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):

The first verse is presented below in simplified Chinese.

少年的我 (Shàonián de Wǒ) Me in My Youth

Chūntiān de huā
Flowers in the spring –

shì duōme de xiāng.
How fragrant they are!

Qiūtiān de yuè
The moon in the fall –

shì duōme de liàng.
How bright it is!

Shàonián de wǒ
Me in my youth –

shì duōme de kuàilè.
How happy I’m feeling!

Měilì de tā
Beautiful she –

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).

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:

Zhèzhǒng yú yào zěnme zhǔ?
How do you cook this kind of fish?

To verbally inquire about an acquaintance, I might ask:

Tā zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?
How is he doing lately?

In a letter, I might write:

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 of Tai-Hu Boat

Now that you know how to say (xíng), let’s sing a well-known Chinese song in which this word is prominently featured.

太湖船 (Tàihú Chuán Boat on Lake Tai) is a song about a large lake located near Shanghai, China. Some information about the lake is provided by Wikipedia.

The following link will take you to a video featuring this song.

When singing or listening to the short and sweet verses of this song, picture yourself sitting leisurely in a small boat gliding along on Lake Tai. When singing or listening to the short and sweet verses of this song, picture yourself sitting leisurely in a small boat gliding along on Lake Tai. I searched through Henry Li’s Chinese painting videos on YouTube and came upon one at this link that is related to a boat. About 12 minutes and 8 seconds into the demonstration, the fishing boat is finally introduced. In my opinion, it is this tiny speck that breathes life onto the landscape painting.

Shān qīng shuǐ míng yōu jìng jìng.
In the tranquility by the green mountains and the clear water,

Hú xīn piāo lái fēng yīzhèn ya.
a breeze wafts over from the center of the lake.

行呀行呀, 进呀进.
Xíng ya xíng ya, jìn ya jìn.
Going, going; moving on.

Huánghūn shíhòu rén xíng shǎo.
In the twilight few people are around.

Bàn kòng yuè yǐng shuǐmiàn yáo ya.
The image of the half-risen moon shimmers on the surface of the water.

行呀行呀, 进呀进.
Xíng ya xíng ya, jìn ya jìn.
Going, going; moving on.

(shān) is a mountain of a hill. (qīng) can mean green or blue. It represents young crops and young people.

(shuǐ) is water or bodies of water. (míng) features both a sun and a moon. It represents brightness and clarity.

(jìng) means quiet, still or calm. 安靜 (ānjìng) means quiet and peaceful. 幽靜 (yōujìng) means quiet and secluded. 平静 (píngjìng) means calm and quiet. These words can also serve as nouns.

On the second line, some people sing 湖上 (hú shàng on the lake) instead of 湖心 (hú xīn center of the lake).

We’ve encountered 飘来 (piāo lái wafting towards you) in the Laura Lee song we sang a couple weeks ago.

Normally you would say 一阵风 (yīzhèn fēng) for a waft of wind or a gust of wind. Sometimes the order is reversed to create a special effect.

黄昏 (huánghūn) is dusk or twilight.

In the third tone, (shǎo) means few or little.

半空 (bàn kòng) means half way in the sky, or mid-air.

(yǐng) is a shadow or a reflection. 月影 (yuè yǐng) is the image of the moon.

Now here is a Chinese saying that involves a boat moving not so smoothly but against the currents:

学如逆水行舟, 不进则退.
Xué rú nìshnì shuǐ xíngzhōu, bùjìnzétuì.
Studying is like rowing a boat upstream – If you don’t forge ahead, you will drop back.

Indeed, learning Chinese could feel like a Sisyphean task. You will need to keep up the effort so as not to regress.

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