Are you one of those people who has been studying Mandarin for some time now, but the only Chinese person you know is your teacher? Why not visit China and check if all 1.3 billion people living there are the same as him/her?
Before you buy the airline tickets though, do spend a moment reading the article below. It might save you some trouble (e.g. getting stuck at the airport after landing, not being able to pay for transportation, suddenly losing access to all your applications or websites, or trying to understand where you are after you get off at an unexpected place).
Here is a survival guide to China – based on my experiences during a trip to Chengdu in May 2018 (with the help of some online research).
When I travel somewhere within Europe or America I have just 3 things I need to remember to take: 1. Passport 2. Debit card 3. Contact lenses with solution. That’s it. If I have these – anything else can be bought (providing the card has money in it).
It’s a bit different in China though. The main difference for me was that I could have forgotten my debit cards and the result would have been exactly the same. So, for me, rule number one to survive in China is – “take cash”, probably USD is best so you can exchange it easily before you figure out which cash machine will cooperate with you. The thing is – it does not seem possible to pay with debit nor credit cards anywhere… it’s either WeChat Pay, Alipay or cash.
If you are in China for the first time and for a short period – cash is the answer. If you are staying for longer, it might be worth investigating other ways of paying. Even though it is now possible to link your foreign credit/debit card to WeChat or Alipay, you have to understand that it’s still not possible to pay with these all the time. There are lots of discussions and troubleshooting tips available on the internet, which tells me this is not something you would want to spend time on if you are just visiting China for a short period of time.
Another option is to open a Chinese bank account and only then link this to WeChat or Alipay.
Again, there is so much advice online how to do it and which documents you will need (passport, proof of residence, proof of employment or student status or work permit, initial deposit – depending on the bank).
So, let’s come back to cash. Since it’s not really possible to buy RMB outside China, I would recommend bringing some USD. 5000 USD is the maximum limit, beyond which you need to declare and perhaps even have some documentation to explain why you are bringing so much money.
The easiest way for me was to (1) check if the ATMs at the airport give out cash (they didn’t), (2) exchange enough at the airport kiosk to pay for my hostel on arrival, pay for the metro trip to the hostel, and to be able to buy food. Yes, the exchange rate is not great, and there is a high fee to be paid too, but when you compare this with being tired after 15 hours of flying, not knowing your way around and actually needing to get out of the airport– it seems there is no other way…
Once I reached my hostel (which, despite advertising that they accepted Visa – did not accept Visa or any other card known in Europe.) and after sleeping for many hours, I was ready to walk around and find an ATM which would actually give me more cash. The only one working for my Czech debit card was Bank of China – which is absolutely fine, since the ATMs of this bank are everywhere.
It is worth checking before coming to China what fees your bank charges for taking cash from others banks’ ATMs; for Bank of China, there was a fee for each withdrawal. If I remember correctly, I had to choose an option of withdrawing from a Credit account, even though I only had a Debit account. You need to know your PIN for the card you are using with the ATM (less obvious for some). Maximum withdrawal is 2000-3000 RMB, but also check what you have set as a daily limit on your own cards.
Make sure you call your bank in advance to inform them that you will be withdrawing money in China so they don’t block your card. Despite that, they still might, so you really have to make sure you have some cash in the first place.
(3) It is possible to exchange money in the banks and get an exchange rate 10-20% better than at the airport, but apparently the waiting time might not be worth it (1-3 hours).
Make sure to download a VPN app before you go to China. Since China blocks lots of sites and services you are used to, you will need a VPN to access them. I used a free one and it worked. There are also paid ones. I’m not sure what the difference is between free and paid.
There is Wifi in many public places so you can survive until you manage to get to a Mobile Phone shop to buy a local SIM card. Check beforehand if your phone can accept any other SIM cards than the ones you have. If you can’t unlock your phone for other SIM cards, then you might want to buy a new phone for use in China.
If your phone can accept other SIM cards, then (1) you can either buy a Chinese SIM card online thru Amazon before you come to China or (2) when you are in China, you should visit one of the providers e.g. China Mobile and China Unicom, and ask for a SIM card with Internet for your stay in in China. Only China Mobile was able to sell me such a SIM, the other one didn’t have such a service or maybe they didn’t understand what I needed. I paid around 80 RMB and it worked for a month. Didn’t need to cancel anything when leaving the country. No top up was needed.
What I did was I showed them a piece of paper with this sentence written in Chinese characters and then I was directed to the teller who spoke English. It took more than an hour, but I walked out with the new SIM card installed and working in my phone. You also have to show your passport. This means that your SIM is tied to your passport, which allows the Chinese government to know what you write in WeChat…
It’s also good to have a phone which has dual SIM capabilities so if you get an SMS from your regular phone number, you can actually accept it and also check your contacts from the original SIM. You might not see your contacts if you replace this card with another Chinese phone.
3. Meeting people
I would like to recommend two ways to meet people – Couchsurfing and WeChat. I was lucky to meet some friendly Chinese through Couchsurfing by advertising the dates of my trip to China and then also by inviting some Couchsurfing members to meet me for beer/coffee via private messages through this app. Quite a number of young Chinese use VPN so they have access to various Western apps.
Couchsurfing enthusiasts also organize meetups – free for anyone to join. These are advertised in the Events section of the app. The meetups are really good to get some local information, e.g. people might share with you which WeChat groups they belong to and send you an invitation to the groups you are interested in. Otherwise WeChat is good for contacting new friends – basically, it has all the same features as Whatsapp, and more.
There might be visitors interested in “other kinds of meetings” with Chinese people – so just for the record and for those speaking Mandarin – the Tinder equivalent of China is Tantan.
