Chinese Song – Words from the West Wind

Lotus Pond at the Botanical Garden in Taipei, Taiwan

Thanks (but, no thanks) to slugs, deer, squirrels and wild rabbits, we did not have much to harvest from our vegetable garden this year. Still, I am happy to have autumn come and ease us into winter. Admiring the fall scenery of green, gold and red, I think of an old song named “Words from the Westwind”, with music by 黄自 (Huáng Zì), and lyrics by 廖辅叔 (Liào Fǔshū). Here is the link to a nice performance of this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjImaRMRg9c

西风的话
Xīfēng de Huà
Words from the West Wind

去年我回来,
Qùnián wǒ huílái,
When I came back last year,

你们刚穿新棉袍.
nǐmen gāng chuān xīn mián páo.
You had just donned your new gown.

今天我来看你们;
Jīntiān wǒ lái kàn nǐmen;
Today I come to visit you,

你们变胖又变高!
Nǐmen biàn pàng yòu biàn gāo!
How stout and tall you have grown!

你们可记得,
Nǐmen kě jìde,
I wonder if you still remember,

池里荷花变莲蓬?
chí lǐ héhuā liánpeng?
The lotus in the pond formed pods?

花少不愁没颜色,
Huā shǎo bù chóu méi yánsè,
Blooms are scarce, but there’ll still be colors,

我把树叶都染红.
wǒ bǎ shùyè dōu rǎn hóng
For I shall tint the leaves with red.

As you may know, west winds are associated with fair weather. Therefore, you would expect kind words from the west wind. In fact, you can tell that the west wind is talking to a bunch of children. (xīn) means new, and 棉袍 (mián páo) are quilted cotton gowns or jackets. Before winter arrives, parents usually give their children new jackets to wear to keep them warm. The big give-away is on the forth line. Only children and youth can keep growing big and tall. (biàn) means to change or to become. (pàng) means plump, chubby or stout, and (gāo) means tall. (yòu) means again or also.

There is no mention of the season of the year in the lyrics. However, you can guess from the context that it is autumn, or 秋天 (qiūtiān). In the fall, the lotus flowers turn into pods, which contain edible lotus seeds. Lotus seed paste makes delicious filling for moon cakes. Here is an interesting article about lotus pods and lotus seeds. https://avecchantillysvp.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/exotic-weird-and-wonderful-fresh-lotus-seeds/

不愁 (bù chóu) means need not worry about something.

我希望世界上所有的人都不愁吃不愁穿.
Wǒ xīwàng shìjièshàng suǒyǒu de rén dōu bù chóu chī bù chóu chuān.
I hope all the people in the world won’t have to worry about want of food or clothing.

There are fewer flowers in autumn than in spring, but we need not worry about lack of colors. The west wind will color the leaves red for us. Here the word (rǎn) means to dye. This word also means to contaminate, to acquire a bad habit or to catch a disease.

當心不要被傳染到感冒.
Dāngxīn bùyào bèi chuánrǎn dào gǎnmào.
Take care not to catch a cold.

Please see Chapter 23 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for additional words, expressions and songs related to the four seasons.

Flattery in Chinese

By now you should know how to write (mǎ horses) with your eyes closed. Beware, though, that there are a few other characters that look somewhat similar. For example, (yǔ and) is a conjunctive that is used in much the same way as (hé and). (niǎo) are birds. (wū) means dark or black, and 乌鸦 (wūyā) are crows.

There is a popular story from Aesop’s Fables with the title “The Fox and the Crow”. In Chinese, it is called 狐狸和乌鸦 (Húli Hé Wūyā) or 狐狸与乌鸦 (Húli Yǔ Wūyā). In the story the crow lost a piece of meat that she had found after a long search, all because she fell for the fox’s flattery.

阿谀 (ēyú) and 奉承 (fèngcheng) both mean flattery. You can also use them as verbs. Informally, people use the expression 拍马屁 (pāimǎpì) to describe the action of flattering or fawning on someone. (pāi) is to pat, to clap or to bat. 屁股 (pìgu) is an informal word for buttocks. When talking with people outside your family, use the word 臀部 (túnbù buttocks) instead. 马屁 (mǎ pì) is short for 马屁股 (mǎ pìgu horse’s rump). So, patting the haunch of someone’s horse and praising the horse (no matter if the horse is worthy of the praise) is tantamount to flattering the owner. Although the term 拍马屁 (pāimǎpì) is used among friends, as a rule of thumb it’s best to avoid saying in public words that contain (pì intestinal gas). This shouldn’t be difficult to remember as it sounds exactly the same as the English word pee.

他升得快是因为他懂得怎么拍马屁.
Tā shēng de kuà shì yīnwei tā dǒngde zěnme pāimǎpì.
He gets promotions because he knows how to flatter (the boss.)

At this link is “The Fox and the Crow” retold in Chinese. The narrative is delivered at an easy pace. You should be able to follow it with the help of the following word list.

