Category Archives: Chinese Language

Making Changes and Being Different

They say that if you’re normal, like 97% of humanity, you would effect change by doing more of the same or less of the same things that you’ve always done; work harder perhaps or procrastinate less to achieve success.  Only … Continue reading

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Being Literate

I can speak, read and write in Chinese and in English so I claim to be bilingual. However, being literate in Chinese can mean many things and two people claiming that status may not be able to communicate with each … Continue reading

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The Stone Remains Silent Even When Disturbed

Originally posted on O at the Edges:
The Stone Remains Silent Even When Disturbed In whose tongue do you dream? I fall closer to death than birth, yet the moon’s sliver still parts the bare branches and an unfilled trench…

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Session One: Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy 書法

Last week MOSAIC at Chatswood confirmed that, after the cancellation of my calligraphy course, ten students came forward to enrol; so it’s back on again, starting tomorrow. I’d taken the cancellation as a sign from Heaven that I should have some … Continue reading

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The Meaning of Life 命

The Chinese word for ‘life’ (ming命)is also the word for ‘fate’, as in “that’s life”.  It’s also the word for ‘order’, as in ‘command’ – something that has to be obeyed. Confucius said that at 50 he knew his fate … Continue reading

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Cantonese Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe

When my friend told me about it, I felt quite moved and gratified to learn that a Hong Kong company will perform Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe in Cantonese.  How I wish I could be there.  As long as Cantonese is being … Continue reading

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When was the Song ever Sung?

The Song was once Sung, but I’m not talking about singing.  The topic refers to ‘how to pronounce Chinese words if you can’t read Chinese characters’ When I was at school, we simply learnt to recognise and remember characters just … Continue reading

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No Means No –not

In Sydney, the barista asks you your name when you order a takeaway coffee.  Then as he fills the order, he yells the name out for the whole place to hear.  I always feel awkward weaving through a crowd of … Continue reading

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It Goes Without Saying

Or, in Chinese, it go without say.  It ‘go’ whether it was yesterday, today or tomorrow. We don’t say ‘I go; I went; I am going; I will go’, we say, ‘I go, I go, I go, I go’. Words … Continue reading

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NUMBER ONE not two, not three, not four

No one would object to being, or being called Number One in any language.  However, just as no one ever remembers the name of runner-ups, being number two is not so glamorous.  In Chinese, well that’s an insult. To be … Continue reading

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Nine is Enough

I had nine goldfish in my pond.  In Cantonese ‘nine’ 九 sounds like ‘enough’ 夠 so you would often see Chinese paintings with nine goldfish on them.   Fish 魚 sounds the same as 如 meaning ‘just so’, so ‘nine fish’ … Continue reading

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The Azalea and The Cuckoo

What do the azalea and the cuckoo have in common?  I should have asked my learned Northern Hemisphere friends who are no doubt about to post pictures of both on their blogs.  However, if my friends ask me this question, … Continue reading

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That East and West Thingumajig

What is a ‘thing’?  A ‘thing’, it seems, can be anything. In Chinese, however, it’s ‘east’ and ‘west’.  Honest, that’s how we say ‘thing’: 東西 (pronounced dongxi in Mandarin).  東 (dong) means east and 西 (xi) means west.  Put them together and … Continue reading

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In the Absence of Rain

It rained ice in Sydney the other day. I translated Jeff Schwaner’s recent poem and read it on a voice file for him.  Afterwards I realised that I’d mispronounced the word ‘hail’  雹  in Cantonese. I’ve been trying to learn … Continue reading

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Word Games

Because of the jigsaw puzzle nature of Chinese characters, we love playing with words.  The modular form (think Lego) makes it ideal for making up cryptic clues for word guessing games.  Here’s an example: 明月半遮雲腳下 殘花並落馬蹄前 This is a couplet … Continue reading

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