Thursday, October 22, 2020

Double Ninth Festival (Chongyang Festival)

Hung on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Double Ninth Festival is additionally called Chongyang Festival. In Chinese, nine is viewed as the quantity of Yang (which implies manly rather than Yin which is ladylike). The ninth day of the ninth month is the day that has two Yang numbers, and 'chong' in Chinese methods twofold which is the way the name Chongyang was made. It is a day for individuals to eat Chongyang cake, drink chrysanthemum wine, climb mountains, and give proper respect to chrysanthemums. 

Chongyang Festival

Celebration Legend 

Similarly, as other Chinese celebrations have their own extraordinary story, so does the Double Ninth Festival. It is said that, during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220), a demon occupied the Nu River which caused illness in the neighboring individuals. The parent of a youngster, named Hengjing, kicked the bucket due to the demon's enchantment. So as to free the individuals of the villain, Hengjing experienced phenomenal lengths to locate an undying to show him swordsmanship so as to remove the fallen angel. 

On the eighth day of the ninth lunar month, the eternal revealed to Hengjing that the following day the villain would show up and he was to return to dispose of the demon and the infection. Taking a sack of dogwood and some chrysanthemum wine, Hengjing got back to his old neighborhood. In the first part of the day of the ninth lunar month, Hengjing drove all the locals who were each holding a bit of dogwood leaf and a cup of Chrysanthemum to the closest mountain. Around early afternoon, when the demon came out from the Nu River, the villain out of nowhere halted in light of the scent produced from the dogwood and the chrysanthemum wine. At that point Hengjing utilized the blade to fight the fiend for a couple of rounds and won. 

From that point forward the custom of ascending mountains, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and clutching dogwood on the ninth day of the ninth month have gotten famous. 

Double Ninth Festival Activities 

Ascending mountains and respecting lovely chrysanthemums are intriguing exercises that add to the Chongyang Festival making a glad air. 

It is said that by rising to a high mountain, maladies could be forestalled. Some generally realized sonnets were made by artists in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) depicting the scene and sentiment of hiking. Presently, family members or old buddies accumulate to ascend mountains to appreciate the delightful view and offer bliss of the occasion with one another. 

As chrysanthemums bloom during the celebration, it is a delight to appreciate the different chrysanthemums in parks. Excellent chrysanthemum presentations are held in huge parks that pull in various guests. 

The custom as wear dogwood - a sort of plant that can disperse the debacle in individuals' qualities – was famous in the days of yore. Ladies and youngsters like to wear a fragrant pocket with dogwood sewed in. In any case, this custom is right now not well known by any means. During the celebration, Chongyang cake and chrysanthemum wine is conventional cooking. 

Double Ninth Festival Food

Chongyang Cake is a sort of steamed cake having two layers with nuts and jujube sandwiched between them. Since cake in Chinese is articulated 'gao' which means high, individuals believe ascending a high mountain to be equivalent to eating cake. Likewise close to home advancement is believed to be made in the next days in the wake of eating the cake, for 'high' implies that one makes enhancements moving to a more elevated level. 

Drinking Chrysanthemum wine is an irreplaceable aspect of the celebration. Chrysanthemums are viewed as a sort of blossom having the capacity of an antibody and can drive the detestable away. Individuals frequently imagine that by drinking chrysanthemum wine, a wide range of infections and calamities can be relieved and forestalled. 

New Meaning of Double Ninth Festival

As nine is articulated 'jiu' which means long in Chinese, so individuals invest the word jiu with the significance of life span with an individual's life. In the time of 1989, Double Ninth Festival was assigned as Senior's Day - a day to regard the old and to let them live it up. Numerous organizations sort out gatherings where resigned individuals can go out to ascend mountains or on different trips. Individuals from a family additionally go with their older folks to have a loosening up day in a characteristic setting while at the same time wanting wellbeing and satisfaction for them.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Four Treasures of the Study

Traditionally, a man of letters has brushes, paper, ink sticks, and ink slabs in his study. These "four treasures of the study" are essential for the development of calligraphic art.

