Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We lost Pa4wa3luo2di4!

Luciano Pavarotti in Vélodrome Stadium, 15/06/02. Cropped version.

It's been almost a month since Pavarotti (帕瓦囉蒂 • pa4wa3luo2di4) passed away (去世 • qu4shi4)!

(I have been wanting to write about him for a while but, the truth is that I could not figure out how to write his name in Chinese.)

Luciano (盧恰諾 • Lu2qia4nuo4) Pavarotti was born (生於 • sheng1yu2) on October 12th, 1935 in Italy (意大利 • Yi4da4li4).

He was known as "King of the High Cs" ( 高音C之王 • gao1 yin1 C zhi1 wang2) and as the "World's First Tenor" (世界首席男高音 • shi4jie4 shou3xi2 nan2gao1yin1).

He made his debut (首演 • shou3yan3) at La Scala of Milan (米蘭·斯卡拉 • Mi3lan2 si1ka3la1) Opera House (歌劇院 • ge1ju4yuan4) in 1964. The following year he was invited to go (應邀去 • ying4yao1qu4) to Australia (澳大利亞 • ao4da4li4ya4) to perform and to make a record (唱片• chang4pian4).

From then on his popularity rose steadily (節節上升 • jie2jie2 cheng1wei2). He became the best (最佳 • zui4jia1) international (國際 • guo2ji4) stage opera (歌剧 • ge1 yu4) tenor (男高音 • nan2gao1yin1).

Pavarotti died (逝世 • shi4 shi4) at the age of 71 of Pancreatic Cancer (腺癌病 • xian4 ai2 bing4) at his home in Modena, Italy.

The have lost a great performer!

This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License (cc-by-sa-2.0). and was taken from Wikicommons

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Autumn season arrives and the ying1hua1 kai1

In the city of Huaibei, in the Province of Anhui (安徽省 • An1hui1sheng3), the Oriental Cherries (櫻花 • ying1hua1) belonging to the Rosaceae genus (薔薇科 • qiang2 wei2 ke1) of trees (樹 • shu4) once again (再度 • zai4 du4) have begun blooming (花開 • hua1 kai1).

The Oriental Cherry is a defoliating (落葉喬木 • luo4 ye4 jiao1 mu4) tree with a glossy (光澤 • guang1 ze2) purple-brownish (紫褐色 • zi3 he4 se4) bark (樹皮 • shu4 pi2). The bottle-green (深綠色 • shen1 lv4 se4) leaves are oval (橢圓形 • tuo3 yuan2 xing2) shaped with stiff serrated edges (邊緣芒齒 • bian1 yuan2 mang2 chi3). The inflorescences (開花 • kai1hua1) grow in clusters of at least 35 flowers (花 • hua1) with petals (花瓣 • hua1 ban4) colored from white (白色 • bai2 se4) to red (紅色 • hong2 se4).

A truly wonderful sight!

Note: Huabei is adjacent to the Yangtze River Delta (長江三角洲 • chang2jiang1san1jia3zhou1)

© Photographer: Olga Martelet | Agency:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A 500 sui4 turtle found in Guang3dong1

A villager (村民 • cun1 min2) from Guandong province (廣東省 • Guang3dong1 sheng3) captured (獲 • huo4) a wild (野生 • ye3 sheng1) turtle (鱉 • bie1) which the experienced fisherman guessed (猜測 • cai1 ce4) could be at least 500 years old (五百歲了 • wu3bai3 sui4 le5).

While fishing (釣 • diao4) in a brook near the Raoping district in the city of Chaozhou (潮州市饒平縣 • Chao2zhou1 shi4 Rao2ping2 xian4), he detected (發現了 • fa1xian4 le5) a giant turtle's neck (巨大的鱉的脖子 • ju4da4 de5 bie1 de5 bo2zi5) caught in the fishing line (魚線 • yu2 xian4).

The giant turtle's weight (重量 • zhong4 liang4) is calculated to be approximately 70 kilograms (公斤 • gong1 jin1); the body weight (體重 • ti3 zhong4) of an ordinary (普通 • pu3 tong1) man. The appearance of the turtle's shell (殼 • ke2) is that of a piece (一塊 • yi1 kuai4) of green (綠色 * lv4 se4) glossy (光滑 • guang1 hua5) stone (石頭 • shi2tou5).

This "Large Longevity God" (大壽星 • da4 shou4xing1), as the villagers called the turtle, was scheduled to be released (放 • fang4) into a large reservoir (大水庫 • da4 shui3 ku4) in Raoping as part of the Mid Autumn Celebrations.

Good for them!

