Musings in Chinese on gardening

Snow Pea Flower
Pink Snow Pea Flower

Well, I don’t exactly have zucchinis coming out of my ears, but this year I took care to spray the plants with a 1:10 hydrogen peroxide solution at the first appearance of powdery mildew, and we have enough zucchinis to enjoy and share with our 100-year-old neighbor.

我喜欢园艺, 尤其是种蔬菜.
Wǒ xǐhuān yuányì, yóuqí shì zhòng shūcài.
I enjoy gardening, especially growing vegetables.

看着幼小的植物逐渐长大, 心中无比高兴。
Kànzhe yòuxiǎo de zhíwù zhújiàn zhǎng dà, xīnzhōng wúbǐ gāoxìng.
It gives me immense pleasure to watch the young plants grow up gradually.

能为家人提供新鲜的蔬菜, 令我引以为豪.
Néng wéi jiārén tígōng xīnxiān de shūcài, lìng wǒ yǐn yǐ wéi háo.
It makes me proud to be able to provide my family with fresh vegetables.

此外, 园艺还给了我许多人生道理的启示.
Cǐwài, yuányì hái gěi le wǒ xǔduō rénshēng dàolǐ de qǐshì.
Besides, gardening has also given me many revelations about life.

俗话说: “春耕,夏耘,秋收,冬藏.”
Súhuà shuō: “Chūn gēng, xià yún, qiū shōu, dōng cáng.”
As the adage goes, “Plough in spring, weed in summer, harvest in autumn, store in winter.”

种适合在您的地区生长植物, 而不是您梦想可以种植的植物.
Zhòng shìhé zài nín de dìqū shēngzhǎng de zhíwù, ér bùshì nín mèngxiǎng kěyǐ zhòngzhí de zhíwù.
Plant what will grow in your region, not what you dream would grow.

我们做事不也要看天时, 地利, 人和吗?
Wǒmen zuòshì bù yě yào kàn tiānshí, dìlì, rén hé ma?
When we do a project, don’t we also need to consider the right timing, the right place, and the right team?

一颗小种子可以长成一棵大树。
Yī kē xiǎo zhǒngzǐ kěyǐ zhǎng chéngyī kē dà shù.
A tiny seed could grow into a large tree.

我认为每个人也都有很大的潜力。
Wǒ rènwéi měi gèrén yě dōu yǒu hěn dà de qiánlì.
I think there is also great potential in each person.

植物需要肥料, 就像人体需要营养一样。
Zhíwù xūyào féiliào, jiù xiàng réntǐ xūyào yíngyǎng yīyàng.
Plants need fertilizers just like a human body needs nourishment.

人们也需要教育和修养来滋养他们的心灵。
Rénmen yě xūyào jiàoyù hé xiūyǎng lái zīyǎng tāmen de xīnlíng.
People also need education and cultivation to nourish their minds.

种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆.
Zhòngguādéguā, zhòngdòudédòu.
You get what you sow.

但是,我们必须付出努力并且要有耐心。
Dànshì, wǒmen bìxū fùchū nǔlì bìng qiě yào yǒu nàixīn.
However, we must put in the effort and have patience.

当然, 我们不应该试图揠苗助长.
Of course, we should not try to help the shoots grow by pulling them upward (i.e. spoil things by excessive enthusiasm).

坏习惯就像杂草;它们阻碍我们的发展。
Huài xíguàn jiù xiàng zá cǎo; tāmen zǔ’ài wǒmen de fǎzhǎn.
Bad habits are like weeds; they hinder our development.

就像去芜存菁, 我们可以保留我们的优良人品并消除缺点.
Jiù xiàng qù wú cún jīng, wǒmen kěyǐ bǎoliú wǒmen de yōuliáng rénpǐn bìng xiāochú quēdiǎn.
Like culling the plants, we could keep our good qualities and elminate the shortcomings.

行行出状元; 我们应该虚心向有经验的人学习.
Háng háng chū zhuàngyuán; wǒmen yīnggāi xūxīn xiàng yǒu jīngyàn de rén xuéxí.
There are masters in every profession; we should learn humbly from experienced people.

