Sing Chinese Song – Fisherman’s Plight

Fishes in the Sea
Fishes in the Sea

Soon the winter wind will be blowing over the country and bring with it chills, snow or sleet. While we huddle in front of the fireplace, think of the fishermen who must brave the cold and often stormy weather to make a living. Fisherman’s Plight is the theme song of an old Chinese movie that was very popular a couple generations ago. It is a classic that has withstood the test of time. This version provides good pronunciation of the lyrics but at snail speed. I suggest that you play it at 1.25 times the normal speed to preserve the lilting quality of the music.


渔光曲
Yú Guāng Qū

云儿飘在海空,
Yún er piāo zài hǎi kōng,
Clouds are floating in the ocean sky;

鱼儿藏在水中.
yú er cáng zài shuǐzhōng.
Fishes are hiding under the water.

早晨太阳里晒鱼网,
Zǎochén tàiyáng lǐ shài yúwǎng,
In the morning sun we dry the fish net,

迎面吹过来大海风.
yíngmiàn chuī guòlái dà hǎifēng.
the ocean wind blowing in our faces.

潮水升, 浪花涌,
Cháoshuǐ shēng, lànghuā yǒng,
The tide rises and the waves billow;

鱼船儿漂漂各西东.
yú chuán er piāo piāo gè xī dōng.
The fishing boats drift here and there.

轻撒网, 紧拉绳,
Qīng sā wǎng, jǐn lā shéng,
Throwing the net out gently and pulling the ropes in tight,

烟雾里辛苦等鱼踪.
yānwù lǐ xīnkǔ děng yú zōng.
We wait arduously in the smoke and fog for traces of the fish.

鱼儿难捕, 租税重,
Yú er nán bǔ, zūshuì zhòng,
Fish is hard to catch, and the boat rental fee and taxes are high.

捕鱼人儿世世穷.
bǔ yú rén er shìshì qióng.
It’s the fisherman’s lot to be poor from generation to generation.

爷爷留下的破鱼网,
Yéyé liú xià de pò yúwǎng,
The patched fishing net left behind by grandpa

小心再靠它过一冬.
xiǎoxīn zài kào tāguò yī dōng.
we had better take good care of it to tide us over this winter.

N.B. 飘 and 漂 are pronounced the same. 飘 means to float in air, while 漂 means to float on water. Did you catch the error in the lyrics displayed in the video?

Attention please: “5 Stories in Chinese -Book 1 Chinese Tales” was published last month.
I have since added more material to the eBook. Those of you who have already obtained Book 1, please ask amazon.com to let you download the updated version. Thank you.

To listen to a reading of the first story in this eBook, please click on this youtube link.

If you would like me to check the sentences that you have constructed for the exercises in “5 Stories in Chinese”, please post them in a Comment.

5 Stories in Chinese – Book2 Tales from around the World” is now live.

圣诞快乐, 新年如意!
Shèngdàn kuàilè, xīnnián rúyì!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Man, a radical?

Have you noticed that 爷爷 (yéye grandpa) and 爸爸 (bàba papa, dad) share the radical (fù father)?

Now, check the following list and see if you can point out the common root shared by these words.

(rén person, human being)
(dà big, large)
(tài too, excessively, top-most)
(rén dog, canine)
(tiān sky, heaven)
(fū husband, man)

That’s right. The root of the above characters is (rén human being). Whereas 女人 (nǚrén) is a female person, or a woman, 男人 (nánrén) is a male person, or a man. The top part of the character (nán male person) is (tián), which means fields or cropland; and the lower part is (lì), which represents physical strength. So, men are those human beings who work in the fields.

If you first make a horizontal stroke then add a (rén) to it, then you would get the character (dà), which stands for “big” or “large”. We know that 小孩 (xiǎohái) is a child. The word for an adult is 大人 (dàrén).

Add an extra tick below (dà big, large), and you’d get the word (tài), which means “excessively” or “supreme”. As a bonus for learning this character, 太太 (tàitai), is how one refers to one’s wife. It also represents the title “Mrs.”.

It matter where you place the tick mark in a character. If you place it in the upper-right quadrant of (dà), you’d turn it into the formal word for “dog”, . The everyday word for “dog” is (gǒu).

It also matters whether a vertical stroke pokes out of a horizontal stroke or not. For example, make a horizontal stroke then add the character (dà) beneath it. You’d get something that is bigger than “big”, namely, the sky, (tiān). If you let the first stroke of (rén) poke out of the character for sky, then you’d have written a totally different character, (fū), which means “husband”, and also stands for “man”. 夫人 (fūrén) is a respectful way of addressing a lady. So, for example, 王夫人 (Wáng fūrén) is a more respectful way of addressing Mrs. Wang than 王太太 (Wáng tàitai).

Father knows best?

So, we know that 妈妈 (māma) means “mama”. The word corresponding to “papa” is 爸爸 (bàba).
The formal words for mother and father are 母亲 (mǔqin) and 父亲 (fùqin), respectively, where (qīn) stands for kin, relative, being dear to someone, or intimacy. The word (mǔ) shows plainly the bosom of a nurturing parent. When you place this word in front of the name of any animal, it turns that animal into a female entity. So, (niú) is an ox, while 母牛 (mǔniú) is a cow.

Please remember that (mǔ) has a mammalian connotation. Never refer to a woman as a 母人 (mǔrén). The correct word is 女人 (nǚrén). By the same token, (ér) and 儿子 (érzi) refer to a son, while 女儿 (nǚér) is a daughter.

孩子 (háizi) means a child or children. (xiǎo) means little. The little children are often referred to as 小孩子 (xiǎoháizi) or 小孩儿 (xiǎoháir). Babies are 婴儿 (yīngér baby). These little bundles of joy are often called 宝宝 (bǎobǎo), which translates to “treasure”, or “sweetling”.

On the “Story Time” page of this blog, there is a link to the “My Little Sweetling” video on YouTube. How many words do you recognize in the subtitles of this video?

爷爷 (yéye grandpa) is the informal way of addressing one’s paternal grandfather. 奶奶 (nǎinai grandma) is the informal way of addressing one’s paternal grandmother. Notice the radical (nǚ) in the word for grandma? The word (nǎi) actually means breasts or milk.

As with many other cultures, the father is the figure of authority in a Chinese family. As recent as one complete Chinese zodiac cycle (60 years) ago, there was a clear division of labor in most Chinese families. The father was the breadwinner and deals with the outside world, while the mother handled “internal affairs” like cooking, cleaning and watching the children. As such, the common women had no social position to speak of. In the patriarchal society of China, the children take on the surname of the father. Therefore, the sons were regarded as truly belonging to the family, while the daughters were expected to leave and serve some other family when they grew up. This is why most expecting parents wished for sons rather than daughters.

If you get a chance to watch the Chinese movie “King of Masks”, a Shaw Brothers production, you will see the prejudice against girls clearly portrayed; and the word 爷爷 (yéye grandpa) will probably ring in your ears for quite a few days afterwards.

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