The Brush

The Chinese writing brush is made of goat's hair, rabbit hair, or the tail hairs of weasel. Such a brush is soft and has good elasticity. Soaked in ink, it has what is known as "capillarity", which combined with the strong ink permeability of a special Chinese paper, making the strokes in a calligraphic work more vivid, varied, and pretty.

The use of the Chinese writing brush can be traced back 6,000 years. In the early years, the brush was very simple. It seems that the pictures, symbols, and characters on ancient pottery, painted in red and black, were done with brush strokes.

The earliest brush intact today was found in a fifth-century B.C. tomb of the State of Chu in 1958. A large number of inscriptions on bamboo strips were unearthed at the same time.

In the fourth century, the skill of brush making saw great progress. The Chinese writing brush became more suitable for calligraphers to bring their skill into full play. It had four features, summed up as follows: First, the tip of the brush could display the delicate changes of strokes. Second, its smooth end hair could make writing vigorous while it spread across the paper. Third, its cone shape made it easy to move in all directions. Fourth, it was durable and kept its elasticity and softness longer. With such a brush, the calligrapher could write characters in different shapes, displaying different intensities and rhythms. Using different thicknesses of ink, the characters become three-dimensional.

The brushes from Anhui, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Henan provinces are the most famous in the country. The biggest one was made by a factory in Tianjin in 1979. It is 157 cm long including the 20-cm-long hair end, and it weighs five kg. It can soak up one kg of ink. On the morning of September 14, 1979, calligrapher Yang Xuanting from Beń≥ing wrote four characters meaning "Long Live the Motherland" on a piece of Xuan paper 100 cm long and 150 cm wide with this brush to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

In ancient times, the brush was made of the hair of a newborn baby. More than 1,400 years ago, an old woman from southern China invented a brush with a newborn's hair inside and rabbit hair outside. It is said that it was a favorite brush of Xiao Ziyun, a famous calligrapher of the time. Even today, some people ask writing brush manufacturers to make a brush with the hair of a newborn baby. But they do not use it, and keep it as a souvenir, wishing their child will be inspired after he or she sees it after growing up and become determined to be a man or woman of letters in the future.


Paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing are the four great inventions of China. It is said that paper was invented by Cai Lun (?-121) of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The History of the Eastern Han Dynasty explains clearly the old paper-making

technique. In the second half of the 20th century, the ancient paper discovered in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces showed that paper made of plant fiber was used during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 25), earlier than the Eastern Han Dynasty.

After Cai Lun died, his disciple Kong Dan tried to make durable paper to draw a picture of him to cherish his memory. He failed time and time again until he tried using the fibers of the bark of a dead tree. This turned out to be an endurable quality paper.

The paper mostly used by calligraphers and painters is Xuan paper from Xuancheng and Jingxian in Anhui Province. This type of paper is made of the bark of the wingceltis tree and rice straw. After being treated with lime and bleached in the sun, the fibers are made into pulp. Xuan paper is white, delicate, soft, vigorous, and resistant to insects. It keeps colors for a long time. Owing to the paper's strong absorption quality, the ink on the paper demonstrates a variety of appearances. If a brush soaked in watery ink moves quickly, the stroke will be dark in the center, and the ink around it will show lighter layers. If a brush soaked in thick ink moves quickly, there will be some white streaks in the stroke, reminiscent of a waterfall. Such a stroke will add vigor and interest to the whole calligraphic work.

Ink and ink slabs

The traditional ink used for producing calligraphic works and paintings is special too. It is made by rubbing a rectangular or round ink stick on an ink slab with a little water. The ink stick is made of the soot of Tung oil, coal or pine wood, animal glue, and perfume. It is viscous but does not coagulate in lumps. Excellent calligraphic works executed hundreds of years ago are still bright today. The strokes are done with thick, thin, or dried ink are different. Some are black and some are light black. In the eyes of the viewer, they express different weights.

The use of ink can be traced back to the New Stone Age, some 5,000-7,000 years ago. Pottery found in the New Stone Age Banpo Village, in Xi'an, shows traces of charcoal ink.

