犬 is the Chinese character for ‘dog’.
狗 is the Chinese character for ‘dog’, too.
So what’s the difference between them?
犬 is mainly used to refer to a category of dogs, such as 警犬 (police dogs) or 獵犬/猎犬 (hunting dogs).
If you want to say ‘this dog’ or ‘that dog’ or ‘my dog’, you should use the character 狗.
You should recognise the character 羊 (sheep) from compounds you’ve seen before like 美 (beautiful) and 祥 (auspicious). It’s quite common!
When it comes to beef in Chinese, you can use today’s keyword: 牛 (niu2; cow) to help you form the phrase for ‘beef’. Here are some other foods related to 牛, too:
牛肉 (niu2 rou4): beef (lit. cow meat)
牛肉麵 / 牛肉面 (niu2 rou4 mian4): beef noodle (lit. cow meat noodle)
牛奶 (niu2 nai3): milk (lit. cow milk)
Any other dishes you like that contain 牛? Do you know any other phrases with 牛?
Do you know that 牛肉麵 is actually a national dish of Taiwan? It is so popular that we even have an annual festival dedicated to it! Fancy trying to make some? Check out this easy-to-follow recipe and video: http://bit.ly/1QqtkZL.
Illustration: Hua Zhong Wen
Dragon (龙) is considered as the most auspicious creature in Chinese history. The image of dragon is closely associated with Chinese emperors and royalty. Chinese people also have a long held belief that they are ‘descendants of the dragon’ (龙的传人). Moreover, dragon is one of the twelve Chinese Zodiac.
Having a boy born in the year of Dragon, according to Chinese zodiac, is the dream for millions of families as those Dragon babies will have more prosperous career and fortune. Such firm belief in fact created a counter effect to the entire social infrastructure. In 2012, the year of Water Dragon, we witnessed a 5% surge of newborns (based on 16 million newborns annually), which created enormous pressure on the hospitals. They will face more fierce competition with their peers in education and job market as they grow.
龍/龙 pinyin: lóng/long2
The character 猴 (Monkey) is a combination of ‘beast’ 犭 and ‘lord’ 侯. 犭 indicates the meaning, while 侯 (hou2) gives the pronunciation. In fact, in ancient China, the official title of dukes or lords was pronounced ‘hou2’, the same as the pronunciation of 猴. The animal was therefore associated with an auspicious meaning.
猴 is the 9th in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The Years of the Monkey include 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028 and so on. The general image of people who were born in the year of monkey (猴年) is of always being clever and imaginative, just like the personality we would associate with the animal 猴.
猴 is not only a loveable animal but also the animal that Chinese artists like to paint or make artefacts about, such as paper-cutting with a monkey pattern or monkey style embroidery. Moreover, in ancient times, the Chinese paintings of the Monkey were also commonly used as gifts to wish people a long and healthy life.
猴 pinyin: hóu/hou2
Image courtesy of That’s Mandarin.
Reindeer – the animal mostly is associated with Christmas.
In Chinese, ‘reindeer’ is 馴鹿/驯鹿 (xun4 lu4/xùn lù). 馴/驯 means ‘tame’, and 鹿 means ‘deer’.
The earliest form of the character for ‘deer’ depicted a deer so it wasn’t such abstracted as you see in its current version; if you used a bit of imagination, in the character 鹿, you can imagine that 广 is deer’s antlers and its curving back, its head and face have transformed to the middle part of the character, and its front and rear legs are bent like the bottom part: 比.
In Chinese culture, 鹿 are known for their endurance, grace, and long life. You will also frequently see deer in Chinese art featuring court officials; it’s said that the deer represent a wish for fame, recognition, and a successful career.
In the image, you can see the horse is on its side and that’s how our ancestors designed the character 馬 (ma3), which means ‘horse’. Its simplified form is 马 (ma3).
As a building block, 馬 forms some very useful words, including 嗎 (ma; a question indicator) and 媽 (ma1; mum).
Even though there are quite a few strokes in 馬, I am sure you’ll be fine if you follow this step-by-step writing guide: http://bit.ly/1yXokSL. Afraid of making some small mistakes? Check the post here: http://on.fb.me/1GKLtON for some good advice!
When I think 馬, I think of the Chinese idiom here:
Pinyin: you4 yao4 ma3r fei2, you4 yao4 ma3r bu4 chi1 cao3.
Literal translation: ___________, ____________
Equivalent English idiom: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.