如果您失败了, 不要气馁. 明年再试试.
Rúguǒ nín shībàile, bùyào qìněi. Míngnián zài shì shì.
If you fail, don’t lose heart. Try again next year.

找出问题所在, 对症下药.
Zhǎo chū wèntí suǒzài, duìzhèngxiàyào.
Find out where the problem is and apply the proper remedy.

一粒米, 一滴汗.
Yī lì mǐ, yīdī hàn
A grain of rice, a drop of sweat.

在感激有菜蔬享用之际, 我们应该尽力保护地球和环境.
Zài gǎnjī yǒu càishū xiǎngyòng zhī jì, wǒmen yīnggāi jìnlì bǎohù dìqiú hé huánjìng.
While we appreciate having fresh produce to enjoy, we should do our best to protect the earth and the environment.

Enlightenment in Chinese

There is a form of understanding that is gained via an awakening to a truth. In Chinese, it is called (wù). Notice the “heart” radical on the left side and the (wú formal word for I or we) character on the right side? (wù) involves a direct perception of truth by the mind. A person endowed with a higher intelligence or power of understanding, 悟性 (wùxìng), is believed to be more capable of perceiving the truth.and attaining enlightenment.

领悟 (lǐngwù) is to truly comprehend or grasp a profound principle or concept.

觉悟 (juéwù) means to come to realize the truth, or to wake up to reality, such as that involving one’s past misconception, mistakes or bad behavior. 悔悟 (huǐwù) is to repent.

The expression 执迷不悟 (zhímíbùwù) describes people who stubbornly stick to their bad ways or a wrong cause and refuse to come to their senses.

In life we experience joys and sorrows: 喜怒哀怨 (xǐ nù āi yuàn), 酸甜苦辣 (suāntiánkǔlà) and 悲欢离合 (bēihuānlíhé). Some of us may take things too hard and feel depressed. This is called 想不开 (xiǎngbukāi to take a matter to heart).

唉, 他就是想不开.
Ài, tā jiùshì xiǎngbukāi.
(sigh) He simply can’t get over it.

The Buddhist philosophy teaches people to take life as it is and not get too attached to anything. Just like the various wavelengths in the visible spectrum combine to produce “transparent” light, so all of life’s vicissitudes blend into one vast “nothingness”, or (kōng empty, emptiness). Only when one comes upon this realization can one hope to go through life’s journey in peace and with equanimity.

Many people believe it is possible to achieve (wù) through assiduous reading, studying and contemplating of the Buddhist canons. Zen Buddhism, on the other hand, emphasizes seeing directly into one’s mind. The belief is that the ultimate truth resides in each and everyone’s mind. When one continues to search in one’s mind through deep meditation, at the right moment one may experience what’s called 顿悟 (dùn wù sudden enlightenment). Such a revelation could also be triggered by an external event or incited by a capable Zen teacher. Click on this link, “An Introduction to Zen Buddhism”, if you are interested in learning a bit about the Zen school of thought.
http://buddhism.about.com/od/chanandzenbuddhism/a/zen101_2.htm

The Chinese word for Zen is (chán). Please don’t confuse it with (chán cicadas), which is pronounced the same way and looks quite similar. As an exercise, find out what other words have the same pronunciation as (chán Zen).

What we want to look at today are a couple interesting verses associated with a well known legend about the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism. When the Fifth Patriarch was looking for a successor, he asked his disciples to write a few lines to show their understanding of Buddhism. His top disciple wrote the following lines on the south wall of the temple:

身是菩提树, 心如明镜台.
Shēn shì pútíshù, xīn rú míngjìng tái.
The body is a Bodhi tree; the mind is like a mirror stand.

时时勤拂拭, 勿使惹尘埃.
Shíshí qín fúshì, wù shǐ rě chénāi.
Through diligent polishing let no dust upon the mirror land.

The Fifth Patriarch approved of the verses, but felt they lacked the spirit he was looking for. Nevertheless, he instructed the other disciples to study this practical advice to improve themselves. An illiterate monk, named 惠能 (Huìnéng), who was assigned to do odd jobs around the place heard the other monks recite the poem. He asked a fellow monk to write for him the following lines on the west wall of the temple:

菩提本无树, 明镜亦非台.
Pútí běn wú shù, míngjìng yì fēi tái.
Bodhi is not a tree, and the Mirror is not a stand.

