Preparing for the Resurrection Festival (aka “Easter”) in Chinese

If you aren’t going to do in-depth historical and cultural reading on 1st-century Palestine and learn koiné Greek, but you want an Easter tie-in for your Chinese language-learning and/or an intro to the basic “Resurrection Festival” narrative, here you go!

Even if you’re totally unfamiliar with the Easter story, this short reading list should more or less work for you. It’s all actual biblical text, abridged and slightly rearranged to make the narrative easier to follow. It doesn’t include every detail; read each of the four gospel accounts separately for that (like you should! ha). And don’t do like this in exegesis class or they’ll fail you.

“Pilate Washes His Hands” by He Qi.

Each PDF’s text comes in five different Chinese translations, all of which you can view online at and My plan is to do one a week ending on Resurrection Festival Sunday. Here they’re arranged to fit the traditional Western church calendar, but it’s cramming a lot of text into only a few days:

  • 2014å¹´4月13æ—¥ — 棕榈主日 — 〈复活节2〉
  • 2014å¹´4月17æ—¥ — 濯足节 — 〈复活节3〉+ 〈复活节4〉
  • 2014å¹´4月18æ—¥ — 受难节 — 〈复活节5〉+ 〈复活节6〉
  • 2014å¹´4月20æ—¥ — 复活节星期日 — 〈复活节7〉


Peter tells Jesus he thinks Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus tells him he’s right, but when Jesus goes on to talk about dying a horrible, humiliating death at the hands of their foreign political oppressors — basically the antithesis of what the Messiah was expected to be — Peter tells him to knock it off. Jesus responds with some tough love.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 可8:27-38 (但7:13-14))


The common people are all keyed up. Word’s got around about Jesus’ miracles, especially about raising Lazarus from the dead. And the religious and cultural elites are calling for Jesus’ arrest. Crowds are fickle, but they know what potential public drama looks like. Will Jesus dare show up in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival when the religious and cultural establishment is out to get him? And what will happen if he does?
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 约11:55-12:19;2:13-25)


It’s the Passover meal with Jesus’ closest followers, his final meal before his death. Jesus continues to demonstrate his radical redefinition of Messiah and the subversive, upside-down nature of life in his ‘Kingdom’ by taking the role of the lowest servant and washing everyone’s filthy 1st-century Palestine feet. With wine and broken bread, he tells his disciples that his imminent sacrifice is for them.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 路22:7-13;约13:1-17;路22:14-30;(但7:13-14))


Jesus knows it’s mere hours before his suffering and death, and he tells his disciples they will all abandon him. Peter refuses to accept this — he’s not afraid of violent revolution; that’s what he signed up for in the first place and he’s not the only one. Despite what Jesus has already said and done, his followers just can’t think outside their preconception of ‘Messiah’ as the long-awaited political liberator. Some of them are armed, and there’s blood shed when Jesus is betrayed. But Jesus’ reaction shatters them, and they do exactly as he said they would.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 太26:30-46;路22:47-52;可14:49-52;(但7:13-14))


Jesus’ enemies can’t manage to convict him of blasphemy at their illegal trial because the testimonies of their lying witnesses conflict. So Jesus helps them out and makes a direct claim to divinity right in the high priest’s face. By their own laws that means the death penalty, but under Roman occupation they need an order from Pilate, the Roman governor, so they claim Jesus was organizing an armed rebellion against Rome. Pilate declares him innocent multiple times, but in the interests of diffusing a potential riot he orders Jesus’ brutal flogging and crucifixion, while placing responsibility for Jesus’ death squarely on the religious leaders and the mob they’d stirred up.