"© Photographer: Noel Powell | Agency:"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

yin3shi2 da1pei4 that will keep you healthy

It is very important to pay particular attention (講究 • jiang3 jiu4) to the correct food combination (正確的搭配 • zheng4 que4 de5 da1 pei4) we serve on our tables (桌 • zhuo1). The proper mixture of foods can allow us to obtain (獲得 • huo4 de2) an excellent nutrition (營養 • ying2 yang3); however, the wrong combination (錯誤搭配 • cuo4wu4 da1pei4) might even put our health (身體 • shen1 ti3) in jeopardy (危害 • wei1 hai4).

Fish (魚 • yu2) & Tofu (bean curd) (豆腐 • dou4fu5)

Tofu contains great amounts (大量 • da4 liang4) of calcium (鈣 • gai4) which may prevent (預防 • yu4 fang2) many kinds of osteopathic diseases (骨病 • gu3 bing4) such as child rickets (兒童佝僂病 • er2tong2 kou4 lou2 bing4) or osteoporosis (骨質疏鬆症
gu3 zhi4 shu1 song1 zheng4). However, the rate of calcium absorption is very low (率 • lv4) if eaten on its own. On the other hand, fish is rich ( 富 • fu4) in vitamin (維生素 • wei2 sheng1 su4) D. Fish eaten together (一起 • yi4 qi3) with Tofu makes the calcium better assimilated (吸收 • xi1 shou1).

Think of it, besides being a very tasty combination is excellent for your health!

© Photographer: Vincent Go | Agency:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

10 shu4 tou2fa = 0.56 karat lan2 zuan4

According to the "Daily Telegraph" (每日電訊報 • mei3ri4 dian4xun4 bao4), a lock of 10 hairs (10束頭髮 • shi2shu4 tou2fa5) belonging to the late Beethoven (貝多芬 • Bei4duo1fen1) have been turned into a diamond (鑽石 • zuan4 shi2) which is expected to auction (拍賣 • pai1 mai4) for at least £500,000 (50萬英鎊 • wu3shi2 wan4 ying1bang4).

This is the first time in history ( 有史以來第一次 • you3 shi3 yi3 lai2 di4 yi1 ci4) that a diamond has been ever created out of carbon (碳 • tan4) extracted from a celebrity (名人 • ming2 ren2).

The lock of hair belonged to the collection of "famous hairs" at the University (大學 • da4xue2) Archives (檔案 • dang4an4) in Connecticut (康涅狄格 • kang1nie4di2ge2) in the US. This authenticated collection (收集 • shou1ji2) includes hairs from Albert Einstein (愛因斯坦 • Ai4yin1si1tan3) and former president (前總統 • qian2 zong3tong3) Abraham Lincoln (林肯 • Lin2ken3).

Beethoven's hair, estimated to be about 200 years old, was donated (捐贈 • juan1zeng4) to LifeGem a company (公司 • gong1 si1) specializing in creating high-quality (優質 • you1 zhi4) diamond from the carbon of loved ones. Experts (專家 • zhuan1jia1) at LifeGem extracted (提煉 • ti2lian4) 130 milligrams of carbon (毫克碳 • hao2ke4 tan4) from the hair strands and created 3 round diamonds. One of them will be auctioned on Ebay. The proceedings will go to charity (慈善 • ci2shan4). The second one will return to the University Archives and the 3rd will be put on display at the LifeGem archives.

Photo: Ludwig van Beethoven 1820 (Joseph Karl Stieler)
This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the United States, Canada, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't eat too many yue4bing3 during Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節 • zhong1qiu1jie2) is a popular Asian festival that celebrates abundance and togetherness and which dates back over 3,000 years. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. This year it will celebrated on the 25th of September.

Mooncakes (月餅 • yue4bing3), traditionally eaten during this festival, are round thick pastries with a salted egg yolk suspended inside a sweetened bean paste. Contemporary mooncakes are quite varied, some are made with red jujubes (紅棗 • hong2 zao3), an edible berrylike fruit of a Eurasian plant formerly taken as a cough cure, husked lotus (蓮子• lian2zi3), green beans (綠豆 • lv4 dou4), almond (杏仁 • xing4ren2) among many other ingredients.

Mooncakes are already piling up in the store shelves of every Asian country and every family is beginning to accumulate their share of treats but from any nutritionist (營養學家 • ying2yang3xue2jia1) point of view, eating them in excess is not very good for the health (健康• jian4kang1).

Since they are very rich and dense, some people like to eat them for breakfast (早餐 • zao3can1) or as an early snack (零食 • ling2shi2); however, mooncakes are not a suitable (不適宜 • bu4kuo4yi2) meal. Even though (雖然 • sui1ran2) their caloric content ( 能量 • neng2liang4) is comparatively high (比較大 • bi3jiao4 da4), they contain large amounts of sugar (糖 • tang2) and grease (油脂 • you2zhi1), two substances which do not satisfy (不能 滿足 • bu4neng2 man3zu2) a person's nutrition demand. Their nutritional (營養 • ying2yang3) content (含量 • han2liang4) is low (就低 • jiu4 di1); apart from the sugar and the fat, they only contain a few minerals (礦物 • kuang4wu4) and some micronutrients (微量營養素 • wei1liang4ying2yang3su4).

