Chinese vocabulary notes (June 2023)

In this edition: Chinese young people don’t want to marry anymore, the little mermaid and Chinese beauty standards, cycling in good old Wuhan, relaxation in Hongkong, high housing prices in China’s major cities and last but not least international (Chinese) marriage.

Young people, why don’t you marry anymore?

Mainland Chinese journalist 王志安 discusses that recently, there have been a lot of videos on the Chinese internet defending that you’re better off unmarried. According to data released by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, the number of registered marriages nationwide in 2022 was 6.83 million, the lowest value since statistics were available (1985). Compared with last year, the number dropped 10%. It’s hard for me to judge these statistics, but 6.83 million seems a staggeringly low number for such a populous country, right?

As always, 王志安 shares his analysis on this development and even offers some potential solutions. This is a complicated topic related to the dropping birth rate and the ‘lying flat‘ phenomenon that we covered in previous editions of Chinese Vocabulary Notes (#5, #12). I must admit that without subtitles it’s still hard for me to understand everything in full detail, but he has a great gift of explaining complex matters and put things into a broader context, be it historical or cultural. That’s why, even though I have to ‘cheat’ a bit by activating the English subtitles, I always enjoy 王志安’s video’s and learn something new.

Level indication: HSK 5 (with transcript)

结婚数字jiéhūn shùzìmarriage statistics
下跌xiàdiéto fall
失婚shīhūnto lose one’s spouse (through marriage failure or bereavement)
结不起jié bù qǐunable to afford marriage
不顺眼了bù shùnyǎnlenot pleasing to the eye
无比稳定wúbǐ wěndìngextremely stable
养不好yǎng bù hǎoto not raise (a child) well (in this context: not be able to raise it well)
补贴bǔtiēto subsidize
非婚fēi hūnunmarried

Chinese summary: 中国人为什么不结婚了?中国的结婚数据表明2023年的生育率下降了。此外,中国的人口增长也出现了停滞。记者王志安将他的看法分享给大家。

Why the Chinese don’t like the Little Mermaid?

It seems the Chinese audience doesn’t like the new version of ‘The little mermaid’. Indeed, the musical fantasy film scores only a modest 5.1 on Douban. Chinese teacher Li Can explains it has something to do with Chinese beauty standards and 炒冷饭 (fried rice). Actually, it’s not just the Chinese audience, 小美人鱼’s appearance – as someone who knows Andersen’s tale and seen ‘den lille havfrue‘ in Copenhagen – doesn’t make much sense to me either.

Level indication: HSK 5 (with transcript)

小美人鱼xiǎo měirényúlittle mermaid
上映shàngyìngto be released
中文译名zhōngwén yìmíngChinese translation (of the movie title)
审美价值shěnměi jiàzhíaesthetic value
嘲讽cháofèngto ridicule
脏辫zàng biàndreadlocks
不够客观bùgòu kèguānnot objective enough
必须符合自己的审美标准bìxū fúhé zìjǐ de shěnměi biāozhǔnmust conform to one’s own aesthetic standards
炒冷饭chǎolěngfànfried rice
童年回忆tóngnián huíyìchildhood memory
重制版chòng zhìbǎnremake

Chinese summary: “小美人鱼”的重制版在中国上映了。这部迪斯尼电影在中国观众中并不太受欢迎,因为小美人鱼的外貌不符合中国人的审美标准。许多网友嘲笑主角的脏辫。中文老师李灿对此发表了评述,解释了为何会出现这样的现象。

Cycling in Wuhan|Intermediate Chinese Listening Practice

Ah Wuhan! It will take a long time for most people on this planet to connect the name Wuhan to something else than the Covid-thing. But as we can see in Shenglan’s footage, things have sort of returned to normal, although people are still wearing medical masks, even in the hot and smoggy atmosphere of summer.

Level indication: HSK 4 (with transcript)

探索武汉tànsuǒ Wǔhànto explore Wuhan
骑自行车qí zìxíngchēto cycle (probably not a new word, but tricky to pronounce)
标志性的建筑biāozhì xìng de jiànzhúiconic building
很多不一样的元素融合在一起的hěnduō bù yīyàng de yuánsù rónghé zài yīqǐ dea fusion of many different elements
一台运动相机yī tái yùndòng xiàngjīan action camera
隐藏起来yǐncáng qǐláito hide
画面中huàmiàn zhōngon screen

Chinese summary: 中国博主Shenglan用自行车来探索武汉。她帮我们了解了大流行之后武汉的实际情况。生活似乎已经基本恢复正常,但仍然有一些人在路上戴着口罩。Shenglan骑自行车的同时拍摄视频的技术很不错。她用网络语中一个流行的词汇“特种兵式的旅游”来描述她这次旅行的经验。

Traveling in Hongkong with Julie

Julie tries to relax in Hongkong, but has to film the whole process, that must be so exhausting. She takes us to 南丫岛, a place where people go to find stress relief.

