Great Mothers in Chinese History

Flowering Tree in Spring

In the proverb “Behind every great man there is a great woman.”, the woman referred to is the wife of the great man. Throughout the human history, we can find countless instances to support the fact that behind every great person there is a great mother.

In particular, a number of outstanding mothers in Chinese history have been placed on a pedestal for all to admire. These women did not spoil their children, but rather taught them discipline and planted in their minds sound moral principles. We will talk about one of them today. You should be able to follow this story without much difficulty, as the English translation closely parallels the Chinese text.

在中國, 孟子通常被稱為亞聖.
Zài zhōngguó, Mèngzǐ tōngcháng bèi chēng wèi Yàshèng.
In China, Mencius is often referred to as the Second Sage.
(Confucius is regarded as the Great Sage.)

他相信人性根本上是善良的.
Tā xiāngxìn rénxìng gēnběn shàng shì shànliáng de.
He believed that human nature is fundamentally good.

孟子的母親把住所搬到一所學校的附近,
Mèngzǐ de mǔqīn bǎ zhùsuǒ bān dào yī suǒ xuéxiào de fùjìn,
Mensius’ mother moved their residence to be near a school,

希望使他對學習感興趣.
xīwàng shǐ tā duì xuéxí gǎn xìngqù.
in the hope of getting him interested in studying.

俗話說: “近朱者赤,近墨者黑.”
Súhuà shuō: “Jìnzhūzhěchì, jìnmòzhěhēi.”
As the saying goes, “One takes on the character of one’s company or environment.”
(Those involved with red dye get stained red; those involved with ink get stained black.)

有一天,孟子从他的房间出来时,
Yǒu yītiān, Mèngzǐ cóng tā de fángjiān chūlái shí,
One day, when Mencius came out of his room,

他的母亲正在织一块布.
Tā de mǔqīn zhèngzài zhī yīkuài bù.
his mother was weaving a piece of cloth.

母亲问他: “你的功课做好了吗?”
Mǔqīn wèn tā: “Nǐ de gōngkè zuò hǎole ma?”
She asked him, “Have you finished your homework?”

孟子回答:”还没有,但是我想去外面玩耍.”
Mèngzǐ huídá: “Hái méiyǒu, dànshì wǒ xiǎng qù wàimiàn wánshuǎ.”
Mencius replied, “Not yet, but I want to go play outside.”

母亲听了, 拿起一把大剪刀,
Mǔqīn tīngle, ná qǐ yī bǎ dà jiǎndāo,
Upon hearing this, the mother grabbed a large pair of scissors,

剪断了织布机上正在织的布.
jiǎn duàn le zhī bù jī shàng zhèngzài zhī de bù.
and cut the fabric she was weaving on the loom.

孟子大吃一惊.
Mèngzǐ dàchīyījīng.
Mencius was taken aback.

他问母亲为什么要破坏费力织成的布.
Tā wèn mǔqīn wèishéme yào pòhuài fèilì zhī chéng de bù.
He asked mother why she destroyed the laboriously woven fabric.

母亲回答: “这就像你荒废学业, 半途而废.
Mǔqīn huídá:“Zhè jiù xiàng nǐ huāngfèi xuéyè, bàntú’érfèi.
The mother replied, “This is just like your neglecting your studies and giving it up halfway.

这样, 你会一事无成.”
Zhèyàng, nǐ huì yīshìwúchéng.”
This way you will get nowhere.”

孟子深为感动, 牢记在心.
Mèngzǐ shēn wéi gǎndòng, láojì zàixīn.
Mencius was deeply moved and took this advice to heart.

他刻苦学习,成为 了 中国最受尊敬的学者之一.
Tā kèkǔ xuéxí, chéngwéi le zhōngguó zuì shòu zūnjìng de xuézhě zhī yī.
He studied hard and became one of the most respected scholars in China.

You can find additional anecdotes, rhymes and lyrics in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to help increase your proficiency in Chinese.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day!
母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!

Practice writing Chinese characters (Exercise 2)

Carnations

Carnations

Today we will practice writing 10 words used in the “Two Odd Tigers” song discussed in Chapter 1 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“. Please print out the sheet at the following link:
Chinese Character Tracing 6

Trace over the fainter characters to become familiar with the position of each stroke then write the character in the three blank spaces yourself.

Details about the types of strokes you will encounter in Chinese characters and the correct stroke order can be found at this link.

By the way, Mother’s Day is coming up. To my own dear mother in heaven:

这朵鲜花献给您.
Zhè duǒ xiānhuā xiàn gěi nín;
This carnation I offer you today,

您看不到, 也听不见.
Nín kàn bù dào, yě tīng bù jiàn.
But you cannot see, nor can you hear.