Even today, many calligraphers still use traditional ink sticks, finding that the process of grinding the ink gives them inspiration.

After the Jin Dynasty, calligraphic works always carried the names and seals of their executors. In the Song Dynasty, calligraphers started to add other tokens indicating their aesthetic mood, aspiration, and interest. The collectors of a work

by a famous calligrapher would put their seals on the work too. Sometimes a famous calligraphic work has passed through the hands of dozens of collectors. I once saw one work with more than 60 collectors' seals and signatures. The black characters and the red seals really bejeweled the work.

Ink slabs appeared in the third or fourth century, after the use of ink balls and ink sticks. A similar device had emerged earlier for rubbing dyestuffs or foodstuffs. The earliest rubbing device intact today is some 6,000 years old. There are many ink slabs that date back to the third century, some demonstrating excellent workmanship. There are old ink slabs shaped like a turtle or stringed instrument. Today, many people collect and study ancient ink slabs.

Most ink slabs are made of stone, but there are also porcelain, pottery, bronze, and iron ink slabs. Among ancient stone ink slabs, there is a jade-like one which is transparent, and ingeniously and delicately made. The ink rubbed in it cannot freeze

even in the coldest weather. Famous stone ink slabs include the Lu ink slab from Shandong Province, Duan ink slab from Guangdong Province, She ink slab from Anhui Province, and Tao ink slab from Gansu Province.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


In recent years, traveling to China has become more and more popular around the world. Many people come to enjoy the unique life of China, taste delicious food, visit beautiful scenery, and experience Chinese traditional culture. But you may find out it is rare to see people wearing traditional Chinese costumes in their daily lives. It seems like traditional clothing has been forgotten by them. So, you might have a question, what is Chinese traditional dress, Cheongsam, Qipao, or Kimono?

Hanfu – The Traditional Costume of China

Each country's traditional costumes are one of the symbols that reflect countries’ ancient cultures and how native citizens were influenced by the regional environment. China has a long history of more than 5,000 years. Undoubtedly, Hanfu, as the most typical traditional costume of China, is a very important part of Chinese national culture. But compared with other traditional cultures, such as Chinese painting and calligraphy, Hanfu is not getting proper status and glory in Chinese Culture Circle.

Though with its disappearance in some ears, Hanfu still remains its typical features today due to its strong vitality. The clothing of Buddhism, Taoism, and many minority nationalities in China still maintain the characteristics of Hanfu. Besides, Hanfu‘s elements can also be seen in some traditional essential festivals, such as commemorative events, folk festivals, and Kung Fu TV programs.

The journey of China is also a journey exploring traditional Chinese culture. Now, let’s walk into the world of Hanfu, learn about its past and present, and unveil its beauty and mystery.

1. 56 Ethnic Groups, 56 Traditional Costumes

China is a united multi-ethnic country; 56 ethnic groups are like a big family. Each ethnic group has its traditional costumes, so if you want to ask what is traditional Chinese clothing, then the traditional dress of any ethnic group can be taken as a traditional Chinese costume.

And among them, Hanfu as the traditional costume of Han nationality is like the eldest son of this big family. As we know, China now has more than 1.4 billion people, and Han’s population is close to 1.3 billion. Consequently, Hanfu is widely regarded as the most representative one compared to other traditional costumes in China.

Deriving from the etiquette and culture of the HuaXia period (5000 years ago), Hanfu is also called “Hua Costume.” With the alternation of dynasties in China, Hanfu has been continuously absorbing peculiarities of a different dynasty. By the time of the Han Dynasty (2000 years ago), it finally formed a complete costume system and was popularized nationwide. Hanfu also influenced the history of ancient Asian clothing through Confucianism, which makes Hanfu one of the oldest costumes in the world.

Unity between humans and Nature is the core of ancient Chinese traditional philosophy. Its concept and life pursuits are embodied in the design of Hanfu, which symbolizes the deep meaning of Hanfu and the aesthetic feeling of external forms. Many details in Hanfu, for example, “the long-wide sleeve” and “crossed-collar with Right Pattern,” reflect the modesty and inclusiveness of the eastern civilization.