Mooncakes are best ( 最好 • zui4hao3) eaten fresh (吃新鮮 • chi1 xin1xian1). Leftovers (吃不完 • chi1 bu4 wan2) should be refrigerated (放冰箱 • fang4 bing1xiang1) because their high fat content is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria (細菌 • xi1jun1). It is advisable to accompany them with some tea (茶 • cha2 ) or hot water (熱水• re4shui3) to assist (幫助 • bang1zhu4 ) the digestion (消化 • xiao1hua4) and to eliminate the greasy aftertaste (除油膩感 • chu2 you2ni4 gan3).

Many nutritionist think of mooncakes as junk food (垃圾食品 • la1ji1 shi2pin3) so if you suffer from diabetes (糖尿病 • tang2niao4bing4), Cholecystitis (膽囊炎 • dan3nang1yan2), circulatory diseases (心腦血管病 • xin1 nao3 xue4guan3 bing4) or obesity (肥胖病 • fei2pang4 zhe3) it would be wise to stay clear of these Chinese treats. Needless to say, if you have any carious tooth (蟲牙 • chong2ya2) clean your teeth inmediately (立即刷牙 • li4ji2 shua1 ya2) after!

© Photographer: Norman Chan | Agency:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A barrel of yuan2 you2 for US$ 80!

On September 13th, the price of Crude Oil (原油 • yuan2 you2) reached the historical record (歷史紀錄 • li4 shi3 ji4 lu4) price (價格 • jia4 ge2) of 80 US Dollars (美元 • mei3 yuan2) per barrel (每桶 • mei3 tong3) at the New York Mercantile Exchange (紐約商品交易市場 • niu3yue1 shang1pin3 jiao1yi4 shi4chang3); likewise, at the London (倫惇 • lun2dun1) Commodity Exchange, it reached 77.5 US dollar per barrel. This is an "all time high", not seen since 1979 when the Iranian (伊朗 • yi1lang3) Islam (伊斯蘭 • yi1 si1 lan2) revolution (革命 • ge2 ming4) erupted.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (石油輸出國組織 • shi2 you2 shu1 chu1 guo2 zu3 zhi1) (OPEC • 歐佩克 • ou1 pei4 ke4) had already resolved (決定• jue2 ding4) to increase oil production ( 提高產量 • ti2 gao1 chan3 liang4) in order to alleviate (緩解 • huan3 jie3) the impact that the dramatic oil price increment has had on the world's economic development (經濟發展 • jing1 ji4 fa1 zhan3) but to to little or no avail. Crude oil keeps on the rise with no signs of stopping.

In view of the soaring petroleum prices, many (很多• hen3duo1) countries (國家 • guo2jia1) are seriously starting to develop biological sources of energy (開始發展生物能源 • kai1shi3 fa1zhan3 sheng1wu4 neng2yuan2). At present, Europe (歐洲 • ou1 zhou1) leads the field of biodiesel development - fuel made from natural, renewable sources, such as new and used vegetable oils and animal fats, for use in a diesel engine - while the United States and Brazil (巴西 • Ba1xi1) are at the front of the manufacture of Ethanol (乙醇• yi3 chun2)

The downside to these new developments is that they require massive amounts of raw material (原材料 • yuan2 cai2 liao4). In 2006, the US invested 42 million tons of corn (玉米• yu4 mi3) to produce ethanol. According to the global food consumption level figures, this amount of corn could fully satisfy (足可以 滿足 • zu2 ke3yi3 man3zu2) the yearly alimentary needs of at least 1.35 hundred million people!

Furthermore, experts (分析人士 • fen1 xi1 ren2 shi4) believe that the use of grain crops for the development of biofuels will undoubtedly make grain prices climb, thus generating an unwanted world-wide chain reaction (連鎖反應 • lian2 suo3 fan3 ying4) of uncontrollable product price increases.

Damned if we do; damned if we don't. We stand at a historic crossroads!

Remember that for Chinese pronunciation purposes and if using Pinyin Talker, when there are several 3rd tones in a row, all but the last one becomes a 2nd tone.

© Photographer: Gino Santa Maria | Agency:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The fei1zhou1 da4 xing1xing5 might become extinct in 10 years

Gorillas (大猩猩 • da4 xing1xing5), the largest living primates and human's closest relatives (类最近的近亲 • ren2lei4 zui4jin4 de5 jin4 qin1), are seriously at risk of extinction (滅絕 • mie4 jue2)

In the past 15 years ( 在过去15年 • zai4 guo4qu5 shi2wu3nian2), the Ebola (埃博拉 • ai1 bo2 la1) virus (病毒 • bing4 du2] )has made 1/3 of the gorilla's population disappear. Scientist (科學家• ke1 xue2 jia1) warn that if this tendency continues (繼續下去• ji4 xu4 xia4 qu5) , the entire species will be extinguished (消亡 • xiao1wang2) in less than 12 years.

