Homonyms for the Chinese word for deer

Deer in the Woods

Deer in the Woods

Deer are not part of the Chinese zodiac. They are getting a mention here because the Chinese word for deer has a number of homonyms that I’d like to bring to your attention.

Deer in Chinese is 鹿 (lù). Sika deer, or 梅花鹿 (méihuālǜ), originated mostly from Japan, Taiwan and East Asia. They are mentioned in “The Little Monk“, a short novel that features Taiwan in the seventeenth century.

Giraffes are called 长颈鹿 (chángjǐnglù), or long-necked deer. 驼鹿 (tuólù) refers to moose or elks.

Literally, 逐鹿 (zhúlù) means to chase the deer. Figuratively, it means to bid for state power.

中原 (zhōngyuán) are the Central Plains in China that cover the middle and lower reaches of the Huanghe River. Many ancient Chinese dynasties established their government seats in this central area. The term 中原 (zhōngyuán) is also generally used to refer to the entire country of China. Therefore, 逐鹿中原 (zhúlùzhōngyuán) is to engage in a fight for the throne.

People competing for a high position or a coveted prize are likened to hunters going after the same deer. If you have no diea about who will most likely be the winner, you could say:

不知鹿死谁手.
Bùzhī lùsǐshuíshǒu.
Don’t know at whose hand the deer will die.

鹿皮 (lùpí) is deerskin.

There are many other words that are pronounced exactly the same as 鹿 (lù). We will look at a few common ones.

(lù) or 山麓 (shānlù) is the foot of a mountain.

(lù) or 道路 (dàolù) is a road, a path or a route. 高速公路 (gāosùgōnglù) is a freeway, and 地下铁路 (dìxiàtiělù) means subway. 路标 (lùbiāo) is a road sign, and 路灯 (lùdēng) are street lamps.

Crossroads are called 十字路口 (shízìlùkǒu). See how the Chinese numeral 10 looks like an intersection of two roads.

路面 (lùmiàn) is the road surface or pavement. 路边 (lùbiān roadside or curb) is usually used as an adverb,as in:

路边有许多摊贩.
There are many street vendors on the road side.
Lù biān yǒu xǔduō tānfàn.

迷路 (mílù) means to lose one’s way. When you lose your way, you will want to ask for directions, or 问路 (wènlù), and someone might be kind enough to show you the way, or 带路 (dàilù).

路程 (lùchéng) is the distance traveled or to be traveled on a journey.

走路 (zǒulù) means to go on foot. 路人 (lùrén) are passersby.

路人皆知 (lùrénjiēzhī) is an idiom that means everybody knows, referring to a well-known fact.

走投无路 (zǒutóuwúlù) means to have no way out or to be in an impasse.

When (lù) takes on a bird radical, it becomes (lù). 白鹭 (báilù) is a great white egret, and 苍鹭 (cānglù) is a gray heron.

(lù) or 陆地 (lùdì) means land, and 着陆 (zhuólù) is a verb that means to land. 大陆 (dàlù) means mainland or a continent. Eurasia is called 欧亚大陆 (Oūyàdàlù). 内陆 (nèilù) means inland or interior.

陆军 (lùjūn) is the ground force or army, and 海军陆战队 (hǎijūnlùzhànduì) are the marine corps.

陆续 (lùxù) means one after another.

旅客们陆续上了火车.
Lǚkèmen lùxù shàngle huǒchē.
The travelers got on the train one after another.

(lù) means to kill or slay, and 杀戮 (shālù) is a massacre.

(lù) and 贿赂 (huìlù) are bribes. 贿赂 (huìlù) can also be used as a verb.

正直的官员不会接受贿赂.
Zhèngzhí de guānyuán bù huì jiēshòu huìlù.
Upright officials will not accept bribes.

As a noun, (lù) means dew. It can also refer to a sweet drink distilled from flowers. 雨露 (yǔlù) is rain and dew. Figuratively, it connotes grace or a favour. On the other hand, 鱼露 (yúlù) is fish sauce. This is one example of why it is important to pay attention to the tone of the Chinese words you utter.

As a verb, (lù) means to reveal or to show. So, 露出 (lùchū) is to expose or to protrude from under a cover.

露面 (lùmiàn) means to show one’s face or to appear. In ancient China, women from good families were expected to stay at home and lead a private existence. Those who dared to show themselves unashamedly in public, or 抛头露面 (pāotóulùmiàn), were looked down upon

露一手 (lòuyīshǒu) is to show off one’s abilities or skills.

Literally, 露骨 (lùgǔ) means showing one’s bones. Figuratively, this expression describes a remark or action that is considered point-blank, explicit, or without polite disguise.

不露声色 (bùlùshēngsè) means to do things quietly and not show one’s feeling or intentions, like keeping a poker face.

