Learn Chinese word radical – Square

Grid for writing Chinese characters

Grid for writing Chinese characters

The Chinese character (fāng) means “square”. Like the English word “square”, it can be used and interpreted in a number of different ways. Today we will look at this word as it pertains to square shapes, locations and directions.

So, a square shape is called 方形 (fāngxíng) or 正方形 (zhèngfāngxíng). 长方形 (chángfāngxíng) is a rectangle.

Any square piece is called 方块 (fāngkuài). Chinese characters are often referred to as 方块字 (fāngkuàizì).

方格 (fānggě) is a square grid. When we were in elementary school, we practiced writing Chinese characters by filling pages and pages of square grids. The narrower space on the right side of each square is for adding the zhuyin notation.

方糖 (fāngtáng) are sugar cubes.

(fāng) also means directions. The commonly used word for direction or orientation is 方向 (fāngxiàng). 方位 (fāngwèi) means position or bearing.

东方 (dōngfāng) is the east direction or the East. 西方 (xīfāng) is the west direction or the West.

前方 (qiánfāng) means ahead or the front. 后方 (hòufāng) is the rear of something such as a building or an army.

四方 (sìfāng) are the four directions. It also means a shape with four right angles, i.e. a square or a rectangle. 四方 (sìfāng) and 八方 (bāfāng eight directions) are often used to refer to all sides or all directions. The number eight refers to the eight points of the compass.

方针 (fāngzhèn) is the pointer on the compass. This word refers to a policy or a guiding principle.

地方 (dìfang) means a place, a spot or a space.

zhè piān wénzhāng hái yǒu xǔduō kěyǐ gǎijìn de dìfang.
There is still plenty of room for improvement in this composition.

As flags are usually of a square or rectangular shape, it is not surprising that the word for flags, (qí), takes on the “square” radical.

(fáng) is a house or a room. It features a space under a roof.

(fáng) is to defend one’s turf or guard against someone or something. This word features the “ear” radical as well.

(fàng) is to place, to put or to release.

(páng) means side or on the side.

Tā bǎ nà fēng xìn fàng zài yī páng.
He set that letter on the side.

(zú) means clan, race, nationality or a group with common features.

(xuán) is to spin or revolve around something.

Dìqiú rào zhe tàiyáng xuánzhuǎn.
The earth revolves around the sun.

(fǎng) is to visit, to call on or to interview someone.

Tā jùjué jiēshòu fǎngwèn.
He refused to be interviewed.

(lǚ) is to travel. 旅客 (lǚkè) could be a passenger, a traveler or a hotel guest.

旅游 (lǚyóu) means touring.

If you are traveling to a Chinese-speaking country, you might find the cheat sheet in Chapter 32 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” helpful.

Sing “America the Beautiful” in Chinese

Blueberries ripening

Blueberries ripening

July 4th, 七月四日 (qīyuè sì rì), is the birthday of the United States of America. (zhù) is to express good wishes. 祝福 (zhùfú) is to give blessing to someone. This word can also be used as a noun. 庆祝 (qìngzhù) is to celebrate. There are a number of patriot songs to help us express our feelings while celebrating the national day, or 国庆日 (guóqìng rì), notably the one with lyrics written by Katharine Lee Bates and music composed by Samuel A. Ward – “America the Beautiful”. The Chinese word for America is 美国 (Měiguó). 美丽 (měilì) means beautiful.

忠贞 (zhōngzhēn) means being loyal and steadfast. 爱国 (àiguó) means being patriotic. So, 忠贞爱国 (zhōngzhēn àiguó) describes a person who is loyal to his country and loves it dearly, and patriotic songs are called 爱国歌曲 (àiguó gēqǔ).

At this link is a nice rendition of “America the Beautiful”. If you would like to sing this song in Chinese, here is my translated version:

啊, 多美丽! 蓝天辽阔,
Ā, duō měilì! Lán tiān liáokuò,
Oh, how beautiful – the spacious blue skies

màitián li yàng jīn bō.
and the golden waves rippling in the wheat fields.

高山峻岭, 气势磅礴,
Gāoshān jùn lǐng, qìshìpángbó,
High mountains and mountain ranges, so powerful and majestic,

biàn dì bùmǎn huā guǒ.
and the land covered with flowers and fruits.

美丽家园, 美丽家园!
Měilì jiāyuán, měilì jiāyuán!
Beautiful homeland, beautiful homeland!

Yuàn tiānfù bǎoyòu nǐ.
May the Heavenly Father protect and bless you.

从南到北, 由西到东,
Cóng nán dào běi, yóu xī dào dōng,
From south to north, from west to east,

sìhǎi nèi jiē xiōngdì.
within the four seas we are all brothers.

啊, 多美丽! 同心协力,
Ā, duō měilì! Tóngxīnxiélì,
Oh, how beautiful – the shared aspiration, the concerted effort

bùduàn yīngyǒng jiànguó.
and the endless valor in founding the nation.

Dà chéng xiǎo zhèn tíngtíng yù lì,
Big cities and small towns now stand upright,

zài lèi guāng li shǎnshuò.
shimmering in our tears.

美丽家园, 美丽家园!
Měilì jiāyuán, měilì jiāyuán!
Beautiful homeland, beautiful homeland!

Yuàn tiānfù bǎoyòu nǐ.
May the Heavenly Father protect and bless you.