This terrible virus has killed at least 1300 people in Central Africa (中非• Zhong1 Fei1) in the last 30 years. In most of these cases the source has been traced to the consumption of contaminated apes (猿猴• yuan2hou2) or antelopes (羚羊 • ling2yang2).

Carefully monitoring of the gorilla population in the Republic of Congo (剛果共和國 • Gang1guo3 gong4he2guo2) has revealed that the dissemination of the disease between gorilla groups has played an important role in the spread of the Ebola virus.
Unfortunately, due to the high mortality rate (死亡率• si3 wang2lv4) affecting the gorilla population, it would only take about 23 soccer fields (兩三個足球場 • liang3san1 ge4 zu2qiu2 chang3) to locate the remaining global (全球 • quan2 qiu2) surviving members of this species (種 • zhong3).

Isn't this sad?

© Photographer: Vincent Giordano | Agency:"

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ba1bi3 wa2wa5 is going to China!

The world famous Barbie Doll (芭比娃娃 • ba1bi3 wa2wa5) will journey through China for the first time in her life. From January 2008 to January 2009 she will be on a traveling exhibition (巡展 • xun2zhan3) through several of China's major cities (大城市 • da4cheng2shi4): 重庆 • Chong2qing4, 青岛 • Qing1dao3, 杭州 • Hang2zhou1, 昆明• Kun1ming2, 上海 • Shang4hai3 and 北京 • Bei3jing1.

Barbie was created by Ruth Handler, an american (美国人 • mei3guo2ren2)
businesswoman and has been distributed worldwide by Mattel, Inc. (美泰公司 • mei3 tai4 gong1si1) since 1959. She named the doll after her daughter (女儿• nv3er2) Barbara (芭芭拉 • ba1ba1la1).

Barbie dolls have been marketed portraying at least 45 (si4shi2 wu3) different nationalities (个不同的 国籍 • ge5 bu4tong2 de5 guo2ji2) and no less that same number of job occupations (职业 • zhi2ye4). As years go by we have seen Barbie as an astronaut (宇航员 • yu3hang2yuan2), a pilot (飞行员 • fei1xing2yuan2), a flight stewardess (空姐 • kong1jie3), a computer designer (电脑设计师 • dian4nao3 she4ji4shi1), a doctor (医生 • yi1sheng1), a teacher (教师 • jiao4shi1), a warrior (战士 • zhan4shi4), an athlete (运动员 • yun4dong4yuan2) and, of course, as a movie (影星 • ying3xing1) and pop star (歌星 • ge1xing1).

She has been a very progressive girl always changing with the times; we have seen not only changes in her hairstyle (发型 • fa1xing2) and clothing attire (服装 服饰 • fu2zhuang1 fu2shi4) but also in her race (种族 • zhong3zu2), skin color (肤色 • fu1se4) and language (语言 • yu3yan2).

That's probably why she has so many fans around the globe! and the number keeps growing...

You can read the Chinese News article here
Barbie is a trademark of Mattel, Inc. You can download the image as a Screensaver here

Practice your Chinese language pronunciation for free with Pinyin Talker

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How Many Tears

Li Yu (李煜 • li3 yu4) was the last emperor of the Southern Tang dynasty. He was known as Li Houzhu (李後主 • li3 hou4zhu3), literally "the latter Lord Li"; as Houzhu of Southern Tang (南唐後主 • nan2 tang2 hou4zhu3), literally "the latter lord of Southern Tang", and posthumously, as Prince of Wu (吳王• wu2 wang2).
He was also a poet. His best-known poems were composed during the years after the Song formally ended his reign in 975. He was created the Marquess of Wei Ming (違命侯 • wei2 ming4 hou2), literally, the Marquess of Disobeyed Edicts. Li's works from this period dwell on his regret for the lost kingdom and the pleasures it had brought him.

"How Many Tears" or "Gazing at the South" is one of his poems from this later period.

duo1shao5 lei4
duan4 lian3 fu4 heng2 yi2
xin1shi4 mo4 jiang1he2 lei4 shuo1
(worry)(not)(with) (together)(tears)(speak)
feng4 sheng1 xiu1 xiang4 lei4 shi2 chui1
chang2 duan4 geng4 wu2 yi2

The following english translation is from

"How many tears
Criss-cross your cheeks and run across your face!
Don't try to speak when worry makes you weep,
Nor play the flute when it will bring your tears,
Or surely then your heart will break."

