Learn Chinese word radical – Hair


Various Shapes

The simple, pictorial Chinese radical represents hair or tassels. It is pronounced shān or xiān, but you don’t have to worry about the pronunciation, as you are not likely to encounter this symbol as a stand-alone character in ordinary books and documents.

The radical is found in numerous Chinese characters, many of which are out of circulation. Therefore, we will only discuss those that are commonly used in everyday speech.

In Traditional Chinese, the character for hair is (fǎ), which features the hair radical. Unfortunately, this character was replaced by in Simplified Chinese, and one no longer sees the strokes representing the tassels. So, the hair on your hair is 头发 (tóufa). The hair on your body and head is referred to as 毛发 (máofà). 发型 (fàxíng) means hair style or coiffure, 短发 (duǎnfǎ) is a short haircut, and 假发 (jiǎfà fake hair) is a wig.

理发 (lǐfà) is to have or get a hair cut, while 刮胡子 (guā húzi) means to shave one’s beard. The Traditional Chinese word for beards, moustache or whiskers is 鬍鬚 (húxū) or 鬍子 (húzi). Here again, you can see that the radical is absent from the Simplified Chinese word for beards. A moustache that has its ends grown much longer and often flared out is called a 八字胡 (bāzìhú) because it reminds one of the Chinese word for “eight”.

Not all men sport a beard. Rather, they shave their face. The action of shaving one’s face is called 修面 (xiū miàn). Please note that here (miàn) refers to the face rather than noodles. This is one of the ambiguities created by Simplified Chinese, which sometimes oversimplifies.

(xiū) as a verb is to repair, mend, embellish, trim or prune. The word commonly used for repairing is 修理 (xiūlǐ).

必须 (bìxū), or 须要 (xūyào), means to have to, or must. For example,

Wǒde chēzi xūyào xiūlǐ.
My car needs to be repaired.

Note that 需要 (xūyào) is a homonym of 须要 (xūyào); it means to need or to want.

Háizǐ men xūyào fùmǔ de àihù.
Children need the parents’ love and caring.

As the needle leaves of the fir tree resemble strands of hair, fir trees are called 杉树 (shān shù). 文质彬彬 (wénzhìbīnbīn) is a phrase often used to describe a cultivated, gentle person, who is likened to a graceful fir tree.

We encountered the (shān garment) character when we talked about the “clothes” radical on 2/15/12. Do you still remember that a shirt is called 衬衫 (chènshān)?

The character (cǎi) can take on a number of different meanings. For example, 色彩 (sècǎi) means color; 彩色的 (cǎisè de), or 五彩 (wǔcǎi), means multicolored; 彩霞 (cǎixiá) are rosy clouds; 彩虹 (cǎihóng) is a rainbow; 水彩 (shuīcǎi) is watercolour; 精彩 (jīngcǎi) means splendid; 喝彩 (hècǎi) means applause or cheer; 挂彩 (guàcǎi) means to decorate for festive occasions, or to be wounded in action.

As an adjective (zhēn) means rare, precious or valuable. As a noun, it means a treasure. 珍珠 (zhēnzhū) are pearls. The American writer and novelist Pearl S. Buck’s Chinese name is 赛珍珠 (Sài zhēnzhū).

疹子 (zhěnzi) is a rash. 麻疹 (mázhěn) are measles.

诊断 (zhěn duàn) is to examine a patient and make a diagnosis.

(xíng) is a form, a shape, an entity or a situation.

形状 (xíngzhuàng) is the shape or appearance of an item. 方形 (fāngxíng) is a square; 圆形 (yuánxíng) is a round shape; 半月形 (bànyuèxíng) is a crescent. 变形 (biànxíng) means to become deformed.

隐形 (yǐnxíng) means invisible. Therefore, 隐形眼镜 (yǐnxíngyǎnjìng) are contact lenses (i.e. invisible eyeglasses).

形容 (xíngróng) means to describe. Therefore, 形容词 (xíngróngcí) are adjectives. This is a good time to review how to use the many adjectives listed in Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

情形 (qíngxíng) circumstances; situation; condition; state of affairs.

参加 (cānjiā) means to join, take part in or attend. 参考 (cānkǎo) means to refer to or to consult. So, 参考书 (cānkǎoshū) are reference books.