2. The History of Hanfu

About 5,000 years ago, in the Neolithic period, the primitive agriculture and textile industry emerged in this land. The ancients tried to use woven linen to make clothes and began to wear clothes instead of animal fur. Then they invented mulberry silkworms and silk spinning, and those inventions contributed to the gradual formation of traditional Chinese clothing.

Shang Dynasty about 1600 B.C. – The Prototype of Hanfu

The Shang Dynasty was the first dynasty in China with written records. According to a large number of archaeological discoveries, the basic style of Hanfu has appeared in this period. It is also the earliest time to verify the existence of Hanfu.

Zhou Dynasty 1046 B.C. – Hanfu Officially Formed

At this period, the clothing system was initially established. And Hanfu began to develop into diverse styles. For instance, a significant difference could be seen between formal and informal Hanfu. The politics, economy, ideology, and culture of this period were undergoing tremendous changes. At the same time, the way of dressing has been included in the criteria of etiquette and has become a manifestation of etiquette. Since then, Chinese traditional costume has been more detailed.

Han Dynasty 202 B.C. – Hanfu Established a System

The Han Dynasty was one of the most important dynasties in ancient history. From this point on, Hua Xia people got their new ethnic name and called themselves “Han People.” Hanfu’s status as a traditional Chinese costume was officially identified in the meantime. Moreover, Hanfu began to attach more emphasis on clothing design, deriving hundreds of diverse costume styles to suit different occasions.

The style of Hanfu in this period gradually increased. In order to standardize Hanfu, people established a system of Hanfu, according to the occasion of wearing and the identity of people. And Hanfu became a complete clothing system.

Tang Dynasty A.D. 618 – The Peak of Hanfu

The Tang Dynasty was the most open dynasty in ancient China when the Silk Road brought the collision of thoughts between Eastern and Western civilizations. The frequency of trade and cultural exchanges between China and other countries reached an unprecedented height. Poetry and painting were especially popular in this era. Based on that, Hanfu applied various embroidery and color-matching methods of that time into its designs. Through the Silk Road, Hanfu came to other countries and was deeply loved and spread in oversea regions.

Qing Dynasty A.D. 1616 – Sudden Disappearance of Hanfu

The Qing Dynasty was the regime of the Manchu, which was another nationality of China. At this time, the government promoted Manchu costumes, and completely banned and abolished Hanfu.

It’s like a big bolt from the blue, and this traditional costume suddenly disappeared in China.

3. The Characteristics and Style of Hanfu

Hanfu is very easy to distinguish; it has pronounced characteristics.

The 3 basic features of Hanfu

  •     Crossed-collar with Right Pattern
  •     Restrain the waist by ropes
  •     Loose clothes with long-wide sleeves

Crossed-collar means the left and the right lapels of Hanfu crossed together. With the tie strings at left and right garment fronts, people could easily tie the clothes. And the Right Pattern stands for a certain pattern with the left lapel covering in front of the right one.

This style of clothing exits in many countries in East Asia, but other ethnic groups have both Left Pattern and Right Pattern, while Hanfu only officially accepts the Right Pattern.

Hanfu refers to the tie with string and hidden buckle. Unlike modern clothing, Hanfu has almost no buttons. Some people think that Hanfu uses the tie because the button hasn’t been invented at that time, but it is not valid. Hanfu does have “buttons,” which are what we call “Hidden Buckles.”  Hidden Buckle, which cannot be seen from the surface, is actually a cloth knot button, which we could usually find inside men’s shirt’s collar.

In fact, Hanfu also has small and short sleeves that are convenient for daily work and study. The long-wide sleeves are generally the characteristics of Hanfu formal dresses. For this kind of dress, the sleeves of Hanfu are longer than the arms. For example, the “Shenyi” style is required to be extended to the elbows, and the sleeves are four feet wide and nearly dragged to the ground.

Of course, such clothes are inconvenient to wear in daily life, but wearing a Hanfu can help a person become elegant and behave in a dignified way.

The 3 basic styles of Hanfu

Though Hanfu has a great number of different styles, generally, according to when and how certain types of Hanfu should be worn, it could be classified into 2 main categories, formal and informal. In terms of forms, Hanfu has 3 basic styles.