Level indication: HSK 4 (with English + Chinese subtitles)

陪姐妹逛街péi jiěmèi guàngjiēto go shopping with my friends
安排了很多工作ānpáile hěnduō gōngzuòplanned a lot of work
要开很多会 yào kāi hěnduō huito have many meetings
感受真正的气氛gǎnshòu zhēnzhèng de qìfēnfeel the real atmosphere
缓解压力huǎnjiě yālìto relieve stress
放松自己fàngsōng zìjǐto relax oneself
缓解压力的方式huǎnjiě yālì de fāngshìways to relieve stress
南丫岛nán yā dǎoLamma Island

Chinese summary: Julie去了一趟香港旅游。她给我们介绍了不少香港特色菜。虽然她原本安排了很多工作,但在香港她都不想再做了,希望能够躺平缓解压力。然而,作为一名YouTuber,她仍然决定拍摄整个旅程。

Chinese young people VS housing prices

Shanghai resident Kevin argues that nowadays buying property in China’s big cities is like a ‘city entry tax’. In order to get properly registered as a resident (落户口) and get access to local facilities (like schooling for children), you need to buy real estate. Since many people can’t afford to become the owner of their own home, raising children becomes a problem, because they wouldn’t be able to send them to school. So the point Kevin is making is that the high housing prices and the negative population growth in China are tied together. It’s not simply that young Chinese people are ‘lying flat’ (躺平) and refuse to have children. It has everything to do with economic and bureaucratic realities.

I normally don’t follow Kevin in Shanghai’s channel and haven’t seen his other video’s, but this one, discussing a hot social topic, I really enjoyed. He brings a subtle inside perspective. Please watch the video the get the full gist of his argument.

Level indication: HSK 5 (with Chinese subtitles)

生小孩shēng xiǎoháito give birth to a child
打嘴炮dǎ zuǐ pàoto brag
房子和教育资源是绑定的fángzi hé jiàoyù zīyuán shì bǎng dìng dehousing and educational resources are tied together
落户口luò hùkǒuto get registered residence
做妥协zuò tuǒxiéto compromise
莫程度上来讲mò chéngdù dù shànglái jiǎngto some extent / from a certain perspective
进城税jìn chéng shuìcity entry tax

Chinese summary: 上海居民Kevin给我们解释为什么在大城市购房对他来说相当于一种进城税。这个问题与中国的出生率降低有关,但是这个关系比较复杂。按照Kevin的分析,房子和教育资源是紧密相连的。这是因为为了让孩子进入学校,中国居民首先必须购房。先要购房才能落户口,而先要落户口才能享受到教育资源。教育水平与房价有关。房价越高,教育质量越好,因此购房被视为一种进城税。只有交纳这种“税款”,才能获取当地的资源。主要问题是,如果两个人在上海工作,从谈恋爱到生孩子的过程中,许多伴侣买不起房,因此无法迈出下一步。

After 4 years in a relationship with a foreigner, what do we really think about international marriages?

Last but not least: Jared and Susu discuss the up- and downsides of cross-cultural relationships, based on their experience of being 4 years together. Communication in either Chinese or English doesn’t seem a problem for them, including on a emotional level. Good honest video, yet too short to discuss other interesting aspects like different cultural values, world views and ways to resolve conflicts. Since I’m also in a 跨国婚恋, I can relate to the things discussed here and appreciate their openness. Also on the topic of 语言学习. In my experience, this depends on the relationship. Not every partner is also a good teacher. Nor does it always work to switch the lingua franca (English for example) to the target language (Chinese), if you’re both used to speaking English. It can be done, for sure, but it takes great effort of will on both sides.

Level indication: HSK 4 (with English + Chinese subtitles)

沟通gōutōngto communicate
异国CPyìguó CPlit. foreign & exotic couples
我们生活中基本上都是用中文来沟通的wǒmen shēnghuó zhōng jīběn shàng dū shì yòng zhōngwén lái gōutōng dewe basically communicate in Chinese in our daily life
没有办法进行灵魂层次上的交流méiyǒu bànfǎ jìnxíng línghún céngcì shàng de jiāoliúthere is no way to communicate on a soul level
局限在júxiàn zàilimited to
跨国情侣kuàguó qínglǚinternational / transnational couple
跨国婚恋kuàguó hūnliàninternational / transnational marriage
饮食文化yǐnshí wénhuàfood culture
和家人的距离hé jiārén de jùlídistance from family
语言学习yǔyán xuéxílanguage learning
离谱lípǔoutrageous, something that goes too far

That’s it for June. I’m going to take a break from this format (Chinese Vocabulary Notes) for the summer and invest my time in writing some articles that are waiting to be finished. Enjoy the summer and see you back soon!

Graded Chinese readers

Graded Chinese Reader 500 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Mini-stories
Graded Chinese Reader 1000 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Short Stories
The Rise of the Monkey King: A Story in Simplified Chinese and Pinyin 600 Word Vocabulary Level
The Sixty Year Dream: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers Level 1 (Chinese Edition)
The Dwarfs 小矮人 Xiǎo ǎi rén (HSK3+Reading): Chinese HSK Graded Reader
The Prince and the Pauper: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers Level 1,
Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series Level 1(300-Word Level): Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
Graded Chinese Reader 3000 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Short Stories

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