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“东西”的来历

6 May

        就我接触过的资料,清代学者梁章钜在《浪迹续谈”东西”》中论曰:
伊墨卿太守语余曰:“向闻朱石君师言世俗通行之语,但举东西而不言南北者,东谓我儒之教,即孔子之东家某;西即彼教,谓西方之圣人,举此二端,足以涵盖一切矣。惜当时未闻所据何书。”余尝私质之纪文达师,师笑曰:“石君笃信彼教,故其论如此。”然余尝闻明思陵(指崇祯皇帝)偶问词臣曰:“今市肆交易,但言买东西,而不及南北,何也?”辅臣周延儒对曰:“南方火,北方水,昏暮叩人之门户求水火,无弗与者,故但言东西耳。”思陵善之。余谓周乃小人捷给,取辩一时,亦未见确凿。《南齐书”豫章王嶷传》:“上谓嶷曰:‘百年亦何可得?止得东西一百,于事亦得。’似当时已谓物为东西,物产四方而约举东西,正犹史记四时而约言春秋耳。
这一短文表达了四个意思:一、“东”代表儒家,“西”代表佛家的说法不足信;二、崇祯皇帝与词臣的对话“未见确凿”;三、南北朝时,已把物品称为“东西”;四、因为物品产自东西南北四方,简略为“东西”,如同历史上把“春夏秋冬”简略为“春秋”一样。
崇祯皇帝与词臣的对话,其实是说“东西”一词源于“五行”。关于这个说法,据说最早发生在宋代理学家朱熹与老朋友盛温如之间,故事说,朱熹在路上遇见其友人盛温如提着篮子上街,问“上哪儿?”回答说“上街买东西(buy things)。”朱熹又问:“为什么不能买南北?”回答说不能,因为按照五行与东、南、西、北、中相配,东属木,西属金,凡属金木类,篮子可盛,而南属火,北属水,篮子不可盛,所以只能买“东西”,不能买“南北”。与此相同的故事还有三个,只是时间晚到清代: 一,乾隆皇帝向纪晓岚请教,同样的问题,同样的回答。二,也是乾隆,说他微服私访翰林书院,四个翰林书生正打牌赌钱。见乾隆来到,慌忙收拾赌具放到一只柳条筐里,乾隆故意问那柳条筐里是什么,一个老翰林的回答也与上同。三,则是从前有一位翰林官外出京游玩,在一个寺院里见几个簟匠师傅从山上砍来毛竹制作竹制品,便向方丈请教:“他们在制作什么物品?派什么用场?”方丈连忙答道:“他们在制作花篮,用来盛东西的。”翰林不懂为什么只能说“东西”,不能说 “南北”,方丈的回答也与上同。所以,“东西”源自“五行”说版本很多,应当说很合乎中国文化的内涵,但没有一个版本指出它始于何时,出自何处。
关于将“东西南北”约略为“东西”的说法,已故著名学者陈望道在《修辞学发凡》中也持同样的观点,而且引用了梁章钜的那段话作为佐证。但笔者认为,此说在逻辑上仍然欠妥。“春夏秋冬”指时间,约略为“春秋”后仍指时间,其义不变。但“东西南北”指方位,约略“东西”后反指物品,其义大相径庭。故此只可聊备 一说。
那么,“东西”一词究竟来历何在?有文章说,清代学者龚伟经考证后认为:东汉时,商人(businessman)大都集中在东京洛阳和西京长安,他们到东西二京购货,俗语就说「买东」或「买西」,约定俗成,“东西”就成为货物(goods)的代称。笔者认为,这一说颇为接近本质,所推论的时间早至汉代,应当是“东西”一词可信的来源,因为它可以与《南齐书豫章王嶷传》的记载相呼应,说明南北朝时称物品为“东西”是合乎逻辑的,可惜笔者没有找到龚伟的原著,未知前后所论为何。
期待能有更新的考证。

