Chinese vocabulary notes (April 2022)

This edition is (almost) all about the lockdown in Shanghai. Originally I had added and commented some audio recordings of desperate residents. However, these recordings disappeared again during the month, so unfortunately I had to delete them from the article.

I am of course not a journalist, but just an interested blogger. You hear and see many things from Shanghai these days. Some terrible, some things seem not too bad. The news reports from the mainstream media aren’t very helpful. What to believe? I see the most distressing scenes on Twitter, but does that mean whole Shanghai is like that? All in all, I prefer to hear the news directly from the people on the ground, so that I can gradually connect the dots and understand what’s happening.

China zero-covid meme - journey to the west - the monkey king and the buddha priest
Text from left to right: “Monk, have you come to set me free?” Answer: “I have come to take your covid-test”. If you didn’t get the joke, you can look here.

My first conclusion is that there is a little bit of everything. Human abysses with a touch of Orwell but also warmth, creativity and helpfulness. There’s no need denying that I fundamentally disagree with the idea of “zero-covid”, whether in China or elsewhere. Especially now that I see around me that the once dreaded disease is (at this point) for the most part no more than a cold. That is why the Chinese approach has a delusional character to me. And I don’t need to explain what an absolute “security need” means for individual freedom.

The whole thing has similarities with a mass movement where everyone has to prove that they are on the right side. For example, by putting on a white suit, doing a dance for the helpers or simply standing in line for your daily test. Anyone who does not wear a mask or leaves their home or neighborhood without permission will be called to order or worse. You have to obey and walk in line. Others would call it a cult.

Is all this necessary to prevent the spread of the disease? Can we prevent the spread at all in the long run? At what cost?

Afu: Shanghai Epidemic | Can you get food? What about pets? How are my family members?

A video update from Afu in Shanghai, showing how he is making the best out of the situation. Looking at his account of the lockdown, I more or less got the impression that the whole situation isn’t that bad. After all, if – like Afu- you have a pleasant apartment, plenty of supplies and connections to get more, it just means you have to stay at home and watch Netflix. He doesn’t mention anything about daily Covid-tests and the fear of being tested positive, but the fact that they temporarily sent their dog away does show this is a concern. He doesn’t go in to the Why of the lockdown. On the other hand, he does explicitly state that his lockdown experience isn’t very representative (“可能不是很有代表性”) and that this is purely his personal account (“我今天拍的内容是我个人的情况”).

封城的生活 Fēngchéng de shēnghuó life in lockdown
宠物的情况 chǒngwù de qíngkuàng pet situation
囤了什么货 dùnle shénme huò What are you stocking up
抢菜 qiǎng cài grab food
调侃 tiáokǎn ridicule
文化博主 wénhuà bó zhǔ cultural blogger
物资 wùzī supplies
郁闷 yùmèn depressed
足不出户 zú bù chū hù stay at home
要去方舱医院 yào qù fāng cāng yīyuàn go to the makeshift hospital
团购 tuángòu “group buy”
可能不是很有代表性 kěnéng bùshì hěn yǒu dàibiǎo xìng “probably not very representative”
我今天拍的内容是我个人的情况 wǒ jīntiān pāi de nèiróng shì wǒ gèrén de qíngkuàng What I’m filming today is my personal situation”

After more than a month of lockdown, how miserable are the entrepreneurs in Shanghai?

How do entrepreneurs in Shanghai experience the lockdown? How well prepared were they and how long will they last? In this compilation of conversations with local business leaders, we hear their side of the story. We learn that no one’s situation is quite the same.

停业 Tíngyè out of business
亏钱 kuī qián to lose money
创业者 chuàngyèzhě entrepreneur
裁员 cáiyuán to fire people
社保 shèbǎo social security
零收入 líng shōurù zero income
活下去 huó xiàqù to live / to survive
恢复 huīfù to recover
从零开始 cóng líng kāishǐ to start allover
面临挑战 miànlín tiǎozhàn to face challenges

Taiwanese girl studying at Fudan University shares her lockdown experience

Imagine: you are twenty and for the first time in your life you are going to study abroad. A new city, new friends, a completely new life. And just as you start to get used to your new surroundings, the hassle begins. First daily covid tests, then the campus is locked, then you are no longer allowed to leave your residential building, and again a few days later you have to stay in your room. That is in short what happened to this Taiwanese student.