Meanwhile, Peter’s followed at a distance all this time, sneaking in within earshot of the proceedings — the only disciple brave enough. He alone of the 12 core disciples has refused to give up all hope that Jesus will bust out with the supernatural power and take down the Romans and the politically sold-out Jewish establishment. But as things turn from bad to worse and the people around him begin to recognize him as one of Jesus’ followers, he finally breaks.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 可14:53-72;路23:1-23;太27:24-31;(但7:13-14))


Jesus is crucified. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two high-ranking and prominent religious leaders, publicly defy their peers by requesting Jesus’ body and giving him as honourable a burial as they can. The religious leaders, aware of Jesus’ claim that he would come back to life on the third day, convince Pilate to place guards at the tomb and seal it with a heavy stone so Jesus’ followers can’t steal the body and claim he’s resurrected. (Plus: the full psalm from which Jesus quotes, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, and the previous bits involving Nicodemus: where he sneaks off in the night to talk with Jesus, and where he questions the legality of what his peers are suggesting.)
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 路23:26-43;约19:23-27;可15:33-41、43;约19:38b-40;路23:54-56;太27:62-66;(诗篇22);(约3:1-21、7:45-53))


Women with burial spices arrive at the tomb early in the morning only to discover it open and empty. An angel invites them to have a look, and then go tell Jesus’ other followers. Meanwhile the guards report what happened to the leaders, who bribe them into saying that Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they slept. Jesus appears to various groups of disciples on different occasions, including Thomas, who has refused to believe any of the reports of Jesus’ resurrection, and Peter, who’d denied knowing Jesus before his crucifixion. Peter’s gone back to fishing, and in a dramatic scene reminiscent of previous key shared experiences between the two, Jesus appears and addresses Peter’s denial.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 太28:1-15;路24:13-34;约20:19-21:25)

“Nail Mark” (detail) by Li Wei San.

More Resurrection Festival in China:

Chinese proficiency in 1.7 years — *really*?

Setting personal language learning goals helps immensely. But it helps to be smart about it.

There’s a language study infographic floating around comparing the difficulty of various languages for native English speakers. It says you need 1.69 years/2,200 classroom hours to reach proficiency in Chinese:

People always disagree about how long it takes to learn Chinese, mostly because they talk about it with mushy terms: “learn Chinese”, “speak Chinese”, “know Chinese”, “fluent”, “proficient”, etc. I’m not gonna bother arguing with this graphic’s fuzzy term, but here are four other somewhat authoritative takes on how much time you need to learn Chinese. Accurate language learning expectations are important, so it’s well worth comparing.

Linguist John Pasden’s Sinosplice post “How long does it take to get fluent in Chinese?” quotes two Chinese experts. First, Da Shan aka Mark Rowswell aka the most famous foreigner in China:

2 years to lie on your resume and hope no Chinese speaker interviews you for a job…

5 years for basic fluency, but with difficulty.

10 years to feel comfortable in the language.

Second, Chinese linguist Dr. David Moser:

The old saying I heard when I first started learning Chinese was, “Learning Chinese is a five-year lesson in humility”. At the time I assumed that the point of this aphorism was that after five years you will have mastered humility along with Chinese. After I put in my five years, however, I realized the sad truth: I had mastered humility, alright, but my Chinese still had a long way to go. And still does.
My own experience, in a nutshell: French language students after 4 years are hanging out in Paris bistros, reading everything from Voltaire to Le Monde with relative ease, and having arguments about existentialism and debt ceilings. Chinese language students after four years still can’t read novels or newspapers, can have only simple conversations about food, and cannot yet function in the culture as mature adults. And this even goes for many graduate students with 6-7 or 8 years of Chinese.

Third, Joann Pittman, consultant, trainer, teacher, researcher, and writer with 28 years in China shares some research stats in her post, “How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese?” Among her conclusions:

Even though I started ‘learning’ Chinese 22 years ago, I don’t yet consider myself to have ‘learned’ Chinese
a learner with average aptitude should plan to spend 50 weeks (@30 hours per week) to reach limited working proficiency level

Fourth, linguist and Chinese textbook author Martin Symonds in our post, “Learning Mandarin: Realistic Expectations”:

Full-time Mandarin Study
# of years 1 2 4 8 !??!
Proficiency Level Survival Daily Living Minimum Work Full Work Native

Like Joann says, the point isn’t to scare people off or kill their enthusiasm for learning Chinese, but to give them realistic expectations so they can become better language learners, and craft their study according to their language goals.