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为什么叫“房东”而不叫“房西”

2 Jan

自古以东为上为大,所以东房就是上房,中国(China)的老式房屋组成一般都是一座向南朝向的主屋,主屋的前面两侧再造东西向的厢房,主屋的东首房间就是上房,而上房定是主人或家中最权威的人的住房,上房连晚辈和下人都不能住,就更不要说是出租给外人住了,所谓的房东就是住在东首上房的人,也就是主人的意思。

房东、东家都表示主人的意思。

至于为何以“东”为“主”,在《礼记》中的《曲礼篇》记载:“主人就东阶,客就西阶,客若降等,则就主人之阶。主人固辞,然后客复就西阶。”这句话说的是有关主客之间礼仪的规定。从文中可以看到“东”位就是代表主人。我们平常所说的“做东”(主人请客)、东道主(典故来源于春秋时期秦国攻打郑国,郑文公以供应秦国后勤物资请求撤兵,因郑国在秦国东面,故称东道国)中也包含了这个意思。

再往深处研究,在古代周易的星相学说中,东南西北四宫各有四大神兽镇守,东宫苍龙,南宫朱鸟,西宫白虎(咸池),北宫玄武。其又各属7个星宿,合计28星宿。东宫苍龙所属七宿是:角、亢、氐、房、心、尾、箕。《史记·天官书》记载:“东宫苍龙,房、心”。“龙(dragon)”作为华夏(Huaxia)民族的图腾,是吉祥、长久的象征,古代帝王以龙子自居。因此以“东”为尊也就可以理解了。

月饼 / yuè bǐng Moon cake

25 Sep

In China, the tradition (传统 chuántǒng) of eating moon cakes in the Mid-autumn Festival (中秋节 zhōngqiū jié) can be dated back (追溯 zhuīsù) to the Tang Dynasty (唐朝 Tángcháo) in ancient China. The round moonshape cake means reunion (团圆 tuányuán) and happiness (幸福 xìngfú).
It was one Mid-autumn Festival in Tang Dynasty when General (将军 jiāngjūn) Li and his army (军队 jūnduì) defeated (打败了 dǎbàile) the Hun (匈奴 xiōngnú) army. The emperor (皇帝 huángdì) was in such a good mood (心情 xīnqíng) that he shared (分享 fēnxiǎng) his round cake with his ministers (大臣们 dàchénmen). Therefore, the moon cakes became the victory (胜利 shènglì) food for General Li and his army on that day. The tradition was passed on through generations. Even today (今天 jīntiān), Chinese people around the world will share moon cakes in celebrating the reunion of Mid-autumn Festival.
The traditional moon cakes have a round crust (表皮 biǎopí) filled with different fillings (馅 xiàn) such as sweet bean paste (红豆沙 hóngdòushā) and lotus seed paste (莲蓉 liánróng). Today, many derivatives of the moon cakes have been invented (发明 fāmíng) based on the modern (现代的 xiàndàide) taste (口味 kǒuwèi). Ice cream (冰淇凌 bīngqīlíng) moon cake is the traditional crust filled with ice cream. Fruit (水果 shuǐguǒ) moon cakes have fresh fruits as stuffing. There are even sea food moon cakes and whole wheat moon cakes.
Now, it’s time for you to find out your favorite moon cake! Please talk with your Chinese teacher at SpeakMandarin.com about your mid-autumn Festival.

你是条“女汉子”吗?

