刚 (gāng), 刚刚 (gāng gang) and 刚才 (gāng cái) can all be used to express: ‘something just happened’ and can be used in a similar way to ‘just’ in English. However, there are slight differences between 刚 (gāng), 刚刚 (gāng gang) and 刚才 (gāng cái) and should be used in different circumstances. Keep reading to learn how to use 刚 (gāng), 刚刚 (gāng gang) and 刚才 (gāng cái).
刚 (gāng) and 刚才 (gāng cái)
‘Different Word Classes’
刚 (gāng) is an adverb and is placed after the subject and before the verb.
他刚去吃午饭。(tā gāng qù chī wǔ fàn) He just went for lunch.
刚才 (gāng cái) is a time noun and can be used before or after the subject. It can also be used as the subject in a sentence.
刚才他去吃午饭了。(gāng cái tā qù chī wǔ fàn le) / 他刚才去吃午饭了。(tā gāng cái qù chī wǔ fàn le) He went for lunch just a moment ago.
刚才比现在凉快。(gāng cái bǐ xiàn zài liáng kuai) It’s cooler now than just a moment ago.
‘Different time points’
刚才 (gāng cái) usually refers to a time between half an hour and 现在 (xiàn zài) ‘now’.
他刚才睡着了。(tā gāng cái shuì zháo le) He just fell asleep.
刚 (gāng) can be used to not only express a short time, such as 10 minutes ago but also for things that happened many years ago. This depends on the speakers‘ subjective feeling, similarly to 很久 (hén jiǔ) ‘a long time ago’.
WrittenChinese.Com has teamed up with the Chinese Language Institute (CLI) to bring you a great offer! CLI provides a whole host of Chinese language courses, including study abroad programmes at their home base in Guilin, China.
Written by Anias Stambolis-D’Agostino
Last summer, I went on a journey to one of the most incredible places on Earth. Guilin, an enchanting river-town in China’s Guangxi Autonomous Region, is essentially the image that comes to mind when one thinks about the mystical landscapes of the Middle Kingdom. First, envision a viridescent jungle terrain, exuding lush farmlands for miles into the horizon. Next, picture a bustling modern city of several million that has bloomed unhurriedly along the Li River for over two thousand years. Fuse both these images together in your mind, add a few hundred limestone karst mountains, and boom, you’ve arrived in Guilin, an otherworldly yet refreshingly laid-back corner of southern China—a special place where I was lucky enough to spend my summer vacation.
The Language Environment at the CLI Center - YouTube
Although I’d been studying Mandarin for a few years in the US, I’d always had a hunch that my language potential wouldn’t truly take off until I set foot in China. One day, after making up my mind that I simply had to find a way there, I was scouring the internet for live-in language schools when I stumbled upon the Chinese Language Institute, a.k.a CLI. CLI, an immersion school for language and culture with a mission of building bridges between China and the rest of the world, would be the ultimate catalyst for perpetuating my love of Mandarin. Over the course of just a few months at CLI, my Chinese improved several HSK levels, I traveled to distant, dreamy places, and most importantly, I felt that I had set down real roots within the local community. Family, friends and university peers considering making an entrance onto the Chinese language scene have since asked about my experience in Guilin, and how I was able to succeed with the language so quickly. During these conversations, I’d find myself re-imagining my everyday life at CLI—the little routines I had, the places I frequented and the special people I got to know.
Home during those months was my cozy room at the CLI Center, complete with a private bathroom, a surprisingly soft bed and well-lit windows that peered onto a salient limestone mountain. Every morning, I’d sit down at my desk, which quickly became my personal Mandarin workshop, sip some 绿茶 (lǜ chá, green tea) and crack open a textbook to preview the day’s lesson. Then, I’d head downstairs and out into the surrounding neighborhoods for some breakfast, which was usually fresh 包子 (bāo zi, steamed buns) from the bakery up the road. Some days when I woke up early enough I’d even join a sunrise Taiji class with Kolok, a Chinese teacher who regularly practices the ancient martial art with students on the spacious CLI rooftop.
