What are simplified characters and traditional characters? Which should I learn?

Traditional characters are the original set of Chinese characters that have been used since long ago in China’s history. They are usually made up of many complicated strokes.

Around 1950, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began standardizing a simplified version of many of these complex characters.

This simplification began as the PRC’s attempt at decreasing nationwide illiteracy, but has unfortunately become a geographical divider, since different countries use different character systems. 

All you need to know right now is one major difference: simplified characters have fewer strokes.

For example, the common character 邊 (bin1) – “side” in Cantonese has 18 strokes in traditional form, while its simplified form (边) only has 5.

The good news is, 20% of traditional and simplified characters are written exactly the same way, so you’ll automatically be able to read some of both.

If you’re planning to travel or live in either Hong Kong or Taiwan, you’ll mostly see traditional characters, so you might want to start learning those.

However, if you plan to travel mostly in Mainland China—where simplified characters are standard — you should learn simplified characters.


Unusual Cantonese Superstitions

Despite an official ban on religions, however, China remains a surprisingly superstitious society, and some people can take these beliefs so seriously that the government has actually had to initiate programs to remind people not to follow them too closely.

I’ll get into a few of my favorite Cantonese superstitions below.

1) Aversion to Used or Second-hand Things

In a red-hot, fast moving economy with a “Wild East” reputation, you’d think there’d be a big market for second-hand, or “ji6 sau2 (二手)” (literally “second hand”) goods.

After all, people are moving between cities and apartments all the time and new versions of products come out with crazy frequency.

Oddly enough, though, there’s a superstitious aversion to second-hand or used products that’s a subtle but important force in Cantonese commerce.

Part of it comes from the classic “face” construct, wherein one’s reputation takes a hit if it becomes known that they’re using second hand products.

Another part of it is that many believe while being in possession of a secondhand item, they’ll inherit whatever bad luck or misfortune of the item’s previous owner. For that reason, estate sales, which typically happen after bankruptcies, divorces, or deaths, rarely occur in China. 

The continuation of this superstition in modern times may also be because that “new” is the norm in China, and has been for a whole generation now.

It’s the world’s global manufacturing hub and construction is constant and ever-present given the low price of labor and materials, leading to a culture and atmosphere in which repurposing old goods or extending their lifespans is rare – there’s always something new on the horizon because new stuff is relatively cheap to make here.

2) Aversion to the Number 4 and Affinity For the Number 8

Lots of cultures have numerical superstitions, but Cantonese tends to take this to the next level. 

It’s commonly known that the word for the number 4, or “sei3 (四)”, sounds a lot like the word for death “sei2 (死)”, and thus is considered highly unlucky.

Many, though not the majority, buildings in China lack a labeled 4th floor, and license plate numbers, phone numbers and even addresses with 4’s tend to be considered less desirable. A study even proved that in North American communities with large numbers of Cantonese immigrants, addresses ending in a 4 sold for 2.2% less than average.

Addresses ending in an 8, on the other hand, sold for 2.5% more than average, which speaks to prosper, superstitiously attributed to that number.

The reasoning here is that “baat3(八)” sounds a bit like “faat3 (发)”, a shortened version of “faat3 coi4 (发财)”, or “to get rich,” which is a nice linguistic lesson in the way that words with the same tone but different sounds can be considered a strong rhyme in Cantonese.


What I Say Does Not Equal to What I Write

For Mandarin speakers who are trying to learn Cantonese vocabulary and/or make an effort to read written Chinese in Cantonese; you will quickly discover that there is nearly always 2 forms for each word: The written version and the spoken version. It amazes me how Cantonese learners/Hong Kong students learn to write/read Chinese (based on Mandarin) and speak Cantonese. The words and grammar can be so different that you wonder how people manage to achieve any written fluency.

An example I’ll give is: What do you want to eat?

你想食乜嘢呀 ?
nei5 soeng2 sik6 mat1 je5 aa3?

你想吃什麼東西 ?
nei5 soeng2 hek3 sam6 mo1 dung1 sai1?