All I can say is: take care of yourself and make sure you don’t get sick! Fortunately, I didn’t get sick on my visit to China, which means that I can’t give an account of how it is to use medical services in that country. What I found on the internet tells me that either the experience will be unacceptable by Western standards, expensive, or both.
If I were to get sick, my instinct would be to find the nearest international clinic – so make sure you check beforehand where they are. It is a good idea to always have with you a list of things you are allergic to or medicines you take – translated into Chinese. Also – do consult your new Chinese friends that you met through Couchsurfing or other means when you need to go to the doctors.
Before you go to China – get medical insurance and figure out how it works and what it covers. Despite that, I understand you will have to pay for everything anyway (visits, prescriptions, etc.).
I personally trust street food more than restaurants. I ate street food in India, and I ate street food in China – nothing happened to me. Either I am lucky or the rule of thumb works – “only eat in places where lots of people eat”. This should at least guarantee that food is fresh. Menus of small variety is an advantage as well – the ingredients will be stored for a very short time only if all customers eat the same thing. And small variety is a good thing, because even if the menu is long, when you read it, it’s just a combinations of 4 kinds of meat with different kinds of noodles.
Learn to use chopsticks, e.g. study Youtube videos. When reusable chopsticks are offered – I saw people first pour hot water on them (keeping the tips in a small bowl) to disinfect them.
Learn basic characters for kinds of meat, noodles, vegetables – since many small hole-in-the-walls don’t have picture menus.
Ask your new Chinese friends to take you to places where they like to eat. Let them order so you can try new things. I would say it is a challenge to eat some things – I was trying to convince myself that even in Eastern Europe, where I come from, not long ago people also almost always ate all the parts of animals. I guess we stopped when we started to go to the shops and now we keep asking for the same parts while ignoring the others. In China, the tradition to eat all parts goes on so either don’t ask what you are eating or ask afterwards.
Do go to a tea house. You will get a thermos of hot water and tea leaves with a cup. You can sit there for hours topping up the cup with hot water.
Drinking and asking for hot water is common so I would ask for it at my hostel and mix it with instant coffee to have my morning drink before I set off for the day.
Drinking unboiled tap water is not recommended, so ask for hot water or buy bottled.
6. Moving around
If you are visiting China for a short time, mind the public holidays (check the calendar here), especially before and after Spring Festival (New Year). This is when the whole of China travels and it’s not easy (maybe even impossible) to get seats on planes/trains/etc., and prices will be high. On the other hand – during the Spring festival days itself, it should be easy to get tickets at good prices, since the Chinese would be spending time with the families they have travelled so far to see.
The second day to avoid is National Day – a week in October.
Other 3-day public holidays periods not recommended to visit China are the Western New Year period (30 Dec-1st Jan), Tomb Sweeping Day around April, Labor Day 29th April-1st May, Dragon Boat Festival around June, and Mid-Autumn Festival around September. That is, unless you want to actually see how it looks like when 1.3 billion people move around. If yo do, make sure that you plan well in advance and be prepared to pay more.
If you are planning to visit Tibet – check first if the region is not closed to tourists. This could happen around February and March.
Consider the timing also due to climate (temperature, humidity, rain, etc.). Generally, spring and autumn are recommended as the most favourable conditions, but of course there might be advantages for certain regions to be visited at other times (e.g. fewer tourists, cheaper prices, easier to get permits).
Consider using the Chinese online services below for booking flight/train/hotels – they have websites and/or apps in English, prices can be cheaper (even moreso if you use their Chinese version), especially on in-China connections, than other international services of this type. They usually enable booking 3 months in advance.
Ctrip(携程) or Fliggy (飞猪) – flight, train, hotel, car, tours
Qunar– flight, train, hotel, car (app in English, they don’t accept foreign bank cards)
You can also check the low-cost Chinese airlines (mind extra charges for baggage etc.)
If you check in your luggage, I would advise you to take a set of clothes and toiletries in your hand carry, just in case something happens with the checked-in one.
Usually you can book train tickets around 30 days before your travel date.
You can do it online – via Ctrip or Chinahighlights for a fee of $5-6 – and pick up the tickets at the station (show booking number sent to you and passports for all travellers) or go to the station directly.
At the station you can’t use the self-service kiosks if you don’t have a Chinese ID. You have to queue. What I did was I first checked online what train number I needed to get to my destination and wrote it down neatly on a piece of paper with the times and destination (you can include the class of the seat); I did the same for the return trip. I even managed to change tickets I already purchased twice at the station – using the same method of writing it down on a piece of paper (since my Chinese speaking skills still needs lots of improvement). If you go to the station on the same day as you want to travel. you might not get tickets because they might all be sold-out (happened to me).
There are also Ticket Offices in different parts of the cities where you can buy tickets but not pick up the ones you booked online.
Have passports for all people travelling and have cash to pay for all the tickets (if you only have foreign cards) – for both train station and ticket offices.
I used local buses in Chengdu and Leshan (from station to the big Buddha) and from the Train station in Emeishan to the Emeishan National Park. For these, I bought tickets in the bus or at the Train station in Emeishan.
For the city buses the routes are in Chinese characters and once on the bus they say what the next stop is, but even if they annouced it loud enough, I would not know anyway. So the workaround I figured out was to look out from the bus at every stop and identify on the route table at the stop the characters which were in red – this was the name of the stop. Then I looked at the route table inside my bus and checked where I am compared to my destination.
For the bus from the Train station Emeishan to Emeishan National Park, I showed the map to the lady in the ticket office and she gave me the ticket. Then I walked outside the station to the bus stop and showed the ticket and map to people who looked like drivers and they showed me which bus I should take.
I found out that there is a service you can use to book tickets online – Etrip China– which accepts foreign cards. As always, you need passports for all travellers and you can pick up the tickets at the bus station.
