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 – Crescent Moon Shines over the Land

There is a Sung Dynasty folk song that starts with these lines:

月儿弯弯照九州,
Yuè er wān wān zhào jiǔzhōu,
The slim crescent moon shines all over the land,

几家欢乐, 几家愁.
Jǐ jiā huānlè, jǐ jiā chóu.
Some families happy and others sad.

九州 (jiǔzhōu) refers to the nine regions of ancient China. This term is still used in songs and poems to refer to China. Please note that 九州 (jiǔzhōu) is also the Chinese word for Kyushu, one of the four main islands of Japan.

Although the moon graces all the people equally, a few families enjoy prosperity while the majority endure hardship.

This old song was later transformed into a theme song for a movie. I am not familiar with the movie, but from the lyrics of the song and a short movie clip on Youtube, I gathered that it’s about a girl from a fisherman’s family who left her village for the city and later became a famous singer. The glamorous new life also brought her unexpected trouble.

Click on this link to hear 月儿弯弯照九州 sung in a male voice. At this site there is an English translation of this song. The lyrics are provided in Traditional Chinese characters.

Let’s look at some of the terms used in the first three stanzas of the lyrics, which depict the plight of a fisherman’s life.

(wān) means curved or bent. The crescent moon has a curved shape. (zhào) has a few different meanings. Here it means to shine or to illuminate.

渔船 (yúchuán) is a fishing boat, and 渔家 (yú jiā) is a fisherman’s family.

到处 (dàochù) means everywhere. 停留 (tíngliú) means to stop and stay.

风光 (fēngguāng) is a scenery. 青山绿水 (qīngshān lǜ shuǐ) is a commonly used term that describes green hills and clear green water, i.e. a nice scenery.

Among common folks, the male in a couple may be addressed by the female as 哥哥 (gēgē), and (mèi) is the female counterpart.

吹笛 (chuī dí) is to play a flute, and 梳头 (shū tóu) is to comb one’s hair. Both are leisurely activities.

工作 (gōngzuò) means a work (noun), a job, or to work (verb).

几时 (jǐshí) is another way of saying 什么时候? (shénme shíhòu), which means “When?”. (xiū) means to stop or to rest. In regular parlance, 几时休 (xiū) would be expressed as:

什么时候才会停止?
Shénme shíhòu cái huì tíngzhǐ?
When will it stop?

白天 (báitiān) is daytime, and (yè) is night or evening. 摇船 (yáochuán) is to row the boat and, 补网 (bǔ wǎng) is to mend the fishing net.

青春 (qīngchūn) means one’s youth, youthfulness or being youthful.

水里 (shuǐ li) means in the water.

(diū) means to throw, to throw away or to lose something.

风浪 (fēnglàng) are stormy waves. 翻天 (fāntiān) means overturning the sky. It describes the worrisome turbulence of the storm.

使人 (shǐ rén) translates to “causes a person to” or “to enable a person to”. So, 使人愁 (shǐ rén chóu) means “makes one worry”.

那件事使我感到不安.
Nèi jiàn shì shǐ wǒ gǎndào bùān.
That incident made me feel uneasy.

要吃 (yào chī) means needing to eat; 要穿 (yào chuān) means needing to have clothing to wear. (gù) is to care about or to take into consideration. (xiǎn) are dangers. 哪顾得险 (nǎ gù de xiǎn) means not having the luxury to care about the dangers (of fishing in stormy weather).

可怜 (kělián) means pitiable, pitiful or poor. 流泪 (liú lèi) is to weep. (shuāng) is a pair, or two of something. 泪双流 (lèi shuāng liú) indicates there are two people weeping together.

He happy?

“A woman wife is my sharp.”

I see you scratching your head. You know every word in this sentence, but this line simply doesn’t make sense – until you unscramble it to read: “My wife is a sharp woman.” This goes to show that, to make a meaningful statement, it’s quite important to put the words in the proper order. Shooting out the words any which way just won’t cut it.

Over the ages, each population sharing the same language has arrived at a concensus about what “sounds right”. When you are learning a new language, it is natural to want to apply the language rules with which you are familiar. This is why pidgin English was prevalent among the coolies who came over from China in the 19th century and early 20th century to earn a living. To make the statement: “He is happy.”, someone might say:

他快乐.
Tā kuàilè.

Therefore, to put it in English, he would say, “He happy.” This sounds perfectly all right to the Chinese ear.

In a similar way, if you simply superimpose English grammar onto Chinese words, your statements may become jumbled and difficult to understand. I think this is a good time to caution you against trying to translate your English statements into Chinese verbatim. Instead, please focus on the meaning you wish to get across and put the relevant Chinese words and phrases into the proper Chinese sentence patterns.

Fortunately, human minds work more or less alike, and you will be pleasantly surprised that many sentence patterns are similar in English and Chinese. Last week we learned two simple sentence patterns. To make them more concise, we will employ the names of the parts of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc. You know that the name of anyone or anything you can see or feel or think about or talk about is considered a noun. We will let the term “Noun” also represent noun phrases such as “my beautiful wife”. A word or phrase that describes a noun is an adjective. A word or phrase that modifies an adjective or a verb is an adverb. I will rewrite the first two sentence patterns as follows:

I. Noun + Adjective

她的眼睛大.
Tā de yǎnjing dà.
Her eyes are large.

Please note that the “be” verb is omitted in this Chinese sentence pattern, which is commonly used when one wishes to express one’s feeling or opinion about someone or something.

If her eyes are large and bright, you would say:

她的眼睛大又亮.
Tā de yǎnjing dà yòu liàng.
Her eyes are large and also bright.

(yòu) means “also” or “again”. It may be used singly or in a pair, such as in: 又大又亮 (yòu dà yòu liàng large and bright as well).

Listen to the song “Lift Your Veil” by clicking on the link below, and see if you can pick out the sentences that follow the above sentence pattern. This song is fully annotated in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to illustrate the use of adjectives.

Lift Your Veil (video)

Hummingbird

You may insert an adverb to qualify the description. For example, (hěn) means “very”, and (tài) means “exceedingly”.

蜂鸟很可爱.
Fēngniǎo hěn kěài.
Hummingbirds are very lovely (cute).

我的女友很漂亮.
Wǒ de nǚyǒu hěn piàoliàng.
My girlfriend is very pretty.

他太小氣了!
Tā tài xiǎoqì le!
He is too stingy!

II. Noun + (shì) + Noun

他是校长.
Tā shì xiàozhǎng.
He is the school principal.

我先生是一位老师.
Wǒ xiānsheng shì yī wèi lǎoshī.
My husband is a teacher.

我太太是个伶俐的女人.
Wǒ tàitai shì gè línglì de nǚrén.
My wife is a quick-witted woman.

This sentence pattern works the same in English as in Chinese. The noun phrases may contain optional adjectives. To show respect to teachers, we use 一位 (yī wèi) instead of 一个 (yī gè)

How would you describe yourself? Also find some nice words to describe your family and your friends. As for the people you don’t like, there are plenty of appropriate words in your dictionary for them as well.

%d bloggers like this: