The Essential Phrases for Tourists in China, What You Can Say

Tourists in China usually speak Chinese for three things: being cordial, buying something, and asking directions. So here are 10 essential expressions that will allow you do these essential things.

How are you?

Chinese: Nǐ hǎo ma? (Nee-haoww-mah?) 你好吗

Wèi (/way/ 喂), mostly used on the ‘phone, is the closest Chinese to “hello” or “hi ” Nowadays most Chinese speakers know the English word “hello” and might use it even when meeting Chinese people. It has become an English loanword in the Chinese language, written 哈啰, and pronounced hāluo (haa-lwor), so it may sound odd when Chinese-speakers try to say “hello”.

“Nǐ hǎo ma?” literally means “You good?” (nǐ = you, hǎo = good, ma = ?). Similar to “How are you?”, it can mean “Are you ok?”

“Nǐhǎo” is said frequently. It might mean “Nǐ hǎo ma?”, but it typically means something like ‘It’s you — good.” or “Nice to see you.” It’s the most basic and standard Chinese greeting.

Good or bad?

Chinese: Hǎobùhǎo? (haoww-boo-haoww) 好不好

Hǎo means ‘good’. Hǎo also means “ok”.

Bùhǎo means ‘not good’. (“Bu” means ‘no’ or ‘not’.) Chinese speakers use “hǎo” and “buhao” to say something is good or bad, and to signal agreement or disagreement.

Combining “hǎo” and “bùhǎo” gives “Hǎobùhǎo?”, which is a question. It means ‘Good or not good?’ or ‘Is it ok?’ After this or “Nǐ hǎo ma?” you can reply “hǎo” or “bùhǎo”.

Thank you

Chinese: Xièxie. (sshyeah-sshyeah) 谢 谢

This is the basic and simple way to say thank you.

I’m sorry

Chinese: Duìbuqǐ. (dway-boo-chee) 对不起

This phrase can be used both to apologize and to ask for repetition. It literally means “I didn’t begin correctly.” or “You’re right, that isn’t upright.”

“Duì” means ‘correct’. It is often repeated two or three times to indicate agreement (Duì duì duì).

Asking What Something Is

Chinese: Zhè shì shénme? (Jer shrr shnn-muh?) 这是什么?

Here is a good way to both indicate your interest in an item and to learn a lot of new words.

The three important words are: Zhè (this), shì (is), and shénme (what). Combined with pointing, “Zhè shì shénme?” can be used to find out what things are called.

Shì (all forms of the verb “to be”) is also used to mean “yes”, like “duì” and “hǎo”, and can also be combined with bù for “it’s not” (bùshì).

Do you have …?

Chinese: Yǒuméiyǒu …? (Yoh-may-yoh …?) 有没有 …?

Yǒu means ‘have’, and méiyǒu means “to not have”. The word méi means lack. So the phrase “yǒuméiyǒu …” literally means “have or not have …?”

How much money?

Chinese: Duōshao qián? 多少钱 (Dwor-sshaoww chyen?)

The phrase “duōshao?” is composed of the words duō (much) and shǎo (few), and means “how much?” or “how many?” Qián means ‘money’.

Where is …?

Chinese: … zài nǎlǐ? (… dzeye naa-lee?) …在哪里

The three words are: zài (on or in), nǎ (where or which), and lǐ (inside or very roughly the word “place”). Put the name of the place or object you want to find before zài nǎlǐ.

I want to go to …

Chinese: Wǒ xiǎng qù… (Wor sshyang chyoo …) 我想去 …

The three words are: wǒ (I), xiǎng (want), and qù (to go). Then add the name of the place. This is useful for buying train tickets, taking a taxi, etc.

Toilet

Chinese: Cèsuǒ. (tser-swor) 厕所

As in English, there are several words and phrases used to mean bathroom. The most common word for public toilets, or a room with a toilet in, is “cèsuǒ.” “Cè” means ‘toilet’. “Suǒ” means ‘place’.

Teahouse Culture in China, History of Tea Culture

As is known to all, China is one of the oldest countries in the world. Through the long river of the history, a lot of majestic traditional culture has been passed on, and the tea culture is among that.

History

The teahouse culture has gone through a complicated process of development. The teahouse first appeared during Tang dynasty. At that time, people mainly go there to exchange their views about poem. But soon on, as the spread of the teahouses, more ordinary people formed the habit of going to the teahouse. Then the teahouses was developed largely in Song Dynasty. By Qing Dynasty, there has been several kinds of teahouses aiming at customers from different class of society. For instance, some special teahouses were for people to play Chinese chess, and some teahouses became popular among businessmen. Also, some teahouses were especially for scholars, which could be much more quiet. Besides serving tea, the teahouses also served snacks, and some teahouses provided musical performances.