Many cities have metro services. Use the Matroman app to check connections.
My experience from Chengdu was that metro is super-easy to use to move around. Tickets are bought in a ticket kiosk showing the map of metro lines. You can change the language to English. You choose your stop on the screen, the machine tells you how much the ticket is, and you pay – cash, Alipay or WeChat pay.
Didi is the Uber of China. I understand you can also hail a taxi thru the Didi app. It can also be linked to foreign bank cards and is also offered in English. There are some standard messages to choose from should you need to communicate with the driver who usually will not speak English.
After entering any country it is always good practice to register yourself with the embassy of your country. Keep the copies of your documents in a safe place, separate from the documents themselves, of course. Leave your itinerary with addresses where you can be found on each day with your friends or family back home. Even when you meet new people locally, it is good to let someone know where you will be.
Before you go, also check the nearest hospitals, note down emergency numbers, so that when something happens it will be too late to look for these.
Be prepared for squatty toilets. Carry wet wipes since toilet paper is rarely available.
China generally uses 220V, 50HZ, AC (Hong Kong is 200V; Taiwan is 110V). If your electric devices use 110/220 volts and your plugs have two flat prongs – then you don’t need an adapter (for prongs) nor a converter (for Volts). Otherwise you will need an adapter.
In this article, we are going to explore some special Chinese idioms or figures of speech that involve numbers. Numbers can be used to express a lot of things, not just to count, and when they are used as idioms, they can mean something different. These figures of speech can express thoughts and ideas even more clearly than by just stating the meaning directly. Let’s take a look at thirteen of these idioms with numbers below:
1. 一心一意 (yì xīn yí yì)
to do something whole-heartedly
This literally means “one heart, one idea.” It is used to express a state of doing something intently，and can also be translated as “to do something whole-heartedly”.
做事情应该要一心一意。(Zuò shìqing yīnggāi yào yì xīn yí yì.)
We should do things whole-heartedly.
他一心一意想见你，你就见他一面吧。 (Tā yì xīn yí yì xiǎng jiàn nǐ, nǐ jiù jiàn tā yí miàn ba.)
He wants to see you intently, just give him a few minutes.
Since “一心一意” expresses doing something whole-heartedly, what about the opposite? HOW TO EXPRESS DOING SOMETHING “UN WHOLE-HEARTEDLY?” Here we point to the second idiom “三心二意” which is the opposite of “一心一意”.
2. 三心二意 (sān xīn’ èr yì)
to be of two minds
This literally means “three hearts, two ideas”. It is used to indicate the state of wanting to do several things at the same time, but ending up with nothing done well usually, and can also be translated as “be of two minds” or “half-heartedly”.
写作业就不要玩游戏，不要三心二意！(Xiě zuòyè jiù bú yào wán yóuxì, bú yào sān xīn’èr yì.)
When you’re doing your homework, you can’t be of two minds with playing games at the same time.
他又想准备考研，又想出去旅游，整天三心二意的。(Tā yòu xiǎng zhǔnbèi kǎoyán, yòu xiǎng chūqù lǚyóu, zhěngtiān sān xīn’ èr yì de.)
He wants to travel while preparing for the entrance exams for postgraduate schools, which results in doing things half-heartedly all day.
Let’s have a look at an idiom with the number “two” below, namely “两全其美”.
3. 两全其美 (liǎng quán qí měi)
to be perfect in both respects；to satisfy both sides
This literally means “two sides are both good”. It implies a state of satisfying both related sides with the same matter, and can plainly be translated as “be perfect in both respects” or “to satisfy both sides.”
I need to think of a way to balance working and taking care of children.
4. 四通八达 (sì tōng bā dá)
to be accessible from all directions
This is usually used to describe a communication network which is accessible from all directions.
铁路网四通八达。 (Tiělù wǎng sì tōng bā dá.)
Railways radiate in all directions.
（Sì tōng bā dá de jiāotōng wèi zhè gè dìfang dàilái le hěn duō hǎochù.）
Good rail connections bring great advantages to this place.
5. 五体投地 (wǔ tǐ tóu dì)
extremely admire；admire somebody completely
This literally means “five body parts are thrown down.” It evolved from an ancient religious ritual involving groveling with your two feet, two hands, and your head down, to show your respect and worship. Now, it can loosely be translated as “extremely admire” or “admire somebody completely.”
（Nǐ zhēn de tài lìhài le, zhème nán de tí nǐ dōu huì, wǒ duì nǐ pèifú de wǔ tǐ tóu dì.）
You’re awesome for solving such a difficult question, and I extremely admire you.
（Nà jǐ gè nǚshēng duì tā de wàimào hé cáihuá chóngbài de wǔ tǐ tóu dì.）
Those girls really admire his appearance and talent.
6. 六神无主 (liù shén wú zhǔ)
to be in a state of stupefaction (from emotional shock)
This idiom actually has something to do with Taoism. In Taoism, our heart, lung, liver, kidneys, spleen, and gallbladder are controlled by six separate gods. As a result, “六神无主” literally means “six gods lost their mind.” Actually, in daily life, it’s used to describe someone who is “in a state of stupefaction (from emotional shock).”
You could use it when something scares you. For instance:
(Wǒ bèi zhè jiàn shì xià de liù shén wú zhǔ.)
I was scared and felt shocked because of this thing.
(Jiēdào bèi kāichú de diànhuà, tā dùnshí juéde liù shén wú zhǔ.)
Getting the news of being dismissed through the phone, he suddenly felt stupefied.
7. 七嘴八舌 (qī zuǐ bā shé)
all talk at the same time
this literally means “seven mouths, eight tongues”. It’s used to indicate that everyone is trying to say what they want to say in a discussion (a clash of opinions). Thus, it can plainly be translated as “all talk at the same time.”
