Getting Fruity in Mandarin

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

I realised this week I didn’t know how to say “Give me two kilograms of oranges please” in Mandarin as I didn’t know the word for oranges! So I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into fruits over the weekend and am sharing with you a few things I’m learning about fruit 水果 / shuǐguǒ as well as a few interesting asides about them.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s not always easy to know what vocab to focus on and I guess part of this exercise is to address that – to think about fruit and any related words that might expand your vocabulary on a chosen topic. So I decided to get fruity and I’ve learned and am learning plenty :)

The fruits I really should know:

Oranges: 柳橙 / liǔ​chéng OR 橙子 chéng​zi

Apples: 苹果 píng​guǒ

For the geeks: 苹果公司 / Píng​guǒ​ Gōng​sī = Apple Inc. and yes they actually refer to Apple using the Chinese terminology on Chinese radio instead of using English Apple. Weird! Right?

Bananas: 香蕉 xiāng​jiāo (fragrant banana) or just 蕉 jiāo.

According to a ‘banana’ or ‘banana person’ 香蕉人 xiāng​jiāo​rén can be used as a mildly pejorative term used by Chinese for assimilated Asian Americans / Westernized person of Asian appearance.

Lemon / 柠檬 níng​méng or just níng​ or just méng is a popular flavour in tea 柠檬茶 níng​méng​chá and a popular Chinese dish with lemon as ingredient is 柠檬鸡 níng​méng​jī lemon chicken or chicken in lemon sauce.

Grapes - 葡萄 pú​tao – when fermented you get 葡萄酒 pú​tao​jiǔ (grape) wine and when dried 葡萄干 pú​tao​gān or raisins.

Mango - 芒果 máng​guǒ – for obvious reasons difficult to forget!

Melon - the common name would be guā 瓜 and forms the basis word for all fruits (even veg) of the “same family”. 瓜子 guā​zǐ = melon seeds and 大傻瓜 dà​shǎ​guā is not a fruit but a term used to tell someone they’re a fool or a jerk / lit. a silly big melon!

A few common melons:

  • Paw-paw or Papaya – 木瓜 mù​guā – literally tree melon because unlike most of the other melon varieties that’s where it grows!
  • Honeydew Melon = 白兰瓜 bái​lán​guā. I believe 哈蜜瓜 hā​mì​guā is another name for it and the one that’s more commonly used. Possibly more of a transliteration from the English name as the second character refers to honey and hā​mì​ sounds like honey.
  • Watermelon = 西瓜 xī​guā – named so because it was apparently introduced to China from the west.
  • And finally a useful idiom? 种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆 zhòng​guā​dé​guā​, zhòng​dòu​dé​dòu = an idiom that means “Sow melon and you get melon, sow beans and you get beans (idiom); fig. As you sow, so shall you reap.”

Coconut: 椰子 yē​zi – 椰奶 – yē​nǎi (coconut milk) while 椰丝 yē​sī would be shredded coconut – two very lovely ingredients used in South East Asian cooking.

Mandarin – this one unfortunately seems to have a couple of names 柑橘 gān​jú / 橘子
júzi / 蜜柑 mì​gān…

Peach 桃子táo​zi and 桃色 táo​sè would be – you guessed it – peach colour.
Peachy news or 桃色新闻 – refers to news of illicit love and the idiom 艳如桃李 yàn​rú​táo​lǐ lit. means beautiful as peach and prune. Figuratively speaking it refers to a “radiant beauty”.

Cherries 樱桃 yīng​táo = cherries and 樱花 yīng​huā = cherry blossoms.
Sample sentence from
The cherry blossoms come out in early April in Japan.
在 日本 ,樱花 在 四 月初 开花 。

Strawberry = 草莓 cǎo​méi and this can also refer to a hickey or love bite in Taiwan :)

Lime – 青柠 qīng​níng or 清柠檬 qīng​níng​méng or 酸橙 suān​chéng (lit. sour orange) and to refer to the colour you can use ‘青柠色 qīng​níng​sè’

Fig – 无花果 wu2hua1guo3. Lit. without flower fruit. I looked it up and aptly named because ‘While fig trees technically do flower, you’ll never see anything that resembles a flower.’ Source: Do Figs Flower? |

Pineapple - 菠萝 bō​luó or 凤梨 fèng​lí

Litchi - 荔枝 lì​zhī

Apricot 杏子 xìng​zi

Pear 梨子 lí​zi

Nectarines 油桃 yóu​táo


Two useful words you need to know:

  • 成熟的水果 Chéngshú de shuǐguǒ refers to ripe fruit.
  • 未熟 wèi​shú (lit. not yet + ripe) or 不成熟 bù​ chéng​shú on the other hand would mean unripe when used with fruit.