山坡 (shānpō) means hillside.
树枝 (shùzhī) are branches of a tree.
(wō) is a nest, a pit for shelter, or a brood or litter of animals.
并且 (bìngqiě) means moreover or furthermore.
(fū) is to hatch or incubate.
(dòng) is a hole or a cavity.
好不容易 (hǎo bù róngyì) means with much effort.
找到 (zhǎodào) is to have found something.
(ròu) means meat, flesh, or pulp of fruits.
(diāo) is to hold and carry in the mouth.
足够 (zúgòu) means sufficient.
这时候 (zhè shíhòu) means at this moment or at this time.
肚子饿 (dùzi è) is to be hungry.
抬头 (táitóu) is to raise one’s heas and look up.
(xiāng) means fragrant or tasty.
(chán) means gluttonous.
流口水 (liú kǒushuǐ) is to salivate.
鬼主意 (guǐzhǔyì) is a wicked idea or scheme.
邻居 (línjū) are neighbors.
尊贵 (zūnguì) means honorable or respected.
作声 (zuò shēng) is to make a sound or utter words.
(pàng) means chubby.
仍然 (réngrán) is an adverb that means “still”.
羽毛 (yǔmáo) are feathers.
可怜的 (kělián) means pitiable.
麻雀 (máquè) is a sparrow.
(bǐ) is to compare.
(chā) means difference or being inferior.
再说 (zàishuō) here means “What’s more …”.
嗓子 (sǎngzi) refers to the voice box (larynx).
唱歌 (chànggē) is to sing.
欣赏 (xīnshǎng) means to enjoy or appreciate.
得意 (déyì) means to be proud of oneself.
(yǎng) means itchy or itching.
忍不住 (rěnbuzhù) means unable to hold back, or cannot help but do something.
掉到地上 (diào dào dì shàng) is for something to fall onto the ground.

Chinese idioms that are easy to figure out (2)

Last week we talked about 一石二鸟 (yī shí èr niǎo) being the equivalent of “killing two birds with one stone”. In fact, it is the modern equivalent of the familiar western idiom. The original Chinese idiom is 一箭双雕 (yījiànshuāngdiāo), which means shooting two hawks with one arrow. As you continue to learn Chinese, you will come across a mix of modern and classical Chinese idioms. Of these, the classical idioms tend to be more literary and refined. The modern ones are easier to understand but some of them can be quite coarse. For example, there is 五十步笑百步 (wǔshíbùxiàobǎibù), which refers to a soldier who retreats fifty steps mocking another one who retreats a hundred steps, i.e. the pot calling the kettle black. In the commoner’s language, this becomes 鼻屎笑眼屎 (bí shǐ xiào yǎnshǐ), i.e. the booger in the nose laughing at the gunk in the eyes.

Today we will look at two groups of common set phrases that follow an easily recognized pattern. The expressions with the pinyin for the characters all strung together are accredited idioms. The conjunctives employed in these idioms can just as well be used to form other similar expressions, as we shall see below.

又白又嫩 (yòubáiyòunèn) means white and tender. 又细又白 (yòuxìyòubái) means delicate and white. These expressions usually refer to the complexion of a pretty young lady.

又大又圆(yòudàyòuyuán) means big and round, like the moon in mid-autumn.

又快又好 (yòukuàiyòuhǎo) refers to how a job was done well and speedily.

又臭又长 (yòuchòu yòucháng) means loathsome (stinks) and long, like a boring lecture.

又冷又饿 (yòulěngyòuè) describes the miserable state of being cold and hungry.

So, you can see that 又 … 又 … means “both … and …” Therefore, you could easily follow this pattern and insert two related attributes to form a new expression. For example,

她的宝宝又肥又大.
Tā de bǎobǎo yòu féi yòu dà.
Her baby is chubby and large.

她的弟弟又瘦又小.
Tā de dìdi yòu shòu yòu xiǎo.
Her brother is skinny and small.

This conjunctive can also be used to join two actions.

又哭又笑 (yòukūyòuxiào) means to cry and laugh at the same time.

又打又骂 (yòudǎyòumà) means to hit and also chide (someone).

又哭又闹 (yòukūyòunào) is to cry and make a scene.

孩子们又跑又跳.
Háizǐ men yòu pǎo yòu tiào.
The children were running and bouncing about.

她对威廉又爱又恨.
Tā duì Wēilián yòu ài yòu hèn.
She loves and loathes William at the same time.

The following expressions contain the conjunctive “neither … nor …”.

不慌不忙 (bùhuāngbùmáng) describes how one is neither flustered nor in a hurry.

不卑不亢 (bùbēibùkàng) describes how one conducts oneself properly, being neither too modest nor too haughty.

不中不西 (bùzhōngbùxī) means neither Chinese nor western. This expression is often used in a deprecating remark.

不大不小 (bùdàbùxiǎo) means not too large and not too small, i.e. just the right size. Similarly, you could form such expressions as 不多不少 (bù duō bù shǎo not too many and not too few), 不高不矮 (bù gāo bù ǎi not too tall and not too short) and 不胖不瘦 (bù pàng bù shòu not too plump and not too skinny).

In the following examples, the conjunctive is used to join two verbs.

不知不觉 (bùzhībùjué) means neither knowing nor feeling. It is often used as an adverbial expression that means unconsciously or unwittingly.

不眠不休 (bù mián bù xiū) describes how one works tirelessly, not sleeping nor taking a rest.

理睬 (lǐcǎi) means to pay attention or to show interest in someone.

他对我不理不睬.
Tā duì wǒ bù lǐ bù cǎi.
He takes no notice of me.

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