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.


Spring Rolls

These little ones are a bit tricky to make.

Before spring slips away, why not make yourself a few spring rolls, or 春卷 (chūnjuǎn)? These delicious treats are so called because the original spring rolls are chock-full with spring vegetables. Essentially, a spring roll is made by placing 青菜 (qīngcài green vegetables) and (ròu meat) or (xiā shrimp) on a paper-thin sheet of wrapper and then rolling the wrapper up to form a log shape with closed ends.

There are two ways to enjoy spring rolls. You could simply stuff them with a stir-fried filling and eat them as you would a burrito. The Taiwanese love to add 花生粉 (huāshēng fěn powdered roasted peanuts) to the filling just before wrapping it up. Or, you could deep-fry the spring rolls and bite into the incredibly crispy exterior.

What’s so special about the spring rolls is their super thin wrappers. It takes special skills to make these wrappers. The quick way is to purchase a package of frozen “Lumpia” wrappers, or 春卷皮 (chūnjuǎn pí), from an Asian grocery store and let them sit in the 冰箱 (bīngxiāng refrigerator) overnight. As the closely packed wrappers are literally paper-thin, it can be tricky to separate them without tearing them. If you find it difficult to peel off individual wrappers, it may help to put a stack of about 10 wrappers on a microwavable plate, cover them with a piece of moist 纸巾 (zhǐ jīn paper towel) then microwave at 中火 (zhòng huǒ medium high heat) for 三十秒 (sān shí miǎo 30 seconds). After separating the wrappers, stack them up again and keep them covered to prevent them from drying up. Seal the remaining unused wrappers in a large freezer bag and put them back in the freezer for future use.

The main 材料 (cáiliào ingredient) in the filling for deep-fried spring rolls is one or more kinds of firm 青菜丝 (qīngcài sī shredded vegetable). I usually stir-fry shredded 高丽菜 (gāolì cài cabbage) briefly before mixing it with the other ingredients, such as 葱花 (cōnghuā chopped green onions), cooked salad shrimp or a little cooked 绞肉 (jiǎo ròu ground meat), shredded 蛋皮 (dàn pí panfried beaten eggs) and (yán salt) and 胡椒 (hújiāo pepper), to taste. If you use 豆芽菜 (dòuyácài bean sprouts), coarsely chop them up before adding to the other ingredients. Don’t pre-cook the bean sprouts, or they will lose their crunchiness. Keep the filling on the dry side.

Xiàn bùyào tài shī.
The filling should not be too wet.

不然, 春卷皮容易破掉. .
Bùrán chūnjuǎn pí róngyì pò diào.
Otherwise, the spring roll wrappers are apt to break.

If you would like to make a mini version as shown in the above photo, then cut each wrapper into four equal sections by making two perpendicular cuts through the center.

Follow the instructions on the package of the Lumpia wrappers to roll up and (zhà deep-fry) the spring rolls. Drain them on paper towels and wait about 十分钟 (shí fēn zhōng 10 minutes) for them to cool down a little before serving (so they won’t burn your tongue). You could make a dipping sauce for your spring rolls but they will taste good without the help of any sauce. The sauces are usually based on 番茄酱 (fānqié jiàng tomato ketchup), or a mixture of (cù vinegar), (táng sugar) and 酱油 (jiàngyóu soy sauce) .

By the way, this is one (sneaky) way to get your kids to love eating their vegetables. You yourself may be tempted to think or say:

The more the better.

Keep in mind, though, that eating too much of deep-fried foods may give rise to 火气 (huǒqì fire in the vitals).

All right. How would you say this in Chinese?
“I love to eat spring rolls.”

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