Chinese Culture Series: Chinese spring festival

December 24th, 2009 by susanzeng

In a few months, the Chinese spring festival is coming. The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people. And all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living far away go back to home. It is becoming the busiest time for transportation systems for about half a month before and after the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with home returnees.

There are many customs accompanying the Spring Festival. Some are still following by people today, but others have disappeared. In the northern part of China, many families make delicious Laba porridge with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job’s tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, longan and gingko. And in southern part of China, many families make Tang Yuan which means family reunion.

The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month is called Preliminary Eve. At this time, people offer sacrifice to the kitchen god. Now however, most families make delicious food to enjoy themselves. After the Preliminary Eve, people begin preparing for the coming New Year. This is called “Seeing the New Year in”.

Before the New Year comes, the people completely clean the indoors and outdoors of their homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils. Then people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. The content varies from house owners’ wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. Also, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance.

The Chinese character “福fú” (meaning blessing or happiness) is a must. The character put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the “reversed fu” is homophonic with “fu comes”, both being pronounced as “福到了fú dào le.” What’s more, two big red lanterns can be raised on both sides of the front door. Red paper-cuttings can be seen on window glass and brightly colored New Year paintings with auspicious meanings may be put on the wall. People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively “鸡jī”, “鱼yú” and “豆腐dòu fǔ” mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness.

Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift, wrapped up in red paper. People in northern China will eat 饺子jiǎo zi, or dumplings, for breakfast, as they think “饺子jiǎo zi” in sound means “bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new”. Also, the shape of the dumpling is like gold ingot from ancient China. So people eat them and wish for money and treasure.

The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.


Learn Chinese Idiom: 一日千里 By leaps and bounds

December 21st, 2009 by susanzeng

一日千里 (By leaps and bounds)

Meaning: that horse run very fast, runs one of a thousand miles a day, now describe the progress of people or things quickly develop an extremely rapid rate.

Story: During Warring States Period, Prince Dan (太子丹) of Yan (燕国) was kept as hostage in Zhao along with Ying Zheng (嬴政) from Qin (秦国). They kept along well with each other.

Later, Ying Zheng returned to Qin and kept Prince Dan as Qin’s hostages. He did not give any special care to Prince Dan, but treated Dan bad and made things difficult for him. Prince found an opportunity and ran back to the Yan. After returning to his home, Prince Dan would like to revenge on Ying Zheng. However, Yan was such a small country and weak in strength, Prince Dan realized that it was impossible to carry out the revenge.

Soon, Qin sent troops to attack Qi (齐国), Chu (楚国), Han (韩国), Wei (魏国), Zhao (赵国) and other countries, and gradually approached Yan. Yan was very afraid of the monarch. Prince Dan was also very sad and turned to his teacher Ju Wu (鞠武) for help. Ju Wu said: “I have a good friend of mine, named Tian Guang (田光), he was very witty, Strategies, and you can discuss with him.”

Prince Dan treated Tian Guang with respect and said, “We hope you can help to resist Qin’s invasion.”

Tian Guang listened silently, holding the hand of Prince Dan and go outside. He pointed a horse in the yard and told a story to Dan. “There was a fine horse which could run more than a thousand miles a day. But when it is old, a bad horse can be run faster than it. Do you know the reason?” Dan Prince said: “That is because the horse does not have the energy to do so.”

“Yes! – All the stories you’ve heard about me happened in my youth and prime of life. But I am old now, I do not have the energy” Tian Guang went on saying “Although I am not able to help you, I would like to recommend my good friend Jing Ke (荆轲) who can shoulder this responsibility.

Later, Prince Dan made Jing Ke assassinate Ying Zheng of Qin, but ended with failure.

Source: 《史记·刺客列传》臣闻骐骥盛壮之时,—日而驰千里;至其衰老;驾马先之。


How to properly use Chinese words!

December 21st, 2009 by susanzeng

Many students always have a problem in learning Chinese: how to properly use the words. In Chinese, Some of the words can not translated in to English one by one accurately. For example “忙”, Chinese mainly means “to do a lot,” while English means busy. The main idea was “to concentrate on something,” Meaning between the two is close, but it is not equivalent to the relationship.

Give some example:

1. 认识,知道:in English , they are both “know”, students often say: “我知道王先生”; “我认识这件事.”

2. 热闹: (结婚的场面十分热闹) in English it translated into “lively”, “bustling with activity”, but students still do not understand or can not see what is bustling scene.

3. 玩儿: In English is “play”, “frolic, gambol or entertain oneself”. Students do not easy to understand the difference between “去公园玩儿” and “去老师家玩儿”.

4. 逛:we often say “逛商场”, “逛街”, “逛公园”. In English, it’s meaning of “stroll, wander, roam”. But it’s Seem to have less precise. The students say “ 逛图书馆”, “逛学校”.

5. 散心: we usually say “去公园玩玩, 散散心”. In English, 散心is meaning “relax”. So students may say: 我想看几部电影, 散散心.


My experience in teaching Chinese

December 2nd, 2009 by susanzeng

I have taught Chinese for almost 3 years. Some people often asked me: “Is teaching foreigners learn Chinese hard?” It is such a simple question, but not easy to answer. Chinese is my mother tongue. I am learning Chinese for so many years, and it should be no problem for me to teaching foreigners Chinese. In fact, during my teaching career, I often encountered some of the problems which will never occur when the Chinese people learning Chinese.

Chinese people use this language since they were born. We do not need to know the grammar, but express our meanings with the correct sentences. In fact, a Chinese language learner often does not know this, and simply ask the teacher to teach them the words to enrich their vocabulary.

Here is one example I met. One of my student learns “赶忙” (hastily). It is very easy for him to understand what it means. Then he had to learn how to use it in real situation. He may said: “要下雨了,我们赶忙回去吧.” Which should be used here “赶紧” or “赶忙”? As his teacher you have to teach him new words “赶紧” and “赶快” and the differences among these words. Try to make some in-depth and meticulous research before every lesson. Teaching foreigners without giving the explanation or putting the words into real situation will cause students’ confusion, where dictionary has no ready answers,

Teaching foreigners Chinese is by no means to teach with careful and patient. As a Chinese teacher, you can not simply explain or translate the words, but must be concentrated their study in all aspects of ontology and language, such as developing their own sense of the native language, finding Chinese sentences generated by law; learner’s cultural background investigation, psychological characteristics; understanding the basic process of learning a second language and so on.