How to say Halloween in Chinese?

Witch flying on broom

NYC, here I come!

Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day. In Chinese, it is called 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié), or ten thousand saints’ festival, which is not generally observed in Asian countries. In China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, those who have passed away are remembered at the Night of the Ghosts, or 中元節 (zhōngyuán jié), which falls the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar.

As you know, 巫婆 (wūpó witches), 妖怪 (yāoguài monsters, demons) and carved pumpkins, or 南瓜 (nánguā), feature prominently at Halloween.

Memory took me back to Halloween a few years ago when I had to take a red-eye flight to New York City on business.

万圣节那天下午,我去雜貨店買了一支旅行用的牙膏.
Wàn Shèng Jié nàtiān xiàwǔ, wǒ qù záhuò diàn mǎile yī zhī lǚxíng yòng de yágāo.
That afternoon on Halloween Day I went to the grocers to buy a travel-size tube of toothpaste.

因為我的舊掃帚已經用壞了,
Yīnwei wǒ de jiù sàozhǒu yǐjīng yòng huài le,
As my old broom had been worn out,

我也順便買了一支新的掃帚.
wǒ yě shùnbiàn mǎile yī zhī xīn de sàozhǒu.
I also grabbed a new broom.

結帳時店員好意地問我,
Jié zhàng shí, diànyuán hǎoyì dì wèn wǒ,
At the checkout stand the friendly clerk asked me,

“你今天晚上準備做些什麼?”
Nǐ jīntiān wǎnshàng zhǔnbèi zuò xiē shénme?
“What are you planning to do tonight?”

我回答說, “我今天晚上要飛到紐約去.”
Wǒ huídá shuō, “Wǒ jīntiān wǎnshàng yào fēi dào Niǔyuē qù.”
I replied, “I’m flying to New York tonight.”

他看了我的掃帚一眼,
Tā kànle wǒ de sàozhǒu yīyǎn,
He eyed my broom for a moment,

然後帶著將信將疑的微笑說,
ránhòu dàizhe jiāngxìnjiāngyí de wéixiào shuō,
and then said with an incredulous smile,

“哦, 是嗎?”
” Ó, shì ma?”
“Oh, yeah?”

我後悔當時沒有也買了一頂黑色的有尖頂的巫婆帽.
Wǒ hòuhuǐ dāngshí méiyǒu yě mǎile yī dǐng hēisè de yǒu jiāndǐng de wūpó mào.
I regret not having also picked up a black witch hat with a pointed top.

万圣节快乐!
Wànshèngjié kuàilè!
Happy Halloween!

Fear in Chinese

Dark clouds have gathered overhead, heavy with moisture, ready for Halloween, or 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié). It’s time again to talk about words that relate to terror and fear.

As a noun 恐怖 (kǒngbù) means horror or terror. This word also serves as an adjective. 恐怖片 (kǒngbù piàn) is a horror movie.

我不喜欢听恐怖故事.
Wǒ bù xǐhuān tīng kǒngbù gùshi.
I don’t like to listen to horror tales.

恐惧 (kǒngjù) and 惧怕 (jùpà) both mean fear or dread. (gǎn) is a feeling. Therefore, 恐惧感 (kǒngjù gǎn) is the feeling of fear.

他对于考试有很大的恐惧感.
Tā duìyú kǎosh yǒu hěn dà de kǒngjù gǎn.
He has an immense dread of taking exams.

(pà), or 害怕 (hàipà), means to fear, to dread, or to be worried about something. What radicals make up the (pà) character? Yes, one could get so scared that even the heart turns pale and white.

我最怕蛇.
Wǒ zuì pà shé.
I’m scared of snakes the most.

我不怕他.
Wǒ bù pà tā.
I’m not afraid of him.

To the Chinese, as to many other people, (heaven, sky) and (earth) are both very sacred and powerful. When one wants to exaggerate the dread for something, one would often use the expression: 天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕 . . (Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà zhǐ pà . . ), i.e. “More than heaven and earth, I dread . . “.

In fact, there is a saying that goes like this:

天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕老外说中国话.
Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà, zhǐ pà lǎo wài shuō Zhōngguó huà.
More than anything else, I dread listening to foreigners speak Chinese.

老外 (lǎo wài) is slang for a western foreigner. Also, foreigners are often referred to as 洋人 (yángrén). As these terms have some negative connotations, we do not use them in our family. We usually refer to foreigners by their countries, such as 美国人 (měiguórén Americans) or 澳洲人 (àozhōurén Australians). If the country is unknown, then we’d use 外国人 (wàiguórén).

Click on this link to listen to a humorous self-mockery delivered in perfect Mandarin pronunciation.

If you are still unsure about the five tones used in Mandarin, the video I posted recently on YouTube might help.

怕死 (pàsǐ) means to be afraid of dying. However, 怕生 (pàshēng) does not mean being scared of life. Here, (shēn) is the abbreviation of 生人 (shēngrén) or 陌生人 (mòshēngrén), which is a stranger. Therefore, 怕生 (pàshēng) means being shy of strangers.

Note also that 怕人 (pàrén) does not mean being afraid of people. Rather, it means horrible, or scary to people, same as 可怕 (kěpà).

Just like (ài love) often stands for “to like”, (pà fear) can be used in the sense of “to dislike”.

我怕吵闹.
Wǒ pà chǎonào.
I dislike noises.

