Homonyms for the Chinese word for deer

Deer in the Woods

Deer in the Woods

Deer are not part of the Chinese zodiac. They are getting a mention here because the Chinese word for deer has a number of homonyms that I’d like to bring to your attention.

Deer in Chinese is 鹿 (lù). Sika deer, or 梅花鹿 (méihuālǜ), originated mostly from Japan, Taiwan and East Asia. They are mentioned in “The Little Monk“, a short novel that features Taiwan in the seventeenth century.

Giraffes are called 长颈鹿 (chángjǐnglù), or long-necked deer. 驼鹿 (tuólù) refers to moose or elks.

Literally, 逐鹿 (zhúlù) means to chase the deer. Figuratively, it means to bid for state power.

中原 (zhōngyuán) are the Central Plains in China that cover the middle and lower reaches of the Huanghe River. Many ancient Chinese dynasties established their government seats in this central area. The term 中原 (zhōngyuán) is also generally used to refer to the entire country of China. Therefore, 逐鹿中原 (zhúlùzhōngyuán) is to engage in a fight for the throne.

People competing for a high position or a coveted prize are likened to hunters going after the same deer. If you have no diea about who will most likely be the winner, you could say:

不知鹿死谁手.
Bùzhī lùsǐshuíshǒu.
Don’t know at whose hand the deer will die.

鹿皮 (lùpí) is deerskin.

There are many other words that are pronounced exactly the same as 鹿 (lù). We will look at a few common ones.

(lù) or 山麓 (shānlù) is the foot of a mountain.

(lù) or 道路 (dàolù) is a road, a path or a route. 高速公路 (gāosùgōnglù) is a freeway, and 地下铁路 (dìxiàtiělù) means subway. 路标 (lùbiāo) is a road sign, and 路灯 (lùdēng) are street lamps.

Crossroads are called 十字路口 (shízìlùkǒu). See how the Chinese numeral 10 looks like an intersection of two roads.

路面 (lùmiàn) is the road surface or pavement. 路边 (lùbiān roadside or curb) is usually used as an adverb,as in:

路边有许多摊贩.
There are many street vendors on the road side.
Lù biān yǒu xǔduō tānfàn.

迷路 (mílù) means to lose one’s way. When you lose your way, you will want to ask for directions, or 问路 (wènlù), and someone might be kind enough to show you the way, or 带路 (dàilù).

路程 (lùchéng) is the distance traveled or to be traveled on a journey.

走路 (zǒulù) means to go on foot. 路人 (lùrén) are passersby.

路人皆知 (lùrénjiēzhī) is an idiom that means everybody knows, referring to a well-known fact.

走投无路 (zǒutóuwúlù) means to have no way out or to be in an impasse.

When (lù) takes on a bird radical, it becomes (lù). 白鹭 (báilù) is a great white egret, and 苍鹭 (cānglù) is a gray heron.

(lù) or 陆地 (lùdì) means land, and 着陆 (zhuólù) is a verb that means to land. 大陆 (dàlù) means mainland or a continent. Eurasia is called 欧亚大陆 (Oūyàdàlù). 内陆 (nèilù) means inland or interior.

陆军 (lùjūn) is the ground force or army, and 海军陆战队 (hǎijūnlùzhànduì) are the marine corps.

陆续 (lùxù) means one after another.

旅客们陆续上了火车.
Lǚkèmen lùxù shàngle huǒchē.
The travelers got on the train one after another.

(lù) means to kill or slay, and 杀戮 (shālù) is a massacre.

(lù) and 贿赂 (huìlù) are bribes. 贿赂 (huìlù) can also be used as a verb.

正直的官员不会接受贿赂.
Zhèngzhí de guānyuán bù huì jiēshòu huìlù.
Upright officials will not accept bribes.

As a noun, (lù) means dew. It can also refer to a sweet drink distilled from flowers. 雨露 (yǔlù) is rain and dew. Figuratively, it connotes grace or a favour. On the other hand, 鱼露 (yúlù) is fish sauce. This is one example of why it is important to pay attention to the tone of the Chinese words you utter.

As a verb, (lù) means to reveal or to show. So, 露出 (lùchū) is to expose or to protrude from under a cover.

露面 (lùmiàn) means to show one’s face or to appear. In ancient China, women from good families were expected to stay at home and lead a private existence. Those who dared to show themselves unashamedly in public, or 抛头露面 (pāotóulùmiàn), were looked down upon

露一手 (lòuyīshǒu) is to show off one’s abilities or skills.

Literally, 露骨 (lùgǔ) means showing one’s bones. Figuratively, this expression describes a remark or action that is considered point-blank, explicit, or without polite disguise.

不露声色 (bùlùshēngsè) means to do things quietly and not show one’s feeling or intentions, like keeping a poker face.

