How to say ‘a party of four’ in Chinese

In mainland China, when you enter a restaurant, a waitress or waiter will ask you, “Jǐweì?” (几位?) “How many people in your party?”  means “how many” and weì is a measure word for “guest.”  It is also the first character in the word for seat.

You can answer in two ways: (1) sìweì (四位) “four seats or guests” or (2) sìgerén (四个人) “four persons.”

The people in Taiwan are a little more superstitious.  They avoid saying the word for four, , because it sounds like the word for “death” in Chinese. It wasn’t long ago that you could not find a 4th floor button on the elevators, either!  They avoid saying “four” in the restaurant by saying,  sān jiā yī  (三 加 一) “Three plus one.”  Obviously, you would never give a cash gift of forty dollars or celebrate a birthday at 40 years old there.

You can learn more Chinese for getting seated in restaurant here in this free lesson.

Here’s a video lesson I found on Youtube.




A Chinese Idiom for Warren Buffet

jiǎo tà shí jiao

Alan at posted an idiom on  They say it is for intermediate students, but the idea is basic to succeeding in life, especially Warren Buffet (jiǎo tà shí dì).Click to find out what it is, its background, characters and usage.

Standing on Solid Ground



Qian Ren Qing and Social Obligation

Chinese relationships can get very complicated, especially when they teeter on who owes who?  Accepting help, favors, gifts, and even compliments can mean that you qiàn rénqíng  ( 欠 人 清 ) “owe someone something (e.g. a favor).”   Asking for favors can put you in debt to someone, and sooner or later you may be expected to reciprocate.  Fulfilling your “social obligations” is important. It maintains “your face.” Doing favors, giving gifts, or even paying compliments, on the other hand, can in debt someone to you. In business, it similar to “building goodwill.”

You can avoid owing too much to others by restricting your requests for help, reciprocating with gifts of equal value, and deflecting compliments using na3 li3 “where” or other humble, self-depreciating, or compliment-passing techniques.  However, be careful.  If someone truly does owe you a big favor or wants to put on a big show, then it might cause him to “lose face” if you refuse help or refuse a gift. A gift is always pondered very carefully–”how much it is worth, what is it expressing, what are they re-paying me for, is it an appropriate gift considering my relationship with them, and even what do they want in return?”  It may sound very shallow to you, but it is, in fact, easier to handle because keeping a list is easier than trying to ascertain how deep allegiances and friendships are.

Therefore, this giving and receiving helps maintain “face” and “validates friendships.”

How to Form a Company in China


Dave at Chinese Hacks introduced the following article, How to Form a Company in China, as something might be interested in.  You may, too.

Here is a link to an article in the China Law Blog titled How to Form a Company in China. The article covers the follow areas: (1) Make Sure Your Business is Legal For Foreigners.  (2) Provide The Proper Documentation.   (3) Investor Documents Needed.  (4) Consider Forming a Special Purpose Company to Own the WFOE.  (5) Secure Chinese Government Approval.  (6) Compile and Provide These Documents for Chinese Government Approval.  (7) Compile and Provide These Additional Documents for Chinese Government Approval.  (8) The Approval Process.   Good overall view.  I imagine the people associated with the blog can provide the nuts and bolts of it all.


Míngbái, Bù míngbái, Bù míng bù bái


If you have studied Chinese for 4 or 5 months, you probably know míngbái ( 明 白 ), a Chinese word meaning ‘clearly understood.’  Bù míngbái ( 不 明 白) is what you say when you aren’t  quite sure or you are confused about the meaning of something. Wǒ bù míngbái (我 不 明 白) (I’m not clear).

When you are not clear about what your are hearing or reading, you can either apologize (Duìbuqǐ) (对不起) (which also means ‘excuse me’) and  say “Wǒ bù míngbái“  (我 不 明 白) and/or politely ask him to explain a little (Qǐng nǐ jiěshì jiěshì) (请 你 解 释 解 释). However, you would NOT want to ask someone to speak míngbái yīdiǎnr (speak it out a little clearer), because it would imply he is hiding something or lying.

A fun idiom is bù míng bù bái (neither clear nor white) ( 不 明 不 白 ) , used to refer to  hazy written or spoken ideas, speeches, talk, rules, or even behavior.  Laws are sometimes bù míng bù bái so that power can overrule law, when convenient.

One song shows you another way to use míngbái. The lyrics are written out in pinyin and translated into English in the notes.

A Song by Della Ding 丁噹 – Ming Bai 明白

There is another song called Ming Ming Bai Bai Wo de Xin. You can Youtube it, if you want. See how it’s translated.