So we finally went on our much delayed trip, Datong is a quiet city, such a contrast to Beijing.
Trip to Datong
We left shortly after classes and reached this city which lies in Shanxi province after a 6 hour train ride with the locals who could not stop talking to us. I have never seen more curious people almost too fascinated with foreign skin. We reached at night and roamed the city streets after checking in a recently opened hotel. We managed to find a restaurant open and ate whatever we could find normal on the menu which was quite a task.
The next day, we started our journey early morning and took a taxi to The Hanging Monastery located outside the city. This amazing temple happens to be lodged on a cliff-face with rooms linked by mid-air walkways. Just the feel of standing in the middle of mountains was enough to take my breath away.
After this we head towards our next destination – The 1500-year-old Yúngāng Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These mountain-side caves and recesses are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues – the largest being a 56-foot Seated Buddha while the smallest is only a few centimetres tall. The thought of how such accurate and precise buddha statues were made back in the ancient times is bound to cross your mind several times. I cannot question enough how people then could carve through stone and make such gigantic statues. We saw the Nine Dragon screen next located in the middle of the city, followed by fortification ruins which was just huge and beautiful!
Later we also made a visit to a local noodle shop but I ate KFC instead [no judgement please] because i don’t like noodles thankyouverymuch. Got back to Beijing the next day which felt great. Out of all the other cities in China this city is home to me. And it feels great to be back here each time.
你好！The following are a few facts you may already have heard of:
One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world.
In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia.
Now, join me for some surprising facts.
Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar
Hard to believe eh?
Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation (there is no need to memorize verb tenses!) and no noun declension (e.g., gender and number distinctions).
For example, while someone learning English has to learn different verb forms like “see/saw/seen,” all you need to do in Chinese is just to remember one word: kan. While in English you have to distinguish between “cat” and “cats,” in Chinese there is only one form: mao. (Chinese conveys these distinctions of tense and number in other ways, of course.)
The basic word order of Chinese is subject — verb — object, exactly as in English. A large number of the key terms of Mandarin Chinese (such as the terms for state, health, science, party, inflation, and even literature) have been formed as translations of English concepts. You are entering a different culture, but the content of many of the modern key concepts is familiar.
“Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?!” my favourite line from the Rush Hour movie
The fact is Chinese people, unlike most of the rest, have put their foot down and given first priority to their own language instead of a foreign language like- English, so no wonder Chinese is the most popular language in the world. More than one billion people in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other places in East Asia speak Chinese. Significant populations of people who speak Chinese also live in urban centers around the world. For example, San Francisco has the largest Chinese-speaking population of any city outside of China.
Chinese actually consists of a large number of dialects which share a written language but are mutually unintelligible when spoken. Because of this, some linguists consider them separate languages instead of dialects.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and it is the most widely-spoken form of Chinese. Other important linguistic groups include Cantonese, Wu, Xiang, Hakka, Min, and Gan. Within each group, many variations in spoken language occur. It is said that speakers from one area may not understand those who live only a few miles away.
Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which also includes Tibetan, Karen, and Lolo-Burmese. The Chinese language has influenced many of the other languages of East Asia. Written Chinese originated more than 4,000 years ago and remained relatively stable until the People’s Republic of China decided on a campaign to make it easier to read Chinese by simplifying the characters (Thank God!), which can have as many as 30 strokes. To date, the simplified Chinese characters have been adopted only in the PRC and Singapore, but Hong Kong may start to use them, following its 1997 reunification with the mainland.
Another change initiated in the PRC is the widespread use of Pinyin, a system of transliteration, representing the sounds of the Chinese language using the Latin alphabet. The Chinese government has expressed interest in eventually replacing the character system with a phonetic alphabet, but to date Chinese characters remain the standard in communication. The written Chinese language consists of about 40,000 characters.
Some culinary terms come from Mandarin Chinese, including chow mein (from chao mian, to stir fry noodles), and tofu (do fu in Mandarin Chinese). Aside from food, Chinese martial arts terms have come into English, including kung fu (gong fu in Chinese) and tai chi (tai ji in Chinese). Recently, feng shui, the Chinese architectural principle, has also been adopted into English.Because Cantonese speakers were the first people to speak Chinese who came to the United States, many English words of Chinese origin come from Cantonese. They include chop suey (from the Cantonese tsap sui or mixed pieces), chop chop (from the Cantonese chop, meaning quick), and dim sum (from the Cantonese for little hearts; the same characters are pronounced “dian xin” in Mandarin Chinese).
As you learn to speak Chinese, some words may sound familiar. However, they are not what you might think. For example, depending on its tone, the word shu can mean book, uncle, neglect, ransom, ripe, and comb. However, it never means “shoe.”
Is Chinese important for your career?
China has been the fastest-growing major economy for the past 30 years with an average annual GDP growth rate above 10%. Many people are now choosing to learn Mandarin Chinese as international companies are moving quickly to gain a foothold in the Chinese domestic market.
International businesses prefer to hire people who speak more than one language.
China has become a huge market, and business leaders are looking for people who can speak Chinese and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context. Knowing Chinese may give you an edge when competing for an important position. There is no doubt that China will and does play a major role in world affairs. As China now has opened up to the West, there are opportunities for employment in all areas. Also, China is a wonderful country where one can teach English while developing your new language and cultural skills. There are many website which allow you to practice your language skills. The experience is great, and it’s something you will never forget.
Source: A few facts and links found over the internet plus my experience learning the language.
China came into the picture when I was in 6th grade. This is when dad’s work had him travelling across China. One fine day, he decided to move us there to see what it was like, living together was the main idea. Me, my brother and my sister were sent to Beijing Hai Dian Foreign Language School (北京海淀外国语实验学校) which for us, was the first taste of the chinese people, chinese food, the language, culture, everything. I have a whole diary consisting of my escapades but this blog is not about that time or the others times I’ve spent in China. This time I find myself in Beijing yet again, pursuing a diploma in mandarin at an university called Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) (北京语言大学).
The population in Beijing is exploding, but ironically you wont find the streets of Beijing littered, or cars jumping red lights, or cars trying to take over other cars. They have traffic jams, yes, but lined-up traffic, completely civilized.
Food and Culture
Food plays a very significant part here in China and thank God it does! Its an understatement that I love Chinese food, whether its the half fried cabbage dipped in traditional sauces or the famous hot pot or SiChuan dishes and the list goes on.
The thing about Chinese food is that there is literally no end.
WangFuJin is one famous place where you’ll find street vendors selling everything from fried cockroaches to scorpions on sticks. Recently a friend of mine told me that she heard snake meat is delicious and that we should try it …Riiight. There are hundreds of restaurants, one after the other and please note none of them will ever be empty and so I think to myself – A restaurant business in China can never fail. Having your meals in a day is not just eating to stay alive for the Chinese, its an event.
You go to a restaurant, you get a menu (read: book of options), you order dishes (soup, cold dishes, hot dishes, beverage, finally, dessert anyone?) and relish the most amazing food culture in the whole world.
Its amusing what the waiters at the door say when you’re leaving the restaurant – ‘man zou’ (慢走) which means go slowly, wishing for us to get home safely. Its actually very cute and I don’t think they have that anywhere else in the world.
Putting aside the phonetics involved, the Chinese language is essentially different because little do people know, but the characters are derived from pictures (Chinese Pictography). That’s unlike any other language. This is one race that decided to do it differently.