从南到北, 由西到东,
Cóng nán dào běi, yóu xī dào dōng,
From south to north, from west to east,

sìhǎi nèi jiē xiōngdì.
within the four seas we are all brothers.

辽阔 (liáokuò) means vast and expansive.

高山峻岭 (gāoshān jùn lǐng) is a popular phrase for describing high mountains.

气势磅礴 (qìshìpángbó) is a commonly used four-character idiom describing the power or momentum of someone or something.

英勇 (yīngyǒng) means heoric and courageous, as when speaking of the brave soldiers who help defend our country.

同心协力 (tóngxīnxiélì) is a commonly used four-character idiom describing two or more people working together with one heart and in full cooperation.

What are the things that you love the most or are most proud of about your own country? Would you like to share them with us in a comment either in English or Chinese?

Měiguó guóqìng rì kuàilè!
Have a Happy July 4th!


Měiguó guóqìng kuàilè!
Have a Happy July 4th!

The Four Winds

If you are familiar with a Chinese game called mahjong, you will know that in the boxful of at least 136 tiles there are 4 tiles marked with (dōng east), four tiles marked with (nán south), four tiles marked with 西 (xī west) and four tiles marked with (běi north). These tiles actually represent the four winds: the east wind, the south wind, the west wind and the north wind.

The wind, (fēng) is an air movement that manifests itself as a natural force or flow of energy. We can create an artificial wind by using a hand-held fan, 扇子 (shànzi), or an electric fan, 风扇 (fēngshàn).

Following are a couple ways to describe a wind:

Fēn qīngqīng de chuī.
The wind is gently blowing.

Guā dàfēng le.
A gale has started to blow.

Well, when it’s blowing outside, you might want to put on a 风衣 (fēngyī a dust-coat) to help ward off the wind.

风光 (fēngguāng) and 风景 (fēngjǐng) both refer to scenery and landscape.

Zhelǐ fēngguāng hěnhào.
The scenery here is very nice.

风度 (fēngdù) refers to one’s deportment or demeanor, while 作风 (zuòfēng) refers to one’s style of doing things.

In the word, 中风(zhòngfēng), (zhòng) takes on the fourth tone, and means “to hit on target” or “to be hit by”. When a person has a stroke (apoplexy), the Chinese say that he or she has been hit by the (evil) wind. Of course, in the scientific sense, 中风(zhòngfēng) has nothing to do with the wind at all.

Something floating in air is said to (piāo). For example,

Bái yún piāo zài kōngzhōng.
White clouds are floating in the sky.

Although the east wind is sometimes depicted as an evil force in western literature, the Chinese believe it brings favorable conditions and good luck. So, if someone mentions, “只欠东风 (zhī qiàn dōng fēng only lacking the east wind)”, it means that everything is ready but needs to wait for the right moment or a favorable condition.

南风 (nánfēng) are winds that come from the south, which usually invokes an image of a sunny place in the summer, where friendly and happy people sing and dance under the palm trees.

Let’s listen to the third song at this link, which is called “西风的话 (Xīfēng de Huà) Words of the West Wind”, with music composed by 黃自 (Huáng Zì) and lyrics written by 廖輔叔 (Liào Fǔshū). Normally this song is sung at a slow, deliberate tempo. Nevertheless, the exuberance of these cute kids is always a joy to watch. In the song there is no mention of the time of the year. Can you guess from the context what season it is describing?

Last year when I came back,
You had just donned your new gown.
Today I come to see you,
How stout and tall you have grown!
Do you perhaps remember,
The lotus in the pond will turn to pods?
Blooms will be scarce, but we won’t be without colors –
For I shall tint the leaves with red.

Most of the words in the Chinese lyrics should look familiar to you. I’ll just comment on a few new terms. As a reminder, we talked about flowers and trees in my 3/20/11 post, and I mentioned a few colors in my 7/6/11 post.

(gāng) as an adjective means firm and strong. As an adverb, it means “barely”, “just” or “a short while a go”. For example:

Tā gāng huílái.
He has just come back.

穿 (chuān) is to put on or wear clothing.

棉袍 (mián páo) is a cotton-padded quilted jacket

记得 (jìde) is to remember.

Wǒ jìde nǐ bù chī là de (dōngxi).
I rember you don’t eat spicy foods (things).

(chí) is a pond. 池里 (chí li) means in the pond.

莲蓬 (liánpeng) is the seepod of the lotus plant.

(chóu) is short for 忧愁 (yōuchóu sad, be worried).

(rǎn) means to dye.

One of the usages of the adverb, (dōu), is to help emphasize that an action is performed by all of the subjects, or that an action is applied to all of the objects. In the following line, it indicates that the action of tinting is applied to all the leaves.

Wǒ bǎ shùyè dōu rǎn hóng.
I will color all the leaves red.

北风 (běifēng) are the winds that come down from the north. It seems there is a world-wide consensus that the north wind signifies cold, harsh weather. This wind is featured in the well-known Aesop’s Fable, “The North Wind and the Sun”. I think you’ll agree that it’s often better to employ diplomacy and persuation to convince people rather than use brute force and coercion to impose compliance.

At this link there is a pattern for a four-leaf-clover origami that you could make to help you or your child learn the Chinese words for the four directions as well as a number of other terms.

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