Virtues valued by the traditional Chinese

The virtues most valued by the traditional Chinese people have been grouped into the so-called Four Principles and Eight Virtues. We have already touched upon a number of these virtues in the previously posted articles.

The four principles are regarded as the bonds that hold the fabric of society together.

(lǐ) refers to having good manners and following the protocol.

(yì) means righteousness and proper behavior and deeds.

(lián) means having moral integrity and not accepting bribes. (chǐ) means having a sense of shame. These two words usually go together as 廉耻 (liánchǐ integrity and sense of honor).

不知廉耻 (bùzhī liánchǐ) is a serious accusation that means “shameless”. If it will help you remember this phrase, you could associate it with “not knowing one’s face, (liǎn), and teeth 齿 (chǐ)”. In fact, the familiar way of saying “shameless” or “brazen” is 不要脸 (bùyào liǎn not caring about one’s face or honor).

The Eight Virtues are actually four virtues made up of eight characters.

忠孝 (zhōng xiào) refers to loyalty and filial piety, which strengthen the foundation of a country and a family, respectively.

仁爱 (rénài) is kindheartedness, the good will that connect people to one another.

信义 (xìnyì) is good faith and trustworthiness that keeps things going in a predictable way.

和平 (hépíng) means peace.

If you’ve been to Taiwan, you most likely have passed by streets named after the above four virtues. At school, students are reminded of the importance of these virtues through ethics classes and posters displayed in classrooms and doorways. In fact, many public schools have the classes named with these eight characters as well as the characters representing the following often-cited virtues.

(gōng) stands for 公正 (gōngzhèng being just or impartial) or 公平 (gōngpīng fair or equitable).

这不公平.
Zhè bù gōngpīng.
This is not fair.

(chéng) means being sincere and honest. 诚心 (chéngxīn) and 诚意 (chéngyì) both mean sincere or sincerity.

我诚心诚意邀她去看电影,但她不领情.
Wǒ chéngxīn chéngyì yāo tā qù kàn diànyǐng, dàn tā bù lǐngqíng.
I sincerely invited her to a movie, but she did not appreciate it. (She refused.)

诚实 (chéngshí) means being honest.

(qín) is being diligent and hardworking. It often appears in the form 勤劳 (qínláo).

他是个勤劳的年轻人.
Tā shìgè qínláo de niánqīngrén.
He is a hardworking young man.

(yì) is being determined or resolute. 毅力 (yìlì) is a person’s willpower or stamina.

我们要有坚强的毅力.
Wǒmén yào yǒu jiānqiáng de yìlì.
We must have a strong will and perseverance.

(wēn) refers to a temperate personality.

他的女朋友很温柔.
Tā de nǚpéngyou hěn wēnróu.
His girl friend is warm and gentle.

(liáng) means being a good and kind person, as in 善良的人 (shànliáng de rén).

(gōng) meanes respectful and reverent. When you say 恭喜 (gōngxǐ), you are offering your congratulation respectfully.

(jiǎn), or 节俭 (jiéjiǎn), means being thrifty and not squandering money on luxuries.

(ràng let) is to yield a privilege to another person, such as when you say, “After you”.

在公车上要让位给老年人.
Zài gōng chē shàng yào ràngwèi gě lǎoniánrén.
When riding a bus, one should offer one’s seat to the elderly.

Which virtues do you value the most? Do you know the corresponding Chinese words?

The Chinese word radical “Dog”

Me? Ferocious?


There are two types of people in this world: Those who try to be impeccably honest, and those who don’t mind telling a lie now and then.

誠實 (chéngshí) is the Chinese word that means “honest”, and 說謊 (shuōhuǎng) means to tell a lie.

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is a well-known story from Aesop’s Fables that illistrates the bad consequences of telling lies. In Chinese, this story is referred to as 狼來了 (Láng lái le The Wolf Is Coming), or 說謊的孩子 (Shuōhuǎng de Háizǐ The Kid Who Lied).

Click here to watch an animated version of this story.

(láng) is a wolf.
(péi) means to accompany someone, or to keep someone company.
要是 (yàoshi) is one way of saying “if”, “suppose” or “in case”.
(shuǎ) has one less stroke than (yào). It means to play, as in 玩耍 (wánshuǎ), or to play tricks on someone. 耍耍 (shuǎ shuǎ) means “to play a little trick on”.
救命 (jiùmìng) means to save someone’s life.
農夫 (nóngfū) are farmers.
真的 (zhēnde) means true or truly.
跑了 (pǎo le) means to have run away.
拖走 (tuō zǒu) is to drag away.
回去 (huíqu) is to return to or to go back to.
(bèi) is equivalent to the preposition “by” used for inidcating the passive voice.
這小子 (zhè xiǎozǐ) means “this little fellow”.

農夫被那孩子耍了.
Nóngfū bèi nà háizǐ shuǎ le.
The farmers were tricked by that child.

小孩說謊, 害了自己.
Xiǎo hái shuōhuǎng, hài le zìjǐ.
The kid lied, and caused trouble to himself.

Omit the little stroke at the top of the right side of the character (láng), and you will get the word, (hěn), which means ruthless or relentless.

On the left side of the above two words is the “dog” radical, which is derived from the formal word for “dog”, (quǎn).

(kuáng) means to be crazy, violent, unrestrained or arrogant.
狂犬病 (kuángquǎnbìng) is rabies.

In everyday speech, we refer to a dog as (gǒu). This word is often used to characterize a person or a thing as damned or cursed. For example, an exasperated father might call his son, “狗東西! (Gǒu dōngxi! You damned thing!)”

Please note that 狼狗 (lánggǒu) and 狼犬 (lángquǎn) refer to a wolfhound like the German shepherd.

(hú) or 狐貍 (húli) is a fox, and foxes are known to be 狡猾 (jiǎohuá sly, cunning).

(hóu) is a monkey and (yuán) is an ape.

(měng) and 猛烈 (měngliè) mean fierce and vigorous. 凶猛 (xiōngměng) is being ferocious, like a lion, or 獅子 (shīzi).

(fàn) also takes on the “dog” radical. This is the word that means to offend someone or to violate the law. As a noun, it means a criminal.

Now, you’ve seen quite a few wods that take on the “dog” radical along with the negative connotations usually associated with wild animals. It is interesting to note that the Chinese refer to a number of tribes that reside along its borders by names that contain the “dog” radical or the “insect” radical. The rationale behind this could be attributed to the haughtiness of the ancient Han Chinese, who regarded all other people as barbarians. Or, this could be due to the fact that many of those tribes worshiped dog-like animals as their ancestors. If you would like to get the whole nine yards of the historical background, read the article at this link.

Look up other Chinese characters that make use of the “dog” radical. Don’t forget to review Chapter 6 in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for the appropriate units to use for various animals and things.

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