  •     Two-piece shirt and dress
  •     One-piece dress
  •     Two-piece shirt and pants

Two-piece shirts and dresses Hanfu has a very popular style which is called “Ruqun,” the top shirt is called “Ru,” and the bottom skirt is called “Qun.” Generally, the shirt is short to the waist, and the dress is very long, which dragged to the ground. Like the basic style of women’s clothes, Ruqun was always the most popular style in different periods.

The representative of the one-piece dress Hanfu is the “Shenyi” style, whose feature is covering the entire body of a human, which makes people look elegant. Many modern humanist scholars suggest promoting Shenyi, as the typical Hanfu in Chinese regions, to be the representative of Han culture.

Two-piece shirts and pants Hanfu means that the top shirt and bottom pants are made and worn separately. This type of Hanfu is very similar to the current modern clothing. Even nowadays, in the remote rural areas of China, there are still a large number of farmers wearing such clothes.

In addition to the pattern of clothes, Hanfu also differs in hairstyles, dressing method, and jewelry accessories. The diversity of women’s Hanfu dressing style attributes to a variety of their hairstyles and hair accessories, while man's could attribute to the swords and folding fans they bring with them that makes them arty.

4. Hanfu vs. Cheongsam vs. Kimono

Cheongsam is the formal dress of modern China.

Cheongsam is also called as “Qipao” in mandarin, was formed in the 1920s. It was decided by the government to be one of the national dresses and became the most popular women’s clothing at that time.

Cheongsam is a one-piece dress, it must have the following typical appearance: made of a single piece of clothing, tight-fitting, a stand-up collar with Right Pattern, split on both bottom side.

We can see that the Cheongsam retains some elements of Hanfu, but it is quite different from Hanfu. Cheongsam is a kind of costume that belongs to the transition period in Chinese history, so in a strict sense, Cheongsam is not Hanfu.

Kimono is a Japanese traditional costume.

Since the Tang Dynasty, the economic and cultural communication between China and the neighbor countries has been very close. The influence of Hanfu is very far-reaching. Many countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other East Asian countries, came to China to learn the advanced approaches of textile technology and the advantages of Hanfu, and then combined with their national costumes to gradually develop their traditional costumes, such as Kimono, Hanbok. So now, you can still see the elements of Hanfu in these traditional costumes.

5. Hanfu Movement

The Hanfu Movement is the abbreviation of the Chinese Hanfu Culture Renaissance Movement.

Hanfu had disappeared for more than 300 years and is still in a tough time of resurgence, far from being widely known. Even with respect for objective history and the purpose of presenting Hanfu’s status, it’s inappropriate for us to deliberately ignore the fact that Hanfu is being forgotten by the majority.

The Hanfu Movement has been more than 10 years. Today, there are more than 1 million Hanfu fans in China. Compared with the population of 1.4 billion, the number is negligible. However, people’s growing attention and like for Chinese traditional costumes will have a profound impact on modern clothes fashion.

There are 2 main reasons why Hanfu is challenging to promote on a large scale.

First, the cost is too expensive. Hanfu stands for an overall garment system, including clothes, hairstyle, face decoration, shoes, and accessories. Compared with modern clothes, Hanfu is more like a luxury.

Second, the Hanfu is not practical. How to wear Hanfu is a problem for many people. Its long-wide sleeve clothing style also brings many inconveniences to people’s life, which is not compatible with fast-paced modern life.

In this case, it is obviously too early to initiate a nationwide campaign for Hanfu’s Renaissance. If we must give Hanfu some special meaning, it may be in the name of “Hanfu Interest” instead of the so-called “Hanfu Movement” or “Hanfu Revival” to attract attention.

At present, Hanfu can only be popular with a few groups of people who like ancient Chinese culture, and if it wants to boost its visibility among the public, there is still a long way to go.

Finally, we also found a very shocking fact. For most young Hanfu costume advocates, they feel that there is no relationship between Hanfu and nationalism. In a sense, the love of Hanfu is a kind of pure love, a fantasy and nihilism, just like many people like Cosplay or role-playing video games.