(Huì shàng dàjiā zhēnduì zhè gè jìhuà qī zuǐ bā shé de tǎolùn le qǐlái.)
Everyone talks at the same time on this project in the meeting.
（Yī tīngdào tā bèi kāichú de xiāoxī, suǒyǒu rén dōu qī zuǐ bā shé de tǎolùn le qǐlái.）
Once hearing that he was fired, all start talking in confusion.
8. 八面玲珑 (bā miàn líng long)
all things to all people
This originally means “the window is spacious and well-lighted.” Now, it’s used to describe a person who is smooth and slick in establishing social relations, capable of pleasing all people. Hence, it can appropriately be translated as “all things to all people”.
(Bǐ qǐ tā fùchū de, wǒ zhèxiē shì dōushì jiǔ niú yī máo.)
Compared to what he paid, what I’ve done is small.
10. 十全十美 (shí quán shí měi)
to be perfect in every way
How do we express “A PERFECT 10” in Chinese? Well, that’s the No. 10 idiom we are going to talk about here – “十全十美”, and it is used in a real conversation to describe something as perfect in every way.
(Zhè bù diànyǐng yǒu yī gè shí quán shí měi de jiéjú.)
The movie has a perfect ending.
(Suǒyǒu zhìdù zài gāng tuīchū de shíhou dōu búshì shí quán shí měi de.)
Not all rules were perfect when they were first carried out.
11. 百发百中 (bǎi fā bǎi zhòng)
every shot hits the target; about a person who does things with full confidence
This literally means “a hundred shots, a hundred hits. Plainly speaking, it’s used to express “every shot hits the target,” and its extended meaning is describing a person who does things confidently.
I’m sure that I can handle all the questions in the test.
12. 千钧一发 (qiān jūn yí fà)
to describe a situation that is in imminent peril
“钧” is an ancient measure classifier for weight, thus literally the idiom means “a thousand jun hangs by a single hair,” Usually in real life, it’s applied to describe “a situation that is in imminent peril.”
(Zài zhè qiān jūn yí fà de shíkè, tā háo bù yóuyù de tiào xiàqù jiù ré.)
At the imminent moment, he dived into the river to save the drowned man without hesitation.
(Bú dào qiān jūn yí fà zhī jì, yīngxióng jué bú huì chūxiàn.)
(Heroes never appear until the moment of extreme peril.)
13. 万众一心 (wàn zhòng yì xīn)
all the people of one mind
This literally means “ten thousand people, one heart.” The extended meaning of this idiom is describing unity, equivalent to “all the people of one mind” in English.
万众一心，抵抗敌人。(Wàn zhòng yì xīn, dǐkàng dírén.)
To unite as one group to defend against the enemy.
All the people are of one mind on the environmental protection of the world.
The use of idioms in any language shows that you are able to express yourself better because it means that you understand more about the culture behind that language. This holds true also for Chinese. By understanding and using these 13 idioms with numbers, you can not only express yourself more clearly to other Chinese speakers, but you can show that you know the culture behind these idioms also. Practice using them, and for sure, people will be impressed with your deeper knowledge of Chinese.
Early in their studies, almost all Chinese learners are taught“有时候”（yǒu shíhou）, which means “Sometimes”. However, when you go deeper into learning Chinese, you’ll find that it cannot be used in all cases. Besides “有时候”, there are other words for “Sometimes” that can be used in daily life. In this article, we are going to share two more commonly used ways to say “Sometimes,” and to demonstrate the ways to use each one.
时而 is an adverb which is normally used in written Chinese. When using this word, it indicates something happens repeatedly and not regularly. There are mainly two sentence structures for this word.
1) 时而 …… 时而 ……
When the word is used repeatedly, it is to show alternating situations or different phenomena in a certain period of time. For example:
After getting ill, colleagues sometimes come to visit me at my home.
(Wǒ shí’ér tīng dào línjū chǎojià de shēngyīn.)
I sometimes heard the sound of neighbors quarreling.
(Suīrán tā zài kāihuì, dàn yě shí’ér kàn kàn shǒujī.)
Although he is in a meeting, he also sometimes looks at his phone.
In addition to the word 时而，we can also use 不时 to express the same meaning. When “时而” is not used repeatedly, 不时 can be used to replace 时而 in the second sentence structure. However, in the first structure of “时而……时而……”，it cannot be replaced by 不时.
Are you planning to go on a short trip to China? How about staying in China for the long term? Either way, you would need to have knowledge of the apps that are used in China in order to make your stay easier and to immerse yourself into living in the local Chinese way.
Below are 16 must-have apps that will help you in your stay in China.
1. Maps: Baidu Maps (百度地图), Apple Maps
If you know how to read in Chinese, even just a bit, then Baidu Maps is the perfect app. Its route planner leads you directly from one point to another, supported by audio. It shows not only various transport routes, but also factors in real-time traffic conditions, accurate waiting times, and the estimated length of time for a journey.
However, if your Chinese reading skills are not that strong, Apple Maps can be an alternative. Similar to Baidu Maps, Apple Maps helps you find different ways to your destination with spoken directions. It provides instant updates about traffic information, therefore helping to estimate your total amount of time needed to commute. Additionally, it has indexed categories, including ‘Food & drink’, ‘Shopping’, ‘Fun’, and ‘Travel’, which can suggest to you the closest attractions, hotels, restaurants, banks and ATMs and more. This would greatly smoothen your travel plan.
2. Subway Map: MetroMan (地铁通)
WithMetroMan, which works in all cities in China, you get all the details of subway information. To navigate, first, pick your journey from your departure station to your arrival station. Second, pick the date and time, then the app will show a choice of different routes, with all their estimated times for the journey, number of transfers, as well as fares. You can then simply pick the right route that matches your timeframe and budget, and set off!
