Spring finally arrived yesterday. Here in New Hampshire, we were welcomed with a bunch of wet snow and slick rain…typical New England weather.
The good news is that it is maple sugaring time here. My daughter’s school taps maple trees and boils the sap down to make their own maple syrup. Parent volunteers man the schools own sugar shack where hours go into dumping sap and boiling it down.
Sugaring an annual tradition which culminates in a community pancake breakfast, usually in early April. In our area, you know spring is here once you taste the sweet New Hampshire maple syrup!
All this got me thinking about nature and how I can talk about what we see outside with my children in Mandarin. Here are some words related to trees in Mandarin:
- Tree: 树 ＝shù (shù is ‘shoe’ with a sharp, descending tone)
- Leaf: 叶＝yè (yè is ‘y’+'eh’ with a sharp, descending tone)
- Stick: 枝条 ＝ zhī tíao (zhī is ‘j’+'er’ with a high, sustained tone; tíao is ‘tee’+'ow’ with a rising tone)
- Branch: 树枝 =shù zhī (shù is ‘shoe’ with a sharp, descending tone;zhī is ‘j’+'er’ with a high, sustained tone)
- Woods:树林 = shù lín (shù is ‘shoe’ with a sharp, descending tone; lín is ‘Lynn’ like the name with a rising tone)
If you look at the characters for these tree words, most have a symbol (or radical) 木 ‘mù’, meaning tree or wood, within the character.
These are good words for noticing how Chinese characters incorporate radicals, something like a Latin root, into the word. Radicals are basically the building blocks for Chinese characters and hold hints to what a character means.
So, if you see a character you don’t recognize, but it contains a 木 ‘mù’ radical in it (for example), you can guess that the character means something about trees or wood. Also, radicals are often stand-alone characters.
Click here to download a tracing page with the wood radical characters 木 mù and other characters containing the wood radical.