, when pronounced as (shēn), refers to ginseng. Asian ginseng is called 人参 (rénshēn) because its root resembles the (rén) character. 西洋参 (xīyángshēn) refers to American ginseng, which differs from the Asian ginseng with respect to herbal properties.

Learn Chinese word radical – Jade

Adorn the king with a large tear-drop-shaped precious stone, and one gets the character for jade, or (yù). The jade symbolizes purity, preciousness, nobility and beauty. This is why it is used in polite written language to represent the word “your”. For example, when writing to one’s grandfather or grandmother, one would often end the letter with:

Jìng zhù yù tǐ ānkāng
Respectfully wishing the best for your health

In fact, to show respect to the reader, the words “I” and “you” are seldom used in a formal or polite Chinese letter; and one has to find ways to rephrase the sentences to get the ideas across without ambiguity.

(zhuān) are bricks, which are common and humble, and quite the opposite of the jade. The Chinese idiom 抛砖引玉 (pāozhuānyǐnyù Cast a brick to attract jade.) was based on a story in which a mediocre poet succeeded in eliciting superb verses from a famous poet by starting a piece of work and letting the latter complete it. Click here for an animated version of this story. So, go ahead and offer your ideas in a brain-storming session. Even if they are not the greatest, they might inspire the group to come up with a valuable solution.

When (yù jade) is incorporated into a Chinese character as a word radical, the last little stroke is dropped, so that it looks like a “king”, except that the bottom stroke is slightly tilted up. But now you know that it is actually a “jade”. Following are a few examples.

(zhēn) is a treasure. It also means precious, highly valued, or rare. Both this character and the (yù) character are favorite choices for naming babies, particularly girls.

珍惜 (zhēnxī) is to cherish or treasure something.

Wǒ zhēnxī zhè fèn yǒuqíng.
I cherish this friendship.

珍贵 (zhēnguì) means precious.

Wǒ zhēnxī zhè fèn zhēnguì de yǒuqíng.
I cherish this precious friendship.

袖珍 (xiùzhēn) means pocket-sized, such as in 袖珍字典 (xiùzhēn zìdiǎn pocket dictionary).

(zhū) are beads. It is also the abbreviation for 珍珠 (zhēnzhū pearls). 掌上明珠 (zhǎngshàngmíngzhū) is literally a shiny pearl in one’s palm. This term refers to one’s precious daughter.

泪珠 (lèizhū) are teardrops. 汗珠 (hàn zhū) are drops of sweat.

A number of other jewelry items, or 珠宝 (zhūbǎo), also feature the “jade” radical.

珊瑚 (shānhú) means coral or items made from coral. 玛瑙 (mǎnǎo) is agate. (huán) is a ring, a hoop, or a link in a chain. 耳环 (ěrhuán) are earrings. (huán) also means to encircle or to be surrounded by mountains, such as in 环境 (huánjìng surroundings, circumstances). 污染环境 (wūrǎn huánjìng) means to pollute the environment.

玻璃 (bōli) is glass. A glass tumbler is called 玻璃杯 (bōli bēi). Nylon stockings are called 玻璃丝袜 (bōli sī wà), or 丝袜 (sī wà nylons) for short.

(qiú) refers to any spherical object. 地球 (dìqiú) is the earth. The eyeballs are called 眼球 (yǎnqiú) or 眼珠 (yǎnzhū). 有眼无珠 (yǒuyǎnwúzhū with eyes but without eyeballs) is an interesting expression that means lacking perception, failing to discern an essential point, or failing to see an obvious quality or capability in a person you know.

(wán) is to play or to amuse oneself. 好玩 (hǎowán) means interesting or great fun.

Tā xǐhuān wán lánqiú.
He likes to play basketball.

If any of your friends is getting married soon, you might present the new couple with a card bearing these congratulatory words:

Jīnyù Liáng Yuán
Gold and jade, a perfect match.

(liáng) is the formal word for “good”, “fine”, or “a good deal of”. (yuán) has a number of different meanings. It could refer to the edge or fringe of an object, the reason that causes something to happen, or a predestined relationship, which applies in this case.

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