Sing Chinese Song – Crescent Moon Shines over the Land

There is a Sung Dynasty folk song that starts with these lines:

月儿弯弯照九州,
Yuè er wān wān zhào jiǔzhōu,
The slim crescent moon shines all over the land,

几家欢乐, 几家愁.
Jǐ jiā huānlè, jǐ jiā chóu.
Some families happy and others sad.

九州 (jiǔzhōu) refers to the nine regions of ancient China. This term is still used in songs and poems to refer to China. Please note that 九州 (jiǔzhōu) is also the Chinese word for Kyushu, one of the four main islands of Japan.

Although the moon graces all the people equally, a few families enjoy prosperity while the majority endure hardship.

This old song was later transformed into a theme song for a movie. I am not familiar with the movie, but from the lyrics of the song and a short movie clip on Youtube, I gathered that it’s about a girl from a fisherman’s family who left her village for the city and later became a famous singer. The glamorous new life also brought her unexpected trouble.

Click on this link to hear 月儿弯弯照九州 sung in a male voice. At this site there is an English translation of this song. The lyrics are provided in Traditional Chinese characters.

Let’s look at some of the terms used in the first three stanzas of the lyrics, which depict the plight of a fisherman’s life.

(wān) means curved or bent. The crescent moon has a curved shape. (zhào) has a few different meanings. Here it means to shine or to illuminate.

渔船 (yúchuán) is a fishing boat, and 渔家 (yú jiā) is a fisherman’s family.

到处 (dàochù) means everywhere. 停留 (tíngliú) means to stop and stay.

风光 (fēngguāng) is a scenery. 青山绿水 (qīngshān lǜ shuǐ) is a commonly used term that describes green hills and clear green water, i.e. a nice scenery.

Among common folks, the male in a couple may be addressed by the female as 哥哥 (gēgē), and (mèi) is the female counterpart.

吹笛 (chuī dí) is to play a flute, and 梳头 (shū tóu) is to comb one’s hair. Both are leisurely activities.

工作 (gōngzuò) means a work (noun), a job, or to work (verb).

几时 (jǐshí) is another way of saying 什么时候? (shénme shíhòu), which means “When?”. (xiū) means to stop or to rest. In regular parlance, 几时休 (xiū) would be expressed as:

什么时候才会停止?
Shénme shíhòu cái huì tíngzhǐ?
When will it stop?

白天 (báitiān) is daytime, and (yè) is night or evening. 摇船 (yáochuán) is to row the boat and, 补网 (bǔ wǎng) is to mend the fishing net.

青春 (qīngchūn) means one’s youth, youthfulness or being youthful.

水里 (shuǐ li) means in the water.

(diū) means to throw, to throw away or to lose something.

风浪 (fēnglàng) are stormy waves. 翻天 (fāntiān) means overturning the sky. It describes the worrisome turbulence of the storm.

使人 (shǐ rén) translates to “causes a person to” or “to enable a person to”. So, 使人愁 (shǐ rén chóu) means “makes one worry”.

那件事使我感到不安.
Nèi jiàn shì shǐ wǒ gǎndào bùān.
That incident made me feel uneasy.

要吃 (yào chī) means needing to eat; 要穿 (yào chuān) means needing to have clothing to wear. (gù) is to care about or to take into consideration. (xiǎn) are dangers. 哪顾得险 (nǎ gù de xiǎn) means not having the luxury to care about the dangers (of fishing in stormy weather).

可怜 (kělián) means pitiable, pitiful or poor. 流泪 (liú lèi) is to weep. (shuāng) is a pair, or two of something. 泪双流 (lèi shuāng liú) indicates there are two people weeping together.

Signing in Chinese

二手货 (èrshǒuhuò) means second-hand merchandise. Here, the word (èr two) refers to 第二 (dìèr second, or secondly). If you mean to say “both hands”, then say 两只手 (liǎng zhī shǒu two hands), or 双手 (shuāngshǒu both hands).

When a word or expression escapes us, we might make a gesture to help convey what we are trying to say. Hand gestures are also often used to emphasize a point. In fact, certain facial expressions and hand gestures are an integral part of some languages. For people with impaired hearing and/or speech, the ability to employ sign language is a true blessing. The Chinese word for sign language is 手语 (shǒuyǔ).

Associating an expression with a gesture will actually make it easier to learn that expression. You are more apt to remember a Chinese word when you say it often, write it often, sing it often and repeatedly see an object or scene or do an action involving that word. Storing the word in multiple channels, so to speak, allows it to be more readily recalled when you need it.

