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 shùzì marriage statistics
下跌 xiàdié to fall
失婚 shīhūn to lose one’s spouse (through marriage failure or bereavement)
结不起 jié bù qǐ unable to afford marriage
成本 chéngběn costs
不顺眼了 bù shùnyǎnle not pleasing to the eye
无比稳定 wúbǐ wěndìng extremely stable
养不好 yǎng bù hǎo to not raise (a child) well (in this context: not be able to raise it well)
补贴 bǔtiē to subsidize
非婚 fēi hūn unmarried
单身 dānshēn single
传宗接代 chuánzōngjiēdài succession
信心 xìnxīn confidence

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 měirényú little mermaid
上映 shàngyìng to be released
中文译名 zhōngwén yìmíng Chinese translation (of the movie title)
审美价值 shěnměi jiàzhí aesthetic value
嘲讽 cháofèng to ridicule
脏辫 zàng biàn dreadlocks
不够客观 bùgòu kèguān not objective enough
必须符合自己的审美标准 bìxū fúhé zìjǐ de shěnměi biāozhǔn must conform to one’s own aesthetic standards
炒冷饭 chǎolěngfàn fried rice
童年回忆 tóngnián huíyì childhood memory
重制版 chòng zhìbǎn remake

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 Wǔhàn to explore Wuhan
骑自行车 qí zìxíngchē to cycle (probably not a new word, but tricky to pronounce)
标志性的建筑 biāozhì xìng de jiànzhú iconic building
很多不一样的元素融合在一起的 hěnduō bù yīyàng de yuánsù rónghé zài yīqǐ de a fusion of many different elements
浓厚 nónghòu strong
一台运动相机 yī tái yùndòng xiàngjī an action camera
隐藏起来 yǐncáng qǐlái to hide
画面中 huàmiàn zhōng on screen

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 guàngjiē to go shopping with my friends
安排了很多工作 ānpáile hěnduō gōngzuò planned a lot of work
要开很多会 yào kāi hěnduō hui to have many meetings
感受真正的气氛 gǎnshòu zhēnzhèng de qìfēn feel the real atmosphere
缓解压力 huǎnjiě yālì to relieve stress
放松自己 fàngsōng zìjǐ to relax oneself
缓解压力的方式 huǎnjiě yālì de fāngshì ways to relieve stress
码头 mǎtóu pier
南丫岛 nán yā dǎo Lamma Island

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 four walls, 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 xiǎohái to give birth to a child
打嘴炮 dǎ zuǐ pào to brag
房子和教育资源是绑定的 fángzi hé jiàoyù zīyuán shì bǎng dìng de housing and educational resources are tied together
落户口 luò hùkǒu to get registered residence
做妥协 zuò tuǒxié to compromise
税收 shuìshōu tax
莫程度度上来讲 mò chéngdù dù shànglái jiǎng to some extent / from a certain perspective
进城税 jìn chéng shuì city entry tax

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 gōutōng to communicate
异国CP yìguó CP lit. 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 de we 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 jiāoliú there is no way to communicate on a soul level
局限在 júxiàn zài limited to
跨国情侣 kuàguó qínglǚ international / transnational couple
跨国婚恋 kuàguó hūnliàn international / transnational marriage
饮食文化 yǐnshí wénhuà food culture
和家人的距离 hé jiārén de jùlí distance from family
语言学习 yǔyán xuéxí language learning
离谱 lípǔ outrageous, 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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