Since the 21st century, Hanfu has been continually drawing on modern fashion clothing design. Based on traditional Hanfu clothes, it retains the advantages without suffering the disadvantages of Hanfu and designs more fashionable new Modern Hanfu. As worldwide Hanfu enthusiasts are constantly appearing, such traditional clothing is becoming more and more popular around the world. In particular, when you walk in the streets of Chinese cities, like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, or Shenzhen, you will often see a lot of girls wearing Hanfu.

Among the Hanfu fans interviewed, the idea of​​wearing Hanfu clothes generally began with the fascination with the martial arts and the pop costume drama TV show. Hanfu Fever does have a patriotic background, but most Hanfu fans are pursuing the beauty of costume and vintage elements. In fact, young people are under pressure from life and work, so a subculture that is simple and romantic, like Hanfu, is very attractive.

Hanfu is a traditional Chinese costume and a symbol of Chinese traditional culture. Although it was once lost, it's just like the splendid long history of China; it continues to shine today and show its charm.

It is delightful to have friends coming from afar. Today's China, open and inclusive, welcome everyone who travels to China. And hopes that Chinese traditional Hanfu costumes can bring you a new experience with Chinese characteristics.

Have a nice trip!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Chinese Language

Written Language
The Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with at least six thousand years of history. Chinese character inscriptions have been found in turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty1 (1766-1123 BC) proving the written language has existed for more than 3,000 years. The Chinese written language uses single distinctive symbols, or characters, to represent each word of the vocabulary. The vast majority of characters are written versions of spoken sounds that have meaning. A large dictionary usually contains 40,000 characters.2 One must be able to recognize 2,000 to 3,000 characters to read a newspaper. Although the written system has been altered over time due to revolutions and political changes, the principles of the language along with the symbols and characters have remained basically the same.
Although many Chinese dialects exist, the written language is a common form of communication. Even though people are not able to verbally communicate in different provinces, they are able to understand each other in writing. However, the written language can be further subdivided into three forms: simplified, traditional, and informal slang or phonetic. There is also a form called "pin-yin" which is the Chinese language transcribed using a roman spelling.
Chinese Fig 1

Simplified Characters
Primarily Chinese in China uses simplified characters. It is taught in Mandarin-Chinese classes internationally as well. These characters are simpler, i.e., have less pen-strokes, than traditional Chinese characters. Simplified characters have existed for hundreds of years, but only became officially acceptable in formal writing after the founding of the People's Republic of China in an attempt to improve literacy among Chinese in China, during the 1950's. 3 The Chinese newspaper "Ren Min Ri Bao" or "People's Daily" uses simplified characters as do subtitles of news reports or videos that come from China. Because there are not as many readers of this paper in the United States, the paper is not commonly carried in local Chinese stores. People who are literate in simplified Chinese characters may not be literate in traditional Chinese.
Traditional or Classical Chinese Characters
Traditional or classical Chinese
Traditional or classical Chinese characters is taught and used by Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. Many textbooks, newspapers, and subtitles for movies are written in traditional Chinese. Examples of Chinese newspapers distributed in the United States that use traditional Chinese characters is "Ming Pao" or "Sing Tao" newspapers. Cantonese speaking Chinese from Hong Kong generally reads these papers. On the other hand, Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese reads the Chinese "World Journal" newspaper in the States. Both papers are commonly sold in local Chinese stores and restaurants.

Informal slang or phonetic characters
Chinese language figure 3
Cantonese speakers have also developed an informal slang or phonetic characters. These characters are used in addition to traditional Chinese characters in an informal setting, such as in comics or entertainment sections of newspapers or magazines. The informal characters are used to sound out the Cantonese dialect. Often, you cannot find these characters in the dictionary. People from China, Taiwan or other countries have to learn to recognize these characters before they can read all sections of Hong Kong-based news papers.