2 Aug

     It has been said that the process of learning a language is a long journey. It the same as Chinese language study. Learners need to keep going as more and more new words have yet to emerge. (语言学习一个不断更新的过程,汉语也是一样,新词汇层出不穷,学习者自然也要不断的充实自己的词汇库。)

     今天我们来讨论“汉子”这个词,对了,这不是“汉字(hàn zì; Chinese Characters)”是“汉子(hàn zi; man/strong man)”。“他真是条汉子!”这是我们经常能听到的关于“汉子”的说法,是指一个男人很勇敢,有责任感(zérèngǎn; responsibility),勇于担当,或者力气大,能力强。这个词通常情况下都是指男人的,带有很强烈的性别色彩。注意,这里的量词(liàng cí; measure word)要用“条(tiao)”才更加能体现出“汉字”这个词的味道!但是现在,“女汉子”这个词越来越流行(liú xíng; popular)了起来,我们现在经常能听到这样的说法:“我真是条女汉子啊,昨天自己扛了一袋大米回家!(I’m just like a real man because I carried a huge bag of race to home!)”“她就是个女汉子,独立抚养孩子好多年。(She is very great since she took care of her kid by herself for many years!)”以此来表示对当事人的佩服(pèi fú; admire )和认同(rèn tong; self-identity ),也是同样表示这名女子有担当,能力强,独立又能干,当然也有很多时候表示力气大,不娇气。

       不得不说”女汉子”这个词汇的出现和演变是语言的发展,但是究其原因,我们也能看到社会变迁(biàn qiān; change)的缩影(suō yǐng; microcosm)。不是吗?妇女越来越能顶半边天,社会地位不断提高(tí gāo;),经济能力,教育水平不断提升,随着各种能力的逐渐被认可(rèn kě; approve),男人和女人趋向于平等(píng děng),于是本来坚定的形容男人的词汇也就慢慢的发生了改变。这是一个很有意思的现象,希望大家能够多多讨论。

The Terracotta Army (Chinese: 兵马俑 bīng mǎ yǒng)

1 Aug

The Terracotta Army (兵马俑 bīng mǎ yǒng) of China’s first emperor (皇帝 huáng dì) Qing Shi Huang (秦始皇 qín shǐ huáng) are located in Lintong, area near Xi’an city (西安市 xī’ān shì) in Shaanxi Province (陕西省 shǎnxī shěng). SpeakMandarin.com offers online mandarin Chinese tutoring lessons. It was discovered in 1974 by a farmer and later on part of it was built into a museum (博物馆 bówùguǎn) for exhibition to the public. Please find more funny Chinese lessons from here at www.speakmandarin.com and have online Chinese lessons with our experienced Chinese teachers.

Believed to be the most significant archeological excavation (挖掘 wājué) in the 20th century, the Terracotta Army contain a variety of statues (雕像 diāoxiàng) including warriors (战士 zhànshì), horses (马 mǎ), officials (官员 guānyuán), musicians (乐师 yuèshī), and etc. Today’s exhibition is only a small fraction of the entire statue group, which is a part of the Qing Shi Huang’s tomb. But why did China’s first emperor build himself such a giant (巨大的 jùdàde) fake (仿造的 fǎngzàode) army (军队 jūnduì)?

Archeologists (考古学家 kǎo gǔ xué jiā) have believed that it is for the emperor’s desire to maintain (维持 wéichí) power and legitimacy afterlife. Qing Shi Huang started to construct (修建 xiūjiàn) his tomb after ascending the throne at the age of 13. Until his death at the age of 50, the tomb had been under construction for 37 years. Artists, skilled workers and numerous labor were gathered and put into the project. Many, upon the finish of the tomb, were killed and buried in order to eliminate the knowledge existing in the world of the tomb. Today, the emperor’s tomb remains a mystery, with the only exposure of the Terracotta Army.

我是“80后”,你呢?