原形 (yuánxíng) is the original shape or the true shape under the disguise. 原形毕露 (yuánxíng bìlù) is having the whole truth unmasked. In the same vein, 露出马脚 (lùchūmǎjiǎo) is to reveal the cloven foot or to give oneself away unintentionally.

透露 (tòulù) is to divulge, disclose or leak information.

If you see a friend taking a large wad of cash out of his wallet to count in the open, you could offer him this advice:

财不露白.
Cái bù lòubái
Don’t show your money in front of people.

露天 (lùtiān) means in the open air or outdoors. Therefore, an outdoor concert is called 露天演唱会 (lùtiān yǎnchàng huì).

露营 (lùyíng) is to camp out. When amping out, please be careful not to start a forest fire!

(lù) means to write down, to record or to register. 记录 (jìlù) is to record or take notes. A documentary film is called 纪录片 (jìlùpiàn).

录取 (lùqǔ) is to recruit, and 录用 (lùyòng) is to take on as an employee.

录音 (lùyīn) means sound recording. 录像机 (lùxiàngjī) is a video-recorder or camcorder. In Taiwan, it is called 录影机 (lùyǐng jī).

(lù) is also used as a noun that means a record or a collection of records. Memoirs are called 回忆录 (huíyìlù).

(lù) means busy or commonplace. 忙碌 (mánglù) is to bustle about, or to be busy with commonplace things.

劳碌 (láolù) to toil or work hard.

(lù) or 俸禄 (fènglù) refers to an official’s salary in ancient China. Therefore, it is an auspicious word. Therefore 福禄双全 (fúlùshuāngquán be happy and wealthy) is a popular wish to give to or to receive from an acquaintance.

中秋節快樂!
Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Playing a card game or board game in Chinese

Chinese word cards

Some time ago I made a board game as a fun way to help with recognizing and remembering Chinese characters. It is fashioned after the game called “Sequence for Kids”. Instead of cards showing different animals, this “Chinese Sequence” uses cards showing Chinese characters or words. It is best played by two people, such as a teacher and a student, or two students who have become familiar with the game.

Game board with Chinese characters

 

I. Construction

I bought blank cards the size of poker cards, printed the Chinese words on large labels, then affixed the labels onto the blank cards. You will need two identical sets of cards, with 19 cards in each set. The same set of words are printed on two sheets of ledger paper that are joined together to serve as the game board. One half of the game board is pictured here. As the players will be sitting face-to-face across the game board, the two sheets will be joined and positioned such that the Chinese words can be read right-side-up by each player. Unlike Sequence for Kids, I don’t use wild cards. However, the board does provide a free space at each corner. You can use the pieces that come with Sequence for Kids or some other board game, or collect two different colors of plastic bread bag clips (bread tags), 19 pieces each.

The pictures here show the Chinese words with their pinyin annotations. You could omit the pinyin to make the game more challenging.

II. How to Play

Let’s call the players A and B. They are encouraged to speak only Chinese during the game.

Each player chooses the color of the playing pieces and collects his/her pieces in one pile. The players shuffle their own deck of cards then draw the top three cards. If Player A sees a word on the board that matches the first word on one of his/her cards, Player A lays that card aside and places one of his/her pieces on the spot of the board showing that word. Player A draws a new card. Player B gets the turn to do likewise.

The goal of the game is to get four pieces lined up consecutively in a straight row, column or diagonal. A blank space can be counted as part of the sequence. The player would usually try to take advantage of it when feasible. There is strategy involved. Sometimes it is more advantageous to block the progress of the other player’s sequence than to build up your own sequence.

The first person to make the sequence wins the game, and he/she receives one point. The players could agree on a set number of games to play over a period of time. Whoever gets the most points is the final winner.

After the players have familiarized themselves with the first word on the cards, then they will switch to playing the game by matching and calling out the second word on the card with the board. When they have learned all the 57 words, you could make new cards a new boards for them to use.

Another fun way to use the word cards is to give each player 5 or 6 cards and encourage them to make a simple sentence out of the hand. The player gets one point for each card used in the sentence. Those cards are laid aside, and replacement cards drawn.

All right, here are a few card game terms for you to learn:

请洗牌.
Qǐng xǐ pái.
Please shuffle the cards.

请发牌.
Qǐng fā pái.
Please deal the cards.

请给我一张牌.
Please give me a card.
Qǐng gěi wǒ yīzhāng pái.

谢谢.
Xièxiè.
Thanks.

不客气.
Bùkèqi.
You’re welcome.

轮到我了.
Lún dào wǒ le .
My turn.

轮到你了.
Lún dào nǐ le.
Your turn.

我的牌是 . . .
Wǒ de pái shì . . .
Your card is . . .

这一盘我赢了.
Zhè yī pán wǒ yíng le.
I won this game.

