How beautiful in Chinese

Rhododendrons in Bloom

Rhododendrons in Bloom


To help celebrate the joy of spring before it is outshone by the glory of summer, I’ll call on a delightful old song written by the talented 黎锦光 (Lí Jǐn Guāng):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYCdz2t-T_c

The first verse is presented below in simplified Chinese.

少年的我 (Shàonián de Wǒ) Me in My Youth

春天的花
Chūntiān de huā
Flowers in the spring –

是多么的香!
shì duōme de xiāng.
How fragrant they are!

秋天的月
Qiūtiān de yuè
The moon in the fall –

是多么的亮!
shì duōme de liàng.
How bright it is!

少年的我
Shàonián de wǒ
Me in my youth –

是多么的快乐!
shì duōme de kuàilè.
How happy I’m feeling!

美丽的她
Měilì de tā
Beautiful she –

不知怎么样?
bùzhī zěnmeyàng?
I wonder how she is doing?

This song is full of exclamatory sentences that start with the word “how”. Used in this sense, the Chinese equivalent is 是多么的 (shì duōme de), 是多么 (shì duōme), or simply 多么 (duōme), which is often shortened to just (duō).

他對待妳是多么的好!
Tā duìdài nǐ shì duōme de hǎo!
How nice he treats you!

妳看, 她的男朋友多么英俊!
Nǐ kàn, tā de duōme yīngjùn!
See, how handsome her boyfriend is!

啊! 多美丽!
Ā! Duō měilì
Oh! How beautiful!

As for the other meaning of “how”, as in asking a question, the commonly used Chinese equivalent is 怎么 (zěnme). In a more formal context, we use 如何 (rúhé). For example:

这种鱼要怎么煮?
Zhèzhǒng yú yào zěnme zhǔ?
How do you cook this kind of fish?

To verbally inquire about an acquaintance, I might ask:

他最近怎么样?
Tā zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?
How is he doing lately?

In a letter, I might write:

他的近况如何?
Tā de jìnkuàng rúhé?
How has he been recently?

Your challenge for this lesson is to use the same syntax and form as the above song to make a short rhyme about a subject of your choice. If you would like to share your limerick, please post it in a comment to this post. Thanks.

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.

Autumn Leaves in Chinese

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves


Sunshine today, rain tomorrow. Colorful leaves come tumbling down like snowflakes. There’s no mistaking that autumn is here. Sandwiched between the hottest and the coldest seasons, spring and fall scenes tend to be the favorite subject matter for poems and songs. The very popular “Autumn Leaves” was originally a French song (“Les Feuilles Mortes” – The Dead Leaves), with music by Joseph Kosma and lyric by Jacques Prévert. You can hear Nat King Cole sing the English version by clicking on this link.

Today we will interpret the English lyric written by Johnny Mercer in Chinese prose. You might imagine yourself writing a letter to a sweetheart who has been away for some time. To flesh out the verses, it is necessary to add words here and there that are not in the original lines but we will try to keep the embellishment to a minimum so as not to be guilty of exaggeration. In Chinese, embellishing and exaggerating a story when retelling it to another person is called 添枝加叶 (tiānzhījiāyè add branches and leaves), 加盐加醋 (jiā yán jiā cù add salt and vinegar), or 加油添酱 (jiā yóu tiān jiàng add oil and a thick sauce).

(tiān), like (jiā), means to add or to increase.

Try and see if you can get the meaning of any unfamiliar words by reading them in the following context.

秋天的叶子飘过我的窗户.
Qiūtiān de yèzi piāo guò wǒde chuānghù.
The autumn leaves float by my window.

秋天的叶子, 有的绯红, 有的金黄.
Qiūtiān de yèzi, yǒude fēihóng, yǒude jīnhuáng.
Some of the autumn leaves are bright red, some are golden yellow.

我眼前浮现你丰满的嘴唇,
Wǒ yǎnqián fúxiàn nǐ fēngmǎn de zuǐchún,
Before my eyes your plump lips appear,

使我想起我们夏日的热吻.
shǐ wǒ xiǎngqǐ wǒmén xià rì de rè wěn.
bringing back the memory of our hot kisses in the summer.

我也想起你那晒黑了的手,
Wǒ yě xiǎngqǐ nǐ nà shài hēi le de shǒu,
I also recall your sun-burned hand,

以及我们以前手牵手的情景.
yǐjí wǒmén yǐqián shǒu qiān shǒu de qíngjǐng
and how we used to hold hands.

自从你离开以后, 日子变得漫长难挨.
Zìcóng nǐ líkāi yǐhòu, rìzi biàn de màncháng nán ái.
Since you left, the days have become long and hard to endure.

再不久就会听到冬天凄凉的歌声.
Zài bùjiǔ jiù huì tīngdào dōngtián qīliáng de gē shēng.
Pretty soon we will hear the sound of winter’s desolate song.

但是, 亲爱的, 我最想念你的时候
Dànshì, qīnài de, wǒ zuì xiǎngniàn nǐ de shíhòu
However, beloved, the time I miss you the most

还是在秋叶开始掉落的时节.
háishì zài qiū yè kāishǐ diào luò de shíjié.
is still when the autumn leaves start to fall.

