Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daily Dragons

Do you believe in dragons?

You might not know it, but you deal with dragons everyday. At least, you do if you speak Chinese.

This  is another in my WordPack series, with this topic having been inspired by a post at the "Those crazy Chinese" blog. The goal of WordPacks is that, by linking these words together by a single theme, it makes it much easier to learn words. And if you're learning Chinese, let's face it, the more help you can get, the better.

The theme today is: dragons.  (If you couldn't work that out from the title of the blog post then you really shouldn't be learning Chinese! :-)

The Simplified character for dragon is (and it is in traditional Chinese writing). Even if you're only learning Simplified, this is a good example of a character which you should also learn to recognise in Traditional - because it appears so often in the name of Chinese restaurants.

Daily Dragons

龙 :   lóng​:    dragon (also a common surname)
水龙头 :   shuǐ​lóng​tóu:​    tap (water dragon head)
尼龙 :   ní​lóng​:    nylon (nun dragon!)
龙船 :   lóng​chuán:​    Dragon boat
龙卷风 :   lóng​juǎn​fēng​:    tornado, cyclone (dragon curl wind)
变色龙 :   biàn​sè​lóng​:    chameleon (change colour dragon)

Dangerous Dragons

龙 :   lóng:​    dragon
恐龙 :   kǒng​lóng:​    dinosaur (fear dragon)
霸王龙 :   bà​wáng​lóng:​    Tyrannosaurus Rex (mighty king dragon)
翼龙 :   yì​lóng​:    Pterodactyl (winged dragon)

Delicious Dragons

龙眼 :   lóng​yǎn​:    dragon fruit (dragon eye)
龙虾 :   lóng​xiā​:    lobster (dragon shrimp)
乌龙茶 :   wū​lóng​chá:​    Oolong tea (dark dragon tea)
小龙虾 :   xiǎo​lóng​xiā:​    crayfish, langoustine (small dragon shrimp)

Dragons of Distinction

李小龙 :    Lǐ​ Xiǎo​lóng​:    Bruce Lee's chinese names (Li small dragon)
成龙 :    Chéng​ Lóng​:    (one of) Jackie Chan's chinese names (accomplish dragon)
九龙 :    Jiǔ​lóng​:    Kowloon district of Hong Kong (nine dragons)

If you're a newbie, you should make sure that you can at least recognise 龙, and that you also remember the word: shuǐ​lóng​tóu.   At elementary, at least know the above, plus all food references. At intermediate you probably know all of them.

Off you go ... go slay another dragon!


  1. Interesting, the nearest I come to a wordpack thing is that sometimes I get a breakdown on a character in an online dictionary and quickly run down all the words that it contains and often find interesting new ones.

    Downside is you have to filter out all the odd usages that are no particular help at the time (wierd chemical or scientific terms, obscure diseases etc. etc.).

    A post like this behind every character would be usesful (another thing you can quickly scan when curious about a character).

    I don't expect anyone to write a post for every character, but maybe some sort of collaborative approach ......

    BTW I have always liked the traditional version of dragon the righthand side reminds me of the dragons in the original atari adventure game :)

  2. To add to your efforts at 龙:

    Dragon is the symbol of authority and majesty in China.

    In ancient times, dragon symbols were used a lot on the emperor's clothes. In fact, the emperors were often referred to as dragon, or as the son of heaven (天子). Note that this dragon is not equal to the dragon that western knights usually slayed in the novels. Hence, if you were in ancient China and you said on the street "let's go and slay a dragon" (我们去屠龙吧), you would probably be thrown into big trouble.

    An extra point is while the emperor was often referred to as dragon, his no.1 wife among his loads of women was often referred to as phoenix (凤).

    In morden China, if you have a friend whose wife just gave birth to a lovely twin boy and girl, it would be best for you to address the twins as "龙凤胎" with 龙 meaning the boy and 凤 meaning the girl.

    龙 is used a lot in proverbs such as:

    * 龙飞凤舞 (sometimes my handwriting would be described using this proverb, especially when I did the handwriting in a hurry. Believe me, in my case this is not a compliment)

    * 亢龙有悔 (this is often used in the martial arts novels as the name of a certain killing move)

    Lovely to read your blog post again:-)


  3. This is a great list - I think my favorite of these posts so far. I'd make one edit, though - 龍眼 (dragon eye fruit, or longan) is different from 火龍果 (dragon fruit, the one pictured in your post). Luckily, both use 龍, and both are delicious, so both are relevant to your list!

    Keep up the good work! :)

  4. Cute post, Greg! It's been awhile. I hope your Chinese studies are coming along great! Happy Holidays! :)


  5. Chris, Breaking down words, especially looking for common characteristics, is something I found my self doing often, which is kind of where the WordPack idea came from.

    The way I do it is based on the technique I explained for looking up a word really quickly, where I would search for *龙* --> which gives me all words which contain the hanzi 龙.

    Chris, given your approach to studying Chinese, what do you think might be useful hanzi for creating WordPacks around?

    XY, as always, thanks for your insightful comments which bring the Chinese perspective into focus. That was really useful stuff. And now I know the name of the dangerous martial arts move, but next time I see you in Beijing, please teach me the actual move! :-)

    FarFromFrostburg, I appreciate your clarification about the fruit. I actually didn't realise there was a difference between Dragon Fruit and Dragon Eye Fruit - next time I'm in Asia I will make a point of sampling both. (PS. If there's any way I can gain access to your blog, I'd be very interested.)

    Kara, thanks for stopping in. I never thought of dragons being 'cute' :-) but right now I'm picturing scenes from Harry Potter, so maybe that is possible! Happy holidays to you too!