Beijing Teahouses

There is a great variety of teahouses in Beijing, including Big Teahouse, Qing Teahouse, Storytelling Teahouse and Wild Teahouse. In the ancient times in Beijing, there were a number of storytelling teahouses, where listening to the storytelling is the main purpose. The famed teahouses in Beijing are arranged and decorated fastidiously, creating the atmosphere for listening to storytelling.

In Qing teahouses of Beijing, pergolas are built outside the gate, where customers can chat and enjoy tea in every season except winter. Qing teahouses are deeply fond of by the old. In addition, in Beijing, there are also Chess Teahouses suitable for playing chess.

Hangzhou Teahouses

The teahouse culture in Hangzhou originated from the Southern Song Dynasty. Though there are not so many teahouses in Hangzhou as that of Sichuan, the culture atmosphere of teahouses in Hangzhou is full-bodied. Hangzhou teahouses are particular about culture, environment, internationalization and marketization. People in Hangzhou mainly drink West Lake Longjing Tea. According to the present condition, Hangzhou is universally acknowledged as the city managing teahouses best. Every year, during the National Tea Expo Fair and The West Lake International Tea Party held in Hangzhou, participants from everywhere speak highly of Hangzhou teahouses.

According to statistics, there are more than 700 teahouses in Hangzhou at present. Some boast tea ceremony, such as Tai Chi Teahouse; some feature tea cakes and relaxation, such as Qingteng Teahouse; some boast ecological environment; some integrate aesthetic enjoyment and tea-tasting, such as Ziyige Teahouse and Heji Teahouse.

Tianjin Teahouses

The teahouses of Tianjin are just like the teahouse of Beijing, containing tea, snacks, singing opera arias (without makeup and acting) and storytelling. However, its culture atmosphere is not outstanding. In China, the famous cross talk, which is deeply loved by many Chinese people, was originated from teahouses of Tianjin. These years, listening to a cross talk in a teahouse of Tianjin has become a fashion and unmissable experience. Audiences burst their sides with laughter at the cross talk. A number of audiences from other areas flock to Tianjin to listening to teahouse cross talk, spending a day of relaxation in peals of laughter.

Guangdong Teahouses

The teahouses of Guangdong feature magnificent appearance and they are decorated gorgeously, with rich cultural atmosphere. There are thousands of teahouses in Guangzhou, including professional teahouses and hotel teahouses. Guangdong teahouses are also served as the restaurants for having meals. There are over 60 varieties of delicate refreshments. In Guangzhou, people having a date, holding family reunion parties and having business negotiations are all usually held in teahouses.

Chengdu Teahouses

People of Sichuan Province have been keeping the habit of drinking tea. Drinking tea in teahouses is the typical tea activity of Sichuan. In Chengdu, teahouses and tearooms of different sizes spread all over cities. Some are decorated with calligraphy, painting, flowers and miniascape, creating a beautiful and quiet environment.

Yumenguan Great Wall, Small Square Castle

Standing alone in the middle of the desert, yumen pass, also known as xiao fang bao, has lost its luster as an invincible military fortress. It may be hard to believe that this dilapidated site of rammed earth was once a fierce battlefield and a thriving trading gateway, with traders and camels coming and going.

It was an important pass at xiguan in the han dynasty (206bc-220ad), at the western end of the hexi corridor, the gateway from central China to the west.

As a vast and complete ancient defense system, the Great Wall, broadly defined as a strip centered on a passageway, is 25 miles (40 kilometers) long and 550 yards (503 meters) wide, including two castles, 20 beacon towers and 17 wall sites.

Yutian hetian jade is located in the world’s oldest international trade route — the northern section of the silk road. In ancient times, the hetian jade in yutian (today’s hetian county, xinjiang) was transported to the central plains through the pass, hence the name yumen pass.

The pass was made of rammed earth and had two gates, the west gate and the north gate, the latter being the main entrance. There were several offices and a staircase at the southeast corner leading to the attic. However, due to thousands of years of disrepair, these sites cannot be found at present. The remaining castles cover 757 square yards (633 square metres), are 26.7 yards (24.4 metres) long, 28.9 yards (26.4 metres) wide and 30 feet (9 metres) high.

On June 22, 2014, yumen pass became a world heritage site. In the early han dynasty, xiongnu constantly invaded the western frontier of China. Instead of fighting back, the weak rulers of the country preferred to marry the maids of honor to the chief of the xiongnu to obtain temporary peace. When emperor wudi came to power, he immediately abolished this cowardly policy. He launched a massive and violent counterattack, driving the xiongnu army out of the territory. In order to strengthen the stability of the western frontier, two passes of yumen pass and yangguan pass were set up along the border. From then on, these two passages, like two royal soldiers, gloriously defended the west gate of their country.