There’s lots more in our Learning Mandarin topic.

Make civilized students.
Constantly use the Common Speech. Everywhere use civilized language


A Chinese language learning essential

09-12-18, 7am — Hypothesis confirmed: a direct correlation exists between the amount of coffee in my system and the amount of Chinese I’m able to speak before 9am.

Nothing to My Name / 一无所有

“Nothing to My Name” has been called the biggest hit song in Mainland Chinese history. If you’re only gonna learn one Chinese karaoke tune, this is the song. And if you’re looking for a poignant time to learn it, this is the month.

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu / Nothing to My Name

If you’re in Great Firewalled Youtube-blocking Mainland China you can see the video here (thanks, Ryan!). Listen to the mp3 here:

[audio:yi wu suo you.mp3]

一无所有 channeled the disillusionment, anxieties, hopes, frustrations, complaints, and rebellion of urban Mainlanders coming of age during the ideological thaw of 80’s China. They adopted it as their generation’s anthem. Even many 90’s kids (in their mid to late 20s now) still connect strongly to this song.

CuÄ« Jiàn (崔健) is often called “the father of Chinese rock.” He first performed “Nothing to My Name” on a TV talent show in 1985 and then at a major concert in 1986. China’s urban young people ate it up. This month marks the 20th anniversary of a third significant performance, but I’ll let you follow the links at the end of this post to discover the more dramatic and sensitive details about the significance of CuÄ« Jiàn and “Nothing to My Name.”

Lyrics & Guitar Chords
From the beginning people interpreted the ambiguous lyrics in different ways (politics, sex, love & economics). But it was no secret that the lyrics were intended to contain both national and critical meanings. CuÄ« Jiàn’s concerts, in which he’d perform with a red blindfold over his eyes and play other songs with more pointed lyrics, left little doubt as to the targets of the critique. Those ‘targets’ responded by banning CuÄ« Jiàn from playing any large, significant performances for over 15 years.

The vagueness of the lyrics leaves this song open to a wide variety of English renderings. The English translation below is based on the translation found at (see other English renderings here and here). The title literally could mean “having nothing” or “not having anything.”

The guitar chords in the download aren’t perfect, but close. If you catch any mistakes on that or the translation, let me know! Download: YiWuSuoYou.pdf

You can play the video or mp3 above and follow along here:

我曾经问个不休 / wǒ céngjīng wèn gè bùxiū
I’ve asked (you) endlessly

你何时跟我走 / nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
When will you go with me?

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name

我要给你我的追求 / wǒ yào gěi nǐ wǒde zhuīqiú
I want to give you my dreams

还有我的自由 / háiyǒu wǒde zìyóu
(and I) also have my freedom (to give you)

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name


噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?


脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground beneath my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

可你却总是笑我 / kě nǐ què zǒngshì xiào wǒ
But you always just laugh at me

一无所有 / yīwúsuǒyǒu
(with) nothing to my name

为何你总是笑个没够 / wèihé nǐ zǒngshì xiào gè méi gòu
Why is your laughter never enough?

为何我总要追求 / wèihé wǒ zǒng yào zhuīqiú
Why will I always search?

难道在你面前我永远 / nándào zài nǐ miànqián wǒ yǒngyuǎn
Could it be that before you I’ll forever…

是一无所有 / shì yīwúsuǒyǒu
…have nothing to my name?


噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

噢 你何时跟我走 / ō nǐ hé shí gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! When will you go with me?