但盼天使捎个信
Dàn pàn tiānshǐ shāo gè xìn,
Hope the angels will relay

遥传我们的思念.
Yáo chuán wǒmén de sīniàn.
How much you’re missed by all of us here.

Those of you who are fortunate to still have your mother and/or grandmother around, don’t forget to express your love to them in a way they can appreciate. Come to think of it, have you noticed that, when inverted, MOM becomes “WOW”?

母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

Various ways to laugh in Chinese

SmilesThe Chinese word for (xiào) can mean to laugh, to smile or to ridicule.

他开心地笑了.
Tā kāixīn de xiào le.
He laughed heartily.

To be specific, use 微笑 (wēixiào) for smiling, such as in 會心的微笑 (huìxīn de wēixiào), which means a knowing.smile.

她向我微笑.
Tā xiàng wǒ wēixiào.
She smiles at me.

If you follow (xiào) with a noun, then you are ridiculing that person, object or event.

大家笑他贪吃.
Dàjiā xiào tā tān chī.
Everyone laughs at him for being piggish.

How one expresses a laugh can communicate a gamut of different feelings. Following are a number of Chinese words that represent various ways of laughing. Notice how they all explicitly contain the word (xiào).

发笑 (fāxiào) is to issue a laugh.

In the Chinese version of the song, “The More We Get Together”, featured in Chapter 2 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, you can see two expressions for laughing heartily , 笑哈哈 (xiàohāhā ) and 笑嘻嘻 (xiàoxīxī). Instead of doing “haha” or “hehe” some people giggle or chortle:

她们咯咯笑不停.
Tāmengēgēxiào bùtíng.
They giggled nonstop.

Children often laugh in a silly way. (hān) means innocent or naive. 憨笑 (hānxiào) is to smile or laugh in a childish way. (shǎ) means foolish. 傻笑 (shǎxiào) is to laugh foolishly or to issue an awkard laugh when don’t know what else to do. (chī ) means silly or insane; and 痴笑 (chī xiào) is to giggle foolishly.

大笑 (dà xiào) is to laugh out loud. 狂笑 (kuángxiào) or 哄笑 (hōngxiào) means to guffaw. 哄然大笑 (hōngrán dà xiào) is an expressioon commonly used for describing the boisterous, uproarious laughing of a crowd.

苦笑 (kǔxiào) is to make a forced smile.

他没办法说服她, 只好苦笑了一下.
Tā méi bànfǎ shuōfú tā, zhǐhǎo kǔxiào le yīxià.
As he was unable to convince her, he forced a smile.

惨笑 (cǎnxiào) means to smile in a sad and miserable way, such as when one realizes that everything has been lost.

谄笑 (chǎnxiào) is to smile in an ingratiating way. Have you ever had to do so? 赔笑 (péixiào) is to smile obsequiously or apologetically. A few years ago I saw a Chinese restaurant owner bow and smile apologetically when a customer complained about the food..

冷笑 (lěngxiào) is to laugh grimly or to grin with dissatisfaction, helplessness, or bitterness. It sounds like “ (hng humph)!”.

干笑 (gānxiào) is to cackle, as a witch might do.

奸笑 (jiānxiào) is to smile or laugh like a villain in a sinister way. A villain might also 獰笑 (níngxiào), or grin hideously.

There are also many ways to laugh at other people:

暗笑 (ànxiào) and 窃笑 (qièxiào) both mean to laugh in one’s sleeve or to snicker.

调笑 (tiáoxiào) is to poke fun at someone.

讥笑 (jīxiào) and 嘲笑 (cháoxiào) are synonyms that mean to ridicule, jeer, sneer at, or laugh sarcastically. 耻笑 (chǐxiào) is to ridicule, sneer at, or mock someone to shame him or her.

不要嘲笑别人的弱点.
Bùyào cháoxiào biérén de ruòdiǎn
Don’t laugh at other people’s foibles.

By pairing (xiào) with an appropriate adverb or adverbial phrase, as shown in the very first sample sentence, you could come up with many more expressions that describe different ways to laugh.

I think laughter is the best gift you can give to anyone. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, say or do something to put a happy smile on your parent’s face.

母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

Sing Chinese Song – A Breeze in May

White Tree Peony

White Tree Peony 白牡丹 bái mǔdan


It hasn’t been that windy, and it has rained somewhat. Still this proved a bit too much for the delicate tree peony in my yard to bear. The depressed branches and fallen petals remind me of a couple well-known songs. One is a Taiwanese song called 雨夜花 (Yǔ Yè Huā Flower on a Rainy Night). The other is 五月的风 (Wǔyuè de Fēng A Breeze in May) composed by 黎锦光 (Lí Jǐnguāng). At this link is a rendition of the latter.

五月的风,吹在花上.
Wǔyuè de fēng chuī zài huā shàng.
A breeze in May wafts over the flowers.

