On March 8th, the accomplishments and continued challenges of women around the world take center stage on a day globally recognized as International Women’s Day (Fùnǚ jié | 妇女节). While themes vary around the world and also vary year to year, the common message of the day is always an underlying focus on women’s long journey towards respect and equality in society, and the continued struggles that modern women face. Actions may speak louder than words, but we must also remember that the choice of one single word in our daily Mandarin vocabulary also carries with it the profound weight of hidden meanings and implications that guide the thoughts and actions of those around us. In reference to two intriguing and informative ChinesePod lessons on the topic of women, below are three ways you can change your Mandarin vocabulary to show your respect towards women, and not just on International Women’s Day, but every day of the year.
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Delicious dinners and family reunions. Homemade dumplings, fish and glutinous rice balls. These are just some of the traditions of the Chinese New Year for millions of people around the world. There is much to celebrate as we ring in the Year of the Dog this January 16th, but one New Year’s tradition remains a favorite for a lot of people, young and old: Red Envelopes or hóngbāo|红包. These lucky red packets stuffed with cash are just as fun to give as they are to receive. But for Mandarin learners, this custom may leave you feeling nervous. Perhaps you wish to partake in the fun, but are wondering who exactly should you give them to? You could go broke trying to give a red packet of cash to everyone you know! And what is the proper way to receive a red packet? Have no fear! This Chinese New Year, learn how to give and receive hóngbāo like a true local. Below are the three things you need to know about this fun yet important Chinese New Year tradition that has stood the test of time.
- Who gives and who receives?
Children are the largest receivers of hóngbāo, called Yāsuìqián| 压岁钱. Any adult can give children red envelopes, but if you are married, there is a certain expectation for you to give to the younger generation (wǎnbèi|晚辈), as your married status signifies you have started your own family. However, children are not the only receivers of lucky money. Working professionals, regardless of age, often give hóngbāo to elders (parents or grandparents), as a sign of respect known as xiàojìng | 孝敬, an important concept in Chinese culture.
Generally, it is acceptable for anyone to give a hóngbāo, except to people of similar age. That will only lead to an awkward situation that is best avoided.
- How to properly receive lucky red envelopes.
Before receiving a hóngbāo, one should have a few traditional New Year’s well wishes (zhùfú huà｜祝福话) ready to recite, such as “Zhù nǐ xīnnián kuàilè, shēntǐ jiànkāng|祝你新年快乐，身体健康”, a common wish for a happy new year and good health. Often, the children will try to come up with the wittiest phrases to recite before bravely asking for their hóngbāo. When receiving a red envelope, just remember: never open your red packet in front of the giver.
- How much money should you give?
You can give as much as you wish and can afford to give. There is no standard amount, as it depends entirely on your economic situation, and your relationship with the receiver. A close relative would typically expect to receive more than a distant family friend. Just remember: crisp, new bills should be given to signify luck, and coins should be avoided.
Since 2014, red packets have also entered the digital age, as with most other things in China’s booming economy. Wechat Red Envelopes can now be sent electronically, of course, reserved for those who are more technologically inclined.
Yet, there is still something beautiful about keeping to tradition. By following the above customs of giving and receiving hóngbāo this Chinese New Year, you will be sure to gain appreciation and respect of those around you who are celebrating the Chinese culture’s most important holiday of the year.
Learn more about the intricacies of giving and receiving hóngbāo in Chinesepod’s entertaining lesson.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Xīnnián kuàilè! 新年快乐
Dàjí dàlì 大吉大利！
If you found this blog post interesting, you will love our special Chinese New Year’s playlist. With over fifteen lessons, you have the option to learn about many different facets of the Chinese Spring Festival. Subscribe today to get access!
ChinesePod is offering a one month premium subscription for just $0.99! Check it out at http://bit.ly/2t2E7VL
Chinese New Year is widely considered to be the most important holiday in China. Known in Mandarin as Chūnjié｜春节 or Guònián｜过年, it is a period symbolized by family reunion (tuánjù|团聚), and represented by various customs that Chinese people across the world take part in over a span of several weeks leading up to and following the start of the new year. This month, as we get ready to say goodbye to the Monkey and welcome in the Fire Rooster, remember, just as so many people around the world celebrate Christmas regardless of culture and ethnicity, you don’t have to be Chinese or living in China to celebrate Chinese New Year. This special holiday is really about family, a fresh start, and good wishes for you and your loved ones. True to the essence of Chinese New Year, here are 6 simple things you can do this year to join in on the festivities and bring happiness to those around you, wherever you may be in the world.
