Archive for March, 2009

Chinese Conversation – lesson 397

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

离开玉器展示区
曼蒂:从这里开始,我们要去看读书人的玩物﹕清朝的雕刻象牙、竹子和犀牛角。
卡西:这些东西每每让我叹为观止。
曼蒂:来看这些竹子。竹子就像玉一样,因为中国人用竹子来比拟君子的性情。
卡西:谦冲能屈却不失原则,刚毅却优雅。
曼蒂:犀牛角酒杯则据说可以增加酒的风味。
卡西:但是可怜的犀牛就……

Leaving the jade area
Morley: From here, we move over to the scholars’ toys: the carved ivory, bamboo, and rhinoceros horns of the Qing dynasty.
Kathy: These always amaze me.
Maddie: Look at this bamboo. Bamboo is just like jade in that the Chinese compare it to the personality of a gentleman.
Kathy: Bending but not breaking, strong but elegant.
Maddie: The rhinoceros horn wine cups were said to add to the flavor of the wine being drunk from it.
Kathy: But the poor rhinos…

(Source: wwenglish.com)

Cri – Lesson 279

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

外强中干

春秋时代的晋献公死后,晋公子夷吾结束逃亡生活,回到晋国继承王位当上了国君。

在夷吾的逃亡生涯中,曾经答应过秦穆公,若是有一天夷吾能够有机会回国当上国君,夷吾就把五座城镇割让给秦国,当作救命之恩。可是,当上国君之后的夷吾并没有实现诺言。

后来秦国发生饥荒,晋惠公也没有伸出援手帮助秦国,秦穆公为此怀恨在心。后来,秦穆公发兵攻打晋国,很快就打到晋国的一个城镇。为了抵抗强大的秦军,晋惠 公亲自领兵反抗。他下令拉战车的马,一定要用郑国的骏马。有位大臣看到,连忙对晋惠公说:“郑国的马看起来虽然很强壮,但是实际上却很虚弱,打起仗来一紧 张就会不听指挥。到那时,进退不得,大王还是不要做此决定吧!”但是晋惠公一点都不愿意听大臣的劝告,果然,没多久晋惠公的马车就开始不听指挥,晋惠公一 下就被秦军捉住,当了俘虏,晋国因此而大败。

Outwardly strong but inwardly weak

Today, we have a very interesting phrase: Wai Qiang Zhong Gan. Literally, it means    “outwardly strong but inwardly weak”. Usually, it is used to describe those who are strong in appearance but weak in reality.

If you heard the story I told you last week, Yu Jia Zhi Zui, He Huan Wu Ci, you may remember it is about Duke Hui of the State of Jin during the Spring and Autumn Period about 2600 years ago. The story behind today’s idiom is also about him.  And here’s how the idiom originated:

Yi Wu became Duke Hui of Jin with the help of the states Qin and Qi.  While living in exile, he had promised Duke Mu of the State of Qin that he would give Qin five cities as a token of his gratitude to him.  But after he returned to Jin and became duke, he didn’t do as he had promised. And when a famine hit Qin, Duke Hui refused to help it.  So Duke Mu was very angry. In 645 BC, he led troops to attack Jin, and soon reached the place of Han of Jin. Duke Hui himself went to Han with his army to resist. Before the battle began, he told his soldiers to prepare a chariot harnessed with a horse bought from the state of Zheng.  An official named Qing Zheng said to Duke Hui: “In ancient time, people used home-produced horses to pull carts because they are  accustomed to the climate.  So after training, soldiers can drive them easily.  But now you use a horse from Zheng.  Such horses look very strong, but actually, they are only outwardly strong but inwardly weak. When they feel anxious in war, they will lose their temper, and get out of control.  If that happens, you won’t be able to fight on.  You’ll regret.”
However, Duke Hui didn’t take Qing Zheng’s advice. He insisted on using the horse bought from Zheng.  Just as Qing Zheng had foreseen, his horse was frightened out of its wits in the war, and the soldiers couldn’t control it. Duke Hui had no way but cried for help. Unfortunately, no other soldiers came.  He was caught by Qin soldiers.  The Jin army suffered a crushing defeat.

From how Qing Zheng described the Zheng horses, people get the idiom Wai Qiang Zhong Gan – “strong in appearance but weak in reality”. Sometimes it is used to describe those who are hollow inside in any sense, for instance, someone who impresses others as if he was rich and successful, but is actually in financial trouble.

(Source:english.cri.cn)

China Travel – Tongxin Mosque

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The Tongxin Mosque sits in the old city of Tangxin County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

The Tongxin Mosque is one of the largest structures in Islamic architecture with a long history in Ningxia. It is believed that the mosque was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). According to inscriptions on the tablets, the mosque experienced two large-scale renovations in 1791 and 1907.

The mosque’s main gate faces north and has a brick screen wall (imitating the wooden style) built in front of it. Carved in the center of the screen wall is an exquisite flower and tree pattern. Through the arched door and a dark cave are steps leading to the top of the 10-meter-high base. The base is paved with bricks and covers an area of over 3,500 square meters. Constructions built on the base include the meeting house, the Bangke Building (Wakening Building) and Akhun houses. Sitting in the west and facing east, the meeting house — the main construction of the mosque — has a single-layered gable and hip roof. Built on the brick and stone structures, the house is five bays wide and nine bays deep. Supported by over 20 huge columns, all the floors in the house are covered with wooden boards. On the right side in the front of the meeting house is the Wakening Building, a pavilion-style building with double eaves.

The Tongxin Mosque combines Chinese traditional wooden structures with Islamic wood and brick carvings, reflecting a high standard architectural technique. When the Chinese Worker’s and Peasants’ Red Army went on a westward campaign in 1936, liberating large areas in southeast Ningxia, they held a meeting there with delegates from all walks of life. They also set up the Yuhai County People’s Government in Shanganning, making the old mosque a famous piece of revolutionary architecture in Ningxia.

(Source: chinaculture.org)