You can practice the chinese pronunciation for this poem using Pinyin Talker. Remember, this tool is not meant to simulate natural speech but it will give you a clear pronunciation model for each of the syllables

Li Houzhu. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from Web site:

"© Photographer: Mel Gama | Agency:"

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

A king's breakfast!

I was always told that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. From what I have read, it seems that the nutrients consumed at breakfast are utilized more efficiently by the body since they provide a steady stream of glucose to the body.
In western countries, the breakfast meal usually includes plenty of carbohydrates and proteins. The picture shown is that of a typical 西部 早餐 • xi1bu4 zao3can1 • Western breakfast.

I have found three different ways to order Pancakes in Chinese:

薄煎餅 • bo2 jian1bing3 • literally, thin fried cake or biscuit,
早餐蛋炳 • zao3can1 dan4bing3 • early meal egg biscuit, or
烙餅 • lao4bing3 • biscuit baked in a pan.

Of course, most people eat their pancakes with:

奶油 • nai3you2 • or 黃油 • huang2you2 • butter ; 枫糖浆 • feng3tang2 jiang3 • maple syrup and even some 鲜奶油 • xian1 nai3you2 • whipped cream.

If you are really hungry, then you can order a 煎蛋 • jian3dan4 • fried egg and some 煙肉 • yan1 rou4 • smoked meat or 培根 • pei2gen1• bacon to go with it, although I think that's pushing the "cholesterol" gauge a bit to far!

A healthier alternative would include some 草莓 • cao3mei2 • strawberries ; 藍莓 • lan2mei2 • blueberries or any other fruit.

Of course, a glass of fresh 橘子汁 • ju2zi5zhi1 • Orange Juice or any other natural 果汁 • guo3zhi1 • fruit Juice is the perfect accompaniment.

To finish up the meal, a nice and hot cup of 咖啡• ka1fei1 • coffee is a must!

if there is truth in the old adage ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper’, then this breakfast is a good way to start the day.

Happy Chinese language pronunciation with Pinyin Talker!

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Movies can teach you

Learning to speak Chinese is no easy task. It requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. The process can be so frustrating at times you may be tempted to just drop it!.
There are literally thousands of resources available on the web to help you in your studies but one thing I have found to be of enormous help is watching Chinese movies. I cover the subtitles and listen to the audio in Mandarin just to force myself to find and recognize familiar words. It helps a great deal to get used to the sound of natural or connected Chinese speech. It will definitely help you improve your Chinese language pronunciation.

A great movie to practice is "House of the Flying Daggers". I must have watched this film at least 3 dozen times . In all honesty, one of the reasons I keep watching it over and over again is because I AM MADLY IN LOVE with both Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, but that's another story altogether.

House of the Flying Daggers ( 十面埋伏 • shi2 mian4 mai2fu2) is a movie of the 武俠 • wu3xia2 • chivalry genre. From what I have read, the four character idiom means "lying in an ambush in ten sides".

Shi2 is the word for the number ten; 面• mian4, refers to side, aspect, surface or area; and 埋伏
mai2fu2 is a the word for "ambush" (where 埋 • mai2 = bury and 伏 • fu2 = prostrate or hide).

During the reign of the Tang dynasty (唐朝 • tang2chao2) in China, a secret organization called "The House of the Flying Daggers" rises and opposes the government. A police officer called Leo (劉船長 • liu2chuan2zhang3) sends officer Jin (金船長 • Jin1chuan2zhang3) to investigate a young dancer named Mei (小妹 • xiao3mei4), claiming that she has ties to the "Flying Daggers". Leo arrests Mei, only to have Jin break her free in a plot to gain her trust and lead the police to the new leader of the secret organization.

When I first saw the movie I had no idea that 章子怡 (zhang1 zi3yi2) could sing at all. As it happens, she does and beautifully. The movie introduces a theme performed by her and borrowed from a famous poem written by 李延年• li3 yan2nian2, a poet from the Han Dynasty (漢朝 • han4chao2).

These are the lyrics with some personal annotations to help you understand where the meanings come from:

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You can listen to the song here
Remember you can practice your Chinese language pronunciation online with Pinyin Talker!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Don't do Tai Chi, do Tai4ji2quan2 instead!

If you to China hoping to learn Tai Chi, you will probably end up studying something entirely different!

The correct word is 太極拳 • Tai4ji2quan2 which some people translate as Shadow Boxing. Tai4ji2quan2 combines exercise and fighting skills and it contains rich ancient Chinese philosophy. It integrates concepts from several martial arts (武術 • wu3shu4), from 氣功 • qi1qong1, Chinese medicine and from the elements of yin and yang.