“You’re not a great man (or woman) if you haven’t been to the Great Wall of China…” 不到长城非好汉。
…Or so the saying goes, originally coined by Chairman Mao, now a reminder to countless visitors who travel far and wide each year to personally step foot on the magnificent Great Wall of China that spans over 21km in total across the Middle Kingdom, built across several dynasties over thousands of years of Chinese history. A wall so great, where does one even begin to try to experience its grandeur or capture its beauty? In sharing extensive research conducted for my own recent visit to Beijing, below are 5 amazing sections of the Great Wall of China that you can visit from Beijing, one for every kind of tourist on any kind of schedule.
- Bādálǐng八达岭: For the “Touristy” Beijing Tourist
If you’re the kind of tourist who wants to go where everyone else has been and capture THAT famous photo you’ve seen friends capture at that exact place every tour bus makes a must-go-to stop, then Badaling is your best bet. Badaling is hands-down the most visited and best preserved section of the Great Wall. Close to downtown Beijing (70km) and easily reachable by public transportation, it may be the only option for those who have little time in Beijing, or those with limited mobility, allowing tourists young and old, regardless of physical fitness, the opportunity to experience the Great Wall. There is even a cable car and elevator readily available (as discussed in Chinesepod’s lesson “Wheelchair Access to the Great Wall”.
Just don’t expect to get that perfect selfie without other heads in your frame. How to get to Badaling
- Mùtiányù 慕田峪: Badaling’s Less Crowded Alternative
For those wishing for a bit more elbow room than offered at Badaling, Mutianyu is a commonly chosen alternative. Situated only a little further from central Beijing, Mutianyu offers slightly smaller crowds. Also accessible by public transportation, most sections have been restored making it a safe and easy hike, offering beautiful views of forests and streams in the distance. Mutianyu is often combined with other challenging hikes, such as Jiankou and Huanghuacheng (below).
- Jīnshānlǐng 金山岭 to Sīmǎtái司马台: For the Classic Backpacker
This 4-5 hour hike continues to be a favorite amongst international backpackers who dream of experiencing China’s Great Wall with all its rugged beauty on foot. This was also my very first Great Wall hike 10 years ago, introduced in the Lonely Planet Guidebook (the “bible” for many backpackers). Approximately 130km from downtown Beijing, this hike from Jinshanling to Simatai is definitely worth the extra time and sweat, if you wish for isolation, good exercise, and stunning beauty, all on a safe and moderately strenuous hike, offering unparalleled natural beauty. Learn more here.
- Huánghuāchéng黄花城: For the Off-The-Beaten-Track Backpacker
Never heard of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall hike? Probably because most backpackers don’t even know it exists (as of yet) and it is not an official Great Wall hike (despite the $5 entrance fee). Expect to see fewer people (more locals than foreigners, in fact) than any of the three hikes introduced above. While not as rugged or dangerous as Jiankou (below) due to a combination of restored and unrestored sections, it does feels more isolated than Jinshanling, due to its unofficial status. Extreme steep climbs and descents make this hike more physically challenging than Jinshanling, and sometimes scary, but because you are required to turn back to your starting point (unless you hike 2 days to Mutianyu), you have the flexibility to decide how far you want to continue based on your comfort level. On our recent trip to Beijing, we hiked Huanghuacheng section, and were pleasantly surprised as we hiked further, there was not a soul in sight! Many hikers stopped after the first uphill climb, so the further we went, the more wonderfully remote it became. It was just us and the magnificent Great Wall, surrounded by stunning mountains, water, and flowers. We didn’t, however, see the yellow flowers that gave its name.