(fú) means to float. It also means superficial, flighty, or unstable (xiàn) means to appear, to show, being at the present, or existing. 浮现 (fúxiàn) means to appear in one’s mind.

丰满 (fēngmǎn) means well developed or plenty.

晒黑 (shài hēi) is how the Chinese describes getting tanned by the sun. The Chinese word for “to burn” is (shāo). If the skin is indeed injured by the burn, you would use 烧伤了 (shāoshāng le) to describe it.

以及 (yǐjí) means as well as.

情景 (qíngjǐng) means scene or circumstance.

自从 (zìcóng since) is a conjunctive used in forming complex sentences.

漫长 (màncháng) means very long, and 凄凉 (qīliáng) means bleak or miserable.

秋叶 (qiū yè autumn leaves) is the short form of 秋天的叶子 (Qiūtiān de yèzi).

掉落 (diào luò) means to fall or drop.

时节 (shíjié) is time or season.

Fall Harvest

秋 (qiū) Autumn

The sun is shining bright as I pick the last of my cute little 小番茄 (xiǎo fānqié cherry tomatoes) off the vines, but it’s not scorching hot. The air is a bit on the cool side, but not so cold as to bite. The flies have all but disappeared, but the birds are still around chirping. What’s not to like about this time of the year?

秋天 (qiūtiān, autumn) is the time for harvesting and enjoying the fruit of your labor. Besides the 苹果 (píngguǒ apples), (lí pears), 葡萄 (pútáo grapes), 李子 (lǐzi plums) and various kinds of 坚果 (jiānguǒ nuts), you will want to also bring in the 青豆 (qīngdòu green beans), 高丽菜 (gāolì cài cabbage) and 南瓜 (nánguā pumpkins) before frost sets in.

Literally, 结果 (jiéguǒ) is the action of a plant forming fruits. This word, like “to bear fruit”, also means to get results. You can also use it as a noun that refers to the result or the outcome.

你们讨论的结果怎么样?
Nǐmen tǎolùn de jiéguǒ zěnmeyàng?
What’s the outcome of your discussion?

(shōu) is to receive, to accept, to gather or to put away. (huò) is the formal word for 得到 (dédào to have gotten, to have obtained, to have received). 收获 (shōuhuò) means to harvest or to bring in the crop. It also refers to the crop itself or the gain from the work one puts in. As the saying goes:

一分耕耘, 一分收获.
Yī fēn gēngyún, yī fēn shōuhuò.
No pain, no gain. (You will harvest as much as you have cultivated.)

The Traditional Chinese word for harvest is 收穫 (shōuhuò), which clearly involves (hé), or standing rice plants.

On the other hand, the character (huò) contains the “dog” radical, (quǎn), that we talked about before. It implies capturing something by force. In the Simplified Chinese character system, this character is used in words pertaining to gaining or getting something regardless of the means by which the object is obtained.

Besides 收获 (shōuhuò), terms containing (huò) are mostly used in formal Chinese and not colloquially. However, it’s still important to learn these words as you are bound to come across them in verbal news reports, newspapers and other written material.

获得 (huòdé) means to receive, to obtain, to acquire or to achieve.

打猎 (dǎliè) is to go hunting. Therefore, 猎获 (lièhuò)
means to have gotten something by hunting. In everyday speech, you would simply say 打到 (dǎ dào).

他们打到三只雁. (dǎ dào).
Tāmen dǎ dào sān zhī yàn.
They got three wild geese.

知道 (zhīdào) means to know or to be aware of. 获知 (huòzhī) means to have obtained information about something.

我们已经获知台风将转向.
Wǒmén yǐjīng huòzhī táifēng jiāng zhuànxiàng.
We have already received news that the typhoon is changing course.

利益 (lìyì) are profits or benefits. 获益 (huòyì) means to have received benefit or profit.

胜利 (shènglì) means victory. 获胜 (huòshèng) is to triumph or to win a victory. So, when you hear or read “我方获胜. (Wǒ fāng huòshèng.)”, you’ll know that our side has won.

准许 (zhǔnxǔ) means to give approval, and 获准 (huòzhǔn) means to have obtained approval or permission.

Following are three popular idioms involving (huò):

如获至宝 (rúhuòzhìbǎo) describes a person being so happy and excited as if he or she had unexpectedly been given the most precious treasure.

我收到他的信, 如获至宝.
Wǒ shōudào tā de xìn, rúhuòzhìbǎo.
When I got his letter, it felt like receiving the most valuable treasure in the world.

一无所获 (yīwúsuǒhuò) means to have gotten nothing for one’s efforts.

他们找了一整天, 但是一无所获.
Tāmen zhǎo le yīzhěngtiān, dànshì yīwúsuǒhuò.
They searched for an entire day, but came back empty-handed.

不劳而获 (bùláoérhuò) means to have a windfall, to get something for nothing, or to profit without toiling. This phrase usually carries a negative connotation.

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