Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

As the Mid-autumn Festival nears, watch the night sky and see the moon wax until it becomes full. Referred to as the Moon Festival in the West, 中秋节 (Zhōngqiūjié) is a time for fall harvest and family reunion, the perfectly round moon symbolizing completeness and fulfillment. And, as the Chinese poets will tell you, no matter how far apart you are from your family or friends, you can always observe and share the same beautiful moon in the sky. Next Tuesday night, as you sip on a cup of tea, coffee, orange juice, or whatever drink you fancy, admire the full moon along with billions of other people in the world.

Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè.
Happy Mid-Autimn Festival!

(yuán) means round. (mǎn) means full. 圆满 (yuánmǎn) means satisfactory to all parties involved.

团圆 (tuányuán) is a reunion with family members. It can also be used as a verb.

花好月圆 (huāhǎoyuèyuán flowers are beautiful and the moon is full) is a blessing offered to newly weds to wish them perfect marital bliss.

While a Chinese family gathers after a scrumptious feast to watch the full moon, they will also be enjoying the mooncakes, or 月饼 (yuèbǐng). Although it could come in various sizes, the typical mooncake is a round pastry about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter and 1.5 to 2 inches in height. The traditional mooncake is filled with red bean paste, lotus seed paste, or a mincemeat concoction, but nowadays there’s probably a kind of mooncake filling to suit every taste. In fact, my aunt just informed me that you can now get an icecream mooncake!

By the way, the word (bǐng) represents a variety of disc-shaped food products. 饼干 (bǐnggān) is a general term for cookies, 煎饼 (jiānbǐng) is a pancake, 烧饼 (shāobǐng) is a baked flat bread, and 圈儿饼 (quānr bǐng) is a donut. 葱油饼 (cōngyóubǐng) is a flaky pan-fried flatbread containing chopped green onions. For the non-vegetarians, there are also the 肉饼 (ròubǐng ground meat patties) and 鱼饼 (yú bǐng minced fish patties). Now, 铁饼 (tiěbǐng) is literally an iron disc that you don’t want to sink your teeth into. This is the discus used in sports.

中秋节 (Zhōngqiūjié) is a happy time. Let’s listen to 风飞飞 (Fēng Fēifēi) sing a happy song. Click on “Show more” to display the lyrics. The first stanza of this song should be easy to understand and remember.

春天的花 (chūntiān de huā) means flowers in the spring. 秋天的月 (qiū tiān de yuè) is the moon in the fall.

When the word (shǎo) is pronounced in the third tone, it means few or little. For example, 少量 (shǎoliàng) means a small quantity, 不少 (bùshǎo) means quite a few (not a small quantity), and 多少 (duōshao) means how many or how much.

Bùshǎo měiguórén huì shuō Zhōngguó huà.
Quite a few Americans know how to speak Chinese.

When the word (shào) is pronounced in the fourth tone, it means young, junior or minor. 少年 (shàonián) is a youth or a young man, while 少女 (shàonǚ) is a young lady. In a traditional Chinese family, the young master of the house is addressed as 少爷 (shàoye), and his wife would be addressed as 少奶奶 (shàonǎinai). 少将 (shàojiàng) is a rear admiral.

多么 (duōme) is an adverb that can be interpreted as “so” or “how very”. For example:

Tā shì gè duōme kěài de háizi!
He is such a lovely a child! (How very lovely a child he is!)

知道 (zhīdào) means to know. 不知 (bù zhī) is an abbreviation of 不知道 (bù zhīdào) that is often used in writing. In everyday convervation, you would say, “不知道 (bù zhīdào).”

怎么 (zěnme) is an adverb used colloquially for “how”. For example:

Yuèbǐng zěnme zuò?
How do you make moon cakes?

Wǒ zěnme zhīdào?
How would I know?

怎么样 (zěnmeyàng how, how about) is a phrase that can be used in a few different ways. The following three examples are straightforward questions:

Tā xiànzài zěnmeyàng?
How is she doing now?

Nǐ juéde zěnmeyàng?
How do you feel about this? (What do you think?)

Nǐ kǎo de zěnmeyàng?
How did you do on the exam?

怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) also serves as the answer when used in the negative.

Bù zěnmeyàng.
Not so good.

After making a suggestion to someone, you could ask, “怎么样?” (zěnmeyàng) in a friendly tone. This translates to: “How about it? OK?” On the other hand, when you’re quarreling with someone, the same question issued in an angry voice would translate to: “So you’re not happy, and what are you going to do about that! (Want to fight?)”

When you explain to someone that you’ve run out of options to deal with an issue, you would throw up your arms and say:

Wǒ néng zěnmeyàng?
What can I do? (There’s really nothing I can do about it.)

Another common expression containing 怎样 (zěnyàng) is 又怎样 (yòu zěnyàng). This is the Chinese equivalent of “so what”, but it is placed at the end of the clause and never at the beginning. For example:

他不来, 又怎样?
Tā bù lái, yòu zěnyàng?
So what, if he is not coming?
(He’s not coming, so what?)

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