Archive for February, 2009

Stumbling Upon the Money Tree

Pachira Aquatica

Encountering Pachira Aquatica, Shaving Bush Tree(?)

Giggling when I came across this bonsai tag at California Home & Garden in Wellington, NZ, and took a photo so I could look up what on earth a “shaving bush” tree really was. Turns out the illustrious Pachira aquatica has traveled widely, under many names. The genus name, Pachira, is derived from a language spoken in Guyana, the species is Latin for “aquatic.” It’s also known as the Guiana or Guyana chestnut, saba nut, Bombacaceae,  Malabar chestnut, Munguba and provision tree.

It’s here in my 中文 Zhōngwén Chinese journal because Pachira Aquatica is also 馬拉巴栗 Mǎlābā lì “Malabar chestnut” a.k.a. The Money Tree 發財樹 fācái shù . This plant gets recommended by 风水 fēng shuǐ practitioners to attract wealth and prosperity, due to the arrangement of five large green leaves on each branch symbolizing the  五行 wǔxíng five classical elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.

I think they meant to label this “Shaving Brush Tree,” because the gorgeous flowers do somewhat resemble a glamorous shaving brush tucked inside an exploding banana peel:


Shaving Brush Tree flower

Pacifica aquatica Shaving Brush Tree flower in Sao Paolo, Brazil, by Mauroguanadi

Wishing everyone good luck and prosperity as I watch Obama’s address to joint session of U.S. Congress while writing this. If you’d like your own good luck money tree in the U.S., there are lovely braided bonsai versions from Windowbox and Red Envelope.

Bonus:For another interpretation “money tree“, check out Fiona Hall’s art installation: “When My Boat Comes In.” 


Chinese Language Learning Tool: nciku


Delighted to discover nciku, an online Chinese-English dictionary and language learning tool. There are lots of helpful features like autocomplete and saving to vocab lists.

What really sets this one apart is the ability to handwrite characters on the screen using any input device. As you are writing, a grid of possible characters appears and you can select the appropriate character from the list. I am using a Wacom Cintiq 21UX 21-Inch Interactive Pen Display at my desk and a Bamboo (Small) Pen Tablet with my laptop, and it’s a great way not only to practice writing the characters, but to get searchable text versions I can then paste here rather than using images.

The character I have handwritten above is 网 wǎng, which I learned in class last week as part of 上网 shàngwǎng “to go online”. I love that 网 wǎng looks like a net and has historically been used as both “net” and “web” in other contexts: 渔网 yúwǎng fishing net, and  蜘蛛网 zhīzhūwǎng spider’s web.

Last time I was studying Chinese, the 互联网 hùliánwǎng Internet was around, but not the 万维网 wànwéiwǎnɡ World Wide Web. Now I am finding such great resources for language study online. One man in my class says he learned everything so far on, which I am starting to explore. I’ve also enjoyed finding and talking with Chinese language partners through, though it’s not limited to Chinese — or English.

Do you know of any other online Chinese language study resources I should check out? I welcome your suggestions in comments.

Translating the woman who missed her flight from HK

Chinese Lesson 1: DàiWéiDàoism

Wellington Chinese Language School

Enrolling at Wellington Chinese Language School

二月 十四天 February 14, 2009

Wellington Chinese Language School

Intermediate Chinese 3

So excited to be back in Chinese class. It’s been a long time since I’ve been conversing regularly in Mandarin. The last time I was in a Chinese class, I don’t even think there was a word for online (上网 shàngwǎng). I’m going to log my class and study notes on this site to help me study and learn.

Enrollment was a bit stressful — I couldn’t remember how to write my Chinese name: 戴維道 Dài Wéi Dào. Luckily, younger me blogged it in 2006, so I was able to find it through search on my mobile phone. Thanks, younger me! Thanks also to thank my awesome high school Chinese teacher, Robert Demerrit, for giving me this uncommonly beautiful name that’s not only a transliteration of my English surname but inspiringly aspirational.

Dài is my surname, and it also means ” to support.”
Wéi means “to maintain or hold together.”
Dào you may know as Tao, the road or way, the ineffable essence of the universe pointed at by 老子 Lǎozǐ in the 道德經 Dàodéjīng, more commonly known as the Tao Te Ching.

The next step was a conversational interview for placement. I was shocked and delighted to be in Intermediate 3, led by the lovely 樊晓莉 Fán Xiǎolì. There is no advanced, because they don’t want students to slack. This is going to be good for me!

We introduced ourselves 介绍 自己 jiè shào zìjǐ. We’re a diverse group — one other 美国人 and others from:

  • 香港 Xiānggǎng Hong Kong
  • 阿根廷 Āgēntíng Argentina
  • 越南 Yuènán Vietnam
  • 菲律宾 Fēilǜbīn Philippines
  • 韩国 Hánguó Korea (Republic of Korea)

The words for New Zealand were new to me – there are two ways to say/write it:

新西兰 Xīnxīlán – literally New Western Orchard

纽西兰 Niǔxīlán, which is the same Niǔ as 纽约 Niǔyuē, from where I’ve just come.

惠灵顿 Huìlíngdùn – Wellington
奥克兰 ào kè lán – Auckland

介绍 自己 然后, 我们 游戏 [charades].
Jiè shào zìjǐ ránhòu, wǒmenyóuxì [charades].
After introductions, we played charades.

There were 4 categories:

  1. 体育运动 tǐyùyùndònɡ sports
  2. 电影 diànyǐng movies
  3. 电视 diànshì tv
  4. 名人 míngrén famous people

My offering was Slumdog Millionaire, which was guessed from a rough sketch of a dog and a dollar sign.

An auspicious beginning.


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