If you want to learn Tai4ji2quan2, , say from a teacher, this is what you should say:

我想學太極拳 wo3 xiang3 xue2 tai4ji2quan2

If you would like to practice with a friend or on your own, then say:

我想練太極拳 wo3 xiang3 lian4 tai4ji2quan2

If you just want to "do" some Tai4ji2quan2, then say:

我想打太極拳 wo3 xiang3 da3 tai4ji2quan2

There are several styles of Tai4ji2quan2, most of them named after the name of their founders. One of these is the Yang Style.
I came across the list of the movements that comprise the traditional Yang slow style. I think it would be interesting to use this list to practice some Chinese pronunciation.

This style comprises 81 movements. Let's start with the first 10:

(1) 預備式 • yu4bei4 shi4 • Preparation position
(2) 太極拳起式 • tai4ji2quan2 qi3 shi4 • Commencement of Taijiquan
(3) 攬雀尾 • lan3 qiao1 wei3 • Grasp the bird’s tail
(4) 單鞭 • shan4 bian1 • Single whip
(5) 提手上式 • ti2 shou3 shang4 shi4 • Step forward and raise hands
(6) 白鶴亮翅 • bai2he4 liang4 chi4 • White stork spreading its wing
(7) 摟膝拗步 • lou1 xi1 ao3 bu4 • Brush knee and twist step
(8) 手揮琵琶 • shou3 hui1 pi2pa2 • Play the fiddle
(9) 左右摟膝拗步 • zuo3you4 lou1 xi1 ao3 bu4 • Brush knee and twist step
(10) 手揮琵琶 • shou3 hui1 pi2pa2 • Play the fiddle

It's time stop so you can practice your tai4ji2quan2 movements and your Chinese pronunciation.
Happy learning!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chinese Martial Arts

(photo) Demonstrating Kung Fu at Daxiangguo Monestary, Kaifeng, Henan. Taken by Ariel Steiner. - Wikipedia Commons

Kung Fu
is the prevailing term when referring to Chinese martial arts. Funny enough, the term Kung Fu (功夫 • gong1fu1) actually refers to an individual's accomplishments or acquired skill, which could be in the field of martial arts, cooking, dancing, or what have you. Gong1 (功) means "contribution; achievement" and Fu1 (
夫) means "work".
Another term that has become very popular lately, I imagine thanks to the proliferation of Chinese actors and actresses in the hollywood scene, is Wushu (武術 • Wu3shu4). This term is more precise and it does refer to martial activities: Wu3 (武 ) means "martial or military" and Shu4 (術) referst to " method or technique".

Other martial related terms are:

武打 • wu3da3 • Traditional Chinese schools of martial arts
武德 • wu3de2 • Martial Morality
武打片 • wu3da3pian4 • Martial arts movie
武功 • wu3gong1 • martial arts skill
武俠 • wu3xia2 • Chivalry
武俠小說 • wu3xia2xiao3shuo1• Martial arts novel

*Traditional martial arts deal with the study of martial arts not just as a means of self-defense or mental training, but also as a system of ethics. Wu3de2 (武德) can be translated as "martial morality" and is constructed from two Chinese characters, "wu3" (武) which means martial and "de2" (德) which means virtue or righteousness. Wu3de2 (武德) deals with two aspects; "morality of deed" and "morality of mind". The ultimate goal is reaching no extremity or limit (Wu2ji2, 無極) - wu2 • without; ji2 • extreme - where both wisdom and emotions are in harmony with each other.

• Concepts referring to Morality of deed:

  • Humility (謙虛 qian1xu1)
  • Loyalty (忠誠 zhong1cheng2)
  • Respect (尊敬 zun1jing4)
  • Righteousness (正義 zheng4yi4)
  • Trust (信賴 xin4lai4)
• Concepts referring to Morality of mind:
  • Courage ( 勇氣 yong3qi4)
  • Endurance (忍耐 ren3nai4)
  • Patience (耐心 nai4xin1)
  • Perseverance (毅力 yi4li4)
  • Will (意志 yi4zhi4)
My favorite Chinese Martial Artists:
Credit: International action-movie star and Hong Kong native Jackie Chan enjoys his experiences on the flight deck during a tour of the Kitty Hawk. USS Kitty Hawk's current mission is to provide a forward presence in the Asia/Pacific region, conduct training and exercises with regional allies, and, as America’s “9-1-1” Battle Group, remain available to respond to emergent national taskings wherever and whenever needed. (Image 021202-N-0271M-011)
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Lee M. McCaskill - Wikipedia Commons

Jackie Chan (B. 1954, 成龍 • cheng2long2) - Hong Kong martial artist and actor widely known for introducing physical comedy into his martial arts performances, and for actually doing most of the stunts in his films. One of my favorite Jackie Chan's film is "Who am I". I don't ever remember laughing so hard!

Bruce Lee 李振藩 • His real name was li3 zhen4fan1 although if you look him up in a Chinese dictionary you'll probably find
李小龍 • li3xiao3long2 for his stage name. He was and still is my brother's idol! He is considered an important icon in the 20th century.