Especially listening to Cantonese music (eg. Canto Pop), the lyrics are more often than not exclusive to Written Chinese in Cantonese pronunciation. In fact, all newspapers and books are written in written Chinese (based on Mandarin), so to be read by all speakers of other dialects. In some cases; writing in Oral Cantonese is discouraged, though can be seen on Internet chats, forums and entertainment magazines.

Ocean Park Hong Kong

Opened in 1977, Ocean Park Hong Kong is a marine-life theme park featuring animal exhibits, thrill rides and shows. In 2012, its impressive ability to offer guests a world-class experience that blends entertainment with education and conservation was confirmed when it became the first Asian winner of the biannual Applause Award, the most prestigious award in the amusement and theme park industry.

The park is located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, covering more than 870,000 square metres. The Waterfront and The Summit areas are connected by the Cable Car and Ocean Express funicular train.

Polar Adventure – Explore the North and South poles in one day
Ocean Park’s newest attraction, Polar adventure lets you explore the North and South poles from the exhilaration of a bob sled ride, to the wonder of meeting king penguins up close. You’ll also see long-tusked Pacific walruses, spotted seals, arctic foxes, snowy owls and other extraordinary animals. And when you need a break, Tuxedos Restaurant serves refreshments with a view of more than 70 penguins frolicking on the ice.

Old Hong Kong – Relive fond memories of times gone by!
Old Hong Kong, brings the unique culture of Hong Kong in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s back to life. Savour the sights and sounds of yesteryear aboard the Heritage Tram! Be mesmerised by the colour and buzz of life in accurate recreations of old streets and scenes. Take a trip into nostalgia and take home some antique souvenirs to keep the memories alive!

Thrill Mountain
In this zone, guests can dangle off a cliff on the floorless roller coaster, Hair Raiser, or hang upside down while swinging on The Flash.  Soar with The Aviator to feel the sensation of flight, before knocking around on bumper cars.  Don’t leave without a ride on Rev Rooster, a high speed and energetic classic.

Hop aboard a raft and become immersed in the exotic sounds of a tropical rainforest.  On this journey, you’ll encounter some of the most fascinating animals in the world!  Catch the antics of the world’s smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset; or see weirdly wonderful critters, including the Capybara, the world’s largest rodent, and Kinkajou; as well as the Green Aracari, the world’s smallest toucan.

Aqua City
Aqua City is a world-class marine themed area that will redefine your underwater experience. Here you can watch Symbio, a multi-sensory show featuring the world’s first 360-degree water screen. You can also embark on a journey of exploration into the Grand Aquarium featuring 5000 fish from over 400 species and other aquatic wonders. View them from the world’s largest aquarium dome, which has a diameter of 5.5 metres, or through an 8×13 metres giant viewing panel. Make sure you drop by Neptune’s Restaurant for Hong Kong’s first aquarium dining experience!

Amazing Asian Animals
At the Amazing Asian Animals exhibit you can visit some of Asia’s rarest animals. Take an interactive journey of discovery at the Giant Panda Adventure where you’ll get to know some of Asia’s most precious native animals, including giant pandas, red pandas, Chinese giant salamanders and Chinese alligators.  Admire the spectacular display of goldfish at the Goldfish Treasures exhibit, or visit the colourful birds and playful Asian small-clawed otters at Panda Village.

Other popular attractions include Sea Jelly Spectacular, The Abyss turbo drop, Mine Train roller coaster and the show at Ocean Theatre are also not to be missed.

During festive seasons, Ocean Park Hong Kong will organize special events, such as Halloween Bash, Asia’s biggest Halloween party, and Summer Splash water play activities.

How to get there

Bus 629 from Central Pier 7 or from MTR Admiralty Station, Exit B and alight at the park.



Lucy, Cantonese teacher

LanKwai Fong

LanKwai Fong is one of Hong Kong’s most popular nightlife hot spots and home to over 90 restaurants and bars. The atmosphere ranges from stylish wine pairings to raucous jelly shots and the food on offer is as diverse as the clientele.

Thanks to Hong Kong’s dominance in Asian cinema, this centre of late-night revelry is so renowned that its official street sign is more photographed than many of the celebrities who haunt its clubs. Mostly, the area is crowded with people from the surrounding offices of Central, eager to shake off the working day or week. Get in the thick of it with a street side perch, or watch the antics on the road below from one of the upper floors.

