When we experience fear, our heart (心) beats faster and our face turns pale/white (白).
怕 = 心 (heart) + 白 (white) = fear
Take note of how 心 looks when it is used as a component; it loses its curved bottom and the topmost stroke, like this 忄.
In Chinese, we use the phrase 明天 to refer to ‘tomorrow’; another interchangeable phrase for ‘tomorrow’ is 明日 (ming2 ri4).
明天 ＝ 明 (bright) + 天 (day) = [literally] (bright day); (tomorrow)
In different contexts, 天 can have different meanings such as sky, heaven, god, nature, weather, and day. When 天 means day, it has the same meaning as 日 (the sun), which we’ve already learned.
Chinese people write every single day as 天天 or 日日.
A side note: For anyone with English as a second language, do you know the difference between ‘everyday’ and ‘every day’? ‘Everyday’ is used as an adjective that describes something that happens or is used every day (or regularly). The phrase ‘every day’ also describes something that happens each day, but it’s more precise than ‘everyday’. For example, you could write ‘every third day…’, or ‘every day I read the paper’. This is much more specific than ‘everyday’, which you might use to say something like, ‘work is an everyday grind’, or ‘that’s his everyday outfit’.
That may be a little confusing, but fortunately the Chinese phrase 天天 can be used both ways. Sometimes Chinese is much easier than English!
By the way, there’s one popular Chinese pop song called 天天想你 (tian1 tian1 xiang3 ni3; miss you every day). It’s sung by Zhang Yusheng (張雨生). Check it out and see if you can recognise the phrase 天天 from the Chinese subtitles in the music video here: bit.ly/1uuz5rO!
Pinyin: tian1 tian1
(Traditional, Simplified and Kanji)
P.S. So how do you know if the phrase 天天 is being used as an adjective or an adverb in a Chinese sentence? It’s actually pretty easy! If 天天 is followed by a noun, e.g. 聖誕節 (shen4 dan4 jie2; Christmas), it’s just like ‘everyday’. On the other hand, if 天天 is followed by a verb, e.g. 回家 (hui2 jia1; go home), it’s like ‘every day’. Got it?
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.
本月, means ‘this month’. It consists the two characters: 本 and 月. 本 has various meanings, but here it means ‘this’. The character 月 is one that we’ve covered many times in the past, and it means ‘month’ here, not ‘moon’. If you haven’t come across either of them, you can check them out at:
For those of you who have learnt these two characters before, you may wonder why we don’t use their main definitions. Well, you can give it a try: ‘foundation moon’ doesn’t really make sense! In such cases, the characters must have alternative definitions.
A good learning strategy for characters like these is to focus on their main definition first e.g., 本’s main definition is ‘foundation’. When you review the character again, slowly add in alternative definitions to your practice. Soon, it’ll only take you a second to translate a phrase like 本月.
Do you have any creative learning strategies for mastering characters with various definitions? Share it with us!