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What is Happiness 什麼是幸福?

Every language has particular ways you can play with it. The character of the Chinese language makes it easy and normal to make up words. The lack of filler words makes it easier to construct sayings in short patterns. My tutor did this recently when she was discussing life with someone. It is not an ancient Chinese philosophy per se, but she did write a poem that is classically Chinese.



(ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ)(ㄒㄧㄥˋ ㄈㄨˊ)

(shén me)(shì)(xìng fú)

(what)(is, to be)(happiness, blessed)

What is happiness? 




(ㄅㄞˊ ㄊㄧㄢ)[(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄕㄨㄛ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄒㄧㄠˋ)], (ㄨㄢˇ ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄕㄨㄟˋ)(ㄍㄜ˙)(ㄏㄠˇ)(ㄐㄧㄠˋ)

(bái tiān)[(yǒu)(shuō)(yǒu)(xiào)], (wǎn shàng)(shuì)(ge.)(hǎo)(jiào)

(daytime)[(to have)(to speak)(to have)(to laugh) = talking and laughing], (evening, night)(to sleep)(that, individual)(good)(to wake, conscious)

To have good conversation and laughter during the day, and to sleep well at night.




(ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ)(ㄓˋ ㄏㄨㄟˋ)

(shén me.)(shì)(zhì huì)

(what)(is, to be)(wisdom, knowledge, intelligence)

What is wisdom?




(ㄢ ㄆㄞˊ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ ㄑㄧㄥˊ)(ㄋㄥˊ)(ㄗㄨㄛˋ)(ㄏㄠˇ)

(ān pái)(de.)(shì qíng)(néng)(zuò)(hǎo)

(to arrange, to plan)(adjective marker)(affairs, things, matters of business)(able)(to do)(good, well, proper)

Having matters arranged so it can all be done well.




(ㄇㄟˊ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄢ ㄆㄞˊ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ ㄑㄧㄥˊ)(ㄋㄥˊ)(ㄒㄧㄤˇ)(ㄏㄠˇ)

(méi)(yǒu)(ān pái)(de.)(shì qíng)(néng)(xiǎng)(hǎo)

(not)(to have)(to arrange, to plan)(adjective marker)(affairs, things)(able)(to think)(good, well, proper)

Things that have not been arranged can be thought through.




(ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ)[(ㄍㄠ)(ㄑㄧㄥˊ ㄕㄤ)]

(shén me.)(shì)[(gāo)(qíng shāng)]

(what)(is, to be)[(high)(emotional quotient)]

What is a high emotional quotient?




(ㄕㄨㄛ ㄏㄨㄚˋ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄏㄨㄢ ㄒㄧㄣ)

(shuō huà)(ràng)(rén)(huān xīn)

(to talk)(to make, to let)(people, person)(love, joy)

To speak in a way that makes people feel joy




(ㄗㄨㄛˋ)(ㄕˋ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄈㄤˋ ㄒㄧㄣ)

(zuò)(shì)(ràng)(rén)(fàng xīn)

(to do, to make)(affairs, things)(to make, to let)(people, person)(to feel at ease, to feel reassured)

To do things that make people feel at ease




(ㄗㄨㄛˋ ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄉㄨㄥˋ ㄒㄧㄣ)

(zuò rén)(ràng)(rén)(dòng xīn)

(to conduct oneself)(to make, to let)(people, person)(to be moved)

To conduct oneself in a way that makes people feel touched and inspired.




(ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄕˋ)(ㄓㄥˋ)(ㄋㄥˊ ㄌㄧㄤˋ)

(shén me.)(shì)(zhèng)(néng liàng)

(what)(is, to be)(positive)(energy)

What is positive energy?




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄒㄧ  ㄨㄤˋ)

(gěi)(rén)(xī wàng)

(to give)(people, person)(hope)

To give people hope




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄈㄤ ㄒㄧㄤˋ)

(gěi)(rén)(fāng xiàng)

(to give)(people, person)(direction)

To give people direction




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄌㄧˋ ㄌㄧㄤ˙)

(gěi)(rén)(lì liang.)

(to give)(people, person)(power, strength)

To give people strength




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄓˋ ㄏㄨㄟˋ)

(gěi)(rén)(zhì huì)

(to give)(people, person)(wisdom)

To give people wisdom




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄗˋ ㄒㄧㄣˋ)

(gěi)(rén)(zì xìn)

(to give)(people, person)(self- confidence)

To give people self-confidence




(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ)(ㄎㄨㄞˋ ㄌㄜˋ)

(gěi)(rén)(kuài lè)

(to give)(people, person)(happy)

To give people happiness


When my children were still young and I was teaching them at home, we would often post things for memorization in large print on the walls. I think I may do that with this poem. It uses a lot of common characters and has short phrases, so will be easy to practice and possibly memorize. Writing out all the characters will be good practice, but I could also print them in large characters. I have plenty of scratch paper I could use for that. When I get that done, I will send a photo of it in my Fun Learning Chinese email, which you can sign up for in the upper left sidebar. What can you post around the house to help you practice?


❶ I love the description that is part of 白天, the Chinese word for daytime. The literal translation is bright sky.

❷ Just like in any language, certain words have connotations that are not always clear in the standard definition. This particular phrase connotes having a joyful time, or enjoying oneself.

❸ I find it kind of humorous that with all the discussion of when to use “well” and when to use “good” in English, it doesn’t matter in Chinese!

❹ A high emotional quotient is another way of saying high emotional intelligence, meaning having the insight and skill to deal with your own and other people’s emotions in healthy and productive ways.