5 Keys to Life
This 5 sentence guide to life is full of not only encouragement, but also a lot of useful Chinese vocabulary. Don’t worry, it will be translated below.
Here is some specific vocabulary that may help to hear as distinct words in order to understand this better.
幸福 ㄒㄧㄥˋ ㄈㄨˊ happiness, happy, blessed
保有 ㄅㄠˇ ㄧㄡˇ to keep, to retain
保持 ㄅㄠˇ ㄔˊ to keep, to maintain, to hold
試煉 ㄕˋ ㄌㄧㄢˋ to refine by fire, trials
悲傷 ㄅㄟ ㄕㄤ sad, sorrowful
人情味 ㄖㄣˊ ㄑㄧㄥˊ ㄨㄟˋ human warmth, human touch
失敗 ㄕ ㄅㄞˋ to be defeated, to fail
成功 ㄔㄥˊ ㄍㄨㄥ to succeed, success
謙虛 ㄑㄧㄢ ㄒㄩ modest, humble, self-effacing
勇氣 ㄩㄥˇ ㄑㄧˋ courage, valor
繼續 ㄐㄧˋ ㄒㄩˋ to continue, to proceed
往前進 ㄨㄤˇㄑㄧㄢˊㄐㄧㄣˋ to move forward, to keep on going
健康 ㄐㄧㄢˋ ㄎㄤ health
財富 ㄘㄞˊ ㄈㄨˋ wealth, money
The 5 sentences have some very “serious” vocabulary, but these words are common in Chinese sayings, so will come in handy. Also, the sentences all have the same basic grammatical structure, which should help with both understanding and remembering.
(ㄒㄧㄥˋ ㄈㄨˊ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄅㄠˇ ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄊㄧㄢˊ ㄇㄧˋ)
(xìng fú)(ràng)(nǐ)(bǎo yǒu)(tián mì)
(happiness)(to make)(you)(to keep, to retain)(sweet, happy)
Happiness keeps you sweet.
(ㄕˋ ㄌㄧㄢˋ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄅㄠˇ ㄔˊ)(ㄐㄧㄢ ㄑㄧㄤˊ)
(shì liàn)(ràng)(nǐ)(bǎo chí)(jiān qiáng)
(trials)(to make)(you)(to keep, to maintain)(strong)
Trials keep you strong.
(ㄅㄟ ㄕㄤ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄅㄠˇ ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄖㄣˊ ㄑㄧㄥˊ ㄨㄟˋ)
(bēi shāng)(ràng)(nǐ)(bǎo yǒu)(rén qíng wèi)
(sorrow)(to make)(you)(to keep, to retain)(human warmth)
Sorrow keeps you human.
(ㄕ ㄅㄞˋ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄅㄠˇ ㄔˊ)(ㄑㄧㄢ ㄒㄩ)
(shī bài)(ràng)(nǐ)(bǎo chí)(qiān xū)
(to be defeated, to fail)(to make)(you)(to keep, to maintain)(modest, humble)
Failure keeps you humble.
(ㄦˊ)(ㄩㄥˇ ㄑㄧˋ)(ㄖㄤˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄐㄧˋ ㄒㄩˋ)(ㄨㄤˇ ㄑㄧㄢˊ ㄐㄧㄣˋ)
(ér)(yǒng qì)(ràng)(nǐ)(jì xù)(wǎng qián jìn)
(and, as well)(courage, valor)(to make)(you)(to continue)(moving forward)
And courage keeps you going.
Here are two more easy philosophical sentences.
(ㄐㄧㄢˋ ㄎㄤ)(ㄕˋ)(ㄗㄨㄟˋ)(ㄉㄚˋ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄘㄞˊ ㄈㄨˋ)
(jiàn kāng)(shì)(zuì)(dà)(de.)(cái fù)
(health)(to be, is)(most)(big, major, great)(adjective marker)(wealth)
Health is the greatest wealth.
(ㄕ ㄅㄞˋ)(ㄨㄟˊ)(ㄔㄥˊ ㄍㄨㄥ)(ㄓ)(ㄇㄨˇ)
(shī bài)(wéi)(chéng gōng)(zhī)(mǔ)
(failure)(to be)(success)(marks preceding phrase as modifier of what follows)(mother)
Failure is the mother of success.
Meanwhile, don’t forget –
❶ There is a slight difference between 保有 and 保持. 保有 is used when you are keeping something that you have within yourself, while 保持 is the choice if it is something that you have to work at.
❷ 甜蜜 is a fun word because it more literally means “sweet like honey.” This also reminds me of the words for bee and honey, which are the same two characters as each other, but in opposite order. One way to remember which character is which is that the character for bee has the radical for insect 虫 in it.
蜜蜂 ㄇㄧˋ ㄈㄥ (honey) bee
蜂蜜 ㄈㄥ ㄇㄧˋ (bee) honey
❸ 人情味 is an interesting word because the characters mean
人 person, people
情 feeling, emotion
味 taste, smell
This character choice seems to emphasize that while this may be an abstract and spiritual phenomena, it is something real and can be sensed. You can’t fake being human. If you aren’t, people will be able to tell.
❹ My Chinese tutor chose 謙虛 for humble because it indicates having the correct attitude of humility without thinking so poorly of yourself as to be in despair or be despised, as something like 謙卑 ㄑㄧㄢ ㄅㄟ (qiān bēi) might connote.
❺ The break down of the translation of the characters in 往前進 is:
往 to go, to depart
前 in front, forward
進 advance, make progress
All together they mean to keep on going or to move forward.
❻ The word for wealth indicates it could include money, but isn’t limited to it. The first character, 財, stands for anything considered to be of value. The second character, 富, means abundant or ample. So, to be wealthy is to have the things you value in abundance.
❼ 之 is equivalent to 的 here. It means that what comes before it describes what comes after it. In English, it could also be translated “Failure is success’s mother,” but that is more stilted and not as fun to say.
❽ Although 母 means mother or female, it is not usually used when describing humans as female (母的) unless you want to insult someone. It can, however, be used in certain titles such as:
母 ㄇㄨˇ (mǔ) mother
母親 ㄇㄨˇ ㄑㄧㄣ (mǔ qīn) mother, mother dear
母后 ㄇㄨˇ ㄏㄡˋ (mǔ hòu) mother, queen mother
姑母 ㄍㄨ ㄇㄨˇ (gū mǔ) father’s sister, aunt
姨母 ㄧˊ ㄇㄨˇ (yí mǔ) mother’s sister, aunt
❾ If you read/listened when this was first published you would have seen this sentence like this: 失敗是成功之母, with 是 ㄕˋ (shì) instead of 為. Either word can be used, but we discovered on re-listening that my tutor had habitually said 為, so I changed the written part to match that.