Friday, February 20, 2015

Chinese Lesson 1: 水仙

This is a pot of Narcissus and also, it looks like, some mint. The white tag says, "水仙 200 元".  
If you remember from the previous post, 元 yuan, is the Chinese currency, and it figures here as basically something similar to a dollar sign.  In Taiwan they have the New Taiwan Dollar, or NT.  In Mandarin it is called, tai bi, 台幣, or "Taiwanese Coin" but in any case sometimes you see "元" and sometimes you see"NT" after a number to indicate the Taiwan currency. 

水, shui, as some of my students know means "water"
仙, xian, is a word my students don't know, but they might know the two radicals it is composed of, 人(also written as亻), ren, which means person, and 山, shan, which means mountain.  仙 means an immortal being. 
Together 水仙 is like "water fairy" or "water immortal."  I'm not sure if this is a translation of the mythological figure of Narcissus, who stared into the water so long entranced by his own beauty that he became a flower, or if it's simply a similar take on the Narcissus flower that is known to propogate endlessly alongside bodies of water.  

Then take a look at the very complicated character on the flower pot itself.  It is actually a phrase that they squashed into one word.  The one word isn't in any dictionary, it's not a real word, so I can't even write it again here, but I can write the phrase: 招財進寶, zhao cai jin bao, "beckon wealth, enter treasure" one of the numerous four word phrases written on red strips of paper to welcome good luck and fortune in the new year.  

The words are not in any order, and they cheat a little bit but 財 and 招 are combined by writing 才 in 財 and the 扌 in 招 as one.  Also the 貝 in 寶 and 財 are also combined.  

1 comment:

  1. I love the things you're capturing in your blog posts--so many of the scents, sights, and tastes I remember. I'm feeling really nostalgic for a springtime Taiwan, especially since it's snowing right now.