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Basic Chinese Cultural Notes

Greetings

Chinese currency

Goodbyes

Tea - Drinks

Names

Where to get food and drink

Asking for names

Chinese dishes

Forms of address

Hotels

Introductions

Paying

Expressions of politeness

Bargain and discounts

Good wishes and congratulations

Measurements

Family

Buildings

Education

Public places

Professions

Towns

Festivals

Provinces

Chinese Zodiac

Countries

Languages and People

Continents

Ethnic groups

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Greetings

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The most common greetings in Chinese are (n ho, hello) and (nn ho, how do you do?).

is the polite form used when talking to older people, superiors, customers and so on.
(zoshng ho, good morning) and (wnshng ho, good evening) are used in the morning or
in the evening respectively.
(hunyng, welcome) is commonly used to welcome somebody.
In shops and restaurant the expression (hunyng gungln, welcome) can often be heard.
When meeting somebody after a long time (ho ji b jin, long time no see) can be added to the
greetings or .
On the telephone (wi, hello) is the most common greeting.

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Goodbyes

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The most common goodbyes are the following:

zijin

goodbye

mngtin jin

see you tomorrow

mnzu

goodbye take care

wn'n

good night

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Names

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In Chinese the surname proceeds the given name. The surname normally consists of a single syllable (character).
Common surnames are:
Li

Wang Zhang Zhao Chen Yang Wu


Liu Huang Zhou
Xu Zhu Lin
Sun Ma Hu Zheng Guo Xiao Xie

He Xu
Song Shen Luo Han Deng Liang Ye
Gao
Given names normally consist of one or two characters. Unlike surnames, given names come in a much greater
variety. Here are some well known names:

Mao Zedong

Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Founder of the People


s Republic
of China

Zhou Enlai
Deng Xiaoping

First Prime Minister of the Peoples Republic of China

Lu Xun

famous Chinese writer (Lu Xun is his pen name, his real name was
(Zhou Shuren))

Yao Ming

famous Chinese basketball player

Sun Zhongshan

better known as Sun Yatsen, the father of the Chinese Republic

Tang Wei

famous Chinese actress

Cheng Long

better known as Jackie Chan - film star

Li An

known as Ang Lee, famous film director

Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, responsible for the opening up of


China after 1978

Chinese people sometimes adapt their names to the Western fashion of first names preceeding the
surname. It can then be difficult to decide which is which, but looking for common surnames can help.

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Asking for a name

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In a formal situation you enquire after someones name by saying:

nn guxng

What is your name? (literally: what is your


honourable surname?)

More informally you can also say:

n jio shnme mngzi

What is your name ?

n sh

You are ...?

Or if the context is clear:

...?

In reply you can say in a formal situation:

mingu xng wng

My surname is Wang. (literally: my worthless


surname is Wang.)

If you just want to give your surname, you can say:

w xng wng

My surname is Wang.

If you want to give your full name you can say:

w jio wng xiolng

My name is Wang Xiaolong.

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Asking for a name

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Or you can combine the two:

w xng wng jio wng


xiolng

I am Wang, Wang Xiaolong.

The simplest answer of course is:

w sh wng xiolng

I am Wang Xiaolong.

If you give your own name you can easily ask after the other person
s name by saying

, ? w sh wng xiolng, n
ne?

NB:

I am Wang Xiaolong and you are ...?

(xng) is used to ask for and give a surname.


( jio) is used to ask for and give first names or full names.

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Forms of address

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The general form of address is the person


s surname followed by his or her title.
The generic titles are:

xinsheng

Mr

sh

Ms (formal)

titai

Mrs

xioji

Miss

Mr Wang
Ms Wang (formal)
Mrs Wang
Miss Wang

It is common to add the job title after a person


s name. The job title can also be used as a form of address by
itself. Common titles are:

losh

Teacher

shfu

Master

jngl

Manager

jioshu

Professor

mshu

Secretary

aunty

bf

Teacher Wang
Master Wang (used for craftsman, taxidrivers etc.)
Manager Wang
Professor Wang
Secretary Wang

uncle

When addressing friends it is common to use their surname preceeded by


relative to yours.

xio

young

(young) Wang

lo

old

or depending on their age

(old) Wang
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Introductions

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To introduce another person you can use the following expression:

, [Name] [Title] rng w li jisho yxi, zh sh ...

Let me introduce ...

, [Name] [Title] rng w li jisho jisho, zh sh ...

Let me introduce ...

for example:

, rng w li jisho yxi, zh sh l

Let me introduce teacher Li.

, rng w li jisho jisho, zh sh

Let me introduce manager Wang.

losh

wng jngl

NB: If you introduce yourself don


t use a title after your name.
Dont say:

w sh wng jngl

I am Manager Wang.

Say instead:

w xng wng. w sh
dlng gngs de jngl

My surname is Wang. I am the Manager of


the Dalong company.