朵朵的花儿吐露芬芳.
Duǒ duǒ de huār tǔlù fēnfāng.
Each flower cheerfully gives off its fragrance.

假如呀花儿确有知,
Jiǎrú ya huār què yǒu zhī,
If the flower is actually aware

懂得人海的沧桑,
Dǒngde rénhǎi de cāng sāng,
And knows the hardship and vicissitudes of life,

它该低下头来哭断了肝肠.
Tā gāi dīxià tóu lái kū duàn le gān cháng.
It should lower its head and cry its eyes out.
(This line is different from the one sung in the above-mentioned video.)

(chuī) is to blow or to play a wind instrument. Colloquially it also means to blow one’s own horn, or to break up or fall through.

(duǒ) is a unit of measure for flowers. See how it is doubled here to indicate each and every flower.

吐露 (tǔlù) means to reveal the true state of affairs or one’s inner thoughts or feelings. Here it means the flowers are discharging their fragrance.

芬芳 (fēnfāng) is the sweet fragrance of flowers. These characters are often found in girls’ names.

假如 (jiǎrú) means “if” or “suppose”. (què) means actually, definite or accurate.

有知 (yǒu zhī) means to have knowledge about something. 懂得 (dǒngde) means to understand or to know how to do something.

人海 (rénhǎi) refers to a crowd or the multitude. 沧桑 (cāng sāng) refers to the hardship and vicissitudes of life.

(gāi) is short for 应该 (yīnggāi), which means “ought to” or “should”.

Here, 低下(dīxià) means to lower or to bend down. As an adjective this word also means to be lowly.

(kū) is to cry. ( duàn) is to break, snap off, to give up, or to be decisive. 肝肠(gān cháng) are the liver and the intestines. It refers to the insides of a person. That would be a gut-wrenching cry.

All the stanzas of the verses employ the same structure. It will be a good exercise for you to figure out the lyrics for the rest of the song. It seems like this tune could go on and on forever. You might want to sing it about six whole keys lower so as not to strain your voice box. I hope this song does not leave you in a melancholy mood. Rather, think of the warmth of a mother’s love and care and have a Happy Mother’s Day!

母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!

Great Mothers

White Peony

White Peony


Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. I think back to how my mother cared for me and nourished my body and soul in different ways at different times. Not only did she teach her children to be kind to other people, but she also spurred us to do our best in our studies. And I’ve come to realize that my mother was the one behind my father’s career change that opened up favorable opportunities for our education and personal growth.

Fast-rewind to a story that took place about twenty-three hundred years ago. The title is 孟母三迁 (Mèng Mǔ Sān Qiān). 孟母 (Mèng Mǔ) refers to the mother of the great Chinese philosopher Mencius, or 孟子 (Mèngzǐ). (qiān) is to relocate. The common term for moving one’s house is 搬家 (bānjiā).

Watch the cartoon at this Youtube link to find out why Mencius’ mother had to move three times, or 三次 (sān cì).

Are you able to keep up with the speed of the narration? Hope the following vocabulary list helps.

小的时候 (xiǎo de shíhòu) means in one’s childhood.
靠近 (kàojìn) is to be near some place or someone.
墓地 (mùdì) is a graveyard.
学会 (xuéhuì) as a verb means to have learned to do something.
祭奠 (jìdiàn) is to hold a memorial service.
动作 (dòngzuò) are actions or movements.
Here, 不能 (bùnéng) means “should not”.
孩子 (háizǐ) is a kid.
(zhù) is to live at a place.
城镇 (chéngzhèn) means cities and towns.
集市边上 (jíshì biān shàng) means by a market.
模仿 (mófǎng) is to imitate.
商人 (shāngrén) are merchants.
做买卖 (zuò mǎimài) means to do buying and selling business.
吹牛 (chuīniú) and 夸口 (kuākǒu) both mean to boast and brag. (In this story, these words are used to describe how the merchants touted their merchandise.)
模样 (múyàng) are looks and appearances.
维妙维肖 (wéimiàowéixiào) means “in close resemblance to”.
不行 (bùxíng) means “no good” or “won’t do”.
还得 (hái děi) means “still must”.
不久 (bùjiǔ) means not long afterward.
书塾 (shū shú) refers to an old-style private school in China.
附近 (fùjìn) means vicinity.
小伙伴 (xiǎo huǒbàn) are little companions.
遵守秩序 (zūnshǒu zhìxù) means to follow rules and regulations.
讲究礼貌 (jiǎngjiū lǐmào) means to pay attention to good manners.
适合居住的地方 (shìhé jūzhù de dìfang) means a suitable place for living.
生活环境 (shēnghuó huánjìng) means the environment in which one lives.

You can get this story in English and also find out more about Mencius and his philosophy by reading this article at Wikipedia.

母亲节快乐!
Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!
Happy Mother’s Day!

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