LanKwai Fong usually hosts carnivals and other celebrations during major festivals, such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year and has its own beer festival.

How to get there

MTR Central Station Exit D2, walk along Theatre Lane, and up D’Aguilar Street.



Lucy, Cantonese teacher

Some Stories About Our Japanese Course 18

Hi everyone, 皆さん、こんにちは。

My Japanese classes/lessons included the practices to develop speaking, reading, listening, writing, interacting, constructing and creating dialogues as well as culturalskills and knowledge upon Japan. As usual, we used textbooks (our major one is Genki Book 1), pictures, ads, children’s books, magazines, CDs, videos, DVDs, songs etc.

A few high school students of the previous Beginners 2 and now in Pre-Intermediate 1, said they wish to learn the vocab related to colours and seasons. So, I used the book of FudekoReekie and taught such vocab and use of that as application exercises while also using colorful posters and pictures.

As for traditional culture and arts, I got many beautiful and comprehensive pamphlets etc from a Japanese travel agent located near to Kinokuniya, CBD. Showing them, I talked about Noh (Japanese ancient stage play), kyogen (funny talk/performance played during the intervals at Noh in Japan during the Ancient Time, Kabuki, exquisite sight of Mt Fuji and its surroundings, Japanese map with all the route of the bullet trains, Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studio in Osaka, many gorgeous historical heritage of Kyoto and geisha/maiko of Gion (Kyoto), big and traditional festivals, Japan Rail Pass (e.g. for an adult, travelling anywhere in Japan by Japan Rail group that includes all bullet trains, its buses and ferry in Miyajima are all covered, e.g. 28,300-en for 7 days and for Ordinary Pass), very popular monkies’ hot spring in Nagano, etc.

Similarly, I informed my classes about an article in Jenta (8.3.13, p. 24). It is written by TeruGamoo who is an author of many books. He reports the recent report of “TorippuAdobaizaa” in Internet, i.e. which places/things are mostly popular for overseas tourists in Japan. The most popular one is Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; No. 2 is Mori Art Museum in Hakone (Kanagawa prefecture). The rest and up to No. 10 include Miyajima in Hiroshima prefecture, Monkey Natural Park (them in hot spring in Nagano), skiing resort in Hokkaido, “Kinkakuji” (temple built in the early samurai period) in Kyoto, “Toodaiji” (temple) in Nara (the Ancient capital city of Japan). Also, the above author informs about “Gion-maruume” in Kyoto. They offer any clients of small groupslovely time of 45 minutes with their highly trained “maiko”. Those “maiko” entertain clients with beautiful traditional dance, performance of musical instruments and gorgeous/traditional tea. Thosepleasant and distinctive services popular with esp. female clients, the article says. The price of that service is reasonably approachable and 4800-en per person.

Japanese Teacher, Toshiko Jackson


Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong

“Merry Christmas” in Cantonese: sing3 daan3 faai3 lok6

“Happy New Year”: san1 nin4 faai3 lok6


Hong Kong WinterFest for Christmas

Not exactly a Chinese festival — but still the people in Hong Kong do celebrate Christmas. Hong Kong used to be a British Colony and it has adopted many of the British traditions such as celebrating Christmas and New Year. Hong Kong puts on a winter festival after Thanksgiving that is a highlight of the Christmas season.

The buildings along the harbor put on a light show with Christmas and New Year’s decorations. During WinterFest, most of the city is aglow with festive lighting, and Victoria Harbor is a dazzling sight especially when the fireworks burst on New Year’s Eve.

Giant Tiffany Christmas Tree at Hong Kong WinterFest

    Christmas Tree in Hong Kong


New Year Hong Kong Countdown Celebrations

The Hong Kong New Year Countdown is a breathtaking display that brings out the dramatic beauty of Victoria Harbour and the city’s renowned skyline. This year’s Hong Kong New Year Countdown will be the biggest in the event’s history and will, for the first time, have pyrotechnics launched from both sea and land. The show will feature an eight-minute display of pyrotechnics, beginning on the harbour and moving landwards in three layers culminating in a display from various buildings in Wan Chai with the iconic harbour-front Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as the focal point.


