Chinese Resources

Monday, June 11, 2012

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Yesterday afternoon the dark clouds started rolling in to Taipei. The impending rain was going to be welcome respite from all the hot and muggy weather we've been having recently. And then it started to rain, and rain, and rain! Even this morning the clouds show no sign of letting up any time soon. 

So how do we talk about 雨 (rain) in Chinese?

First a little about the character 雨. In my opinion it is one of the most clear examples of Chinese 象形字 (pictographic characters), even the modern Character has the look of raindrops falling from the sky. When it is a top component of characters it appears written as ⻗; as seen in such characters as:

  • 電 (electricity)
  • 震 (shake; shock)
  • 雪 (snow)
  • 露 (dew)
  • 雷 (thunder)
  • 霞 (rosy clouds)-- I love this character!
Rain is a special thing, and there are lots of different kinds. Like Forest Gump said:
One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rainRain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night... 
So how do we talk about it in Chinese? The most basic way is to simply say 下雨 (rain), that good old V.O. we all learn in first year Chinese. But, what about "stingin' rain" and "big ol' fat rain"? Here are a few fun ways to shoot the crap and talk about the weather with your Chinese friends.

下大雨 (xià dàyǔ)heavy rain
  • 下 (xià: fall)
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
When it is really raining outside, the easiest way to say it is 下大雨. Often it comes after a location, or talks about an upcoming event, for example: 台北下大雨 or 下大雨幾率將提高

細雨 (xìyǔ) drizzle; (n.) light rain
  • 細 (xì: fine; small particles)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
For those light drizzles we can say 細雨 or 細細的雨. 

狂風暴雨 (kuángfēngbàoyǔ) f.e. violent storm
  • 狂 (kuáng: mad; crazy)
  • 風 (fēng: wind)
  • 暴 (bào: sudden and violent)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
When the wind really starts to pick up and rain is flying everywhere, then 狂風暴雨 is the perfect expression to describe the scene. If it is raining hard, but not windy, then you better stick to 下大雨, but if the wind is about to rip your umbrella away, than this one's for you!

傾盆大雨 (qīngpéndàyǔ) f.e. rain cats and dogs; (n.) torrential rain 
  • 傾 (qīng: overturn and pour out; empty)
  • 盆 (pén: basin)
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
This could be my favorite phrase of the whole bunch... since torrential rains feels like someone has just taken a giant basin of water and emptied it right on your head. 

大珠小珠落玉盤 (dà zhū xiǎo zhū luò yù pán) big and little peals (water) falling on a jade plate 
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 珠 (zhū: pearl; small, spherical object)
  • 小 (xiǎo: small; little
  • 珠 (zhū: pearl; small, spherical object)
  • 落 (luò: fall; drop)
  • 玉盤 (yùpán: jade plate)
The most poetic phrase of the bunch, this line describes the scene and sound of large and small pearls (drops of water) falling onto a jade plate. When I learned this phrase this morning, my friend told me it is used to describe the sight or scene of rainfall. It makes sense that this phrase is so poetic, since it comes from a line in 白居易 (Bái Jūyì: Tang Poet) poem titled 《琵琶行》(pípaxíng: Song's of the Pipa). For more info on the phrase, check out the full Baidu link.

Well there you have it. A few ways to talk about rain. Got more ways? Please share them in comments below, or check out a trillion more in the awesome link that @Ye Mao Hao sent me a few minutes ago.

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