Labor Day in Chinese

Bee in Flower

Bee Collecting Pollens

In “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” we talked about a number of the major Chinese holidays. Here in the USA we are celebrating today the Labor Day, i.e. 劳工节 (láogōng jié). This is different from the 劳动节
(láodòngjié), which is the International Labour Day on May 1. Labor Day was the day the Labor Movement was created in the USA to fight for better wages, reasonable working hours and safer working conditions. This national holiday is annually observed as a tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

劳工 (láogōng) or 工人 (gōngrén) are workers, and 运动 (yùndòng) could refer to a physical exercise or a movement.

劳工对于经济有很大的贡献.
Láogōng duìyú jīngjì yǒu hěn dà de gòngxiàn.
The workers contribute greatly to the economy.

The sociey needs the support of workers, just like a bee colony needs to be maintained by the worker bees. It is interesting that in a bee colony, all the work is carried out by female bees.

工蜂建造蜂窝.
Gōngfēng jiànzào fēngwō.
The worker bees construct the bee hive.

他们勤劳地收集花粉,花蜜,以及水.
Tāmen qínláo de shōují huāfěn, huāmì, yǐjí shuǐ.
They diligently collect pollen, nectar and water.

他们酿制蜂蜜来喂幼虫.
Tāmen niàng zhì fēngmì lái wèi yòuchóng.
They make honey to feed the larvae.

他们甚至要负责与敌人作战.
Tāmen shènzhì yào fùzé yǔ dírén zuòzhàn.
They are even charged with the duty of battling the enemies.

他们匆忙来去,非常忙碌.
Tāmen cōngmáng lái qù, fēicháng mánglù.
They hurry to and fro and are very busy.

他们对于工作有浓厚的兴趣.
Tāmen duìyú gōngzuò yǒu nónghòu de xìngqù.
They have a keen interest in doing their work.

如果他们在天暖花好的时候不努力工作,
Rúguǒ tāmen zài tiān nuǎn huā hǎo de shíhòu bù nǔlì gōngzuò,
If they don’t work hard when the flowers are blooming and the weather is fair,

将来如何能够安全度过冬天?
Jiānglái rúhé nénggòu ānquán dùguò dōngtiān?
how can they survive winter in the future?

Now, watch this video and give yourself a pat on the back if you understand the lyrics 100%.

If you would like to practice writing some of the Chinese characters, please print out Chinese Character Tracing 30.

If you would like to play this simple song on a keyboard, click here to get the music sheet.

劳工节快乐!
Láogōng jié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Labor Day!

Sing Chinese song – Autumn Cicada

While enjoying a perfect autumn day, one that the Chinese describe as 秋高气爽 (qiūgāoqìshuǎng), with the sky clear and high, and the air cool and refreshing, I think of a song called 秋蝉 (Qiū Chán Autumn Cicada.).

As mentioned in a lesson posted last fall, the word (chán Zen) sounds exactly the same as (chán cicadas). The cicadas are also called 知了 (zhīliǎo). I still remember hearing them sing in unison in the countryside, their loud chorus reverberating with the waves of the summer heat.

The song, 秋蝉 (Qiū Chán Autumn Cicada.), was composed by 李子恒 (Lǐ Zǐhéng) while attending an apparently boring military education lecture in Taiwan. Later he made a few demo tapes for his girlfriend. Without telling him, his girl friend submitted one of the demo tapes to a major music contest in Taiwan. The song won the 1980 award for that competition and paved the way for Mr. Lee’s long and successful song-writing career.

At this link is a nice video of the song with the subtitles in traditional Chinese characters.

Click on this link to hear the song sung by a female performer. At that site the lyrics are provided in simplified Chinese characters.

The song is written in the first person, which is the cicada. The wording tends to be literary rather than conversational. The beautiful imagery of the autumn scenes float along with the soft, lilting melody.

听我 (tīng wǒ) means to listen to me saying or singing something. 看我 (kàn wǒ) means to watch me doing something.

听我讲个有趣的故事.
Tīng wǒ jiǎng gè yǒuqù de gùshi.
Hear me recount an interesting story.

看我来整他.
Kàn wǒ lái zhěng tā.
Wait and see me give him a hard time.

春水 (chūn shuǐ) is water in the spring. (jiào) is to call. (hán) means cold.

春天暖和, 冬天寒冷.
Chūntiān nuǎnhuo, dōngtián hánlěng.
It’s warm in the spring and cold in the winter.

绿叶 (lǜyè) are green leaves. (cuī) is to urge. (huáng) is yellow.

In the first two lines, the cicada tells you that its calls has cooled the water that was temperate in spring and urged the green leaves to turn yellow.

谁道 (shéi dào) is a literary way of saying 谁说 (shéi shuō), which means “Who is saying?”. (chóu) means to worry or to feel depressed.