封校 Fēng xiào school closure
发货 fā huò send goods
抗原自测 kàngyuán zì cè antigen self-test
封楼 fēng lóu sealed-off building
封户 fēng hù sealed-off room
阳性病例 yángxìng bìnglì positive case
恩赐 ēncì gift
无能为力 wúnéngwéilì powerless
匡谬 kuāng miù paradox
三餐的温饱 sān cān de wēnbǎo three meals a day

She first tells about the anti-covid policy measures chronologically, then she shares her personal feelings. Her initial goodwill soon turns into impotence (无能为力) and frustration. Her precious time, her quality of life are taken away from her. She didn’t even get to experience spring in Shanghai because she was locked inside. She does not only want to complain about herself and also understands that she’s not the only person suffering, but I can’t blame her for her honest words. And let’s not forget, studying costs money for which you want to get something in return. Not only in the form of good education together with your peers, but also in quality of life.

隔离 gélí isolation
核酸 (检测) hésuān nucleic acid (test)
阳性 yángxìng positive
阴性 yīnxìng negative
检测 jiǎncè detect, test

She does not speak freely, but reads her story. Of course with a slight Taiwanese accent as far as I can judge. The subtitles are in traditional characters.

Speak Chinese with Da Peng 大鹏说中文 – Chinese Expression #169

Da Peng explains the meaning of 过来人, as always with plenty of examples and short dialogues and most importantly, without using a single word of English.

过来人 guòláirén person with experience
资历更深的人 zīlì gēngshēn de rén more senior person
绝对的 juéduì de absolute
相对的 xiāngduì de relative
没有绝对的过来人,只有相对的过来人。 méiyǒu juéduì de guòláirén, zhǐyǒu xiāngduì de guòláirén To explain 过来人 is always relative
无从下手 wúcóng xiàshǒu No way to start
天外有天,人外有人 tiānwàiyǒutiān, rén wài yǒurén In the wider world there are people more talented than oneself (idiom)

10 Years of an Ordinary Chinese Girl’s Life

More people should make this kind of retrospective videos about themselves. It got me thinking about what I was like ten years ago. Ella tells her story of personal growth that include several stages: not finding her way as a student, first unsatisfying jobs, meeting new people, learning English, meeting her future husband, traveling and becoming a professional content maker. It’s an impressive story about courage that ultimately leads to finding confidence and meaning. Ella speaks quite fast though and uses some slang here and there, so I had to slow down the video to extract all the details of what she said.

腿不直 Tuǐ bù zhí legs not straight
福双眼皮 fú shuāng yǎnpí double eyelid
典型乖乖女 diǎnxíng guāiguāi nǚ typical good girl
时髦的人 shímáo de rén hipster & stylish person
浑浑噩噩的 húnhún’è’è de murky
第六年开始出现转机了 dì liù nián kāishǐ chūxiàn zhuǎnjīle Turnaround started in the sixth year
我不要再做咸鱼了,我可以翻身 wǒ bùyào zài zuò xián yúle, wǒ kěyǐ fānshēn “I don’t need to make salted fish anymore, I can turn over” (咸鱼翻身 – to experience a reversal of fortune, be back in the saddle)

狗血剧情 gǒu xuè jùqíng melodramatic plot / “dog blood plot”
带牙套 dài yátào wear braces
空虚的感觉 kōngxū de gǎnjué feeling of emptiness
我内心清楚 wǒ nèixīn qīngchǔ I know in my heart
都说时间会摆平一切 dōu shuō shíjiān huì bǎipíng yīqiè They say time will settle everything
做自媒体 zuò zì méitǐ do self-media (content published on independently operated social media account)

【电影】《朝鲜世界2019》(北韓世界 North Korea World)

How do the Chinese see North Korea? Does Kim’s Hermit Kingdom remind them of the days of Mao Zedong? This documentary made by a group of Chinese students couldn’t be further apart from the dreadful but honest picture shown in the legendary Vice movie about North Korea. The students arrive in Pyongyang by train and get the usual guided tour of North Korean splendor. Unlike the Vice doc where every aspect of the travel experience is questioned and a kind of behind-the-scenes North Korea is presented, our student travelers seem to take everything at face value, no questions asked. The welcome feast, the empty karaoke bar with every thinkable Chinese song, girls in traditional costumes dancing only for them, CCTV programs on the hotel room TV and everybody they meet speaks Chinese! It’s a bit pathetic really. The narration is very formal and unnatural and doesn’t match the students’ tone of voice. In short, it’s a propaganda piece.
朝鲜 Cháoxiǎn North Korea
平壤 píngrǎng Pyongyang
朝鲜劳动党 cháoxiǎn láodòng dǎng Workers’ Party of Korea
非军事区 fēi jūnshì qū demilitarized Zone
主体思想 zhǔtǐ sīxiǎng Juche idea, state ideology of North Korea
坚持社会主义的国家 jiānchí shèhuì zhǔyì a country that insists on socialism
金正恩 jīnzhèng’ēn Kim Jong Un

Let’s call it coincidence that we started this month in Shanghai and ended up in North-Korea. I hope you enjoyed the ride though. Let’s see what next month will bring!

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