I’m happy to be able to bring you another short beginner’s lesson courtesy of That’s Mandarin.
That’s Mandarin have kindly provided these beautiful pictures to introduce some really important Chinese characters. Each graphic has a short mnemonic (memory aid) to help you remember how to pronounce the word, which is super useful!
If you like these images make sure you share them with other people you think might find them useful and check out That’s Mandarin for more useful Chinese learning content.
|First up is “bái”, meaning “white”. Bái sounds similar to “bye” in English.
Ancient Chinese Taoists believed that there were only two colours: black and white. These opposing colours are known as yīn yánɡ(阴阳).
Yīn is represented by the colour black while Yánɡ is represented by the colour white. The yīn yánɡ forces are constantly in motion, influencing each other. As one aspect declines, the other will increase.
All forces in the universe can be categorised into “yīn” or “yánɡ”. After the Five Elements Theory was established, it was said that every colour represents or is associated with something:
red – fire
green – wood
yellow – earth
silver and white – metal
White is symbolic of purity, brightness and fulfilment. However, it is also associated with death and is thus the colour of mourning, mainly used in funerals. For example, in Ancient China, people wore white mourning clothes.
A white envelope, “bái bāo” (白包) is an envelope of money given to the family of the deceased, unlike the red envelope, “hóng bāo” (红包) given to newlywed couples as well as children during Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Dèng XiǎoPíng, one of China’s most famous leaders and politicians, once said: “bù lùn bái māo hēi zhuā zhù lǎo shǔ jiù shì hǎo mǎo” (不论白猫黑猫抓住老鼠就是好猫). This is translated as “ It matters not whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”
Do you know how to say “Ms Perfect” in Mandarin? You can say bái fù měi (白富美). Bái here is short for white-skin bái pífū (白皮肤); fù(富) means prosperity; while měi is short for měi lì美丽, meaning “beautiful”. Ms Perfect is therefore seen as a wealthy, beautiful woman with fair-skin.
Here are some useful words that use bái (白):
明白míng bái to understand (v)
白板 bái bǎn whiteboard (n)
白菜bái cài Chinese cabbage
白酒 bái jiǔ type of Chinese alcohol (usually distilled from sorghum or maize)
|Today’s word is “jiǔ”, meaning “alcohol” in English. “Jiǔ” sounds similar to the “jo” of “joke”. “Jiǔ” refers to all alcoholic beverages.|
Chinese alcohol is believed to have a 7,000 year old history. In ancient China, alcohol was regarded as a sacred liquid, only used when people made sacrificial offerings to heaven and earth or to their ancestors.
After the Zhou Dynasty, alcohol became one of the Nine Rites. The dynasties after the Zhou Dynasty stressed the importance of alcohol and its production.
Wine was later introduced during the Han and Tang dynasties. During the Tang Dynasty, drinking wine became a popular past time. Many famous poets and calligraphy artists were said to produce their best works while under the influence of alcohol such as Li Bai and Du Fu.
The consumption of alcohol still continues to play an important role in Chinese culture. For example, it is said to provide people with more opportunities to socialise, make new friends and strengthen friendships. There is even a Chinese proverb that says “frequent drinking makes friends surrounding”.
|What is the most famous animal in China? The panda, of course! Can you see the plate held by the panda in the picture?
In Mandarin, "pán" means "plate" and sounds like “pan” from panda. You can use this structure to order your dishes: “wǒ yào yī pán …”
|Today’s word is “fàn”. It sounds similar to the English word Fan.|
“Fàn” can not only refer to cooked #rice or other cereals, but also food, dish or meal. For example, chī(吃) means “to eat”.
Chinese people love to eat! It is therefore no surprise that you will find plenty of restaurants and shops in China offering a variety of delicious dishes and snacks.
Every region in China has its own cuisine with special characteristics.
However, there are eight main Chinese cuisines from eight areas: Lu (Shandong ), Yue (Guangdong), Chuan (Sichuan), Xiang (Hunan), Su (Jiangsu), Zhe (Zhejiang), Min (Fujian) and Hui (Anhui).
Lu cuisine is known for its freshness and saltiness; Yue cuisine, home of the dim sum, emphasises the use of light sauces for flavour. Chuan cuisine is home to mouth-numbing chilli pepper, peppercorns and garlic dishes. Xiang cuisine focuses on savoury dishes and spiciness as well as smoked goods. Su cuisine is well known for being its moderate saltiness and sweetness. Many dishes use local vegetables and freshwater fish, giving the dishes a distinctive taste. Zhe cuisine features delicate and lightly flavoured dishes. Hui cuisine is similar to Su cuisine and is believed to have evolved from China’s Huangshan Mountains. Hui cuisine emphasises the use of local ingredients.
Zhōngguó fàn cài(中国饭菜) refers to Chinese cuisine
Zǎo fàn 早饭 is “breakfast
Wǔ fàn 午饭 is “lunch”
Wǎn fàn 晚饭 “is “dinner”
chīwǎn fàn (吃晚饭) is “to eat dinner”
Can you guess how to say “I eat breakfast”? Yes, that’s right! It is “wǒ chī zǎo fàn”（我吃早饭）
Chī xiàn chéng fàn (吃现成饭) translates as “to eat something someone else has prepared”.
It means to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s work.
Chá fàn wú xīn 茶饭无心 translates as “not having heart for tea or rice”. It refers to melancholy and suffering as well as not having an appetite.
|Next up is “gǒu” (狗)，meaning “dog”. In Chinese culture, dogs symbolise loyalty, honesty and intelligence.
The dog is one of the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year is related to a different animal sign. The twelve signs are the rat, ox, tiger, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
People who are born in the year of the Dog such as 1982 and 1994, are said to be loyal, intelligent, friendly, honest, courageous, warm-hearted and responsible.
They exhibit a strong sense of justice and like to right wrongs. It is said that the people born in year of the Dog are the most loyal, hardworking employees in a company and are highly regarded by their peers. In addition, those born in the year of the Dog are excellent working partners.
However, they can be stubborn, fussy and critical of others. They are easily angry and irritable. People born in the year of the Dog are criticised for lacking judgement.
Those born in the year of the Dog are suitable for occupations such as politician, philosopher, teacher, judge, actor, writer and doctor.