And last but least,
Jet Li (B. 1963, 李連杰 • li3 lian2jie2) A five-time sport wu3shu4 champion of China, also an accomplished movie actor. You just have to love him in "Hero" and "Fearless".

* Reference: Wikipedia

Monday, September 3, 2007

Asking for 方向 (fang1xiang4) Directions

If you happen to be in China and you ask someone on the street for directions, it is a good idea to listen for these key words in their answer:

北 • Bei3 • North
南 • Nan2 • South
東 • dong1 • East
西 • xi1 • West

東南 • dong1nan2 • Southeast
西南 • xi1nan2 • Southwest
東北 • dong1bei3 • Northeast
西北 • xi1bei3 • Northwest

左 • zuo3 • Left
右 • you4 • Right
左邊 • zou3bian5 • Left Side
右邊 • you4bian5 • Right Side

在(…)的左邊 • zai4 (…) de5 zou3bian5 • Is on the left of (…)
在(…)的右邊 • zai4 (…) de5 you4bian5 • Is on the right of (…)

后 • hou4 • Back
前 • qian2 • Front
對面 • dui4mian4 • across from; directly opposite
前面 • qian2mian5 • in front (of)
后面 • hou4mian5 • in back (of)

遠 • yuan3 • far
近 • jin4 • near; close
近於 • jin4yu2 • close to; near to
向 • xiang4 • towards
向前 • xiang4qian2 • foward
向后 • xiang4hou4 • backward

Chinese people seem to be very spatial oriented so it might be wise to take a compass along!

Remember you can practice your Chinese Language Pronunciation with Pinyin Talker, the online tool

Sunday, September 2, 2007

wo3 ke3le5 A beer for me, please!

After I finished writing my last post about Chinese tea, I though, well maybe some people don't like drinking tea at all! What if they want to ask for something a little stronger? So i figured I would find out how to go about ordering other types of drinks.

I'm no expert on the Chinese Language but I imagine the sentence structure would remain the same:

我想喝茶 wo3 xiang3 he1 (cha2)
(I) (want) (drink) (tea)
I would like to drink tea

The first word you should know is (
酒) jiu3 which means liquor. You'll see this character repeated over and over again!

伏特加酒 • Vodka • fu2te4jia1 jiu3
白蘭地酒 • Brandy • bai2lan2di5jiu3
威士忌酒 • Whisky • wei1shi4ji4jiu3
杜松子酒 • Gin • du4song1zi3jiu3
啤酒 • Beer • pi2jiu3
紅葡萄酒 • Red Wine • hong2pu2tao2jiu3
葡萄酒 • Wine • pu2tao2jiu3
白葡萄酒 • White Wine • bai2 pu2tao2jiu3
馬蒂尼雞尾酒 • Martini cocktail • ma3 di4ni2 ji1wei3jiu3
苦艾酒 • Vermouth • ku3ai4jiu3
蘭姆酒 • Rum • lan2 mu3jiu3
龍舌蘭酒 • Tequila • long2she2lan2jiu3

If you have managed to order drinks in Chinese, then here you have some handy phrases that will make you sound like a pro:

為我們的友誼干杯! • To our friendship! • wei4 wo3men5 de5 you3yi4 gan1bei1!
干杯! • Bottoms up! Cheers! • gan1bei1!
為你的健康干杯 • To your health • wei4 ni3de5 jian4kang1 gan1bei1

I'm not much of a drinker so my repertoire is not that extensive. My apologies for that!

Now, go order some drinks but try not to get too 酒醉 (jiu3zui4 • drunk)!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The most popular beverage in China

Undoubtedly, tea is the most popular beverage in China. It is said to possess curative properties, from improving eyesight to helping reduce weight. Whether those claims are true or not, a nice warm cup of tea is undeniably delicious!

There is a wide variety of Chinese tea but the most popular are mainly divided into the following categories:

綠茶 Green tea • lü3cha2 (for Pinyin Talker use the following lv3cha2)
This is an unfermented tea with a clear taste and dark green color. The most famous brand is the West Lake Dragon Well Tea - xi1hu2 long2jing1cha2 which is produced in Hangzhou.

紅茶 Black tea • hong2cha2
This is a fermented tea with a fruit fragance and mellow taste with a sweet aftertaste.
Funny enough this tea is not black but red. In fact, "hong2" means red.

烏龍茶 Oolong tea • wu1long2cha2

This is a semi-fermented tea with a sweet aroma and concentrated taste. It is produced in Fujian and Taiwan. One of the most famous brands is the Iron Goddess of Mercy Tea - tie3guan1 yin1 cha2.

花茶 Scented tea or Herbal tea • hua1cha2

This variety of tea is produced by smoke-processing tea leaves with flower petals. Jasmine tea - mo4li4hua1cha2 - with its clear taste is an example of this kind of tea.