这一盘你输了.
Zhè yī pán nǐ shū le.
You lost this game.

三 比 二.
Sān bǐ èr.
3 to 2.

平手.
Píngshǒu.
It’s a draw.

Have fun!

中秋節快樂!
Happy Moon Festival!

 

Some Chinese expressions involving the moon

上弦月 shàngxián yuè First-quarter Moon

上弦月 (shàngxián yuè) First-quarter Moon

It is a Chinese tradition for family to gather together and enjoy the harvest of the year when the moon is at its fullest in the middle of autumn. After a scrumptious feast, it is customary for the party to move outdoors to observe the bright moon, chat, drink some tea and eat 月饼 (yuèbǐng moon cakes).

The moon is commonly referred to as 月亮 (yuèliang). In astronomical science, it is called 月球 (yuèqiú). In literature, one might speak of 月宫 (yuègōng), the palace on the moon where the moon fairly lives. In a moon-lit night, or 月夜 (yuèyè), you will likely see a half-moon shape, 半月形 (bànyuèxíng), or a crescent moon, 月牙 (yuèyá). A lunar eclipse is called 月蚀 (yuèshí).

The word (yuè) also represents the time period of one month. 正月 (zhēngyuè) is the first month of the lunar year. The Moon Festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar year, i.e. 八月十五 (bāyuè shíwǔ).

岁月 (suìyuè) means years. 经年累月 (jīngniánlěiyuè) means year in year out.

他经年累月努力学习, 终于学会了中文.
Tā jīngniánlěiyuè nǔlì xuéxí, zhōngyú xuéhuì le zhōngwén.
After years of endeavoring in the study, he finally mastered the Chinese language.

蜜月 (mìyuè) is a honeymoon.

他们要去哪儿度蜜月?
Tāmen yào qù nǎr dù mìyuè?
Where are they going for their honeymoon?

The word 满月 (mǎnyuè) can refer to a full moon, or it can refer to a baby’s completion of its first month of life, which calls for a joyous celebration. After giving birth to a baby, a woman in the traditional Chinese society would be confined at home for the entire first month and eat nutritious foods and drink herbal soups so as to recuperate quickly and produce ample milk for the newborn. This is called 坐月子 (zuòyuèzi).

When you see (yuè) in front of another word, it often refers to a monthly occurrence. Following are a few examples:

月历 (yuèlì) is a montly calendar.
月刊 (yuèkān) is a monthly magazine.
月票 (yuèpiào) is a monthly ticket.
月息 (yuéxī) is the monthly interest.
月薪 (yuèxīn) is the monthly salary.

Have you ever heard of 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén)? An ancient Chinese story goes like this: One night, a traveling young man happened on an old man who was reading a book under the moonlight. Out of curiosity the young man ask the old what the book was about. The old man replied, “This is the book of marriages. See that woman who is peddling vegetables over there? Her daughter is only three now. In fourteen years, that girl will become your wife.” The young man did not take to the homeliness of that little girl. He paid a local to stab her to death. Fourteen years later, the young man got married. As was the custom at that time, one would see his bride for the first time on the wedding night. When the young man lifted the veil that covered the face of his bride, he saw a scar on her eyebrow. It turned out that girl was the same one he had previously attempted to get rid of. 月下老人 (yuèxiàlǎorén), the old man under the moon, is believed to be the god who unites persons in marriage. Consequently this term is often used to refer to a matchmaker. Chapter 10 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” discusses the song “Lift Your Veil”, which you can learn to sing by following the demo in the associated audio file.

累积 (lěijī) means to accumulate. 日积月累 (rìjīyuèlěi) means accumulated over a long period of time.

(xīn) means new. (yì) is the classical Chinese word for being different. Therefore 日新月异 (rìxīnyuèyì) means changing with each passing day (and month).

The phrase 风花雪月 (fēnghuāxuěyuè) contains the Chinese words for wind, flowers, snow and moon, which was the subject matter of certain types of feudal literature. Nowadays this idiom refers to shallow sentimental writing that is devoid of content. It is also used to describe decadence and indulgence in wine and women.

海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè) means to attempt to scoop up the moon from the bottom of the sea, i.e. striving in vain for the impossible or the illusory.

这像是海底捞月.
Zhè xiàng shì hǎidǐlāoyuè.
This is a hopeless illusion.

When people gather for the Moon Festival, some may play the game of mahjong, which involves completing a winning hand of tiles by forming sets of three tiles (melds). You could form a meld using a tile that you picked up or by using a tile discarded by another player. In the rare instance where no one has won when the tiles almost run out and you pick up the last available tile to complete a winning hand, you are said to have accomplished 海底捞月 (hǎidǐlāoyuè).

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè!
Happy Moon Festival!

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!

%d bloggers like this: