思 comprises of heart (心) and field (田). When your heart is cultivated in the field, you think of the people from the bottom of your heart.

Source: Chineasy


明 means ‘bright’ and 白 means ‘white’. In addition to these definitions, 明 and 白 can actually both mean ‘clear’ as well. So, when something is super clear to you, you ‘understand’ it and you can be ‘clear’ about it; that’s what 明白 means!

So, here’s 明白 in action:

1. 我明白了。 (wo3 ming2 bai2 le; I understood.)
2. 你明白嗎? (ni3 ming2 bai2 ma?; Do you understand?)
3. 你明白不明白? (ni3 ming2 bai2 bu4 ming2 bai2?; Do you understand?)

I know some of you are very good at Chinese grammar. So, could you help me explain what ‘了’ is doing in the 1st sentence? What’s the difference between the 2nd and 3rd sentence? Why do they have the SAME English translation but different Chinese wordings?

By the way, another Chinese word, 懂(dong3), also means ‘to understand’. In some sentences (like the three above), 懂 and 明白 can be used interchangeably. Do you recognise 懂?

Pinyin: ming2 bai2
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy


長大 = 長 (Long, To Grow) + 大 (Big) = [literally] (To Grow Big); (Grow Up)

The first character is the compound 長, which means “long” or “length.” Depending on its specific meaning, we will change the way it is pronounced.

When 長 means “long”, we will pronounce it like this: chang2:
長 as adjective: long, distant, profound, tall, good, deep, lasting
長 as noun: length, strong points
長 as adverb: permanent, very long

When it means “grow or elder”, the pronunciation changes to: zhang3.
長 as verb: (PINYIN: zhang3), to grow (ex: 長大, pinyin:zhang3da4, zhǎngdà)
長 as adjective: (PINYIN: zhang3), chief, elder (ex: 長輩, pinyin: zhang3bei4, zhǎngbèi)

A review of the compound 大 (big):

大 as adjective: big, senior, main, important, serious, strong, your
大 as adverb: very, greatly, fully
大 as noun: adult, grown-up, size, doctor
大 as verb: grow up, be brought up

長大 as verb: to grow up
長大 as adjective: grown up

PINYIN: 長大 (zhang3da4, zhǎngdà)
長大: Traditional and Kanji
长大: Simplified
Rarity: Common

In Asia, growing up, especially into adolescence, doesn’t always afford the same individual freedoms that newly minted adults have in Western culture. For example, unless a move is required for a job or to attend university, young asian adults will typically live with their families until they marry.

Source: Chineasy



Illustration: Hua Zhong Wen



入手 = 入 (To Enter) + 手 (Hand) = [literally] (To Enter One’s Hand); (To Start, To Begin)

So many activities begin by moving the hand, it’s pretty easy to see how 入手 means “to start”. You can imagine runners posed to begin a race, their hands ready to shoot forward to gain critical early momentum. Or maybe you’d like to think about an eating contest where participants’ fingers hover over a table full of hot dogs, waiting for the buzzer. Feel free to come up with your own association; the best way to remember new things is to connect it to something that’s important to you!

入 as verb: to enter, to come into, to join, to pay, to attain, to invade, to take in
入 as noun: income, entering tone in ancient Chinese

手 as noun: hand, a person good at a certain trade or doing a certain job, someone’s original handwriting, skill, ability, domain
手 as adverb: personally
手 as verb: to hold, to kill (ex: 徒手格鬥, unarmed combat, PINYIN: tu2shou3ge2dou4, túshǒugédòu)
手 as measuring word: 一手好菜 (good cook, PINYIN: yi4shou3hao3cai4, yìshǒuhǎocài)
手 as adjective: portable

入手 as verb: to start, to begin, to set one’s hand to

PINYIN: 入手 (ru4shou3, rùshǒu)
Style: Traditional and Simplified and Kanji
Rarity: Common

Source: Chineasy


扶=扌(手, Hand) + 夫 (Man) = [literally](A Man’s Hand); (To Assist, To Help)

This Chinese character 扶 means “to assist” or “to help”. This character dates back to the seal script, and includes the building block component 扌(hand; pinyin: shou3, shǒu) on the left, representing the character’s meaning, and the compound 夫 (man; pinyin: fu1, fū) on the right, indicating its pronunciation. As a whole, the compound 扶 means “support with the hand”. Pretty straightforward, really!

扶 as verb: to assist, to help, to support
扶 as noun: twig, branch

PINYIN: 扶 (fu2, fú)
Style:Traditional and Simplified and Kanji
Rarity: Common

Source: Chineasy


The compound character 分 was first introduced in mid-Jan ( Since then, I’ve taught you quite a few useful phrases containing 分; some of them carry positive meanings and some are a little bit sad. Let’s quickly review them:

Keyword – 分
分工 – to divide the work (fen1 gong1)
分家 – to divide property; split up a business (fen1 jia1)
分手 – to break up; split up (fen1 shou3)

Besides these examples, are there any other phrases containing 分? In addition to meaning ‘divide’ or ‘split’, do you remember that I also taught another usage of 分? What is it? Post your answers in the comments.

If you thought that was a bit too easy, here are some more challenges – try to see if you can give the English for the three sentences below. Good luck!

1. 分工合作很重要。 (Eng: ___________)
2. 今年下半年ebay 和 Paypal即将分家。 (Eng: __________)
3. 我和我的女朋友分手了。 (Eng: ____________)

Do you know which sentence(s) is/are written the SAME in both simplified and traditional Chinese characters?

