After I Got My New Years’ Money

For those of you new to Chinese culture, one thing a Chinese child most looks forward to all year is the time during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) when they get to go ask their neighbors and other adults for red envelopes containing some money – it’s a bit like trick-or-treating for cash. This essay is about what happened to one kid’s Spring Festival haul. We’ll cover a lot of beginner grammar here.

I should probably talk about a couple of points before we dive in. One is the use of the word 玩. Describing what he (or she, perhaps) does on Chinese New Year, the author says he can 玩得快活 – “play happily”. The Chinese don’t use “play” the way we do. While they do use it to mean “to play with toys” as a child does, they also use it to mean going out (like adults going out on Saturday night), or friends going out to a mall to go shopping – it’s really more of a blanket term better translated as “having fun”. So the kid is not saying they necessarily only play with toys happily on Chinese New Year, but also maybe that they go hang out at parents’ friends houses, or whatever. It’s not specified.

Another interesting point comes in here: 心里特别高兴,但是也很扫兴 – “In my heart I was extremely happy, but also very disappointed”. Note the use of the words 特别 and 很 – meaning “extremely” / “very” respectively. Thing is, in Chinese you can’t use a word like “happy” or “disappointed” without balancing it with a word measuring how happy or disappointed you were. There’s no way in general casual conversation to say “I was happy” – just regular ol’ happy. You can’t, for example, say just “我高兴“. Instead, say “I was VERY happy” 我很高兴, or “extremely happy” 我非常高兴 or “exceedingly happy” 高兴极了 or “fairly happy” 比较高兴 or whatever. So when we translate Chinese, we could actually drop the “very”s and “extremely”s and all that, because they have much less meaning in Mandarin then they do to us. This used to bug me a lot when speaking. I didn’t want to say I was “very happy” – I wasn’t. I was just normally happy. But it was finally explained to me how little that “very” actually mattered. So bear that in mind.

And another point: …收到了700元… This means “received over 700 yuan”. Notice that the word 余, which means “over” / “more than” is written after the amount of money and before the actual word “yuan”. In English, this would be like saying “received 700-plus dollars”. You could also say 收到了700元, which means the same thing.

The original is from my new favorite Chinese essay composition site.

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Show English translation »
I really love New Year, because [during] New Year I can not only wear new clothes and play joyfully, but also, I get a lot of New Year’s money. This year, in a flash I got more than 700 yuan, and holding that New Years’ money, my heart was glad, but at the same time, my spirits were dampened, because I was afraid mama would take it away from me.

In the past [I had to] give over my New Year’s money to the higher authorities [author means his mother here], so I discussed it with my mother [thus]: this year I’m fully 10 years old, I’m already a grown up, and I hope this New Year’s money can be left under my care, but I never though she’d agree so readily, and happiness bloomed in my heart like a flower. I held the New Year’s money, but what should I spend this money on? Buy a toy I like, or my favorite thing to eat, Kentucky Fried Chicken? I racked my brains for several days, and decided to use the money to buy some books I liked, buy a few school supplies or to subscribe to a newspaper, and to make a charitable donation… apart from these things, I figured I’d better not spend it recklessly.

I thought that doing it this way, I not only could learn to be diligent and thrifty starting in primary school, and develop careful spending habits, but also this could let me study money management, study life [skills], and I would gradually become more mature.

20 replies on “After I Got My New Years’ Money”

For, 我心里乐的开了花,
Shouldn’t that be 得instead of 的?

Also typo in definition for:
以往 – yǐ want3 – Before, previously

1 – yes, just about the same.

2 – I take these directly from other Chinese-language sources. Some of these essays are written by children, and there are occasionally typos like that. I don’t change them unless a native speaker insists on it, because I’m not confident enough to make source-level changes. In terms of the “de” issue – and I’ll probably get crucified for saying this – I think it’s ok to be a liiiitle wishy washy there, colloquially speaking, one of those “if you know the rules you can break them” type of deals. I notice a lot of people getting very loose with which “de” they use in informal contexts. Especially kids seem to default to 的 for many things. I don’t know if that’s all just mistakes, or if that’s just a trend or what. I do remember 5 years ago one of my grammar teachers mentioned that the government had considered officially making 的 the only “de” – it would supplant 得 and 地 in all writing – but I never heard anything else about that and it seems a little unlikely, so… anyway. I don’t know how acceptable that is or not, but you’re definitely not the only one who’s pointed that out.

3- thanks for the notification! Fixed.

Re: 得 vs 的
Quote:”grammar teachers mentioned that the government had considered officially making 的 the only “de” – it would supplant 得 and 地 in all writing – ”
FYI, In Cantonese, however 的, 得 and 地 are all pronounced different.

Re: 得 vs 的
(I am a native Chinese.) I learned the difference between 的 and 得 when I was in grade 3. It was so confusing that I could not answer your question before I googled it.

Hi Kendra!My fiance and I are geinttg married June 2012, and I was wondering if you could send me a list of your prices. All info you can provide would be much appreciated! Thanks so much! :)~Brianna

I will use some examples to show the difference and hopefully it makes sense.

Normally speaking, 得 is used right after verb and before adv.. 的 is used after adj.and before n..地 is used after adv. before verb.
跑得很快 (v. 得 adv.) (focus on 快)
快速地跑(adv. 地 v.) (focus on 跑)
干净的衣服 (adj. 的 n.) (focus on 干净 or 衣服 depend on the dialogue)


I’m finding this website super useful. Like this composition and the pun on 花 which means flower and spend. Here happiness blooms like a flower in the author’s heart, but it’s the happiness from being able to finally spend the New Year’s money.

Hi Kendra,

I would just like to make a little correction where in the first paragraph near the end it should be 我苦思冥想了好幾天,(決定)買一些學習用品或者訂報紙
Please tell me if I’m wrong, I just think it sounds more grammatically correct like that.

PS: Thanks for posting my guest post about The History of Chinese Americans!

Sorry, I wrote that in traditional Chinese. Here is the Simplified version:

Hello- I was just curious about your precis for your wedding photos. I am getting married on June 16th, 2012. If you could let me know about your packages and precis I would greatly appreciat it thank you.

Nice story. If I were him I would save it and get something expensive but important at the same time, although I think my school suplise is ok.

Any who, any how thanks a lot for all these things ( story’s ) I really enjoying it, this website is very helpful

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