原形 (yuánxíng) is the original shape or the true shape under the disguise. 原形毕露 (yuánxíng bìlù) is having the whole truth unmasked. In the same vein, 露出马脚 (lùchūmǎjiǎo) is to reveal the cloven foot or to give oneself away unintentionally.

透露 (tòulù) is to divulge, disclose or leak information.

If you see a friend taking a large wad of cash out of his wallet to count in the open, you could offer him this advice:

财不露白.
Cái bù lòubái
Don’t show your money in front of people.

露天 (lùtiān) means in the open air or outdoors. Therefore, an outdoor concert is called 露天演唱会 (lùtiān yǎnchàng huì).

露营 (lùyíng) is to camp out. When amping out, please be careful not to start a forest fire!

(lù) means to write down, to record or to register. 记录 (jìlù) is to record or take notes. A documentary film is called 纪录片 (jìlùpiàn).

录取 (lùqǔ) is to recruit, and 录用 (lùyòng) is to take on as an employee.

录音 (lùyīn) means sound recording. 录像机 (lùxiàngjī) is a video-recorder or camcorder. In Taiwan, it is called 录影机 (lùyǐng jī).

(lù) is also used as a noun that means a record or a collection of records. Memoirs are called 回忆录 (huíyìlù).

(lù) means busy or commonplace. 忙碌 (mánglù) is to bustle about, or to be busy with commonplace things.

劳碌 (láolù) to toil or work hard.

(lù) or 俸禄 (fènglù) refers to an official’s salary in ancient China. Therefore, it is an auspicious word. Therefore 福禄双全 (fúlùshuāngquán be happy and wealthy) is a popular wish to give to or to receive from an acquaintance.

中秋節快樂!
Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Learn Chinese word radical – Rain

Snow 雪 (xuě)

Snow 雪 (xuě)

We have discussed the Chinese character for rain, (yǔ), a few times before. This character, featuring four drops of water, also serves as a word radical that is employed in words involving precipitation or moisture in the air. As you know, one advantage of being able to recognizing a word radical is that you will only need to learn the remaining part in a new word.

As with many other natural elements, the words containing the rain radical are often used in phrases associated with human nature.

We will start with a simple character, (xuě snow).

你会滑雪吗?
Nǐ huì huáxuě ma?
Do you know how to ski?

(xuě) is also used as a verb in the idiom 报仇雪耻 (bàochóuxuěchǐ), which means to take revenge and wipe out a humiliation.

(tàn) is charcoal. (sòng) means to give or to deliver. The idiom 雪中送炭 (xuězhōngsòngtàn providing charcoal in snowy weather) means to offer needed help and be “a friend indeed”.

(shuāng) is frost. 雪上加霜 (xuěshàngjiāshuāng), means to have frost added on top of snow, to have one disaster after another, or to add insult to injury.

(bīng) is ice. 冰雹 (bīngbáo) are hailstones. Some one who is really aloof might be described as being icy. The following comment is often bestowed on strikingly beautiful women who give their admirers the cold shoulder.

艳若桃李, 冷若冰霜.
Yàn ruò táo lǐ, lěng ruò bīng shuāng.
Gorgeous as peach and plum blossoms, but cold as ice and frost.

(léi) is thunder, which often strikes a field when it rains. 地雷 (dìléi) are land mines.

雷声大,雨点小. (léishēngdà,yǔdiǎnxiǎo) literally translates to “loud thunder but tiny raindrops”. This idiom implies that much is proclaimed but followed by little action.

暴跳如雷 (bàotiàorúléi) and 大发雷霆 (dàfāléitíng) both mean flying into a rage.

他听了这话, 暴跳如雷.
Tā tīng le zhè huà, bàotiàorúléi.
After hearing these words, he flew off the handle.

如雷贯耳 (rúléiguàněr) literally translates to “like thunder piercing the ears”, but this idiom is used for complimenting a person on his or her colossal reputation, implying that everyone is praising that person and the clamor fills the ear like thunder.

(lù) as a noun means dew. 雨露 (yǔlù rain and dew) often refers to grace and bounty.

(ní) is the secondary rainbow. What is the primary raindow called in Chinese?

We learned before that 晚霞 (wǎnxiá) is the evening glow at sunset.

(zhèn) means to shake or shock, or to be greatly shocked, as in 震惊 (zhènjīng). 地震 (dìzhèn) is an earthquake.

他听了这消息, 十分震惊.
Tā tīng le zhè xiāoxi, shífēn zhènjīng.
He was shocked to hear this piece of news.

(méi) is mildew. 发霉 (fāméi) is to become moldy.
倒霉 (dǎoméi), on the other hand, means to have bad luck.

今天又碰到他. 倒霉!
Jīntiān yòu pèng dào tā. Dǎoméi!
I ran into him again today. Just my luck!