Pinyin: fen1 / fēn
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy


分工 can be used in various situations, like at work, at home, or even between corporations and global organisations. One of the most common and useful expressions is 分工合作 (fen1 gong1 he2 zuo4), literally ‘divide the work and cooperate’. In other words, it means ‘share the work and help each other out’. So, if you are in charge of a big team, 分工合作 is a useful phrase to guide your attitude while delegating tasks! It’ll help build good teamwork and team spirit.

Here are some extra tips to use for 分工:

Pinyin: fen1 gong1
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:


分家 is a common family dispute, especially if it’s a big family.

分家 is a new phrase. 分(fen1) means ‘to divide’ and 家 means ‘home’ or ‘family’. When ‘dividing’ (分) the ‘home/family’ (家), we literally divide the family’s property. This can be a touchy subject, for sure!

However, when China used to be a society which was dominated heavily by farming, 分家 was a social norm and was done in an orderly fashion. Back then, families didn’t just divide their land; some of them divided the living space (e.g. who lived in which room, etc.), household items, and even cutleries. 分家 usually happened when siblings grew older, got married, and started their own family.

In addition to a division of family property, the phrase 分家 can also be applied to the business world. For example, you may have known that eBay and Paypal used to belong to the same publicly traded company. However, in September last year, eBay announced it would separate from PayPal into a separate publicly traded company in 2015.

So, let’s take a look at how to say this in Chinese!

In English: In 2015, eBay and Paypal will be splitting.
In Chinese: 2015年, eBay 和 Paypal 將要 分家。
In Pinyin: 2015 nian2, eBay he2 Paypal jiang1 yao4 fen1 jia1.

If you’re studying Business Chinese, why not use the sentence here to impress your teacher(s)? 😀

So, let’s do a final review:
分家 = 分 (to divide) + 家 (home/family) = divide a family’s property or split up a business

Pinyin: fen1 jia1
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy


When you ‘divide’ (分) the ‘heart’ (心), you distract your mind/attentions to other more interesting things instead of focusing on what you’re supposed to be doing. Our Chinese ancestors think that our ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ (心) are connected. Thus, when you have a ‘divided heart’, it’s the same as a ‘distracted mind’.

Here’s a quick review:
分心 = 分 (to divide) + 心 (heart) = to be distracted; to distract from

Finally, here’s 分心 in action:
1. 不要分心! (bu2 yao4 fen1 xin1; Don’t be distracted)
2. 我很容易分心。(wo3 hen3 rong2 yi4 fen1 xin1; I got distracted easily)

So, any teachers out there? What can you say to your students if they are daydreaming in class? 😀

Pinyin: fen1 xin1
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy


Today’s phrase (分手) is going to be a bit heartbreaking, I must say. 分 means ‘to divide’ or ‘to separate’ and 手 is ‘hand’. What does that mean? Divide a hand?? Actually, the phrase 分手 is about relationships. When two people are in love, they kiss, cuddle, and hold each other’s hands. And if one day they decide to go their own ways, they break up and they won’t hold each other’s hands anymore.

So, 分手 is used when couples (or anyone in a relationship) break up. In English, the phrase ‘break up’ can be used as a very general term. In Chinese, 分手 would only be used to describe the ‘break-up’ of an intimate relationship.

So, here’s the final review:
分手 = 分(To Divide) + 手(Hand) = Break Up / Split Up

Pinyin: fen1 shou3
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

P.S. If 分 and 手 are both new to you, you can check them out at:

Source: Chineasy


回 means “circle”, “return”, “turn around”, and as a measure word: “a time”.

回 as verb: 返回 OR 回家 (To Return), 回轉 (To Turn Around), 回心 (To Change), 回答 OR 回信 (To Reply), 回絕 (To Refuse).

回 as measure word: 一回 (Once), 上回 (Last Time), 好幾回 (Many Times)

回 as adjective: 回連 OR 回闢 (Winding)

回 as noun : 回族 (The Hui People)*

Source: Chineasy


加 is a combination of 力 (power) and 口 (mouth) and the word alone means ‘to add’, and it can also mean ‘increase’. Source: Chineasy


保 epresents a person protecting a child. Of course, the character that represents the “child” here also means “idiot”. Source: Chineasy


When we combine 困 (enclosure) with 住 (to reside), it means “to trap”. In this case, the definition of 住 is more like “stop”, so you can think of this phrase as an enclosure that stops you!

困住 = 困 (Enclosure) + 住 (To Reside) = To Trap

Source: Chineasy


入住 = 入 (To Enter) + 住 (To Reside, To Stay) = [literally] (To Enter and To Stay); (To Check In)

You can remember this phrase by thinking about the actions represented by each character. At an airport or hotel, you first enter (入) the building, then you must stop (住) and check in before you continue to your gate or room.

入住 pinyin ru4zhu4 (Traditional and Simplified styles)
入住 as verb: to check in

Source: Chineasy


Illustration : Hua Zhong Wen


Pinyin: da4 ku1
(Traditional and Simplified)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy


Remember the compound 祥 (auspicious)? Today’s character is a component in 祥. It was originally a pictogram of an altar, the kind that you sacrifice stuff on! Its current form still looks a little like a flat table with legs, doesn’t it?

Currently, 示 means “reveal”. Make a sacrifice and the gods may reveal themselves to you!

示 = 二 (Two) + 小 (Small) = To Reveal

By the way, you will sometimes see this character appear as 礻 when it’s used in a compound.

Pinyin: shi4
(Traditional, Simplified and Kanji)
Pronunciation/Stroke Order:

Source: Chineasy