As a student enrolled in CLI’s intensive Immersion Program, I received four hours of one-on-one Chinese class every weekday, which, as you might imagine, lifted my language skills by leaps and bounds. I was assigned three wonderful teachers who focused on reading/writing, listening/speaking, and total comprehension respectively in two-hour class blocks. Thanks to CLI’s plethora of textbooks and study resources, not only did I reach my desired HSK level, but I also gained experience reading newspapers, conducting mock job interviews, and otherwise rounding-out my practical skill set. I simply loved how flexible and dynamic the classes were, and how committed the teachers were to helping me reach my goals.
After my morning class, I’d head up to the kitchen on CLI’s second floor for a homemade, family-style lunch with other students, instructors and 朋友们 (péng yǒu mén, friends). On days I felt especially confident, I’d hunker down at one of the ‘Mandarin Only’ tables and do my best to keep up with the native-speaking interns as they chatted away with students and teachers. Lunchtime was one of the best parts about each day—not only was the food always abundant and 好吃 (hǎo chī, tasty), but it was a time when I really felt part of a community, contributing to a vision bigger than myself.
The Spanish siesta doesn’t hold a candle to naptime in Guilin. From 1-2 PM, the whole city, including all of us at CLI, would grab a pillow and get some rejuvenating shut-eye, hoping to return freshly charged for the afternoon’s work. Usually, I would use the time to catch up on some vocabulary or grab a 奶茶 (nǎi chá, milk tea) with friends at one of the many trendy coffee shops in the Seven Star District where CLI is located. Once the hallways resumed their normal buzz, I’d then head into the second two-hour chunk of my daily class routine, either moving onto a new lesson, correcting an essay I’d written, or taking the opportunity to review under the guidance of my knowledgeable teacher.
In the afternoons, I’d also spend a few hours curled up in one of CLI’s many study nooks, surrounded by textbooks and flash cards, reinforcing my grasp on the material covered in class. My goal each day was to take the new information I learned, whether it be tricky vocabulary words, a useful grammar structure or even a historical 成语 (chéng yǔ, idiom-like phrases with a set structure) and apply it to real life interactions with the world around me. Setting and attaining these daily goals helped to ensure I wasn’t just studying, but actually learning Chinese.
Fortunately, there were always plenty of opportunities to engage with the city, especially once the school day ended and the sun drifted west, glowing a soft orange against the sawtooth mountains. Each night was unique and there was always something exciting happening, from pick-up badminton games to live music next to the pagodas downtown. My favorite activities included hiking through one of the city’s many urban parks, enjoying a traditional Chinese massage (50-100 RMB gets you one hour of full-on pampering), or snacking on some 烧烤 (shāo kǎo, barbecue) from a street-side vendor. On the weekends, when hours of daylight were at our disposal, I’d ride a shared bicycle along the Li River or join a weekly CLI excursion—the famous resort town of Yangshuo, the ribbon-like rice terraces of Longsheng and preserved ancient villages set between bamboo forests were just a few frequented destinations.
Most of our outings were accompanied by CLI’s enthusiastic interns and amiable teachers who found a special excitement in introducing us 老外 (lǎo wài, foreigners) to those hidden, hole-in-the-wall spots known only by locals, thus exposing us to a side of Guilin that most tourists never see. I remember evenings strolling down the 步行街 (bù xíng jiē, pedestrian street) with a group of Chinese friends and fellow students from around the world, belly full of rice noodles, feeling an incredible sensation of being completely at home while simultaneously on the adventure of a lifetime.
Each day spent in Guilin was filled with learning of all shapes and styles. Formal study combined with my love of Chinese culture to create what I can honestly call the best months of my life. Though I still have a long way to go before being anywhere near 完美 (wán měi, perfect), the insight I received at CLI helped me to grasp the depths of the language in a profound and holistic way. For anyone looking to take their Chinese skills and cultural knowledge to the next level, I highly recommend studying at CLI in Guilin. Not only is the natural scenery some of the world’s most stunning, but the close-knit community and opportunities for language immersion are also simply the best.
If you’re interested in studying at CLI Guilin, take a look at their Immersion and Study Abroad Programmes and get $150 off your fees by entering the discount code CLIandWC on your application form.
To learn how to play Chinese chess you can watch Allen teach Mike in this video below!
WCC Chinese Chess Set - Instructional Video - YouTube
Written by Mike Michelini
Playing Chinese Chess is a fun way to understand Chinese culture a bit as well as practice some new Chinese characters. My first time playing I was thinking about the old times in Chinese wars thousands of years ago, this game helps you visualize it. Let’s look into how this traditional Chinese game works.