The proper word for “tough luck” is 倒楣 (dǎoméi). However, 倒霉 (dǎoméi) has been so widely used that it has won legitimacy. Either way you write it, it’s not a happy word.

下雪天, 走路开车都要当心.
Xià xuě tiān, zǒulù kāichē dōu yào dāngxīn,
In snowy weather, walk and drive carefully.

For a short discussion of other weather conditions please see Chapter 22 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

How to say the splendor of love in Chinese?

光彩 (guāngcǎi) means splendor, luster, radiance or glory. 光辉 (guānghuī) also refers to the radiance, brilliance and glory such as that of the bright sun. Therefore, one could speak of the splendor of love as 爱的光彩 (ài de guāngcǎi) or 爱的光辉 (ài de guānghuī).

The traditional American folk song “Down in the Valley” provides a simple tune to which many trite love verses have been fitted. Here is one of the well known rhymes:

蛇 (shé) Snakes

蛇 (shé) Snakes

Roses love sunshine;
Violets love dew.
Angels in heaven
Know I love you.

玫瑰爱阳光;
Méigui ài yángguāng,
Roses love sunrays,

兰爱雨露.
Lán ài yǔlù.
Orchids love rain and dew.

永远都不忘,
Yǒngyuǎn dōu bù wàng
I’ll remember always,

非你莫属.
Fēi nǐ mò shǔ.
I belong to you.

Click on this link then select “Roses love sunshine” to hear a recording of the Chinese verses.

(shǔ) as a verb means to belong to. (mò) and (fēi) are both terms of negation. You know from your algebra classes that the product of two negative values is a positive value. Therefore, “If not to you, then I won’t belong.” is the same as “I will only belong to you.” The following example illustrates the same idea:

我决心非她不娶.
Wǒ juéxīn fēi tā bù qǔ.
I’m determined to marry no one but her.

敢情 (gǎnqing) is the colloquial way of saying “indeed” or “I dare say.” Don’t confuse it with the word 感情 (gǎnqíng), which is a noun that means feelings or emotions.

Remember the song “Love Somebody” that we sang a couple years ago? If you are quite sure your affection will be reciprocated, then you could substitute the last line with the following:

敢情我也是他的心上人.
Gǎnqing wǒ yě shì tā de xīn shàng rén.
And I know somebody loves me, too.

When talking about love, probably the last thing that comes to mind is a snake. Well, there is a fascinating Chinese tale called 白蛇传 (Báishézhuàn Legend of the White Snake), in which the heroine is a powerful white snake fairy who took on a lovely and graceful human form and married a mere mortal (and a weakling at that) with whom she fell in love. Add to the cast a faithful friend, the 青蛇 (qīng shé, blue snake), who is also a mystical being, and a meddling, unsympathetic Buddhist monk, the 法师 (fǎshī) or 和尚 (héshàng), drama ensues. There are many different versions of this beautiful and moving story of love, friendship and struggles against external interference of the unnatural union. You can get some details at this link.

白蛇同青蛇成了结拜姐妹.
Bái shé tóng qīng shé chéng le jiébài jiěmèi.
The White Snake and the Blue Snake become sworn sisters.

许仙与白素贞结为夫妻.
Xǔ Xiān yǔ Bái Sùzhēn jié wéi fūqī.
Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen tie the knot and become husband and wife.

法海和尚要捉拿白蛇.
Fǎhǎi héshàng yào zhuōná bái shé.
The monk, Fahai, wants to capture the White Snake.

If you are ambitions and want to see how much you can get out of a Beijing opera movie with only Chinese subtitles provided, then click on Legend of the White Snake.

Traditional Chinese operas, referred to as 京戏 (jīngxì) or 京剧 (jīngjù), are staged with little or no prop, and the performers use a set of established theatrical gestures to help project an emotion or an action involving an object (which is invisible to the audience). The female characters usually sing in a high-pitched voice that could sound annoying to the untrained ear. When these ladies sing rhyming verses to describe a beautiful scenery or to express their inner thoughts, a word (note) could be held for quite a long while. I think this Legend of the White Snake movie can serve as a good introduction to Chinese opera. Featuring Chinese subtitles, real-life scenes, and even special effects, it should be less of a cultural shock to you than a traditional Chinese opera performed on stage. The dialog is somewhat off from the standard Mandarin pronunciation and intonation, and may sound strange to you. The actors do a fabulous job with body language, though. And many of the scenes are slow enough to permit you to take a good look at the displayed Chinese characters. Perhaps you could make a Lunar New Year’s resolution to study and understand all the subtitles for this movie by the end of this year, 今年 (jīnnián), or next year, 明年 (míngnián), or the year after, 后年 (hòunián)?

祝你有个愉快的情人节!
Zhù nǐ yǒu gè yúkuài de Qíngrén Jié!
Have a pleasant Valentine’s Day!

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