Today is the the third post, the last one, about directional and position words in Chinese.
Left（左） and right（右）
Traditional Chinese writing, writing goes from up to down and from right to left.
The geographical Mindset
East is left and west is right for Chinese people. So, China faces south.
山左(shanzuo) = 山东 (shandong). Left of the mountain = East of the mountain
Remark: 东西（dongxi) means “thing”, but separately they means “East” （东）and west (西).
By the way, about 东西， remember: do not say 我不是东西 （wo bu shi dongxi, literally: I am not thing). Its meaning is “I am bad”.
The Left(-ist) Mindset
In many culture, included Chinese, left means being “different, nonconformist, so right is often more considered and respected than left (given the fact China is a communist country, it sounds quite interesting, right?).
For example, in Chinese politics, Prime Minister of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党,/Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng) is sitting in the highest (right) position .
And 右迁 (Yòu qiān) means promotion, literally: right move.
Now we learnt 左, 右, 上 下, 前, 后, let’s see what happens whe used them behind a number. It means that number is not exact.
上下 = About
These two words are often used after stating an age of which the speaker/writer is not sure.
他祖父 80岁上下 (Tā zǔfù 80 suì shàngxià)。Her grandfather is about 80 years old.
前后 = Around/about
These other two characters are used after a period in time which might not be exact.
- 她是2000年前后结婚的 (Tā shì 2000 nián qiánhòu jiéhūn de)。She got married around 2000.
- 春节前后，他们喜欢吃汤圆(Chūnjié qiánhòu, tāmen xǐhuān chī tāngyuán)。They like to eat rice dumplings around the time of the Spring Festival.
Nota Bene: the Spring Festival(春节) is the most important traditional festival in Chinese culture.
左右 = Around/about
左右 is often used behind a number which sounds not exact.
1.他是1998年左右来上北京(Tā shì 1998 nián zuǒyòu lái shàng běijīng). He moved to Beijin around 1998.
2.我表姐高一米八五左右(Wǒ biǎojiě gāo yī mǐ bāwǔ zuǒyòu).My cousin is about 1.85m tall.
- 晚饭时间是7点左右(Wǎnfàn shíjiān shì 7 diǎn zuǒyòu)。Dinner time is around 7:00pm.
4.我哥哥50岁左右(Wǒ gēgē 50 suì zuǒyòu)。My brother is about 50 years old.
I hope you enjoy these last three posts. Please try to practice mixing all of them in the same sentence. It is a useful and fun exercise. If you manage to master these 3 couples of words, you will understand more and more Chinese people and, of course, their mindset.