I thought I’d write a small piece on idioms and my thoughts on them.
A Chengyu (成語) is a form of idiomatic expression. They usually consist of four characters, but of course some are longer. Many Chengyu are used in everyday conversation, these examples are common and could be viewed as catchphrases. Here are some examples;
自由自在 – zi4 you2 zi2 zai4 – lit. free and easy; carefree/leisurely
首屈一指 – shou3 qu1 yi1 zhi3 – second to none/outstanding
一分爲二 – yi1 fen1 wei2 er4 – lit. one divides into two; there are two sides to everything/to see both sb’s good points and shortcomings
There are thousands of phrases like these ones. They are great if you are looking to improve your oral Chinese as after you have learned a few you will begin to listen out for them in daily conversations. I used to learn one a day, and jot down new ones in a little notepad. There is usually an interesting story behind the most common chengyus that can help you remember.
Others Chengyus are used in works of literature to enrich the imagery and conveyance of stylistic expression. Some Chinese families even hang them as works of calligraphy on their walls, or etch them into their paintbrushes and adopt them as personal maxims. It’s also not uncommon to see Chinese businesses adopting a chengyu they feel represents their company’s image.
The best thing about Chengyu’s is many of them can be translated to English phrases, sometimes not directly but there is usually an equivalent English phrase. For example:
集腋成裘 – ji2 ye4 cheng2 qiu2 – lit. many hairs make a fur coat; many a mickle makes a muckle.
雨過天晴 – yu3 guo4 tian1 qing1 – lit. sky clears after the rain; every cloud has a silver lining.
冰山一角 – bing1 shan1 yi1 jiao3 – tip of the iceberg
The thing about learning Chengyus is they are all about personal preference. Different strokes for different folks. For me personally, some of chengyus make little sense as they express a meaning that is unique in Chinese culture. Yet, they are good for ‘showing’ off your Chinese. You can whip out a few at a business dinner or at a meeting to impress.
Some chengyus have variants, depending on where you go in China and dialects etc. For instance, the Chengyu 一成不變 (yi1 cheng2 bu4 bian4) meaning stuck in a rut/always the same, changes its meaning when translated into Cantonese. Cantonese speakers, especially Hong Kong residents use 一生不變 (yi1 sheng1 bu4 bian4 – yat sung bat bin) which conveys a good meaning of permanence and stability.
Learning the many different chengyus is a difficult task, so 加油！
只要成功夫深鐵杵磨成針 – If you work at it hard enough, you can grind an iron bar into a needle.
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The Lantern Festival is celebrated in China on the 15th day of the New Lunar Year. It symbolises the passing of winter and the declining of darkness, and as the lanterns are released into the sky, also symbolises a new start. It’s a chance for families to get together again before life goes back to normal after the Spring Festival. The glutinous, black sesame filled rice balls, tangyuan 汤圆, are the traditional dessert for this period.
In Chengdu, the InternChina team and Co. celebrated this year’s Lantern Festival with our Language partner school. There was a variety of cultural activities we could take part in, which included tangyuan-making, calligraphy workshops, Chinese paper cutting, drinking tea and quizzes. Each of the activities was fun and engaging, but I do believe that most of us got stuck in the tangyuan room!
The sweet, squidgy dessert is made from glutinous rice flower with a bit of water. They can be either filled or unfilled, but traditionally they will have a black sesame paste filling. Nowadays you can find them stuffed with almost anything however – peanut butter is one of my favourites. Though a fairly simple concept, it’s not actually that easy to roll the balls and make sure none of the filling spills out and ‘stains’ the snow white dough. The mixture is also prone to drying out quickly, so there was some time pressure too. It took us a couple of tries to get them right!
Next stop was calligraphy. Here we had the opportunity to let out our inner artists and have a go with the Chinese calligraphy brush. Unlike the ones we’re used to from home, these brushes are usually thicker and softer and the correct way to hold them is also different (and quite tricky to begin with..).
In the evening, people gathered by the river to set off paper lanterns and enjoy the last few fireworks. There’s something very calming about watching the little red and yellow light rise into the sky
Curious? Come join us for an internship in Qingdao, Zhuhai or Chengdu, and get the chance to try the local specialities and experience true Chinese traditions! Apply Now!!
Here in Zhuhai we are taking part in a lot of fun activities and trips to special places around the Pearl River Delta. We have also had many opportunities to learn more about the Chinese people and their culture.
This time we went to visit a very traditional cultural house, a former local style house of Zhuhai. At this place there was an exhibition of pictures from a very famous painter. This painter was actually there to teach us calligraphy. But more about this later.
First, I would like to explain a bit about Chinese Calligraphy. As a discipline, calligraphy is at the basic level, a pursuit focused on writing well －書法 Chinese: shūfǎ, “the rules of writing Han characters”. Students aim to obtain the writing characteristics of exemplary pieces of writing. Elementary school students practice calligraphy in this way, as do elders without aspiring to artistic creation.
Calligraphy is also considered an art which in Chinese can be known as 藝術/艺术 Chinese: yìshù, a relatively recent word meaning “art”, where the works are appreciated more or only for their aesthetic qualities.
The English word “calligraphy” refers to that which is “beautiful writing”, thus including both aspects.
We started with a tour around the house and they told us more about the amazing paintings, the different types of paper used and the techniques used for drawing.
After the tour, whilst the painter was painting we got to observe over his shoulder. It was fascinating how he simply uses one brush and only one colour (black) to draw and create a beautiful Chinese landscape. It was then our turn to see how creative we are.
We began with some simple Chinese characters and I can really say it is not as easy as it looks. You have to hold the brush in a special way and guide the brush movements of the wrist. For some of us, this made it a big challenge. But the teacher was really patient and took time with every one of us and explained how to do it the right way.
We also got our names painted in Chinese characters and when I told the painter my name, he just laughed out loud. It was then that I found out my name “Pia” when spoken in an aggressive way means “bullshit” in Chinese (I actually kind of liked my name before, especially as it means “love” in Hindi) . The painter found other ways of pronouncing name and then decided on similar sounding characters and now it is “pei er”, which has no meaning. Much better that way!
As you may be able to imagine, we had a lot of fun learning to write Chinese characters. If you want to learn more about the Chinese culture and the meaning of your name apply now.
Hi! This is Sunny from Intern China Zhuhai Office. Last Wednesday, we organized a calligraphy lesson for our interns. The teacher is my friend who is interested in Chinese traditional culture so much and has been practising for more than 30 years.
When we arrived at his office, he showed tea culture to us first, we tasted 3 different of tea first, he showed us how to make Kongfu Tea (功夫茶) and how to taste it.
KongFu tea, is not a name of a kind of tea but a drinking way and a culture. The procedures require skills and patience. These years it’s very popular in Japan and South Korea.
“Wow, so good!”
After the Tea tasting, we started our calligraphy class.
Firstly ,the teacher briefed us the history of Chinese calligraphy. introduced us “文房四宝”( Four Treasures of Calligraphy)—笔(bǐ, brush-pen),
墨(mò,ink), 纸( zhǐ,paper), 砚(yàn,ink stone)
笔(bǐ, brush-pen),how to handle a brush pen
Karl’s first time trying ,but she was good at it. Jamie is not too bad at it 🙂
This is me, not bad at all! Right?! For our office. You will see it when you come to Intern China’s Zhuhai office.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. Xunzi (荀子) 不闻不若闻之,闻之不若见之,见之不若知之,知之不若行之。学至于行而止矣。
Chun Lian (春联)