24 Jul

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        “80后”,“90后”,“00后”,这是目前(mùqián, recently )在中国很流行( liúxíng, popular)的说法。什么是“80后”呢?是指出生于1980年到1989年这段时间的孩子,“80后”作为一个新生词语已经为大众所接受,泛指中国大陆上个世纪80年代之后出生,由于环境原因造成的新一代人。
       目前这批人有一些已经30岁了,也到了成家立业(chéngjiālìyè, get married and start one’s career)的年纪。80后经历(jīnglì, go through )了中国经济真正腾飞(téngfēi, boom/take off )的几十年,经历了日常生活里巨大的变迁。我是80后,我的童年(tóngnián, childlife)没有手机和电脑,但是我的童年也没有补习班(bǔxíbān, cram school),没有现在孩子所承受的压力(yālì, stress)。你是几零后?欢迎和SpeakMandarin.com的在线汉语老师讨论这个话题(huàtí, topic)。

Beijing Opera in Chinese Culture.

2 Jul

Actress of Beijing Opera京剧

Beijing Opera, or Peking Drama (京剧 jīngjù) which is different with speaking Chinese is a tradition Chinese theatre (戏曲 xìqǔ) that has 200 years history (历史 lìshǐ) in China. It says some of Chinese people who speak mandarin Chinese can not understand it totally. It was formed (形成 xíngchéng) in Beijing around the 1800s, therefore was called the “Beijing” opera. Nowadays, it is loved (喜爱 xǐài) and praised (赞美 zànměi) as the quintessence of Chinese culture (国粹 guócuì).

It is a Ban-qiang style (板腔体 bǎnqiāngtǐ) drama usually consisted of melodies of Xi-pi (西皮 xīpí) and Er-huang (二黄 èrhuáng). On the stage, artists will use singing, dancing, and symbolic (象征性的 xiàngzhēngxìngde) movements to present a scene; while the accompany band (伴奏 bànzòu) will use percussion instruments (乐器 yuèqì) and string instruments to give the rhythms (节奏 jiézòu). With the art of symbolism, you won’t see a real horse (马 mǎ) running on stage (舞台 wǔtái), but a whip (鞭打 biāndǎ) by an actor (演员 yǎnyuán) shows that there should be a horse in this scene.

Therefore, imagination (想象力 xiǎngxiànglì) is important in appreciating (欣赏 xīnshǎng) Beijing Opera. With an actress (女演员 nǚyǎnyuán) holding a flower in her hand and looking around, you can picture her standing in a garden (花园 huāyuán) and looking at many beautiful flowers at that moment (那时 nàshí); with a boatman (船夫 chuánfū) holding a peddle (船桨 chuánjiǎng) in his hand and moving ups and down, you could see a boat (船 chuán) is sailing (航行 hángxíng) in the river with waves (波浪 bōlàng) rise and fall.

Beijing Opera also has many other features (特点 tèdiǎn). For example, it has unique (特殊的 tèshūde) costume (戏服 xìfú) designs while different color represents different social status. Facial makeup also uses color to express different characteristic: red as of loyalty (忠诚 zhōngchéng) and black shows blunt (鲁莽 lǔmǎng) and honesty (诚实 chéngshí).

Well, it might take days and nights to introduce (介绍 jièshào) the full Beijing Opera to you, and you might still not get it. Why not having a try yourself to the real Beijing Opera. The quintessence of Chinese culture-See is believing (眼见为实 yǎnjiàn wéishí)!

二锅头(èr guō tóu) in Chinese Culture!

26 Jun

erguotou

Have you ever heard about  “二锅头 (èr guō tóu) ”? And, have you ever drunk it before? In china, when you talk about “二锅头 (èr guō tóu)”, people would say ” Oh, it is hot (够劲 gòu jìn)!”. If you try to drink it with your Chinese friends, they probably would be very excited because that white liquor represents a special and important custom in Chinese Culture. Chinese people always treat their guest or friends with hot Chinese liquor and persuade them to keep drinking (劝酒 quàn  jiǔ ).  Yes, it can be a littel bit awkward or uncomfortable sometimes. However, Chinese people have no true malicious intent but just want to treat guests warmly (热情好客rè qíng hào kè) and courteously (有礼 yoǔ lǐ ).