3. Taxi: DIDi (滴滴出行)
For those times when you’re in a rush or seek a more relaxed and convenient option, DiDi app is the best for ordering a cab. The app comes with both Chinese and English versions, making non-Chinese speakers’ lives much easier. Similar to other taxi apps, you’ll need to enter your pick-up location and destination, and from there, your driver will bring you to wherever you need to go.
4. Communication: WeChat (微信)
As many of you may already know, Wechat is the most widely used communication app across China. Apart from chatting with your friends and seeing their updates and posts in ‘Moments’, it has other features that practically help your daily activities. For example, with Wechat Pay, you can shop however you like, both in physical stores and online platforms. Moreover, you’re able to send and request money from friends!
If you’re looking to make new friends, Wechat’s ‘Shake’ function lets you instantly interact and chat with people around your area. But of course, if you have no interest in knowing people nearby, feel free to turn off this feature.
5. Payment: Wechat Pay (微信支付), Alipay (支付宝)
Do you know the majority of people living in China use their smart phones to make payments in basically all situations, such as utility bills, shops, restaurants, etcs? It’s rare that young people would still carry a wallet or cash when going out nowadays.
To use Wechat Pay, which is already pre-installed in the Wechat communication app, you can simply add your card details from Chinese or international banks, and you’re all set. To make a payment, you may display your barcode from the ‘Quick Pay’ option, which merchants will scan, and payment will then go through!
Apart from Wechat Pay, another well-known mobile payment app is Alipay, though currently, you need to have a Chinese bank card to use it.
6. Bicycle: Mobike (摩拜单车), Hellobike (哈罗单车)
Shared bikes are especially popular in China. Of the various options, Mobike and Hellobike are the two most commonly used. They need to bond with a payment method before making fully refundable deposits, which could be either through Wechat Pay, Alipay, or proper Chinese bank cards.
Both Mobike and Hellobike require you to scan the QR code on the bike with the app. It will then automatically be unlocked, and you can ride where you want!
The two companies offer several models of bikes, catering to people with different needs, sizes, and heights.
7. Tour Guide: DianPing (大众点评)
Want to explore all amazing local places like a pro? DianPing is the app for you! It’s a Chinese version of Tripadvisor, and more! It gives information on a vast majority of places that Chinese people visit, ranging from restaurants, movie theatres, hotels, shopping centers, gyms, hospitals, learning centers, salons, karaoke, and all other services! It lists everything!
With ratings, photos and comments supplied by other customers, it helps you discover the hidden gems in China.
8. Travel Planner: Ctrip
When you’re in a big country like China, you might want to travel across cities, and that’s when Ctrip comes in to assist. Ctrip acts as your personal travel agency, offering services like accommodation reservations, transportation ticketing, packaged tours, and corporate travel management.
So, for example, if you’d like to view different options for train tickets and book online, you’re sure to find Ctrip useful.
9. Online Shopping: Taobao (淘宝)
Everyone in China knows Taobao. It’s basically an upgraded version of Amazon. It has more products, and they’re sold at much cheaper prices. If you’re staying in China for good, you’ll absolutely need Taobao. With Taobao, you can actually find anything, from physical products to services. What’s more, you can interact with the vendor directly and instantly via Taobao’s chat messenger, so you would have better knowledge about the product before making the purchase. Besides Taobao, JD.com and TMall.com also provide efficient e-shopping and delivery service.
The food is one of the nicest things about China. If you’re planning to live in China, food delivery services are something you cannot do without.
Waimai Meituan, Baidu Waimai and Ele.me are three of the top food delivery apps used in China. Similar to all other food delivery apps, they offer you a list of the different food that is available to be delivered to your door, and it even gives you the estimated arrival time of the delivery.
But how about if you only want to have some snacks and beers that you can eat and drink while watching the telly at home? Or what if you prefer to cook yourself a nice meal, and you just found out that there are not enough ingredients? Baidu Waimai and Ele.me have been impressively in providing supermarket delivery! With such efficient food delivery apps, no one ever needs to leave their home again for food!
11. Group Buying: Meituan (美团)
Things in China still not inexpensive enough? How about buying through group buying sites? Meituan is the biggest group buying site in China and includes all sorts of deals that save you money. Like other group buying sites, their deals cover basic things such as dining experiences, hotel deals, movie tickets, and even business to consumer services like home repairing services. On Meituan, you’ll also find business to business deals such as corporate training workshops and even home building materials. With such a dynamic app, a lot of things can be purchased cheaply.
Living in today’s modern world requires digital knowledge and the proficient use of mobile technologies. China today is a very modern society, so it’s no surprise that they have so many apps that help make daily life easier and more efficient. In fact, some people say China is even ahead of other countries in terms of the high-tech lifestyle. These 16 apps are sure to help you live a truly modern and digital life in China, making your stay more satisfying and allowing you to really immerse yourself in current Chinese culture.
So, you have been learning Mandarin for a long time, meticulously drawing and reading characters, day in and day out, perhaps for a few years now. But somehow, you don’t feel you are getting any more fluent in Mandarin. What is worse, the characters you learned last week – somehow you can’t recall them today. At moments like this, you start doubting you will ever be able to master Mandarin. Even “master“ is too grand a word; at this point you would just like to be able to write and speak confidently in very simple language. But how do you achieve that?
The above paragraph is my story. 3 years of learning under 5 teachers, and I still seem not to be able to utter simple sentences. Any attempt at basic conversation leaves me confused. It was very demotivating.
I happen to love reading. I happen to have taught English in the past, too. One day it clicked in my head – there are so many books with simplified stories in English for learners. Surely there must be such in Mandarin. And true enough, there are! It is true, however, that they are not in sufficient variety, but they are there. Just enough to give your spirits a lift!
