Chinese word for beans

Shrimp with Young Soy Beans

Shrimp with Young Soy Beans

The Chinese words (dòu) and 豆子 (dòuzi) can refer to beans or peas. Therefore, you’ll need to add another character to the word to clarify what you are talking about.

豌豆 (wāndòu) are peas.

绿豆 (lǜdòu) are mung beans.

红小豆 (hóngxiǎodòu) are the little red beans used for making sweet red bean paste. They are often referred to simply as 红豆 (hóngdòu), although this term can be applied to any bean that has a reddish color. In fact, the Chinese call the red seeds of the Abrus precatorius (crab’s eye) 红豆 (hóngdòu) or 相思豆 (xiāngsī dòu love bean). 相思 (xiāngsī) is the longing between lovers or close friends. This word can be used as a noun or a verb. Before I looked up information about these seeds at this link, I did not know that they are poisonous. Young people give these to friends as a token of their affection, and I did receive a few of these seeds on a couple occasions before.

There is a well-known poem written by the famous poet 王维 (Wáng Wéi)
during the Tang Dynasty, or 唐朝 (Tángcháo).

红豆生南国,
Hóngdòu shēn nánguó,
Red beans grow in the country to the south,

春来发几枝.
chūn lái fā jǐ zhī.
and in spring they issue a few new shoots.

愿君多采撷,
Yyuàn jūn duō cǎixié,
I hope you will pick a bunch of them

此物最相思.
cǐ wù zuì xiāngsī.
as this thing evokes the most intense longing for a dear  friend afar.

Soybeans are called 大豆 (dàdòu) or 黄豆 (huángdòu). As they say, “If you plant melon seeds, you will get melons; if you plant beans, then you will get beans.”

种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆.
Zhòngguādéguā, zhòngdòudédòu.
You will reap what you sow.

That is true if the conditions are favorable and the seeds germinate and grow, and the seedlings are not devoured by critters. Young bean shoots and the tender new growth at the tip of the vines are called 豆苗 (dòumiáo). They are delicious stir-fried or added to soups.

When the 豆荚 (dòujiá bean pods or pea pods) have swollen but still green, the seeds that you find in them are young and tender. At this stage, they are referred to as 毛豆 (máodòu fuzzy soybean) because of the fuzz covering the pods. In Japanese they are called edamame. The tender green seeds look somewhat like lima beans but have a smoother texture and a more subtle taste. They are excellent as a snack or in stir-fried dishes.

When fully ripened, the seeds are hard and take on a light yellowish color. Those are the 黄豆 (huángdòu soybeans) used for making soy milk, bean curds, bean pastes and sou nuts.

豆腐 (dòufu bean curd, tofu) is an important source of protein for many Asian vegetarians. Many Chinese drink 豆浆 (dòujiāng soybean milk) as part of their breakfast. 豆腐皮 (dòufupí) is the protein-rich film that floats to the top when you cook soy milk. This term also refers to very thin sheets of bean curd or the outer layer of deep-fried bean curd.

Tofu products are often flavored with 酱油 (jiàngyóu soy sauce), yet another food product made from the amazing soy beans.

Sweet bean pastes are called 豆沙 (dòushā). These are used as fillings for moon cakes, sweet rice dumplings, buns and many other snacks.

If you have a handful of soy beans, you could put them in a jar of water and grow your own bean sprouts, or 豆芽儿 (dòuyár). The soy bean sprouts are larger than the mung bean sprouts that are sold in the supermarkets.

Following are a few words that make use of the “bean” radical.

(duǎn) means short, brief, lacking or a weak point.

(gǔ) is a percussion instrument like a rattle or a drum. As a verb, this word means to strike (a musical instrument), to agitate or to swell.

厨房 (chúfáng) is the kitchen.

逗留 (dòuliú) is to stay or stop at a place.

(dēng) is to ascend or scale a height, as in 登山 (dēngshān mountain-climbing). To put an article in a magazine or newspaper is called 刊登 (kāndēng).

You already know how to draw a horizontal stroke to write the numeral 1 in Chinese. There is a set of more complicated characters used for writing the numerals on checks, banknotes and currencies to help prevent alterations. For the numeral 1, the “official” character is (yī). I’ll let you do some research and find out what the characters are that represent the other nine numerals.

Learn a classical Chinese poem

Whether your interests are in learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, backpacking or cooking, you are probably constantly challenging yourself to get better at it. You will usually need to make some effort in order to see an improvement. The Chinese adage “欲穷千里目, 更上一层楼. (Yù qióng qiānlǐ mù, gèng shàng yī céng lóu.)” advises that to get a better view, one should climb to a higher level. In other words, it encourages people to go the extra mile to get what they wish to achieve.

(lóu) is a level or story of a building or tower. 上楼 (shànglóu) means to go upstairs. In the above saying, the level of a tower is employed metaphorically to represent a superior state. In fact, 更上一层楼 (gèngshàngyīcénglóu) has become an idiom that means to take it up a notch, to make an improvement, or to attain a higher level.

This often quoted saying is actually the second half of a short classical Chinese poem written by 王之涣 (Wáng Zhīhuàn) of the Tang Dynasty. The poet received the inspiration for the poem while enjoying the grand view from a well known tower named 鹳雀楼 (Guàn Què Lóu). The Chinese word for a poem is (shī). You can see from this piece how it is often necessary to rearrange the words in a poem to fit them to a particular line length, cadence and rhyming scheme. Therefore, a peom may sound quite different from normal speech, and thus a little harder to interpret. For the blog posts at this site and in the book “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, I’ve taken care to select mostly songs and rhymes with verses that more or less follow the normal word order in everyday speech. Nevertheless, even a beginner could enjoy a little exposure to the beauty of some excellent classical Chinese poems.

登鹳雀楼 (Dēng Guàn Què Lóu Scaling the Guanque Tower)

白日依山尽,
Bái rì yī shān jìn,
Sunlight stops at the mountain peak;

黄河入海流.
Huánghé rù hǎi liú.
The River ends at the sea.

欲穷千里目,
Yù qióng qiānlǐ mù,
Why not set your eyesight free?

更上一层楼.
Gèng shàng yī céng lóu.
A hike grants more to see.

(dēng) means to climb, to mount or to ascend, as in 登山 (dēngshān mountaineering). This word also means to enter into a record, such as in 登记 (dēngjì).

The river referred to in this poem is the Yellow River, or 黄河 (Huánghé).

(liú) means to flow. As it describes the motion of a liquid, it takes on the “water” word radical. You might want to review a previous blog post that talks about the water radical.

As a noun, (yù) means desire. In classical Chinese, it means wanting to do something. This word is also means “on the point of”, as in 欣喜欲狂 (xīnxǐ yù kuáng so happy as if one were on the verge of going out of one’s mind).

As an adjective, (qióng) means poor or at the limit of one’s resources. In classical Chinese, this word is also used as a verb that means to do or to explore to the full extent.

(mù) is the formal Chinese word for eyes. It is a part of many other words pertaining to eyes or eyesight.

This poem follows the standard form of a Chinese poem containing five characters per line. Notice the perfect parllelism in each of the two pairs of verses. For example, 白日 (bái rì white sun) matches 黄河 (Huánghé Yellow River). 依山 (yī shān by the mountain) and 入海 (rù hǎi into the sea) are adverbial phrases, and (jìn to end) and (liú to flow) are both verbs. The rhyming scheme employed is ABCB. Next time you come across another classical Chinese poem, try to analyze and appreciate the care and thoughts put into the verses by the poets.

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