéng le yīgè wánměi de guāngquān.
The projected image had become a perfect ring of light.

我轉身朝反向望去 –
Wǒ zhuǎnshēn cháo fǎnxiàng wàng qù –
I turned around to look in the opposite direction.

一個黝黑的圓盤平靜地高掛半空,
Yīgè yǒuhēi de yuánpán píngjìng di gāo guà bàn kòng,
A pitch-black disc hung serenely in mid-sky,

外圍圈著一個晶熒剔透的銀環,
wàiwéi quān zhe yīgè jīng yíng tī tòu de yín huán,
framed by a brilliant, clean-cut silvery ring,

由深藍的天空襯托, 越發美麗醒目.
yóu shēn lán de tiānkōng chèntuō, yuèfā měilì xǐngmù.
its vivid beauty intensified by the backing of the vast dark blue sky.

在那奇妙的一刻, 世上似乎只剩下了我和那顆被馴服了的太陽.
Zài nà qímiào de yī kè, shìshang sìhu zhǐ shèngxià le wǒ hé nà kē bèi xúnfú le de tàiyáng.
In that magical moment, it seemed nothing else existed in the world but me and the tamed sun.

啊﹗我的太陽﹗
Ā! Wǒde tàiyáng!
O sole mio! (Oh, my sun!)

All right, what is the general Chinese term for a solar eclipse? And what would you call an annular eclipse in Chinese? Hint: You can find all the characters for these terms in this article. By the way, this might be a good time to review the Chinese terms for weather conditions as presented in Chapter 22 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

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Sing “Pearly Shells” in Chinese

Picked Blackberries

Picked Blackberries


Blue, blue my world is blue – the good kind of blue from the luscious blueberries (藍莓 lán méi) and blackberries (黑莓 hēi méi) in my yard begging to be picked. Duty-bound I don a white shirt with long sleeves, grab a 1 1/2 quart plastic container and head outside. It is my responsibility to unleash my gatherer instinct and free those anxious berries from their bondage to the same old bushes under the scorching sun.

What precision it takes to pluck each and every blackberry without being poked or scratched by the vicious thorns! And what delight it is to gently roll or rub a bunch of blueberries and nudge the ripe ones into the container! It does take some nerves, though, to work alongside the honeybees (蜜蜂 mìfēng) and not be intimidated by their constant buzzes and hums. My white shirt makes me basically invisible to these flying stingers. I just need to be careful not to pick from the same bunch the bees are after. Some of them zip around at lower elevations and bump into my long trousers once in a while.

An hour or so later, I come back inside with a quart of each kind of berries, fully intending to elevate their status to velvety berry sauces, to-die-for pies, or glistening jams and jellies. Alas, that is not to be. Eager hands fall upon the berries and plop them into eager mouths. Within minutes all berries are gone.

Oh well. Anyhow it’s too hot to be in the kitchen baking, canning or, for that matter, cooking. I stretch out on my favorite chair and dream about a vacation in Hawaii (夏威夷 xiàwēiyí). I imagine myself walking barefoot along the coastline, now and then picking up a seashell to admire. I come upon a group of adorable kids singing “Pearly Shells“. I smile and say, “Aloha!”

You might try singing the first part of this cute song in Chinese by substituting the English lyrics with the following lines.

小贝壳,来自海洋,
Xiǎo bèiké,láizì hǎiyáng,
Little shells that came from the ocean,

遍布沙滩上,
biànbù shātān shàng,
spread all over the sandy beach,

阳光下发亮.
yángguāng xià fāliàng.
glisten under the sunshine.

看见它们,
Kànjian tāmen,
Seeing them,

我心明白我爱的是你,
wǒ xīn míngbai wǒ ài de shì nǐ
my heart knows that the one I love is you,

尽管那些贝壳有多美丽.
jǐnguǎn nàxiē bèiké yǒu duō měilì.
despite the beauty of all the pearly shells.

来自 (láizì) means to come from a place. In Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes we came across this word while singing the phrase “I come from Alabama” in the song “Oh Susanna”. We use this word more often in writing than in speaking. Colloquially you would say “The little shells came from the ocean.” as follows:

小贝壳是从海洋来的.
Xiǎo bèiké shì cóng hǎiyáng lái de.

明白 (míngbai) as an adjective means clear or obvious. Used as a verb, it means to know, to understand or to realize, as shown in the following example.

现在我明白了.
Xiànzài wǒ míngbai le.
Now I understand.

You probably already know that “I love you” in Chinese is 我爱你 (Wǒ ài nǐ). 我爱的是你 (Wǒ ài de shì nǐ) emphasizes the choice of the person one loves. You would use this form when there is a doubt of which person you actually love and clarification is called for. When you need to clarify your intention or what you’ve just said, you could start the sentence with 我的意思是 (Wǒ de yìsī shì I mean, or what I meant is)

尽管 (jǐnguǎn), as used here, means “even though” or “in spite of”. This word also means “feel free to (do something)”, as shown in the following example:

不要担心. 你尽管去做.
Bùyào dānxīn. Nǐ jǐnguǎn qù zuò.
Don’t worry. Go ahead and do it.

祝夏安!
Zhù xià ān!
Have a nice summer!

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