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Polite expressions

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In a formal situation you enquire after someone


s name by saying:
start an enquiry

qngwn

Excuse me, may I ask

to catch somebody's
attention

dibuq

excuse, sorry

dibuq mfn n

sorry to bother you

dibuq d ro le n

sorry to disturb you

say thank you

xixie

thank you

after being thanked

b kqi, b yng xi

dont mention it

to apologize

dibuq

sorry

(stronger)

zhn boqin

apologies

mi wnt

no problem

mi gunxi

it doesn
t matter

nlnl

not at all (lit. where?)

nn gujing le

you are flattering me

to reply to an apology

after a complement

In Chinese a number of sentence final particles are used to soften the tone of a request:

(n sh n de ba?)

That is yours, isn't it?

(b yo lun zu a)

Don't go too far!


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Good wishes and congratulations

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To congratulate somebody you can say gngxgngx. To congratulate somebody on occasion of a


specific event you can say (qngzh) followed by the event:

qngzh by

Congratulations on your graduation

qngzh jihn

Congratulations on your marriage

ITo express good wishes you can say

/ (zhh n/nn) followed by the occasion:

zhn xnnin kuil

Happy New Year

zhn shngdn kuil

Merry Christmas

zhn shngr kuil

Happy Birthday

To wish somebody good look you can use (dj):

kiy dj

Good luck with your new business

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Family

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Relationship terms in Chinese are quite complex.

yye

paternal grandfather

loye

The diagram gives


a simple overview.

Family
Diagram

ninai

paternal grandmother

maternal grandfather

lolao

maternal grandmother

shshu

father's younger brother

shm

wife of father's younger brother

bf

father's older brother

bm

wife of father's older brother

gm

paternal aunt

gfu

husband of paternal aunt

maternal aunt

yfu

husband of maternal aunt

jijiu

maternal uncle

jimu

wife of maternal uncle

bba

father

mma

mother

ddi

younger brother

mimei

younger sister

gge

older brother

jijie

older sister

hizi

child, children

n'r

daughter

rzi

son

top

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Education

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Chinese education begins with primary school (xioxu) and then continues to middle and high school
(zhngxu) and finally university (dxu)
Students are generally called (xusheng). Teachers are called (losh) or
called ( jioshu).

( jiosh). A professor is

Commen subjects are:

shxu

Mathematics

jngj

Economics

kxu

The sciences

jnrng

Finance

huxu

Chemistry

gunl

Management

wl

Physics

lsh

History

shngw

Biology

dl

Geography

jsunj

Computing

wnxu

Literature

Medicine

yngwn

English

yxu

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Education

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There are many universities ( dxu) in China. Amongst the most famous ones are:

bijng dxu

Beijing University

qnghu dxu

Tsinghua University (in Beijing)

rnmn dxu

People's University (in Beijing)

jitng dxu

Jiaotong University (in Shanghai)

xusheng

Students

jiosh, losh

Lecturer

jioshu

Professor

xush xuwi

B.A.

shush xuwi

Masters

bsh xuwi

PhD

Research is called (ynji)

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Professions

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Some of the more common professions are:

losh

teacher

jioshu

professor

msh

secretary

gngrn

worker

yshng

doctor

hshi

nurse

shngrn

businessman

kuiji

accountant

sj

driver

jsh

mechanic

gngchngsh

engineer

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Chinese Festivals

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There are a number of traditional Chinese festivals. Below are the most common ones.
Festival

Simplified
Chinese

Spring Festival

Pinyin

Date

Description

, xnnin,

Day 1 of lunar month 1

Chinese New Year

Lantern
Festival

yunxioji

Day 15 of lunar month 1 Lantern parades, lion dancing

Qingming
Festival

qngmngji 104 days after winter


solstice

visiting and cleaning ancestral


graves

Dragon Boat
Festival

dunwji

Day 5 of lunar month 5

dragon boat racing, eating rice


wraps, commemorating Qu Yuan

Double Seven
Festival

qx

1Day 7 of lunar month 7 related to the story of and


(Zhi N,Ni Lng)

Mid-autumn
Festival

zhngqiji

Day 15 of lunar month 8 Mooncakes, Legend of


(chng
, the Lady on the Moon)

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Chinese Zodiac

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There are a number of traditional Chinese festivals. Below are the most common ones.