So how do you ask for a cup of tea?

我想喝茶 wo3 xiang3 he1 cha2 • I would like to drink tea
(I) (want) (drink) (tea)

喝红茶还是绿茶? hong1cha2 hai2sh5i lv3cha2? • Black tea or green tea?
(red/black tea) (or) (green tea)

绿茶,謝謝 lv3cha2, xie4xie5 • Green tea, thank you

To your health!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where? There!

People from different parts of China prefer different words to express the same idea and Putonghua or Mandarin, also incorporate these variations.

For example, "nar3" or "na3li5" both mean "where" and "nar3" and "Na3li5", likewise, mean "there".
As I understand, people in the north of China prefer the "r" sound, whereas southerners prefer a crisper sound as in "na3li5".

Pinyin Talker adheres to the crispier sound of the south.

Example phrases using na3li3:

na3li5 ke3yi3mai3 shou3ji1? - where can I buy a mobile phone?
(where) (can buy) (mobile phone)

ni3de5 lao3jia1zai4 na3li5? - Where is your hometown?
(your) (hometown) (is) (where)

Ni3 qu4 na3li5? - Where are you going?
(you) (go) (where)?

Ni3 zai4 na3li5? - Where are you?

na3li3 ke3yi3 chou3yan3? - Where can I smoke?
(where) (can) (smoke)

fan4dian4 zai4 na3li? - Where is the restaurant?

zai4 na3li - It is there
(is) (there)

For pronunciation purposes and when using Pinyin Talker, if there are 3 or more consecutive 3rd tones, change each 3rd tone preceding the final 3rd tone into a 2nd tone.

Happy Learning!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Go strike a conversation in Chinese

Don't be surprised if you get a very warn and friendly response to your enthusiasm in speaking Chinese. From my own experience, I can guarantee you that Chinese people will truly appreciate the effort you make to communicate with them in their own language. And don't worry if you don't get right the first time: "Saving Face" is deeply ingrained in that culture so rest assured they will not make you feel embarrassed for making a mistake.

You can strike a conversation with just a few simple words:

Hello • Ni3hao3
Hello (politely) • nin2hao3
How are you? • ni3 hao3 ma5
Very well, and you? • wo3 hen3hao3, ni3ne5
Not too bad • bu2cuo4
Not so good • hai2ke3yi3
So-So • ma3ma5hu1hu5
I'm also very well • wo3 ye3 hen3 hao3
Thank you • xie4xie5

This are other phrases you can use:

Good Morning • zao3chen2 hao3
Good Evening • Wan3shang4 hao3
Good Night • wan3an1 hao3

Keep in mind that in China to call somebody by his or her given name is a privilege reserved for family members and very close friends. Therefore, to address someone politely you must either use the person's full name or the last name plus a title. If they want to move to a first-name basis, they will let you know which name to use.

Here are some examples of how to address people depending on their age:

  • Teacher Wang • Wang2 lao3shi1
  • An elderly man • Wang2 ye2ye5
  • An elderly woman • Wang2 nai3nai5
  • Mr. Wang • Wang2 xian1sheng1
  • Mrs. Wang • Wang2 fu1ren2
  • Miss Wang • Wang xiao3jie1
  • A young person • xiao3 Wang2
  • A driver any other worker, to show respect • shi1fu5
  • A manager • Wang2 jing1li3
  • A school Principal • Wang2 xiao4zhang3
Its a good idea to keep this pointers in mind when addressing Chinese people:
  • Greetings are formal and the oldest person is always greeted first.
  • Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners.
  • Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone. Don't think they are being disrespectful - it's just a customary social practice.
  • Address the person by a title and their surname. They will let you know if and when to address them on a first name basis.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Importance of learning the proper Chinese pronunciation

Spoken Mandarin Chinese has 4 pitched tones and a neutral or "toneless" tone. "Tones" do not refer to "intonation" - the variation of pitch we normally use in english and other Westerner languages to convey differences of expressive meaning (e.g. surprise, anger, doubtfulness). In this context, tonality is a fixed feature of individual words or syllables and changes in tone alters the meaning of what we are saying.

For example:

  • 媽 ma1 pronounced with a high and level tone means MOTHER;
  • 麻 ma2 pronounced with a tone that rises to the top means HEMP;
  • 馬 ma3 pronounced with a tone that starts at the top, then rises toward the top means HORSE; and
  • 罵 ma4 pronounced with a tone that starts at the top and then falls sharply to the bottom means to SCOLD or CURSE
As you can see from the previous examples, mastering the Chinese tones is the most important skill needed in order to be able to communicate successfully in Chinese. A syllable pronounced with the incorrect tone might get in deep trouble!

You can practice your Chinese language pronunciation on-line with Pinyin Talker