烟波 (yānbō) are mist-covered waters and 林野 (lín yě) are woods in open country. (yì) refers to meanings, ideas, intentions or feelings. 幽幽 (yōuyōu) refers to distant, faint light or sound.

(huā) are flowers. (luò) is to fall down and (hóng) means red. (fēng) are maple trees. 花落红 (huā luò hóng) and 红了枫 (hóng liǎo fēng) are words put together to paint a picture and to sound good, but are not regularly used phrases. In the second phrase, (hóng) is used as a verb in the sense of coloring the maple leaves red.

秋天把枫叶染红了.
Qiūtiān bǎ fēng yè rǎn hóng le.
Autumn has dyed the maple leaves red.

展翅 (zhǎnchì) means to spread the wings. (rèn), in this case, means to give free rein to. (xiáng) or 飞翔 (fēixiáng) means to fly. (shuāng) is a pair. (yǔ) are wings. They belong to the wild geese, or (yàn).

Then the cicada refers to his own flimsy wings as 薄衣 (báo yī), or thin clothing. When pronounced as (bó), this word means ungenerous or meager. Many people in Taiwan only use the latter pronunciation regardless of the intended meaning. This is reflected in both of the videos mentioned above.

(guò) here means to pass or to go through. In 残冬 (cán dōng the last days of winter), the (cán) is interpreted as 残留 (cánliú remaining).

总归是 (zǒngguī shì) means “after all it is”. (xià) means summer. (zǒu) and (qù) both refer to the seasons’ passing or leaving. (nóng) means dense, concentrated or intense.

美景 (měijǐng) is beautiful scenery. When autumn passes, the beautiful scenery will be no more, i.e. 不再 (bùzài be no longer). There is a typographic error in the simplified Chinese lyrics. It should read 秋去冬来 (qiū qù dōng lái Autumn leaves and winter arrives.) instead of 春去冬来 (chūn qù dōng lái Spring leaves and winter arrives.). What the singer sang is correct.

means to be busy, while 急忙 (jímáng) or 匆忙 (cōngmáng), or 匆匆 (cōngmáng) means hastily, or hurriedly.

莫教 (mò jiào) means “don’t let”. (shì) is to pass away or to die. It’s wishful thinking not to let the nice spring days slip away.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the cicada himself in the spot light.

Phil, the Groundhog, was right. :(


Right after the offcial start date of the spring season, our town woke up to a tranquil snow sceen. It seems old man winter is not yet ready to relinquish his hold on this part of the world. Now I remember that Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow on Groundhog Day last month, and six more weeks of winter weather was to be expected. Oh, well. 下雪 (xiàxuě) means “to snow” or “It snows.”

昨天下了六吋的雪.
Zuótiān xià le liù cùn de xuě.
Yesterday we got 6 inches of snow.

The following verses paint a clear picture of the transition from winter to spring. They are from a children’s song with music by 尹宏明 (Yǐn hóng míng) and lyrics by 沈秉廉 (Shěn Bǐnglián). How many pairs of antonyms (words with opposite meanings) can you pick out from these lines?

春姑娘 Miss Springtime
Chūn Gūniáng

冬老人, 年纪老,
Dōng lăo rén, nián jì lăo,
Old man Winter, very old,

带著冷风慢慢跑.
dài zhe lĕng fēng mànmàn păo.
with the cold wind, bitter and slow.

他不爱花和叶,
Tā bú ài huā hé yè,
He doesn’t like flowers and leaves,

也不爱虫和草.
yĕ bú ài chóng hé căo.
Nor does he like the bugs and grass.

他说: “我来了.
Tā shuō: “Wŏ lái liăo.
He says, “I have come.

你们快睡觉!”
Nĭ men kuài shuì jiào. ”
Now you go to sleep!”

花和叶,虫和草,
Huā hé yè, chóng hé căo,
Flowers and leaves, bugs and grass,

大家都睡了.
dà jiā dōu shuì liăo.
Everyone goes to sleep.

春姑娘, 年纪小,
Chūn gūniáng, nián jì xiăo,
Mis Springtime, in her tender age,

带著暖风轻轻飘.
dài zhe nuăn fēng qīngqing piāo.
With the warm breeze, floats around.

她很爱花和叶,
Tā hĕn ài huā hé yè,
She so loves the flowers and leaves.

也很爱虫和草.
yĕ hĕn ài chóng hé căo.
She also loves the bugs and grass.

她说: “我来了.
Tā shuō: “Wŏ lái liăo.
She says, “I have come.

你们别睡觉.”
Nĭmen bié shuì jiào.”
Please don’t sleep anymore.”

花和叶,虫和草,
Huā hé yè, chóng hé căo,
Flowers and leaves, bugs and grass,

大家都醒了.
dà jiā dōu xĭng liăo.
Everyone wakes from sleep.

This song may be used for a short (and cute) children’s musical play, which I have described in another post.

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