My relationship with Chinese

‘Chinese is such a beautiful language’, I exclaim in English。

Speaking Chinese is always a tongue-twister for me. I feel like I’m stringing a Chinese yo-yo with Western skip-rope. Chinese culture is like mandarin oranges, which I receive from relatives with the same wrinkly skin, and I swallow to be polite but do not feast on (the oranges not my relatives..)

472167.jpg   thanks to



Chinese poetry is beautiful though! What I love about Chinese are the various references and double-meanings, squeezed into each character. A phrase of 8 characters can take a paragraph of English to explain.

Chinese also has a bazillion homonyms (words with the same sounds – there aren’t many sounds to choose from when words are monosyllabic). Chinese poetry exploits this to the full. Take this excerpt from the famous “The East Wind sighs” by Li Shangyin, written in the 9th century. And even I, who failed my last Chinese essay at school, can understand it! (though I did have to google to understand the allusions to classic literature + what the ‘gold toad’ is. It’s just the lock of a door.)

金蟾嚙鎖燒香 (xiang)入 (A gold toad gnaws the lock. Open it, burn the incense.)

玉虎牽絲 (si)汲井回 (A tiger of jade pulls the rope. Draw from the well and escape.)

Here, xiang (香)means incense, and si (丝)is thread.

In a later line-

一寸相思 (xiangsi)一寸灰 (An inch of love is an inch of ashes)

Here, xiang (相)means ‘mutual’, and si(思)means ‘longing’, or ‘to miss’.

‘Mutual longing’ = lovesickness.

Chinese calligraphy (书法) is also pretty cool, there are 5 major script styles:


and the pictographic nature of chinese characters have proven inspiration for poems:


Only a bird

to begin with, and yet

it carries a mountain

under its wings.

published in last boy, by Ng Yi-sheng

And here is one of mine: Haiku #3- character: 愛

Words flow more easily to me in Chinese sometimes (not much of the time), so I have some Chinese posts. Chinese pop-songs have beautiful lyrics. I still struggle with Chinese, even when writing free-flow though. Can you fully appreciate what you do not fully understand? Probably not, which means it is even more to be discovered.


Response to day 3 of

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge



Author: naomi

Student, likes learning about foreign cultures, shall not divulge anymore so my identity is not exposed!

3 thoughts on “My relationship with Chinese”

  1. Language learning never stops! My first language is English and I’m still learning the more advanced grammar structures and new words 🙂 By the way, in college I attempted to take Mandarin classes….they didn’t last very long. Such a complex language!


    1. Thank you for your kind words! I am Chinese (just not by nationality) and I’ve learned it since young, so it shouldn’t be hard for me 🙂 I just feel bad that I can’t speak/ write in Chinese as well as I can English… Oh well, at least now I’m motivated to study it harder!


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