To try your hand at signing in Chinese, click on this link: 手牵手 (Shǒu Qiān Shǒu Hand in Hand) and follow the demonstration performed by the four Malaysian students.

牵手 (qiān shǒu) is to hold hands.
花开 (huā kāi) describes how flowers open up, or bloom. 花谢 (huā xiè) describes how flowers wither. These natural phenomena signify the change of seasons, or 季节的转移 (jìjiě de zhuǎnyí).
面对 (miànduì) is to face or to confront.
未来的 (wèilái) means future.
分离 (fēnlí) means to separate or to leave each other. It is synonymous with 分手 (fēnshǒu). Here it is used as noun (separation).
牢记 (láojì) is to keep firmly in mind.
这段 (zhè duàn) means “this section of” or “this segment of”.
记忆 (jìyì) is memory or remembrance.
朋友 (péngyǒu) are friends.
我永远祝福你. (Wǒ yǒngyuǎn zhùfú nǐ.) – I will always wish you well.
人生 (rénshēng) is life.
一定 (yīdìng) means for sure, certainly.
起落 (qǐluò) means rise and fall, or ups and downs.
不要伤心. (bùyào shāngxīn) – “Don’t feel sad.”
我会在你身边. (Wǒ huì zà nǐ shēnbiān.) – I will be by your side.
鼓励 (gǔlì) is encouragement. This word can also be used as a verb.
愿意 (yuàny) means to be willing to.
把我们的手牵在一起. (Bǎ wǒmén de shǒu qiān zài yīqǐ.) – Let’s join our hands together.
(yòng) means to use.
青春的 (qīngchūn) means youthful.
(xiě) is to write, and 奇迹 (qíjì) is a miracle.
放在一起 (fàng zài yīqǐ) means to place together.
(xīn) is the heart.
共同 (gòngtóng) means jointly.
度过 (dùguò) is to undergo or to endure.
风和雨 (fēng hé yǔ wind and rain) refers to the troubles in life.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming up tomorrow. May those of you who are far away from home have friends with whom to celebrate this happy occasion.

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè.
Have a happy Moon Festival!

Chinese antonyms

In the lyrics for the song mentioned in my previous post, we see that 老人 (lăorén old person) and 姑娘 (gūniáng girl or young lady) at at opposite ends of the age spectrum. An old person would be characterized as being of old age, or 年纪老 (nián jì lăo), and a young person, as being at a young age, or 年纪小 (niánjì xiăo).

他的年纪太小,不适合做这工作.
Tā de niánjì tài xiăo, bù shìhé zuò zhè gōngzuò.
He is too young for this job.

不适合 (bú shìhé) means not befitting.

年青 (niánqīng) also means young, whereas 青年 (qīngnián) refers to a youth. 年轻人 (niánqīngrén) refers to young people in general. An older and wiser person can often be heard to remark:

年轻人, 不懂事.
Niánqīngrén, bù dǒngshì.
These young people; they don’t know what they’re doing.
These young people; they don’t know what’s proper.
(The rashness and folly of youth.)

(màn slow, slowly) is the opposite of (kuài quick, quickly).

冷风 (lĕng fēng) is cold wind, while 暖风 (nuăn fēng) is warm wind. 冷笑 (lěngxiào) is to sneer or to grin with dissatisfaction or bitterness. 温暖的微笑 (wēnnuǎn de wēixiào) is a warm and congenial smile.

不爱 (bú ài not to love) is the antonym of (ài to love). In fact, you can add (bú) to any adjective to form its antonym.

How is this for a description of a character in a novel?

他不高不矮,不胖不瘦.
Tā bù gāo bù ǎi, bú pàng bú shòu.
He is neither tall nor short, and neither fat nor thin.

青春 (qīngchūn) is one’s youth or youthfulness, while 晚年 (wǎnnián) is one’s old age. Click on this link to watch the kids perform a lively Xinjiang folksong.

This song talks about the sun going down now and rising again tomorrow.
The sun is called 太阳 (tàiyáng).
下山 (xiàshān) is to go down the mountains.
爬上来 (pá shànglai) is to climb up.

Another observation is that the flowers withering now will blooming again next year.
花谢了. (huā xiè le) means the flowers have withered.
花开了. (huā kāi le) means the flowers have burst into blooms.

Then there is mention of a pretty little bird that has flown away, no trace of it to be found.
飞去 (fēi qù) means to fly away.
回来 (huílái) means to come back.

Finally, one’s youth is likened to the bird that will never return. Rejoice, while we are still young (some of us perhaps a century young)!

儿童节快乐!
Eértóngjié kuàilè!
Happy International Children’s Day!

Aside

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