Located on the northern part of the silk road, yumen pass was also a stop for merchants and envoys. It witnessed the prosperity of commercial trade along the old trade routes. Silk, porcelain and tea flowed to the west. At the same time, spices, fruits, music, religious beliefs and other western specialties were introduced into the central plains. It is said that grapes, pomegranates and walnuts, which now grow in central China, are native to the western region.

Two thousand years later, the camel bells had died away. The cries of the sellers in the market completely disappeared. There is only a single castle left to remind you of its glorious past.

Yardang National Geopark, the Devil City

Dunhuang Yardang national geological park is located in China’s gansu province, 108 kilometers (67 miles) northwest of dunhuang city. It extends 25 kilometers (15 miles) from east to west and 13 kilometers (8 miles) from north to south. The park is famous for its typical wind-erosion landform, yalang landscape. Yardang means a small mound of earth with steep walls in the uyghur language. There are 77 sites and boulders of various shapes in the area.

It also has a nickname “devil city” because when night falls, the wind will roar. There is a legend in this area that the park was once a castle, but a god turned it into a ruin as punishment for evil. Yardang national geopark attracts many explorers with its unique desert landscape, ancient legends and exotic rocks.

Dunhuang Yardang national geopark is divided into the southern region and the northern region. The northern region is characterized by the golden lion greeting, the sphinx, the peacock standing gracefully, and the western sea fleet. The first three are all solitary, and the last is a group of men, like a fleet of sails. The north is strewn with strange rocks. The south is even bigger, with rocks dotted like cartoon characters and traditional Chinese paintings.

Take the shuttle tourist buses for the northern region. During the 1.5-2 hours journey, the bus will stop for 10 minutes at the Gold Lion Greeting Guests and Sphinx, and 30 minutes at the other two spots. To get to the southern region, visitors can rent an off-road vehicle at the Western Sea Fleet at a cost of CNY 400 per car. The journey usually lasts for 1.5 hours. It is freer to go sightseeing in this way, and the driver may stop at wherever visitors want. If time permits, make sure you not miss the beautiful sunset over rolling hills. The sunset usually occurs between 6:00 pm ~ 7:00 pm from October to March and 8:00 pm ~ 9:00 pm from April to September. In northern region, visitors can see the sunset at the Western Sea Fleet. There is also a hilltop in the southern region to catch this stunning scene. Due to the large temperature variation between day and night, as well as the windy and dusty weather there, visitors are suggested to ready hats, sunglasses, and jackets.

Yangguan Great Wall, the Yangguan Pass

Yangguan was a line of defense along the famous Great Wall of the silk road, but it meant a sad parting, as people would send their relatives off here with famous verses. Among them, the most famous is ‘Oh, my friend, I sincerely entreat you to have another cup of wine; you will see no more friends west out of the Yangguan Pass’, by Wang Wei, a famous poet in Tang Dynasty.

During the western han dynasty (206 bc-ad 24), it was one of the two main fortresses on the western border (the other was yumen pass). In order to consolidate the frontier defense, emperor wu originally ordered it built.

Yangguan and yumen pass are also trade gateways for central and western China. They witnessed the prosperity of the silk road, the world’s oldest trade route. In the tang dynasty, it celebrated the return of xuanzang, a monk commissioned by the imperial court to obtain the original texts of buddhist sutras from the west. It disappeared from view during the song dynasty (960-1279) and Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Yang means the sun in Chinese. Due to geography, most of the sun in China shines on the southern terrain. Therefore, people use “Yang” to mean the south. Located to the south of yumen pass, people call it yangguan.

It is separated from yumen pass by a 40-mile (64-kilometer) wall with 10 beacon towers every three miles (5 kilometers). Today, much of yangguan lies beneath shifting sand dunes. Only the beacon on the top of the hill survived.

It is the entrance to the entire scenic area, located 870 yards (796 meters) north of the lonely beacon tower on dundun hill. There are nearly 4,000 exhibits related to the “yangguan, yumen pass” and “silk road”, including bronze, iron, jade, fabric and weapons. It was more of a model city for the pass than a simple museum, with gateways, generals’ offices and barracks scattered throughout the area.

Once you’re out of the museum’s gate tower, the 870-yard (796-meter) thoroughfare will take you to the site of the pass. The name of the road translates into a bright and happy future, carrying the best wishes of family and friends. You can ride through it on horseback, on a donkey cart, or on a sightseeing bus. Tickets are 40 yuan, 20 yuan and 10 yuan per passenger.