Lena Yang Ramsay

The only empress in Chinese history – Wu Ze Tian

One day I was doing some research on how to improve Chinese listening, and I stumbled upon a Chinese soap called Wu Mei Niang Chuan Qi (The legend of Wu Ze Tian).

Out of curiosity I started watching it and little did I know, I have become obsessed about it, and the more I watch the more I become interested in the actual history.

From Qin Shi Huang (259 BC – 210 BC) to the last emperor Pu Yi (1906 – 1967), there were about 400 monarchs in China. Among them Wu Ze Tian was special because she was the only woman, and she was also a great politician.

Wu Ze Tian was born in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), living her early years in ‘the Reign of Zhen Guan’ (627 – 649), the most prosperous period in Chinese history.

After ‘the Reign of Zhen Guan’, Tang Gao Zong inherited the crown, and his wife Wu Ze Tian became the Empress. Due to Tang Gao Zong’s sickness, Wu Ze Tian assisted him in solving governmental affairs and gradually gained ruling power. Later she claimed the crown and renamed the dynasty as Zhou (683 – 705).

Under the feudalism society men are superior to women, which means men should always be respected and women should remain subordinate. But Wu Ze Tian was an exception and her wisdom, courage and ability enabled her to rule the whole country for nearly half a century and maintained the society’s stability and prosperity. Her ruling paved the way for the coming of the Flourishing Kai Yuan Reign Period (713 – 741).

Wu Ze Tian designed a special tombstone for herself – there is not a single word on it. People tried to interpret and a possible meaning could be: the deeds have been done by her best ability, leaving it to be judged by the world.

Here is the link to the soap, which is a great way to sharpen up your listening.



The Chinese Clear and Bright Festival

light and color of lampWhen the western Easter holiday is almost over, the Chinese are about to embrace The Clear and Bright Festival (Qing Ming Jie), which normally falls on the 4th or 5th of April, and lasts up to twenty days.

The Clear and Bright Festival is when Chinese people visit the columbarium, graves or burial grounds to pray to the ancestors.

Origins of the festival

Continue reading

Chinese Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, is a celebration observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, including China.

In China, there are so many different festivals already, and a lot of western festivals are also celebrated in China, personally I think it is a reflection of the Chinese hospitable culture that people love to take any opportunity to get together and have a good time.

Did you know there is also a Chinese Valentine’s Day, which is on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, and people call it the double seventh night. Continue reading

Family Values in China

Chinese families 300Family means a lot to Chinese people. It is considered to be the most important aspect of interpersonal relationships and social communication in China. Chinese people often refer to family relationships as 骨肉之情gǔ ròu zhī qíng, 手足之情 shǒu zú zhī qíng (as inseparable as flesh and bone, as inseparable as hands and feet). Because of the traditional hierarchy values, it is essential to address each family member, especially those older than you. It is not acceptable for the younger generation to address the older generation using just their names, as it is not respectful. Continue reading

Interesting Facts about China

bigIce cream was invented in China around 2000BC when the Chinese packed a soft milk and rice mixture in the snow and Marco Polo is rumoured to have taken the recipe (along with the recipe for noodles) back with him to Europe.

The total land area of China is 9,596,960 Sq. kms. It is the fourth largest country in the world. Shanghai and Beijing are two of the largest and most populous cities in the world.

The Chinese year is based on the cycles of the moon. This is called a lunar schedule. A complete cycle of the Chinese calendar takes 60 years. The Chinese calendar dates back to 2600 B.C. It is the oldest known calendar. Continue reading

Chinese Numbers (II)

Here are the numbers in Chinese from 0 to 10, and there are some ‘silly’ tips to help you remember them. Please notice that the sounds of the numbers are underlined.

0 – Líng – bling bling the twinkling star
1 – – is easy
2 – èr – two ‘r’s on the Rolls Royce
3 – sān – three grinds of sand
4 – – a girl named Sue
5 – – when you woooo someone, you wave five fingers
6 – Liù – the lion King Leo wears a number 6 on his neck
7 – – seven dwarfs having tea and cheese (combine the tea and chee)
8 – – eight sheep go baaaaa
9 – jiǔ – a girl named Jill
10 – Shíshhhh, be quiet

The sounds of the numbers are easy, don’t worry about the tones, we will look at them later.

The best way to memorize these numbers is to break it down into two parts, one to five and six to ten, and just keep on repeating them.
Repeat to remember and remember to repeat.

Chinese Numbers (I)

The Chinese invented many things in the past, and it’s not surprising that they also invented the number system, according to Professor Lam Lay Yong from National University of Singapore Mathematics, that the Chinese invented the number system and were adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing as early as 475BC, almost 1,000 years before the Arabic and Egyptians, and they simply used bamboo rods.

It’s no doubt that the numbers play a very important role in our lives, and in Chinese culture, people believe that some numbers can bring good luck and certain number can bring bad luck.

The lucky numbers are five, six, eight, nine and ten, and the unlucky number to avoid is number four. Continue reading

Chinese Pīn yīn

The area of China is approximately 9,600,000 square kilometres. It covers 1/15 of the world’s total land area.

China is so big that there are many different dialects. The official spoken language is called Pǔ tōng huà (the common speech). As a Chinese character does not indicate its pronunciation, the Pīn yīn system was developed as part of a Chinese government project in 1950s. The pronunciation is primarily based on Beijing (the capital city) and the northern phonetic system.

A character is usually represented by a syllable, and most syllables have an initial (what comes first) and a final (what comes last), although some syllables do not have an initial. There are 21 initials and 36 finals in Pīn yīn. Continue reading

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