Other fruit related vocabulary

  • 果子酱 guǒ​zi​jiàng marmalade / jellied fruit
  • 核儿 húr pit (stone of a fruit)
  • 果啤 guǒ​pí = fruit beer
  • 果蝇 guǒ​yíng = fruit fly
  • 果木 guǒ​mù = fruit tree
  • 禁果 jìn​guǒ forbidden fruit
  • 果农 guǒ​nóng = fruit farmer while 农夫 nóng​fū = peasant / farmer and 菜农 cài​nóng = vegetable farmer)
  • Dried fruit 干果 gān​guǒ is really popular in China and you’ll see dried fruit / candied fruit shops everywhere in China.

Don’t forget your fruit etiquette!

In Chinese culture, when visiting someone’s home – it’s normally the thing to do to take a small present with to the host – normally a gift of fruits or snacks or flowers. However be aware that certain fruits have certain connotations and so do flowers.

For example I just learned that you should never ever share a pear with a lover, friend or spouse as a pear / 梨 lí has the same pronunication as it’s homonym ‘离’ in 离开 li2kai1 (to leave). More about Chinese fruits and symbolism

I think I’ve not even explored 1% of the vocabulary related to fruits but if you’ve never had a chance to look at fruits (beyond the basics) as part of your Mandarin studies, this might be a fruitful start :)

Which fruits have I missed? As always – I am happy to be corrected on anything I share with you. Your thoughts are always welcome.

What’s your blood group?

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

At the beginning of this year I bought a small book ‘Making out in Chinese’ by Ray Daniels and as I leafed through it I found a section that dealt with Chinese zodiac signs and blood groups and how these two things are believed by some to “define personality”. It is certainly a well-known belief that Chinese Zodiac / animal signs “define personality”. Blood however – the precious critical fluid that flows through our veins and the belief that it might affect personality – is certainly lesser known. Considering that there are only four blood groups (and apparently two more that were discovered recently) – it’s still only half-way to twelve so perhaps blood groups won’t offer enough variety in its personality analysis I reckon…

What does this have to do with Mandarin you ask – this is a Mandarin blog right?? 有耐心吧!

Just for fun – take a look at the image below – a screenshot from my little book ‘Making Out in Chinese’ by Ray Daniels and tell me what you think? (Just for fun, ok?). I agree that these descriptions are general enough to apply a little bit to everyone and by no means am I saying I believe in this type of personality classification by blood group and neither do I suggest do you, ok?

Blood Groups in Asia

Blood Groups in Asia and Personality Traits

I’m here for the Mandarin remember?

Whether you find the above mentioned extract amusing or not – it is still good to learn some blood related words and phrases so I simply raise the idea here for you to ponder – or not.

Maybe after reading this post you’d be slightly better prepared for some conversations if you were travelling through Asia and if you encountered some Mandarin speaking individuals who wanted to know about your blood type:) (If it’s a vampire enquiring though – I suggest you skip the chat and run, ok?)

Also, I did ask a Chinese native today if she thought foreigners would ever be asked about their blood group and she said that it could happen. Not a big big chance she said – but at least a reasonable chance because there are some people in China who takes this stuff seriously as seen from her perspective.

Secondly, perhaps one or two things in this post might be useful elsewhere in your Mandarin life e.g. visiting a Chinese hospital (which by the way could be a scary experience especially if you were only able to speak just a little Mandarin.).

Some bloody basics:

At least consider the following phrases and vocabulary:

What is your blood group?


Nǐ de xiěxíng shì shénme?

Nǐ de xue4xíng shì shénme?

It seems that yes there are two ways to refer to blood – either xiě or xue4. I really don’t think there is any difference at all but if anyone could point out what I don’t know that would be perfect. Please.

He is a very passionate person.


Tā shì yīgè rèxuè de rén.

Blood is thicker than water.


Xuè nóng yú shuǐ.

This one literally ‘blood is concentrated (compared to) water’.

People with blood type O are universal donors.

O型血的人是万能的 献血者

O xíng xuè de rén shì wànnéng de xiàn xiě zhě.

Blood donor


Xiàn xiě zhě

And finally, did some Googling and found some phrases on’s website (

“血汗 (xuèhàn) is the equivalent of “blood, sweat and tears”, and 血肉 (xuèròu) means the same as flesh and blood, but in the reverse order.”

And a fantastic sentence is provided on that blog:

“This is his hard-earned money.”


Zhè shì tā de xuèhàn qián.”


And offcourse the one I wanted to find but couldn’t would be an expression that matches this English sentence “Blue blood flows through his vains” referring to the blood “which flows in the veins of old and aristocratic families.” ( Any feedback or ideas welcome here :)

Another one I’d be interested is ‘You can’t get blood from a stone’. :)

Bloody thruths – I kid you not.

And now that you’ve done some very serious learning about blood groups – take a look at some of these fun articles that show *just how big* this blood group thing is in Japan. It seems it is so significant in Japan that it can even be a defining factor for placement during job interviews or the assignment of projects in the work place. It can also be useful or a defining factor during speed dating – Dating by blood type in Japan and it seems you can even blame your failings on your blood group. I should try that I think.

Happy reading! And as always – if you have a bloody phrase or two do share – don’t be shy – bloody hell. :)