Pieces of the game
Chinese chess, also known as 象棋 (xiàng qí) has some similar pieces as chess, you will have one board (or mat) to put the pieces on and 32 Player’s pieces (16 for each side). Here are the number of pieces for each side:
10 Soldiers (5 for each side) [Red and black characters don’t match]
4 Bombers (2 for each side)
4 Horses (2 for each side)
4 Chariots (2 for each side)
4 Elephants (2 for each side) [Red and black characters don’t match]
4 King’s soldier (2 defensive soldiers for each side)
*2 Kings (1 King for each side) [Red and Black characters don’t match]
How the Characters Move
So how do these pieces move along the board? Let’s go down the list.
Offense can move across the river, while the defensive pieces (covered below) cannot cross and must stay near the king to protect him.
Soldiers – Similar to a pawn in chess, these are the “fodder” at the front lines of the army. 5 across closest to the river, they can only move forward or backward 1 space at a time. Once they cross the river though, they can move left and right as well as forward and backward.
Bombers – I think of these as cannon brigade. They can kill anything in their line of sight (looking straight ahead) but the catch is that there needs to be a piece between them and their target. This piece in between the bomber and his target can be either your piece or your enemy’s piece. Please note the distance doesn’t matter, the bomber can move across the board.
Horses – These are the same as a knight in chess. They can move in an ‘L’ shape, one forward and two left or right (or the inverse).
Chariots – The most powerful piece in the game. In some ways like the queen in chess, except it can only move vertically or horizontally, it cannot cross the board diagonally. So the chariot can cross the whole board and kill its target, no questions asked. The difference with the chariot and the bomber is the bomber has to have a piece in between it and its target, where the chariot simply goes straight for the kill.
These pieces are stuck on your side of the board, and cannot pass the river. The elephant can move anywhere on your side of the board, but the king’s soldiers and the king cannot leave the castle.
Elephants – These can make one extra space more than the horse (or knight), going in a two by two direction. So the elephant moves to forward (or backward) and two left (or right). But the big difference is this elephant cannot cross the river and needs to stay on your defense.
King’s soldier – This soldier’s job is to stay in the castle and protect the king. He cannot leave the castle, but can move in any direction two spaces, vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. I imagine in a real-life battle, these are the specially trained warriors with big shields and constantly circling the king when there is an attack.
King – Same as chess, can only move in 1 space in any direction. But the difference with chess is he cannot leave his castle, which is a two by two box in the back center on your side of the board. If he dies, you lose the game. There isn’t a check or checkmate, it is simply the king is killed or not.
The Board (Battlefield)
The board is a square mat that is 8 boxes by 8 boxes. So each side has 4 boxes, and in the middle of the board is the river. The river is what separates the offensive pieces from the defensive pieces (we covered above) ensuring that you keep certain pieces on your side of the board.
The five soldiers are spread out evenly towards the front of your side of the board. Behind them are the two bombers, and then the back row has the king in the middle, with the king’s soldiers on his sides, then 2 elephants, 2 horses, and 2 chariots (on alternating sides).
Note the castle is in the back center of the board on each player’s side, this is where the king and king’s soldiers must remain for the entire game. Its a two by two square area and there are diagonal lines showing that those pieces can move diagonally within the castle.
Playing the Game
The game starts with red making the first move. Each side makes its own move, even if one side makes a kill or not, it keeps alternating. Each player has three minutes to make his or her move.
Winning the Game
To win the game, the first person to kill the opponent’s king wins. There is no check or checkmate like in chess, it is going straight for the kill.
Variations of Play
The classic way to play is where each player has 3 minutes each move but this can take a long time, especially as the pieces move and the board becomes so complex. It can take many hours to finish one match.
Therefore, there is a faster way to play, where there are 10 minutes total game length, and then the game is over.
I am excited to have learned the game of Chinese chess, and I hope you did too! I envision a living battle with knights, chariots, cannons, and even massive elephants protecting the castle!
We will continually update this post as we get other people’s variations of play and more clarifications on the rules. I am sure after all these years of Chinese history there have formed multiple formats of Chinese chess! This one I learned from one of our WrittenChinese.com’s team members – Allen, he learned this when he was a young boy and got quite good at it.