I have found 2 series of graded readers: Chineese Breeze and Mandarin Companion. For both, there are pdf excerpts available online for you to try out. My first one was a Sherlock Holmes story in Mandarin Companion. What caught my attention at the begining was – how the heck can anyone simplify a detective story to the level of 300 characters? Is this at all possible? Yes, it is!
I read the excerpt and I UNDERSTOOD it! I was absolutely amazed! Just before discovering it I was at the point of losing hoping for any major change. I have studied for too long and invested too much time and energy to quit, but at the same time I have not really seen much results…until I found these graded readers!
I immediately wanted to buy all the books they offered. However, living in the Czech Republic, I had to consider not only the prices of the books, but also the hefty shipping costs. So I was postponing and postponing buying the books and eventually, with Christmas coming, I felt brave enough to buy myself 2 books. When they arrived I literally devoured them. I was so ecstatic; I was reading them and really understanding. It showed me that all the effort was not in vain after all. I do understand we are talking about the simplest language ever – but hey! – it’s a BOOK I AM READING IN MANDARIN! It was so rewarding and worth every penny!
Then I tried Chinese Breeze. Ordering from their website and shipping to the Czech Republic was actually out of the question since the costs are incredible (the book costs a few dollars whereas the shipment cost many times more). Fortunately, I found a local Asian languages e-shop which conveniently stocks Chinese Breeze at moderate prices.
Both series are quite similar, though Mandarin Companion has better pictures. Otherwise both are great. The stories are interesting, and they not only have glossaries but also new words are underlined every time they are presented in the text. This feature enhances remembering vocabulary and characters. You can improve your fluency in speaking or writing, if you wish, by using the list of questions related to each chapter, which can be found at the end of the books. Chinese Breeze comes with an audio CD as well.
So, if you want a truly rewarding Mandarin experience – get your hands on these graded readers. I am so addicted now to the feeling of pride when I read in Mandarin!
There is of course much more out there. Let’s start with short readings – they are good if you don’t have much time but nevertheless want to be in touch with Mandarin every day. The websites/apps below provide you with graded, short readings. Grading is by HSK or by beginner/intermediate/advanced levels. All come with vocabulary explanations or glossaries, some with extra practice exercises. All are worth checking out.
Happy Chinese New Year! It’s now the year of the pig! As the zodiac cycle repeats every 12 years, if you were born within the Chinese Calendar year starting in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019, then you belong to the Year of Pig.
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year (农历新年 nóng lì xīn nián) is seen as the most important time of the year in Chinese culture. To celebrate the festival, there are various rituals and customs that the Chinese people follow, one of which is to visit family and friends. Chinese New Year is an opportunity to reunite with family, friends, and loved ones. In practice, visiting them at their homes is a custom called 拜年 (bài nián).
During these visits, it’s common practice for people to dress in red, as this colour symbolizes ‘good luck’. Generally, people exchange festive gifts, while senior members of the group will give out ‘red envelopes’, which are in fact cash gifts, to the more junior, unmarried members of the family. This act is considered as ‘sending good luck’ to others. Furthermore, everyone would greet one another with New Year blessings, wishing each other good fortune, health, and wealth.
Be aware, though, that there are some gifts that are taboo, and which you shouldn’t bring at all. Here’s a handy list of gifts to be avoided: ‘Giving Gifts to Chinese People: Beware of Certain Taboos’. Always make sure that you are giving the right gift so that you will not accidentally insult anyone.
Greetings During the New Year of the Pig
Apart from the traditional New Year greetings, below are 6 Chinese New Year greetings that relate to ‘pigs’ (猪 zhū), and are suitable for use this year!
1. 猪年进步 (zhū nián jìn bù)
‘‘May you make progress in the Year of Pig’’
‘猪年’ represents ‘the Year of Pig’, and ‘进步’ means ‘to improve’. This statement is a general greeting and is applicable in various situations during Chinese New Year.
诸事顺利 (zhū shì shùn lì)
“May all things work out smoothly”
‘诸事’ refers to ‘all things, different things’, and ‘顺利’ means ‘smooth’. The phrase can be used to greet people of all ages. ‘诸 (zhū)’ shares the same sound as ‘pig, 猪 (zhū)’, therefore it’s particularly popular to be used in the Year of the Pig.
诸事如意 (zhū shì rú yì)
“May all things go as you wish”
Similar to ‘诸事顺利’, the word ‘诸’ from ‘诸事如意’ also takes the exact pronunciation as ‘pig’, which is ‘猪 (zhū)’.This makes it suitable to be used during the New Year of the Pig. Yet, ‘如意’ has a slightly different meaning from ‘顺利’, which means ‘as one wishes’.
竹报平安(zhú bào píng ān)
“May you be peaceful and safe”
The phrase is a traditional idiom that people used when sending mail back home to reassure their family that everything was well and peaceful after being away from home for a long time. Nowadays, the phrase is a nice blessing to wish someone peace and safety. ‘竹 (zhú)’ has a similar sound to ‘猪 (zhū)’, which means pig, therefore it is particularly appropriate to be used this year.
事事胸有成竹 (shì shì xiōng yǒu chéng zhú)
“May you have a well-designed plan for all things”
‘事事’ equals to ‘everything’, and ‘胸有成竹’ is a traditional idiom indicating one has a thorough plan in advance before any kind of work. This is a nice saying especially between businesses or corporations. Also, ‘竹 (zhú)’, having a similar sound to ‘pig, 猪 (zhū)’, makes it more meaningful for the Year of the Pig.