Pin-yin, the English form of Chinese
In an attempt to make the Chinese language more understandable to the western world, China developed the "pinyin" (pin-yin) system.4 The pinyin system uses the western alphabet and spelling to pronounce Chinese words. Chinese languages have been transliterated into the pinyin system since 1892 5 (except personal and location names). In 1977, Chinese officials made a formal request to the United Nations (UN) 6 to use the pinyin system for naming geographical locations in China. People who use pinyin are those who are more familiar with the western alphabet and are learning to speak Mandarin Chinese.
 Chinese lang fig 4
Verb tense
Grammatically speaking English and Chinese are very different languages. There is no rule that verbs, nouns, and adjectives must agree with one another in Chinese writing. There is no such thing as singular or plural in the Chinese language. Often a number or word will be added to the sentence to account for plurality. There are no verb tenses in the Chinese writing. Additional words are used to clarify the past and future tenses. These words are usually placed at the beginning of the phase to help indicate time. In a medical setting, it is important to pay particular attention to time indicators. For example: if a provider asks, " Have you been vomiting?" the Chinese patient may answer " No". Actually the patient may mean "not now, but two days ago I did." In this case, the provider is not getting the correct information. It would be clearer to ask the patient a question with a time indicator such as "Have you vomited in the last week?"
Spoken Language
China covers a very broad area of land. There are more than 70 million people belonging to 55 different national minorities living in China.7 Each minority has their own spoken language. Many of the minority groups do not have a distinguishable written form for their languages.
The spoken Chinese language is comprised of many regional variants called dialects. Modern Chinese dialects evolved between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC.8 The differences in dialect are due to the different pronunciation and vocabulary. The official dialect of China is Mandarin, also call "Putonghua". More than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are also several other major dialects in use in China: Yue (Cantonese), Xiang (Hunanese), Min dialect, Gan dialect, Wu dialect, and Kejia or Hakka dialect.9

Major Chinese dialects spoken in the United States
The 3 most commonly used dialects in the Northwest
Mandarin or Putonghua is the most common dialect used in China and has been adopted as a second language by those who speak other Chinese dialects. The official language of China, Mandarin is the dialect taught in Chinese schools. It is the universal language used throughout the northern, central, and southwestern provinces of China. Mandarin is also spoken in Taiwan, where it is referred to as Chinese rather than "Putonghua." Often, Mandarin is used in local TV and radio media. Next to Cantonese, it is the most common Chinese language spoken in the Northwest. The Chinese newspaper, "World Journal" is distributed in the States and is published for Mandarin speaking Chinese.
Immigrants from China or Taiwan who speak Mandarin come from diverse backgrounds. Some have fled China for political freedom after incidents such as the Tiananmen Square10 events where students who spoke up for democracy were rapidly crushed by Chinese government. Others are well-educated professionals seeking business and educational opportunities in the United States. Still others have little education and have come to the States in search of better life for themselves and their families.
Cantonese, also known as Yue or Guangdonghua, is spoken in Hong Kong, most of Guangdong, and the southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. There are large groups of Cantonese-speaking immigrants located in the Northwest area. Many of these immigrants are from Southeast Asia, Mainland China, and Hong Kong. More recently, a number of ethnic Chinese has fled Southeast Asia as refugees.11Hong Kong's return to Chinese control in 1997 also stimulated a great deal of movement from both Hong Kong and China. Although Cantonese is a common dialect spoken on a daily basis in Hong Kong, government officials and schools are required to use Mandarin dialect. Cantonese is arguably the most commonly spoken dialect in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, and the East Coast. Local Chinese TV and radio media also commonly broadcast in Cantonese. A couple of Chinese newspapers distributed in the States for Cantonese speakers are "Ming Pao" and "Sing Tao."
Toisanese another dialect commonly used by Chinese in the Northwest is call Toisanese. This dialect came from the rural area of Guangdong. In the mid 1900s, many Toisanese emigrated from Toisan area to the States as railroad workers. More recently, Toisan people continue to immigrate to the States for improved economic opportunity. Many of the immigrants have adopted to learn the Cantonese dialect but some speak only Toisanese. There is no separate written language or broadcasting media in Toisanese.