[instrumental break]

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing


告诉你我等了很久 / gàosu nǐ wǒ děng le hěn jiǔ
(I’m) telling you I’ve waited a long time

告诉你我最后的要求 / gàosu nǐ wǒ zuìhòu de yāoqiú
(So I’m) telling you my final request

我要抓起你的双手 / wǒ yào zhuā qǐ nǐde shuāngshǒu
I want to grab you by the hands

你这就跟我走 / nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
And then you’ll go with me

这时你的手在颤抖 / zhè shí nǐde shǒu zài chàndǒu
This time your hands are trembling

这时你的泪在流 / zhè shí nǐde lèi zài liú
This time your tears are flowing

莫非你是正在告诉我 / mòfēi nǐ shì zhèngzài gàosu wǒ
Can it be that you are telling me

你爱我一无所有 / nǐ ài wǒ yīwúsuǒyǒu
You love me with nothing to my name?


噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

[guitaaarrrr soooloooo!!!]

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing

脚下这地在走 / jiǎo xià zhè dì zài zǒu
The ground under my feet is moving

身边那水在流 / shēnbiān nà shuǐ zài liú
The water beside me is flowing


噢 你这就跟我走 / ō nǐ zhè jiù gēn wǒ zǒu
Oh! Now you’ll go with me

When a Chinese friend in Tianjin downloaded a bunch of songs for me to learn, he made a point to highlight this one. Our Chinese textbooks have a whole lesson devoted to it, and when our teachers taught it they said it represents their generation. But I have a couple teenage Mainlanders in my ESL classes here in Vancouver, and none of them have even heard of this song or CuÄ« Jiàn. Of course, that’s not the only significant 20-year-old piece of Chinese history that they didn’t know about, so I assigned them some homework involving Google. Still waiting to see how they respond.

More about Cui Jian and Nothing to My Name:

More songs for your KTV repertoire! (with lyrics and guitar chords):

Chinese textbook battle: New Practical Chinese Reader vs. Chinese Made Easier

A friend and fellow language student switched Mandarin text book series this semester and explains why on his blog. CME is out; New Practical Chinese Reader is in.

Liang Shanbo & Juliet — 梁山伯与茱丽叶

Because laowais can never learn enough karaoke hits! (More songs here.)

梁山伯与茱丽叶/ liáng shānbó yǔ zhù yīngtái
Liang Shanbo & Juliet

The title and lyrics of this song allude to two classic tragic romances: Romeo and Juliet and the “butterfly lovers” Liáng Shānbó and Zhù YÄ«ngtái, often considered Romeo and Juliet’s ancient Chinese equivalent.

Like the Shakespeare play, Liáng Shānbó (the guy) and Zhù YÄ«ngtái (the girl) want to get married but the families won’t cooperate so they end up dying. But unlike Romeo and Juliet, the butterfly lovers become butterflies and fly away together after Zhù YÄ«ngtái jumps into Liáng Shānbó’s tomb while on the way to her arranged marriage. Obviously, such a story was destined for the Chinese pop charts.

Here’s the KTV version, lyrics and guitar chords below:

Here’s the mp3:


Lyrics & Guitar Chords

Download: LiangShanboYuZhuliye.pdf (lyrics & guitar chords with pinyin/English cheatsheet).

歌词 / gēcí / Lyrics (the English is a little overly literal):

我的心想唱首歌给你听 / wǒde xīn chàng shǒugē gěi nǐ tīng
My heart wants to sing a song for you to hear

歌词是如此的甜蜜 / gēcí shì rúcǐ de tiánmì
The lyrics are so honey-sweet

可是我害羞我没有勇气 / kěshì wǒ hàixiū wǒ méiyǒu yǒngqì
But I blush, I don’t have the courage

对你说一句我爱你 / duì nǐ shuō yījù wǒ ài nǐ
To say to you the words ‘I love you’

为什么你还是不言不语 / wèishénme nǐ háishì bù yán bù yǔ
Why do you still not speak?

难道你不懂我的心 / nándào (shì) nǐ bùdǒng wǒde xīn
Could it be you don’t understand my heart?

