vendredi 25 juillet 2008

Poem 诗 (shi1)

The author of this poem is Bai Juyi (白居易), he lived between 772- 846AD. He uses very simple language, and is therefore most people can understand his poems easily.

Literal Translation:
Part part plain on grass
One year one wither flourish
Prairie fire burn not destroy
Spring wind blow again life
Distant fragrance invade old path
Clear emerald meet ruined town
Again see off noble friend go
Crowded full parting feeling

The grass is spreading out across the plain,
Each year, it dies, then flourishes again.
It's burnt but not destroyed by prairie fires,
When spring winds blow they bring it back to life.
Afar, its scent invades the ancient road,
Its emerald green overruns the ruined town.
Again I see my noble friend depart,
I find I'm crowded full of parting's feelings.

vendredi 18 juillet 2008

词 (ci2)

Words in Chinese are called 词,they often come in pairs to mean one thing. Sometimes when a 词 is taken apart, the individual words may have meanings that are vastly different from what they would mean when they are together.

Here are some examples of 词 that contain the word 好 (hao3).
好 : good, right; excellent.

好吃 (hao3 chi1): Delicious.
Literal translation: Good-Eat

好处 (hao3 chu4): Benefit, advantage.
Lit: Good-place/area

好感 (hao3 gan3): Good impression.
Lit: Good-Feeling

好久 (hao3 jiu3): a long time.
Lit: Good-Longtime

好像 (hao3 xiang4): Look alike.
Lit: Good-alike

好笑 (hao3 xiao4): Funny.
Lit: Good-Laugh

好在 (hao3 zai4): Fortunately; thanks to
Lit: Good-Here/Present

好转 (hao3 zhuan3): Turn for the better.
Lit: Good-Turn

Here are some examples of 词 that contain the word 太 (tai4).
太: too, over; excessive.

太多 (tai4 duo1): Too many
Lit: Too-many

太后 (tai4 hou4): Empress Dowager
Lit: Too-Back

太监 (tai4 jian4): Eunuch
Lit: Too-watch (as in 'watchmen')

太空 (tai4 kong1): Outerspace
Lit: Too-Empty

太平 (tai4 ping2): Peace
Lit: Too-Flat

太太 (tai4 tai4): Madam
Lit: Too-Too

太子 (tai4 zi3): Crowned prince
Lit: Too-Son

lundi 7 juillet 2008

Chinese Festivals --- "Valentine's Day"

The Double Seventh Festival, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, is a traditional festival full of romance. It often goes into August in the Gregorian calendar.

Scholars have shown the Double Seventh Festival originated from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD220). Historical documents from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD371-420) mention the festival, while records from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) depict the grand evening banquet of Emperor Taizong and his concubines. By the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties, special articles for the "Qi Xi" were seen being sold on markets in the capital. The bustling markets demonstrated the significance of the festival.

Today some traditional customs are still observed in rural areas of China, but have been weakened or diluted in urban cities. However, the legend of the Cowhand and Weaver Maid has taken root in the hearts of the people. In recent years, in particular, urban youths have celebrated it as Valentine's Day in China. As a result, owners of flower shops, bars and stores are full of joy as they sell more commodities for love.

This festival is often associated with the story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl. 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar is the day when they meet each other every year. This is where their love story led to this day into becoming Qi Xi. On wikipedia there are two short summaries on two versions of the legend.

Dragon Boat Festival

Most Chinese traditional festivals were created during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), by the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), they were relatively firmly rooted in the Chinese culture already. Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), was ancient China's most prosperous period and traditional festivals became more than just primitive sacrifice and became more entertaining.

The festival I'm going to highlight here would be the "Dragon Boat festival" or called 端午节 (duan1 wu3 jie2).

Legend has it that the festival commemorates the life and especially the death of Qu Yuan (c. 340-278 B.C.), the first great poet in Chinese history. He lived during the Warring States period (a time when China was divided into several warring kingdoms) and was a high-ranking official in the state of Chu. At that time his homeland was under siege by another powerful state called Qin. The king of Chu did not recognize Qu Yuan’s correct stand or appreciate his suggestions for saving their country. What is more, treacherous officials slandered him, and at last he was sent into exile. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, when he heard news that the capital of Chu had fallen into enemy hands, he threw himself into the Miluo River (in present-day Hunan province) and drowned.

What is the connection between Qu Yuan and dragon boats?
(I’ll get to zongzi later.) Qu Yuan, a great patriot, was loved by the people. When villagers heard he had thrown himself into the river, they rushed in their boats to try to save him, but they were too late. Dragon boat races commemorate their rescue attempt.

During the festival, people make rice dumplings too. According to some legends, these rice dumplings were thrown into the river, in hope to distract the fishes so that they will not feed on Qu Yuan's body. Another legend says that the people offered zongzi as sacrifices to the soul of Qu Yuan. To prevent the food from being eaten by animals, they wound it with brightly colored thread, which they believed would scare away dragons and other aquatic beasts.

The reason why this festival has been carried on for centuries even though the times of dynastic rulings have long been gone, is because in the Chinese culture, we still hold on to values like "patriotism" and "loyalty" strongly. These two values are embedded in Qu Yuan's story, hence, the continued celebrations and commemorations of this day every year.