How to get to Huanghuacheng: Bus 916 from Dongzhimen Bus Terminal to Huairou (approx. 1 hour), then take a taxi or hire a driver. We decided to hire a driver, who was willing to wait for us to complete the hike, to ensure we have transportation back to Beijing.
- Jiànkòu箭扣: For the Dare-devil Hiker-slash-Photographer
Considered a photographer’s dream and the very definition of “wild Great Wall” Jiankou is also one of the most dangerous and mainly unrestored sections of the Great Wall, and not officially open to tourists. This section is best reserved for very experienced hikers, and best tackled with a local guide. People have actually lost their lives on this hike, so best to proceed with caution. I have not personally hiked this section, and suggest doing further research on the safety of this hike before considering tackling it. More information can be found here.
With so many sections of the Great Wall available, it can be hard to choose where to begin. Try out one of the above 5 sections of the Great Wall on your next visit to Beijing and share your experiences in the comments below. Remember, regardless of what part of the Great Wall you hike, it is guaranteed to leave you in awe!
Have you ever wanted to laugh in Chinese but you’re not sure exactly how? Let’s rewind a bit.
In today’s technological world, our “conversations” are often electronic rather than verbal. There are many ways to express emotions using different messaging options available, including the widely used WeChat, and therefore, several ways to express laughter electronically in Mandarin. However, not all mean the same, and not all methods are identical to the English equivalent.
Recently my Chinese friend texted me out of the blue:
“Does “hehe” (in a text message) have a negative connotation to it? Does it make you feel bad?”
The first thought that came to mind was: Of course it doesn’t! Why would it make someone feel bad? I proceeded to explain that in English“hehe” is simply a way to display a laughing emotion electronically, similar to “haha”, both being positive expressions. However, during this conversation it came to light that there exists a fundamental difference of common displays of emotion when switching between languages; often times, they are not exact translations.
As it turns out, using Chinese to text hēhē|呵呵 is not equivalent to the English “haha”. It is best to err on the side of caution when texting Chinese friends, and only use this word when you are absolutely sure it is appropriate to the situation; otherwise you may leave them feeling offended or confused. In Mandarin, hēhē|呵呵 represents an unfriendly or cold smile (lěng xiào|冷笑), which conveys underlying negativity. Below are three scenarios in which hēhē|呵呵 is used appropriately:
- Someone tells you a piece of gossip about an individual whom you dislike. Your response? “Hehe, such a jerk!” Hēhē, húndàn|呵呵,混蛋!”
- You don’t agree with something someone said. Your response? “hēhē|呵呵”.
- You are arguing with someone and you don’t feel like texting anymore. Your response? “hēhē|呵呵”
Now we know we should not use hēhē|呵呵 for all situations of laughter. So, what should we use instead? Below are three alternatives for expressing laughter in Mandarin:
- Hāhā|哈哈: The most common way to express online laughter in Chinese, much the same as the English equivalent of “haha”. In most situations, you are safe to use this expression to convey happy laughter or a smile.
- Xīxī嘻嘻: Similar to the English equivalent of “hehe” or “heehee”, it is a positive way of showing humorous slyness or cuteness. For example: I love the cookies you made so much that ate them all and didn’t leave my sister any. Hehe. You can substitute the English “hehe” in this situation for Xīxī嘻嘻in Mandarin.
- Hēihēi|嘿嘿: A mischievous, naughty (tiáopi|调皮) laugh. For example, “Hēihēi Zhè jiùshì wǒ gàn de |嘿嘿,这就是我干的!”(That situation was my doing). This can be compared to the English equivalent of “heh heh” or even “hehe”.
Finally, try to avoid transporting English phrases into your Mandarin usage. Reserve “LOL” for English text messages, as many Chinese people will not know what this means.
Shorthand methods of writing emotions are constantly changing, and it can be difficult to keep up in a second language. Next time you want to laugh in Chinese electronically, follow the above guidelines to choose the most appropriate way of displaying your digital smile for the situation at hand.
Learn more about laughing in Chinese by checking out Chinesepod QingWen lesson on different ways to say funny in Mandarin. Or, if you are talking to someone and think they sound funny when they laugh, listen to this lesson on how to say “You Laugh like a Donkey”.
Photo Sources: Wikimedia Commons