“You can’t learn the language without learning the culture!” Sound familiar? In formal language education there is a movement for calling culture the “fifth skill” (along with: reading, writing, speaking, listening).
But what ever does it mean to us learning Chinese? I’m not going to pretend I know the answer. All I’m saying is the Chinese seem to associate flowers with girls and and grass with boys. Oh…um…and sometimes flowers with boys too. Flowers and grass make appearances in the language of love (and it’s not always bāoyì 褒义).
A few examples:
- xiàohuā 校花 = prettiest girl in school [school flower]
- xiàocǎo 校草 = most handsome boy in school [school grass]
- huā húdié 花蝴蝶 = social butterfly (girl) [flower butterfly]
- huāxīn 花心 = playboy / playgirl (but it’s an adjective!) [flower heart]
- huāhuā gōngzi 花花公子 = play boy [flower-flower prince]
Also, I think that if Chinese people see a written name of someone they’ve never met and it contains that flower character (huā 花), they’ll assume it’s a girl’s name. Would the same be true of grass (cǎo 草) in a boy’s name? (Where’s my Chinese name bank?!)
And one final use of grass and flower in an exceedingly, long two-line proverb/saying/idiom thingy:
tiānyá héchù wú fāng cǎo 天涯何处无芳草
= There is a lot of fragrant grass in the world
hébì dānliàn yì zhī huā 何必单恋一枝花
= There’s no reason why unrequited love should be a single flower
I’ve been told it means “There are plenty of fish in the sea” (you know, after someone has been rejected by a lover).
Are all of these pretty widely used in your part of China? Anyone else know of any flowery/grassy idioms or phrases we can add to this list? Please do share.