(zhū lóng rù shuǐ)
“May wealth flow in”
This saying is more often used among Southern Chinese. ‘猪笼’ literally means ‘pig cage’, while ‘入’ and ‘水’ mean ‘enter’ and ‘water’ respectively. ‘Water flowing in a pig cage’ symbolizes wealth flowing into your pocket, therefore it’s a good way to wish one wealth and prosperity. In particular, the phrase consists of the word ‘猪 (zhū), pig’, so this year is the right time to use this greeting.
As was mentioned, Chinese New Year is a time for families and friends to reunite and get-together in happy gatherings. It is traditionally a joyful time for everyone, and it is also a time for renewal and hopes. Since it is a new year, it is also a time to start over and make things better in our lives moving forward.
We at Digmandarin wish you all a wonderful and joyful Year of the Pig! 祝大家猪年快乐!
In English, the verb is usually the key to show the different aspects of an action in English, such as be / be doing / was / was doing / are going to / have done / had done, etc. The Chinese language system differs from it in one important way: Mandarin Chinese often keeps the verb but uses auxiliaries and adverbs to help express the different aspects of an action.
There are generally 6 basic types of aspects of an action: those which complete or realize an action or event; the change of circumstances; the continuous aspect of an action or a state; the past experience; an action that is going to take place in a short time; and the progressive aspect of an action. Each of them are detailed, explained, and illustrated in the Step by Step Course 2 . Below is a brief summary.
1. Completion or realization of an action or event
It uses the auxiliary “了” to complete or realize an action or event, It is often put after the verb.
我去书店买了一本书。(Wǒ qù shūdiàn mǎile yī běn shū.)
I went to the bookstore and bought a book.
他借了我的钱。(Tā jièle wǒ de qián.)
He borrowed my money.
妈妈去上海了。(Māma qù Shànghǎi le.)
My mother went to Shanghai.
你吃了饭了吗？(Nǐ chī le fàn le ma?)
Have you eaten?
2. Changed circumstances
The other meaning of 了 is used to indicate a change of circumstances, and it is often put at the end of the sentence.
天气越来越冷了。(Tiānqì yuè lái yuè lěngle.)
The weather is getting cold.
气候越来越差了。(Qìhòu yuè lái yuè chàle.)
The climate is getting worse.
他有女朋友了。(Tā yǒu nǚ péngyǒule.)
He has a girlfriend.
老板今天不来了。(Lǎobǎn jīntiān bù láile.)
The boss is not coming today.
弟弟上大学了。(Dìdi shàng dàxué le.)
My brother went to college.
3. The continuous aspect of an action or a state
We often use the word “着” to express the continuous aspect of an action or a state. And this kind of sentence`s predicate can be an adjective or a verb.
我带着伞去学校。(Wǒ dàizhe sǎn qù xuéxiào.)
I went to school with my umbrella.
The door is open.
桌子上放着杯子。(Zhuōzi shàng fàngzhe bēizi.)
There is a cup on the table.
她穿着一条长裙子。(Tā chuānzhe yītiáo cháng qúnzi.)
She is wearing a long skirt.
4. Past experience
To express a past experience, “过” often appear in the sentence. If it`s a negative sentence, “没” is often put before the predicate.
我没这本书。(Wǒ méi zhè běn shū.)
I don’t have this book.
我从来没见过他。(Wǒ cónglái méi jiànguò tā.)
I have never seen him before.
你以前看过这部电影吗？(Nǐ yǐqián kànguò zhè bù diànyǐng ma?)
Have you seen this movie before?
我听过这首歌。(Wǒ tīngguò zhè shǒu gē.)
I have heard this song.
5. An action that is going to take place in a short time
Since “了” can be used to show changes of certain situations, when you add some future time words like “快”, “快要”, “就要”, the sentence then indicates that an action will take place in a short time.
The holiday is coming.
出租车快来了。(Chūzū chē kuài láile.)
The taxi is coming.
马上就要过春节了。(Mǎshàng jiù yàoguò chūnjiéle.)
It’s about time to celebrate the Spring Festival soon.
我明天就要搬家了。(Wǒ míngtiān jiù yào bānjiāle.)
I am going to move tomorrow.
6. The progressive aspect of an action
The words “在” ,“正在”, “正”, are often used to indicate the progressive aspect of an action.
你在做什么？(Nǐ zài zuò shénme?)
What are you doing?
我正在看书。(Wǒ zhèngzài kànshū.)
I am reading a book.
她在睡觉呢。(Tā zài shuìjiào ne.)
She is sleeping.
我打电话给她的时候，她正在睡觉。(Wǒ dǎ diànhuà gěi tā de shíhòu, tā zhèngzài shuìjiào.)
When I called her she was sleeping.
These six aspects of action expressions may seem like a lot to remember to be able to express actions well in Chinese. But in truth, if you can master the different subject-verb agreements in English, then it is just a simple matter of adjusting to the sentence structures in Chinese to be able to master the six aspects above. Once you do, you will find that expressing actions and verbs in Chinese will be as natural as in your own native language.
From textbooks, you can learn proper grammar, regular words and vocabulary, as well as sentence structure. You can also learn simple and ordinary conversations and dialogue. But what you can’t learn from textbooks are the slang, phrases, and buzzwords that regular people use in their everyday talk.
With the help of the National Language Resource Monitoring and Research Center, the Commercial Press, and CCTV News, China has released its “Top Words and Phrases of 2018” just last Thursday. Covering the period from November 20, 2017 to December 3, 2018, and contributed by netizens across the country, these are the words and phrases that reflect the hot issues that concerned Chinese speakers this past year.
Let’s take a look at these ten latest Chinese buzzwords.
1. 锦鲤 (jǐn lǐ)
锦鲤 refers to the Koi fish. Since 锦鲤 represents good luck in 风水(fengshui), Chinese people are very interested in them. Numerous koi fish related tweets are reposted to wish others better health and abundant wealth.