..., 1996,2008, 2020, ...

sh

rat

..., 1997,2009, 2021, ...

ni

ox

..., 1998,2010, 2022, ...

tiger

..., 1999,2011, 2023, ...

rabbit

..., 2000,2012, 2024, ...

lng

dragon

..., 2001,2013, 2025, ...

sh

snake

..., 2002,2014, 2026, ...

horse

..., 2003,2015, 2027, ...

yng

sheep

..., 2004,2016, 2028, ...

hu

monkey

..., 2005,2017, 2029, ...

rooster

..., 2006,2018, 2030, ...

gu

dog

..., 2007,2019, 2031, ...

zh

pig

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Language and People

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To say where somebody is from add (rn) to the name of the country.
Examples:

zhnggurn

Chinese

migurn

American

ynggurn

English

xnxlnrn

New Zealander

To ask what country somebody is from, say ? (n sh n gu rn) What country are you from?
The names of languages are normally formed by adding (wn) or (y) to the name of the country.
Examples:

zhngwn

Chinese language

hny

Chinese language (lit. language of the Han people)

guy

Chinese language (lit. national language)

huy

Chinese language

ptnghu

Standard Mandarin (lit. common language)

gungdnghu

Cantonese

yngwn, yngy

English

fwn, fy

French

dwn, dy

German

ydlywn, ydly

Italian
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Ethnic groups

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China recognizes 56 ethnic groups. The biggest by far are the Han, which make up about 92% of the Chinese
population and just under 20% of the world population.
The table below lists the larger ethnic groups, their approximate size and geographical location.
Ethnic group

Simplified
Chinese

Size

Location

Han

1300 Million

all of China

Zhuang

18 Million

Southern provinces

Manchu

11 Million

same as Han

Hui

10 Million

Northern and Western China, mainly Muslims

Miao

9 Million

Southern China, especially Yunnan

Uyghurs

9 Million

Xinjiang

Yi

4 Million

Southern China

Tujia

8 Million

Hubei, Hunan

Mongols

6 Million

Northern China

Tibetan

5-10 Million

Western China

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Chinese currency

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The standard Chinese currency is (rnmnb).


The official designation of the notes and coins are:

yun

Yuan

jio

1/10 of a Yuan

fn

1/10 of a Jiao

In spoken Chinese you will often hear (kui) for Yuan and (mo) for Jiao.
Before 1947 many Chinese banks (ynhng) and other organisations issued their own notes, so there are a
large number of old Chinese banknotes in existence, although not in circulation.

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Tea and Drinks

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China is famous for its many different types of tea (ch).


Some of the common types of tea are:

l ch

green tea

hng ch

black tea

mlihu ch

jasmine tea

jhu ch

chrysanthemum tea

lngjng ch

dragon well tea

wlng ch

Oolong tea

Tea comes in a pot (h) and is drank in cups

(bi).

Other drinks are:

kfi

coffee

rshu

hot water

kungqunshu

mineral water

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Where to get food and drink

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There are a number of locations where you can get food and drink from:

fndin

restaurant (incidentially can also mean hotel)

jib

bar

chgun

teahouse

cntng

dining hall

kfigun

caf

kuicndin

fast food restaurant

A waiter or waitress is usually called: (fwyun). A waitress may also be called (xiojie), however in
some parts of China using is considered impolite. The cook is called (chsh).
Many Chinese restaurants have private rooms for smaller parties. These rooms are called:
separate room.

(bojin)

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Chinese dishes

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A Chinese meal normally consists of a number of dishes shared between everbody, not a series of courses.
Parties in a restaurant often sit around a turntable (zhunpn) with everbody helping themselves to the
food from the dishes placed on the turntable. Chinese food is eaten with chopsticks (kuizi) rather than
knife and fork , (do, ch).
There are a very large number of dishes, some of the best known are:

mp dufu

stir fried tofu in hot sauce

gngbo jdng

spiced diced chicken

tng u

lotus root with sugar

bijng koy

Beijing roast duck

shu zh y

fish filets in hot chilli oil

hu gu ru

double-cooked pork slices

fnqi cho dn

tomato with fried egg

chnjun

spring roll

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Chinese dishes

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You may also look out for the following characters to give you a clue:
Ingredients:

Seasoning:

ru

meat

hot, spicy

niru

beef

ljio

pepper

jru

chicken

sun

sour

zhru

pork

tngc

sweet and sour

fish

vinegar

du

beans

tng

sugar

shci

vegetables

yn

salt

mfn

rice

xin

salty

mintio

noodles

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Hotel

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A hotel is called (fndin) or

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(bngun) - guest house.

The range of rooms are:

dnrn jin

single room

shungrn jin

double room

biozhn jin

standard room

hohu tojin

luxury suite

kngtio

Air-conditioning

dinsh

Television

dinhu

telephone

rshu

hot water (in a thermos flask)

zocn

breakfast

ysh

bathroom

Typical facilities are:

You check in at reception (qinti fw), where you fill in the registration form (dngjbio), and
are told your room number (fngjin hom) and given your room key/card / (yoshi /k).
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Paying

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You can either pay by cash (xinjn) or credit card (xnyngk).


The bill is called (zhngdn) and you call for the bill by either saying (midn) or ( jizhng).
After paying you will receive a receipt (fpio) or (shuj).

tends to be a small or automatically produced receipt, while is used for a more substantial, especially
produced receipt. Sellers pay tax based on .