只怕 (zhǐ pà) can also mean “I’m afraid that . . .”. In this case, it is used in a similar way as 恐怕 (kǒngpà perhaps, I’m afraid that . . .). The following three statements express the same idea

只怕他不会来.
Zhǐ pà tā bùhuì lái.
I’m afraid that he won’t be coming.

他恐怕不会来.
Tā kǒngpà bùhuì lái.
He will probably not be coming.

我担心他不会来.
Wǒ dānxīn tā bù huì lái.
I’m afraid (worried) that he won’t come.

The following sentence illustrates yet another usage of 只怕 (zhǐ pà). In this instance, this expression translates to “as long as”.

天下无难事, 只怕有心人.
Tiānxià wú nánshì, zhǐ pà yǒuxīnrén.
No task is difficult when there is a determined person.
(Where there is a will, there is a way.)

Taboos, 忌讳 (jìhuì) often arise from people’s fear of death, misfortune and unknown factors. It will be worth your while to search the Internet for and read up on some of the common Chinese taboos, particularly with respect to gifting.

Chinese spooks join in on Halloween

万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié) Halloween


What will you be this Halloween, or 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié)? A witch, 巫婆 (wūpó), a sorcerer, 巫师 (wūshī), or Dracula, 吸血鬼 (xīxuěguǐ vampire)? You may have thought that your macabre makeup and outfit would scare the wits out of everyone, until you come face-to-face with a ghastly apparition that makes you cringe. This is what the Chinese describe as 小巫见大巫 (xiǎowūjiàndàwū), or little sorcerer meets the great sorcerer. Figuratively, it means that one is dwarfed by another person who is much more capable and powerful.

(guǐ) and 鬼怪 (guǐguài) are general terms for ghosts, spirits, apparitions and devils. 鬼魂 (guǐhún) are spirits in the form of ghosts or apparitions.

A pair of ghosts, named 无常鬼 (wúcháng guǐ), are often featured as tall figures on stilts in some Chinese religious processions or ghost festivals. In keeping with yin and yang, folklore provides for a 黑无常 (hēi wúcháng) and a 白无常 . 黑无常 (hēi wúcháng) always brings disaster, while 白无常 (bái wúcháng), although also scary and feared, is believed to bring wealth sometimes. In any case, 无常 (wúcháng) means changeable and unpredictable. Understandably, it would be terrible to have to deal with someone or something that’s devoid of constancy and reliability.

(guǐ) also means terrible, damnable or tricky. In this sense, this character has many light-hearted applications.

鬼鬼祟祟 (guǐguǐsuìsuì) means being sneaky, and 搞鬼 (gǎoguǐ) is playing tricks.

他们鬼鬼祟祟的在搞什么?
Tāmen guǐguǐsuìsuì de zài gǎo shénme?
What (mischief) are they up to?

你们在搞什么鬼?
Nǐmen zài gǎo shénme guǐ?
What the hell are you doing?

有鬼 (yǒuguǐ) means “There’s something fishy.”

鬼话 (guǐhuà) is literally the devil’s talk. It is used to accuse the speaker of telling a lie.

鬼主意 (guǐzhǔyì) is a clever or wicked idea or scheme.

做鬼脸 (zuò guǐliǎn) means to make a grimace or a funny face.

他向我做了一个鬼脸.
Tā xiàng wǒ zuò le yī gè guǐliǎn.
He made a face at me.

死鬼 (sǐguǐ) is literally a “dead devil”. However, it just means “That wretch!” You’d be surprised how many housewives refer to their husbands by this term, in jest or in anger.

小鬼 (xiǎoguǐ) is a goblin or little devil. This is actually an endearing term people use to refer to young kids.

胆小鬼 (dǎnxiǎoguǐ) is a scaredy-cat.

酒鬼 (jiǔguǐ) is a drunkard or a person addicted to drinking.

活见鬼 (huójiànguǐ) is a phrase used to discount someone’s words as being preposterous or totally incredulous.

(hún), or 灵魂 (línghún), is the soul or the spirit. When preceded by such a gloomy word as (yōu dim, secluded) or (yīn shaded, sinister), the spirit turns into a spectre, namely, 幽灵 (yōulíng) and 阴魂 (yīnhún). A requiem is called 安魂曲 (ānhúnqǔ).

Any word containing the character (mó) involves something demonic, mystical or magical. 魔鬼 (móguǐ), 恶魔 (èmó), 妖魔 (yāomó), 妖怪 (yāoguài) and 妖精 (yāojing) all refer to demons, evil spirits or monsters. Temptresses are often called 妖精 (yāojing). A tyrant or despot is sometimes referred to as a 魔王 (mówáng), or the top monster.

着魔 (zháomó) means to be possessed or bewitched.

他为珍妮着魔.
Tā wèi zhēnnī zháomó.
He is enchanted by Jenny.

魔术 (móshù) is magic or a magician’s trick.

What to do with a host of demons and evil spirits surrounding us? Fear not. According to Chinese mythology, there is the King of all Demons, 钟馗 (Zhōngkuí), whom we may call on for help. Many traditional Chinese households and businesses have the image of this guardian spirit painted on their main gates. Others may put up a poster of his image during the New Year celebration.

In real life, there are fiends that we truly must fear, namely the hackers on the Internet. Kudos to whoever came up with the Chinese transliteration for hackers. (hài) means shocking or to be appalled. (kè) is a visitor, a guest, or a person engaged in some particular pursuit. And voila! 骇客 (hài kè hacker).

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