Chinese Character Study

Study by Jodi Yim James  Staff Writer

不 bù  The Chinese character 不 is the English word not.

This Chinese character is the picture of a bird flying up towards the sky and disappearing from sight, fading into the distance. The horizontal stroke at the very top represents the sky as an indefinite limit, blocking the bird from ever reaching its destination. Hence we have the idea of “not”, or a negative: 不.
Carrying this one step further, it is said that overconfident man, unable even to walk in peace with his fellow man, then attempts to fly. For him also, the sky is a limit.
Here is a list of common uses, familiar phrases, and frequent constructions for 不 :
不是。 bù shì。 No!
请 问, Bob 在 不 在? Qǐng wèn, Bob zài bú zài? Excuse me, is Bob here?
不错! bù cuò。 Not Bad! (Pretty Good!)
不客气。 bù kè qi。 (You’re welcome! – in response to Thanks!)
不谢。 bù xie。 Don’t thank me!
这不可能。 zhè bù kě néng 。 This is impossible.
不好。 bù hǎo。 Not good.
不好看。 bù hǎo kàn。 Not good-looking.

How does one say “Merry Christmas” in Chinese


By Jodi Yim James, Staff Writer
Merry Christmas is shèng dàn kuài lè圣诞快乐 in Chinese.
Shèng 圣 is sacred or holy. It is also short for shèng ren, a sage or a saint.
Dàn 诞 is birth or birthday.
Kuài lè 快乐 is happiness, joy, delight, or rejoicings.
So, shèng dàn kuài lè, Holy Birth Happy, is how you say and write Merry Christmas in Chinese. For Christians who believe Jesus is more than a saint, there is another common phrase for Merry Christmas in Chinese: Ye dàn kuài lè耶诞快乐. Ye 耶 is short for Ye Su 耶稣, which is the transliterated name for Jesus. The character ye (pronounced in the first tone as in the transliteration of Jesus) does not have a special meaning. It is a character used to imitate a sound, often used for transliteration of foreign names. In old Chinese literature, ye (pronounced in the second tone) is the same as father or used to indicate a question (old Chinese writing has no punctuation marks).
Su 稣means to revive, to come to, or to rise again. Just like people speak English with different accents in different parts of America, most Chinese don't speak 100% Beijing Mandarin. Their speech has a hint of their local accents. Many Chinese pronounce Ye1 Su1 as Ye2 Su1. In that pronunciation, the name Ye Su not only sounds close to the Latin pronunciation of Jesus, but also has a great meaning: Father who has risen again.
Here are more vocabulary words for the holidays, including Happy Thanksgiving.
English Pinyin Hanzi
Christmas shèng dàn jié 圣诞节
Christmas yē dàn jié 耶诞节
Christmas eve shèng dàn yè 圣诞夜

Place Strict Standards on Oneself in Public Service

By Jodi Yim James, Staff Writer

subdue self (self-denial) fèng offer/reveregōng public/common/justice


With leadership change in China and a presidential election in the U.S., it’s an appropriate time to an ancient Chinese idiom about honorable public service. This Chinese proverb expresses how one should act as a government official.


For those you you who wish our public officials would hold themselves to higher standards, make a scroll of this idiom and send it to your favorite candidate in the November elections. If they win and are elected, let’s hope they will hang it in their office.


For our characters study, we look at the hanzi character for gōng, meaning public, and the hanzi character for gong, meaning share. Together, gōng gòng mean publicly shared, like a MTC bus or a municipal park. We list here vocabulary with each gong and with gōng gòng together.



Character Study 电diàn

By Jodi Yim James, Staff Writer

Rice Paddy + Lightning = Electric


The story of rain in a rice paddy with a bolt of lightning, producing natural electricity, gives us the character  diàn. The rice paddy is from a bird’s eye view, looking down on a field divided into four. The lightning bolt strikes through down the center of the four fields. This character is used for electric things.



  1. 电视 diàn shì electric regard/look =  television / TV

  2. 电影 diàn yǐng  electric picture = movie / film

  3. 电梯 diàn tī  electric ladder = elevator

  4. 电脑 diàn nǎo  electric brain = computer

  5. 电车 diàn chē  electric vehicle = trolleybus; tram, light rail

  6. 电邮 diàn yóu electric mail = email

  7. 电话 diàn huà  electric speech = telephone




Character Study 是 Shì

By Jodi Yim James, Staff Writer

shì is a very common character that is used in two ways. 

shì can mean “Yes!” or “Right!” Another way to understand is to think of 是 shì as a reply to the question, “Is that true?” The reply being, “Yes, it is true.” 是 shì expresses agreement.


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