In China and Japan, people have a long history of keeping koi fish which is believed to bring good luck. The tradition is kept on the internet, as “转发锦鲤(reposting koi fish),” and it has become a trend on Chinese social medias.
Literally, 佛(fó) means buddha and 系(xì) means system or style. 佛系 refers to a Buddha-like mindset.
For the Chinese youth, being 佛系 means adopting a peaceful state of mind and not caring how others think about them. The popular slogan goes like “都可以/都行(dōu kěyǐ/dōu xíng)” （Anything is okay）, “就这样吧(就这样吧)”（Let it be）, ”没关系 (méiguānxì)”, (It doesn`t matter), etc. Somehow, they are regarded as more negative emotions since it seems that some people just simply want to avoid the stresses from competitive surroundings by taking this mindset.
A: 什么都行。我无所谓。(Shénme dōu xíng. Wǒ wúsuǒwèi.)
Anything is okay. I don`t mind.
B: 那么佛系？(Nàme fó xì?)
A: 是的，我现在是佛系青年。(Shì de, wǒ xiànzài shì fó xì qīngnián.)
Yes, I`m a buddha-like youth now.
Originally, this sound refers to the car tire friction. Skr was known widely by people because of Chinese young idol Kris Wu who used the term frequently on a show called中国有嘻哈(the Rap of China). It`s very popular among netizens who now somewhat use it for mocking. But at first it was used to express admiration and praise.
Since it sounds similar to the Chinese sound [si ge] which can be transcribed as 是个，死个, etc., thus this sound is also used in many sound related sentences.
冷skr人了 à 冷死个人了。(Lěng sǐ gè rénle.)
It`s sooo cold!
你真skr人才。 à 你真是个人才。(Nǐ zhēn shì gè réncái.)
You are such a talent.
4. 杠精 (gàng jīng)
Here 杠 is from the Chinese word “抬杠(táigàng)” which means contradict or talk back. 杠精 describes someone who automatically takes the opposite point-of-view from the person to whom they`re speaking. These people just argue for the sake of arguing.
A: 我发现我老板的管理方式真的很有问题。(Wǒ fāxiàn wǒ lǎobǎn de guǎnlǐ fāngshì zhēn de hěn yǒu wèntí.)
I find that my boss’s management style to be really problematic.
B: 美吗？那你显然是没去过九寨沟了。(Měi ma? Nà nǐ xiǎnrán shì méi qùguò jiǔzhàigōule.)
Beautiful? You’ve obviously never seen Jiuzhaigou!
5. 确认过眼神 (Quèrèn guò yǎnshén)
Literally 确认过眼神 means “Have confirmed the expression from the eyes.” The netizens use this phrase to express “we can see that from one`s eyes” or “to look somebody in the eyes.”
确认过眼神，你就是对的人！(Quèrènguò yǎnshén, nǐ jiùshì duì de rén!)
Looking you in the eyes, you are the correct one!
确认过眼神，他是不理想的人。(Quèrènguò yǎnshén, tā shì bù lǐxiǎng de rén.)
I can see that from his eyes. He is not the ideal one.
6. 官宣 (guān xuān)
官宣 is short for 官方宣布which literally means “an official announcement”. The abbreviated version 官宣 is often used on the internet for netizens to announce something.
官宣！我们结婚啦！(Guān xuān! Wǒmen jiéhūn la!)
Official announcement! We are getting married!
我的偶像官宣恋爱了。(Wǒ de ǒuxiàng guān xuān liàn’àile.)
My idol officially announced that she/he is in love.
7. 土味情话 (Tǔ wèi qínghuà)
土味情话refers to lines which sound very emotional, romantic, and even embarrassing in some way, though it`s often also used to break the ice. For netizens, it`s a kind of cold humor composed of love words. Here are some cheesy pick-up lines for you:
I think I know you. Because you look exactly like my next girlfriend.
8. 皮一下 (Pí yī xià)
Literally speaking, 皮 means “being naughty” in the Chinese language, which is often used in oral Chinese. 皮一下 indicates making fun of someone or playing a trick, and it sounds a little cute.
皮一下很开心。(Pí yīxià hěn kāixīn.)
It`s fun to be naughty.
没事儿就想皮一下。(Méishìr jiù xiǎng pí yīxià.)
I want to play a trick when there is nothing to do.
9. 燃烧我的卡路里 (Ránshāo wǒ de kǎlùlǐ)
Literally, this sentence means “burn my calories.” It comes from a song called Calorie which is sung by the hot Chinese girl group 火箭少女101 (Rocket Girls 101). Its special melody, lyrics, and very contentious singers made the line of this song a hit all over the internet.
火箭少女101《卡路里》mv (电影《西虹市首富》插曲) - YouTube
10. C位 (C wèi)
C is an abbreviation of the word “center”, so “C位” means the center position. It generally refers to the center of the stage, the artist’s position in the middle, or the most crucial spot of a poster. Just like the one above, 燃烧我的卡路里, this phrase also originated from the girl group 火箭少女101 (Rocket Girls 101).
Apparently, this group really was a hit in 2018. The girls of this group are selected by internet users basing on the reality show 创造101 (Produce 101). There were about 100 trainees to be selected and trained. In the end, only nine girls were left on the stage as the final winners to compose this new girl idol group. The center position trainees would get the best position of the group.
投票！让你的偶像C位出道！(Tóupiào! Ràng nǐ de ǒuxiàng C wèi chūdào!)
Vote！Make your idol enter entertainment with the center position!
照相的时候一般领导站C位。(Zhàoxiàng de shíhòu yībān lǐngdǎo zhàn C wèi.)
Normally, the leaders will take the center position when taking photos.
You can check here to learn 20 mire popular Chinese slang words.