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Bargain and discounts

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In China it is normal to haggle over prices in markets (shchng) and similar places but not in modern
department stores (bihudin).
To give a discount is called (dzh). The discount given is expressed as the amount remaining not the
amount taken off the price:

a 20% discount would be ,


a 60% discount would be .

To say that something is to expensive use ! (ti gu le)

(gu) is expensive,
(pinyi) is inexpensive/bargain.

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Measurements

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Both traditional Chinese measurements and metric measurements are in common use. Metric measurements
usually use the prefix , traditional measurements use no prefix or the prefix (meaning market).

Common Chinese measurements


Weight

gngfn

gram

ling

50 grams

jn

half a kilogram

gngjn

kilogram

dn

50 kilograms

()

(gng)dn

ton

shm

0.0667 hectares

gngm

100 square metre

shqng

6.6667 hectares

gngqng

hectare

Area

.../cont
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Measurements

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Common Chinese measurements (Cotinued)


Length

shfn

1/3 centimetre

gngfn

1 centimetre

shch

1/3 metre

gngch

metre

shzhng

3 1/3 metre

shl

1/2 kilometre

gngl

kilometre

shng

litre

du

10 litre

Volume

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Buildings

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There are a number of traditional and modern types of buildings in China.

s h yun

courtyard house (traditional house in Beijing)

sh k mn

stone gate house (traditional house in Shanghai)

htong

alley

d sh

high-rise

The number of floors are counted from 1, so is the ground floor, is the first floor etc. Floor thirteen is
often omitted.
A floor is called (lu) or (cng). is also used for the number of a building. (t zh ling ho
lu) means She lives in Building No.2.

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Public Places

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Common public places are:

yuj

post office

gngyun

park

dngwyun

zoo

bwgun

museum

shzhngtng

town hall

pichsu

police station

huchzhn

train station

chzhn

bus station

yyun

hospital

csu

toilet

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Towns

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Common public places are:

bijng

Beijing (capital, administrative


centre)

shnghi

Shanghai (commercial centre)

xinggng

Hongkong (commercial centre)

nnjng

Nanjing (former capital)

whn

Wuhan (big industrial centre)

tinjn

Tianjin (port to the west of Beijing)

x'n

Xian (ancient capital)

gungzhu Guangzhou, Canton

hngzhu

Hangzhou (famous for its tea


and gardens)

szhu

Suzhou (the 'Venice' of China)

qngdo

Qingdao (famous for its beer)

chngqng

Chongqing (biggest city in the


world)

chngd

Chengdu (capital city of


Sichuan province)

The names of non Chinese cities are usually transcriptions of their original names:

lndn

London

niyu

New York

hushngdn

Washington

bl

Paris

bln

Berlin

zhjig

Chicago

lum

Rome

dngjng

Tokyo

hnchng

Seoul
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Administrative regions

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The names of non Chinese cities are usually transcriptions of their original names:
Provinces:

shng

Autonomous regions:

zzhq

Directly governed cities:

zhxish

Special administrative regions:

tbixngzhngq

Provinces

nhu

Anhui

fjin

Fujian

Gansu

gns

gungdng

Guangdong
(Canton)

hinn

Hainan

hbi

Hebei

hilngjing

Heilongjiang

hnn

Henan

hbi

Hubei

hnn

Hunan

jings

Jings

jln

Jilin

lionng

Liaoning

qnghi

Qinghai

shnx

Shaanxi

shndng

Shandong

shnx

Shanxi

schun

Sichuan

tiwn

Taiwan

ynnn

Yunnan

zhjing

Zhejiang
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Administrative regions

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Autonomous Regions

gungxzhungzzzhq

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

nimnggzzhq

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

nngxihuzzzhq

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

xnjingwiw'rzzhq

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Tibet Autonomous Region

xzngzzhq

Municipalities under central control

bijng

Beijing

tinjn

Tianjin

Hongkong

omn

Macau

Special administrative regions

xinggng

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Countries

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Country names are either formed by adding (gu)to a syllable sounding similar to the countrys actual name,
or the Chinese name is a transcription of the country
s name:

zhnggu

China

odly

Australia

ynggu

England, Britain

xnxln

New Zealand

fgu

France

rbn

Japan

dgu

Germany

ydl

Italy

migu

United States

i'rln

Ireland

gu

Russia

xbny

Spain

hngu

Korea

xnjip

Singapore

rudin

Schweden

rush

Switzerland

yunn

Vietnam

To ask what country somebody is from, say:


? (n sh n gu rn) What country are you from?

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Continents

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The names of continents end in (zhu).

yzhu

Asia

fizhu

Africa

mizhu

America

uzhu

Europe

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End of Basic Chinese Grammar - Index

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