The most well-known traditional white liquor in Beijing is 二锅头 (èr guō tóu); It made from orghums (高粱gāo liang). The most famous brand is “Red Star” èr guō tóu (红星二郭头hóng  xīng èr guō tóu ). It is available in various strengths including 112 Proof, which is 56% alcohol by volume. Although over 60% alcohol it is also often blended with other spirits to produce a milder drink. 二锅头 (èr guō tóu) means “second distillation”, which indicates its level of purity.

 二锅头 (èr guō tóu) can be found everywhere in Beijing, in China because its often inexpensive ,and particularly popular among blue-collar ( 蓝领 lǎn lǐng ) workers across Mandarin Speaking area. It is one of the most commonly drunk white liquor (白酒 bái jiǔ) in Beijing, and is frequently associated with Chinese traditional History and the city. I encourage you strongly to try it someday when you are in China!

 

Chopsticks-筷子(kuàizi)

30 May

Chopsticks (筷子 kuàizi) are commonly seen worldwide (全世界 quán shìjiè) today. More and more (越来越多的 yuèlái yuèduōde) people are mastering (掌握 zhǎngwò) this tool (工具 gōngjù) to enjoy the fun of Chinese food and Asian food. The pair of sticks can be made of various materials. Ivory (象牙 xiàngyá) used to be the royal material for chopsticks. Silver (银 yín) chopsticks were used to test (测试 cèshì) poisons, such as mercury (水银 shuǐyín). Bamboo (竹子 zhúzi) is the most favorite (最受欢迎的 zuìshòu huānyíng de) material for making chopsticks because it is natural and durable (耐用 nàiyòng). Besides, wood (木头 mùtou) and plastic (塑料 sùliào) chopsticks are very commonly used in restaurants (餐馆 cānguǎn) because the material is inexpensive.

Here are some Don’t in the Chinese culture of chopsticks:
1. Avoid (避免 bìmiǎn) putting chopsticks vertically (竖直 shùzhí) in a bowl (碗 wǎn) of rice or food. –Standing chopsticks are only used when worshiping (祭拜 jìbài) the dead.
2. Avoid making noise (噪音 zàoyīn) or knocking (敲击 qiāojī) a bowl with chopsticks. – This is how beggars (乞丐 qǐgài) ask for food.
3. Don’t point (指向 zhǐxiàng) someone at the table with your chopsticks. –It is impolite (不礼貌 bùlǐmào), of course.
4. Don’t cross (交叉 jiāochā) the chopsticks when placing them. –Crossing was a symbol of being sued, thus it is not a good signal.
After you learn the etiquette, it is time for you to have fun with chopsticks and welcome to join SpeakMandarin.com if you want to learn some Chinese with chopsticks!

Chinese Calligraphy — 中国书法 / Zhōngguó Shūfǎ

9 Apr

kuaile

Writing (写字 xiě zì) has been a way to express the Chinese culture (文化 wén huà). Using a writing brush (毛笔 máo bǐ), dipping in Chinese ink (墨水 mò shǔi), then, calligrapher can dance (跳舞 tiào wǔ) in a piece of rice paper (宣纸 xuān zhǐ). Many (许多 xǔ duō) ancient (古代 gǔ dài) calligraphy works (作品 zuò pǐn) were preserved (保存 bǎo cún) by being carved (刻 kè) onto steles (石碑 shí bēi). Calligraphy styles vary (不同 bù tóng) from dynasty to dynasty. Kǎishū (楷书) is regular and very (非常 fēi cháng) classic; cǎoshū(草书) is written with less constrains in very fast movement. If you have a chance to visit to the Forest of Steles in Xi’an (西安 碑林 Xī’ān Bēilín), you will be able to explore the full beauty of Chinese calligraphy.

But at present, less of people know how to use writing brush to write. It’s a great pity for Chinese culture! To practice calligraphy is a very good way to understand Chinese ancient culture and Chinese characters very well. And it is also a great way to cultivate of one’s temperament. It’s certainly worth a try.