不管你用什么方式表明 / bùguǎn nǐ yòng shénme fāngshì biǎomíng
No matter whatever style you use to make it clear

我会对你说我愿意 / wǒ huì duì nǐ shuō wǒ yuànyì
I will say to you I’m willing

千言万语里 / qiān yán wàn yǔ lǐ
A thousand words in ten-thousand languages

只有一句话能 / zhǐyǒu yījùhuà néng
Only these few words are able

表白我的心 / biǎobái wǒde xīn
To vindicate my heart

千言万语里 / qiān yán wàn yǔ lǐ
A thousand words in ten-thousand languages

只有一句话就 / zhǐyǒu yījùhuà jiù
Only these few words

能够让我们相偎相依 / nénggòu rang wǒ men xiāng wēi xiāng yī
Are enough to let us cuddle each other close


我爱你 你是我的茱丽叶 / wǒ ài nǐ nǐ shì wǒde zhūlìyè
I love you, you’re my Juliet

我愿意变成你的粱山伯 / wǒ yuànyì biànchéng nǐ de liáng shānbó
I’m willing to become your Liáng Shānbó

幸福的每一天 / xìngfú de měiyī tiān
Happiness every single day

浪漫的每一夜 / làngmàn de měiyī yè
Romantic every single night

把爱 / bǎ ài
Hold love…
永远 / yǒngyuǎn
不放开 / bù fàngkāi
Don’t let go

I love you

我爱你 你是我的罗密欧 / wǒ ài nǐ nǐ shì wǒde luōmìōu
I love you, you’re my Romeo

我愿意变成你的祝英台 / wǒ yuànyì biànchéng nǐde zhù yīngtái
I’m willing to become your Zhù Yīngtái

幸福的每一天 / xìngfú de měiyī tiān
Happiness every single day

浪漫的每一夜 / làngmàn de měiyī yè
Romantic every single night

美丽的爱情 / měilì de àiqíng
Beautiful romance

祝福着未来 / zhùfú zhe wèilái
Blessing the future

Related Posts:

Language learning strategies used in Tianjin

Last night at a language learners’ meeting some students — all in our first three years of Mandarin study — were asked to write down on big pieces of paper various techniques and strategies that we personally find helpful in different facets of language learning: Affective/Motivation, Social, Listening, Speaking, Reading & Writing, and Vocab & Grammar. It was interesting to see different personalities and different stages of language learning reflected in the suggestions. Some of them were pretty funny and revealing.

Here’s what we wrote down in the “Affective/Motivation” category:

  • Work for a specific time period and take breaks.
  • Don’t try to study when I’m tired.
  • Celebrate language victories, large and small!
  • Make a weekly schedule for studying in order to feel good about investing enough time.
  • Go to bed.
  • Change study location regularly.
  • Use different locations for different types of study.
  • Don’t allow yourself to have a pity party. Find someone who speaks less than you and feel better about yourself.
  • Chocolate
  • Remember how it was when you first came.
  • Morning quiet time and journaling.

Here’s from the “Social” category:

  • Go slowly through neighbourhood.
  • Do homework outside.
  • Having a bike that often breaks down.
  • Learn neighbours’ names.
  • Plan to stop and chat on way to and from regular places.
  • 1 on 1 time with friends.
  • Parties
  • Do an activity with friends (badminton, baking) but prep yourself with vocab first.
  • Class in neighbourhood.
  • Buying fruit and veggies at market instead of supermarket.
  • Learn (and translate yourself) a few songs (Chinese ones) and sing them at karaoke.
  • Live with a Chinese roommate in a xiaoqu [neighbourhood] with no other foreigners.
  • Adjust daily routine to create more social opportunities with the people around you.

A few gems from the other categories:

  • Listen for the words you do understand and try to guess what’s being said… use what you do get to ask clarifying questions.
  • mp3 brainwashing while biking/walking/busing
  • DVDs, TV, CDs, stories, mp3s
  • Sit in places where I can hear lots of people talking – try to figure out what they’re saying.
  • Selective eavesdropping.
  • Tape record someone and copy them.
  • Go to a Chinese church.
  • Read text out loud.
  • Repeat out loud with extra strong emphasis [tones]
  • Get used to and encourage correction.
  • Laugh at yourself.

Good luck, fellow language students! 加油!