Hong Kong Chinese New Year Celebrations

People in Hong Kong also celebrate the tradition Chinese New Year which falls on the first day of the first lunar month.

Shops across town put on sales as both the young and old buy clothes and other goods to make a fresh start to the new lunar year. Meanwhile, the younger generations receive lucky red packets of cash from their elders, homes and businesses spring clean and paste red banners on their doors as blessings, shoppers stock up on auspicious foods, temples fill with prayers of fortune and clouds of incense, and almost every soul in town becomes consumed by one goal – to get home for a family meal on the festival’s eve.

Visitors can impress locals around this time by learning to say the traditional festival greeting, “kung hei fat choy,” which loosely translates as “congratulations and be prosperous.”

The ancient Chinese once welcomed the new lunar year by scaring away evil spirits with firecrackers, but that’s no longer feasible in such a densely packed city. However, Hong Kong makes up for it by putting on a stunning parade and pyrotechnic show on a scale that would send even the most brazen of demons scampering away with its ghoulish tail between its legs.

 Lucy Luo, Trainer of Cantonese Language at Sydney Language Solutions

Dim Sum Cart would become history in Hongkong

In many Dim Sum restaurants in Hong Kong, the Dim Sum cart helps the clients to see the food before choosing their favorites. It has been a tradition in Hong Kong restaurants for many years. However, the scene of which waiters pushing the Dim Sum Cart between each table for clients to choose various Dim Sum dishes would become history. Firstly, due to the limited spaces and the high-paid rent, the owners of those restaurants decide not to use Dim Sum cart to save the budget and place more tables to serve more clients instead. In addition, some clients think freshly made Dim Sum dishes are more delicious compared to those stored in the cart.

In the near future, people might not be able to see the scene in which the waiters go around in the restaurant and call out “jiaozi, har gow, siu mai, steamed buns………”


Historical and Cultural Destinations in Hong Kong

As one of the four Asian Dragons, Hong Kong is notable as a city of modernization and pompousness where leads as the centre of international financial transaction, shopping heaven and the birth place of many world-wide well-known actors such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Chow-Yun Fa. Today, I want to take you on a quick tour to three historical and cultural destinations in Hong Kong which you should not miss if you plan to visit Hong Kong soon:


1. The Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛)

Located on the largest island of Hong Kong – Lantau Island, The Tan Tian Buddha, which is known as one of the five biggest Buddha statues in China, is a must- see attraction. The Buddha is a-250-metric ton-bronze statue with the height of 112-foot sitting solemnly on a lotus throne. Completed in 1993, this statue is constructed upon a three-platform altar and visitors have to climb 268 steps to reach it. This Tian Tan Buddha statue represents the connection between people’s beliefs and religion, human and the universe


2. Hong Kong Global Geopark of China (中國香港世界地質公園)

Situated in the East and Northeast New Territories, the area of the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China equals to 5000 hectares. It features 8 areas which form across the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and the Northeast New Territory Sedimentary Rock Region. In 2011, the Geopark was admitted as a member of the Global Geoparks Network by UNESCO.


3. Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay (大廟灣天后廟)

Built in 1266, Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay is famous as the largest and oldest Tin Hau Temple in Hong Kong, also known as the Big Temple (大廟). On the Tin Hau’s birthday (on 23rd of March of Lunar calendar), many devotee and visitors come to pray for their safety and success. Unfortunately, after being repaired for several times in 1840, 1877 and 1962, the temple has lost its original shape.


Leng3 Zai2, Leng3 neoi5

In Cantonese, Leng3 Zai2 and Leng3 neoi5 means ‘handsome boy’ and ‘pretty girl’ respectively. These words are very common greetings in Hong Kong and can be used in as alternatives to normal address like Mr, Mrs, Ms etc. For example, ” Leng3 Zai2, can i have a glass of seoi2 (water) m4 goi1 (please)”. This would be a normal way of asking a waiter for a glass of water. These first words have been very beneficial as they were great conversation starters.

However, some students would mix up the pronunciation with lek1 zai2 and lek1 neoi5 which means ‘smart boy’ and ‘smart girl’ respectively. It is about compliments – but it is not used in as conversation starters.

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