Other dialects spoken by Chinese living in the Northwest
Xiangdialect12 is also known as Hunanese and is spoken primarily in the Hunan Province, located in southern China.
Min dialect13 is spoken mostly in Fujian, Taiwan and Hainan, and parts of eastern Guangdong and the Leizhou Bandao Peninsula, and in areas of Southeast Asia. During World War I, a large number of Chinese emigrated from Fujian to Taiwan.
Gan dialect14 is used mostly by the people living in Jiangxi and the southeastern corner of Hubei. They are located at the north side of China.
Wu dialect15 is spoken by a majority of the people living in Zhijiang and the southern areas of Jiangsu and Anhui.
Kejia or Hakka dialect16 is spoken in the northeastern Guangdong area, southwestern Fujian, southern Jiangxi, and in areas throughout southeastern China and Southeast Asia.
Interpretation & Translation Issues
Over the last several decades, the Northwest has seen large immigrant influxes from China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. The primary language of these multiple ethnic groups is a Chinese dialect. Therefore, interpretation and translation services are necessary in every field ranging from government officiating, law enforcement, and court activities, to medical encounters, insurance affairs, and industrial business and so forth.
These non-English speaking immigrants have various levels of educational and professional backgrounds, such as doctors, professors, teachers, business owners, engineers, labor workers, housewives, and scholars. No matter what kind of background they have, they all must face the most challenging task of learning how to speak and write English. Learning the English language is very difficult for many individual reasons including finances and time restraints, limited education, and age. Often due to the difficulties in communication, non- English speaking immigrants will try to get help and resources in their own community or postpone their problem until it is unavoidable.
Inappropriate but common interpretation methods
An English speaking person cannot understand or even imagine how frustrating and frightening it can be for a non-English speaker to answer the phone or door. Quite often they must rely on their children and relatives who speak better English. The children have taken over many of the parents' traditional duties because of their English skills like reading the mail, relaying school news and information, answering the phone, assisting in shopping, making appointments, and interpreting. However, even though the children can speak English fluently they often have a difficult time conveying information completely back to the parents because of their lack of sophistication with the Chinese language or because the subject is inappropriate for a child to interpret. Also, English speaking children or relatives are often busy with their own daily lives to be constantly translating for their non- English speaking family members. The whole issue of language knowledge has created a lot of tension and frustration in Chinese households and has led to power struggles between the parents and the child or family member.
Interpretation- Legal Guidelines
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal regulation that applies to all health care providers receiving federal financial support from the US department of Health & Human services. The regulation requires that providers use effective methods of communication with people who, because of their national origins have limited proficiency in English. The 1998 Guidance Memorandum explains what types of interpreter services are necessary to meet the Title VI responsibility.
All interpreter and translation services have contracted interpreters and translators in multiple languages who are ready to be sent out to the field for different functions. Most of the interpreters and translators are certified through the State of Washington. The State provides a written and oral certification exam for all medical, administrative, and court interpreters. Interpreters for many languages are certified by the State. The languages with certified state interpreters are Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Cambodia, Mien, Japanese, Korean, Romanian, and Somalia. Certifications for additional languages are being developed as needed.
Interpretation Styles
There are three different styles of interpreting: consecutive, paraphrase and simultaneous. Hospital and clinical settings usually use one of the first two styles. The simultaneous style often is used in court and other legal settings. The role of the interpreter is to act as a voice bridge between two parties. Some pointers to keep in mind when speaking through an interpreter are as follows:
  1. Maintain eye contact with the client or the patient at all times and talk to them directly (not to the interpreter).
  2. Be open-minded and aware of cultural differences.
  3. Use simple, clear and direct terms or phases
  4. Pause periodically.
  5. Make sure the client or patient fully understands what is translated.
  6. Encourage questions.
  7. Schedule extra time for the interpreting process.

Interpretation Resources
Many multi-cultural services and agencies provide seminars and classes to the public. Locally, the Cross Cultural Health Care Program ( offers such seminars. Currently, Washington State provides one of the best translation and interpretation services in the nation. A majority of the non-English speaking immigrants have been pleased with the interpreter services and feel very fortunate to live in the Great Northwest!

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