本来无一物, 何处惹尘埃.
Běnlái wú yī wù, héchù rě chénāi.
There are no objects after all; where is the dust to land?

What happened next is a long story, but, to put it in a nut shell, 惠能 (Huìnéng) became the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism.

菩提 (pútí), the Bodhi tree, is the symbol of enlightenment because it was under such a tree that Buddha himself received enlightenment through meditation. 惠能 (Huìnéng) pointed out that the focus should not be on the tree but rather what it represents.

明镜 (míngjìng) is a bright mirror. It represents one’s mind. Again, 惠能 (Huìnéng) drew the attention to the mind rather than the physical object. (tái) is a stand, a table or a platform.

时时 (shíshí) means frequently or constantly.
(qín) means diligently.
拂拭 (fúshì) is to wipe off.
(rě) is to cause something undesirable to happen, or to attract unwanted attention.
尘埃 (chénāi) means dust.
本来 (běnlái) means originally or the way things actually are.
(wù) is a general term for things and substances.
何处 (héchù) means what place, i.e. where.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could acquire the Chinese language through meditation, or if someone could just beam it into your mind? Current technology does not permit this to happen. However, if you take a moment from time to time to reflect upon what you have already learned, some of the material may suddenly start to make more sense. Also, it helps to turn yourself into an active learner as described in this article.

During this holiday season, let’s be thankful for our wonderful family, friends and neighbors, as well as for all the problems that we could have but don’t.

感恩节快乐!
Gǎnēn jié kuàilè!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Has spring arrived in your town?

Corcuses

This year spring starts today at 7:21 pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time when the vernal equinox takes place. This is when the sun is situated directly above the equator, and the night and day are approximately of equal length in time. In Chinese, the vernal equinox is called 春分 (chūn fēn). (chūn) is spring, and (fēn) means division or separation.

Some people believe that the forces in the universe are better balanced at this time so that it’s easier to stand an egg on its end. Others discount this claim for lack of a scientific basis. You can read all about the debate by searching the Internet for articles on balancing an egg at the time of the equinoxes. If you wish to try your hand at making an egg stand on its end, I would suggest first letting the raw egg come to room temperature. Let the egg lean against a support for a few minutes, with the large end resting on the countertop. This will permit the egg yolk to settle toward the bottom and allow the egg to readily achieve a state of stable equilibrium while you are balancing it. If that oval object, called (dàn egg), refuses to cooperate, just crack it and make a pancake or an omelet.

A standing egg

Anyhow, what interests us more here is to learn a few Chinese words related to springtime. In the days of sping, 春天 (chūntiān), we are blessed with warmer weather, which also enlivens the flowers and the birds.

春天来了! Chūntiān lái le! Spring has come!
花儿开. Huār kāi. Flowers are blooming.
鸟儿叫. Niǎor jiào. The birds call.

(ér) is a son. It is often added to another word to indicate smallness or cuteness. In this case, it’s customary to slur over this word so all one hears is the “r” sound added to the preceding word. means “to open”. The Chinese describe the action of blooming as the flowers opening up. is the action of calling or exclaiming.

In North America, the crocuses, 番红花 (fān hóng huā), are usually the first ones to peep out of the ground in spring. Two other popular early bloomers are: 水仙花 (shuǐ xiān huā daffodils) and 郁金香 (yùjīnxiāng tulips). Taken apart, the indivudial characters have the following meanings:

(fān) barbarian, a bout
(hóng) is the red color.
(huā) means flowers.
(shuǐ) is water.
(xiān) is a fairy or mythical being.
(huā) means flowers.
(yùjīnxiāng) means fragrant or depressed (sad).
(jīn) is gold or metal.
(yùjīnxiāng) means fragrant or aromatic.

The colors of the flowers are the more vivid when contrasted against a background of greenery.

(cǎo) means grass, and 草地 (cǎodì) is a lawn or a meadow.
(shù) is the word for one or more trees. The word for leaves is (yè). So, 树叶 (shùyè) are the leaves of a tree.

Those of you whose front yards are still buried under snow could close your eyes and imagine the beauty and delight of springtime. After all, it’s the emotion that one feels that matters.

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