Yin and yang.
Peanut butter and jelly.
Mothers and… fathers.
We’ve celebrated our mothers in the spring, but now summer’s here.
It’s time to celebrate the fathers in our lives.
Even the fathers who aren’t related to us—like famous Chinese fathers.
There are many useful and common Chinese phrases related to Father’s Day, including words of appreciation and encouragement.
Learn how to tell your dad that you love him in Chinese, or that he is awesome!
But first, do you know when Father’s Day is celebrated in China? Let’s cover our basics:
Celebrating Father’s Day in China
Respect for fathers is deeply traditional in Chinese culture. Chinese Confucian philosophy teaches filial piety, which is deep respect for parents, elders and ancestors.
It is called 孝 (xiào). An idea not easily translatable into English, 孝 goes beyond obedience, respect and love. It’s almost like a lifelong devotion to your parents.
Father’s Day in China is on August 8, because phonetically two number eights 八八 (bā bā) sounds like papa 爸爸 (bà bà) in Chinese.
Yet due to Westernization, some Chinese also celebrate American Father’s Day in June.
Before we get to our phrases, let’s make a quick stopover in China. Why? Because there’s much that can be learned from some of China’s famous fathers!
How to Learn Chinese from 4 Famous Fathers in China
1. Sun Yat Sen – “Father of Modern China”
Throughout most of its long history, China was ruled by emperors. The reign of one emperor and his descendants was called a dynasty. The last dynasty was the Qing Dynasty 清朝 (qīng cháo), which was overthrown by revolutionaries—including Sun Yat Sen.
Sun Yat Sen is credited for liberating China from dynastic rule in 1911, and so he is called 国父 (guó fù), “Father of the Country.”
Sun Yat Sen played a key role in the revolution, or 革命 (gé mìng).
The movie “Road to Dawn” chronicles Sun Yat Sen’s revolutionary work, as well as life in China during the last days of dynastic rule. In this movie, Sun Yat Sen makes many passionate statements regarding his vision for a new China. Listen for such visionary statements when you watch the film, and see how many you can add to your repertoire.
2. Mao Ze Dong – “Father of Communist China”
Mao Ze Dong is known in China as 毛主席 (Máo zhǔ xí), or Chairman Mao.
In 1949, Mao established the People’s Republic of China, the current Chinese state.
Mao was one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party, or 共产党 (gòng chǎn dǎng), which is the ruling party in China’s one-party system.
The famous “Little Red Book,” “毛主席语录“ (Máo zhǔ xí yǔ lù), is a collection of Mao’s quotes; it captures the Maoist ideology. It is actually the second most published book in the world, after the Bible.
One of Mao’s most controversial but impactful policies is The Great Leap Forward 大跃进 (dà yuè jìn), whereby he tried to turn China from an agricultural society into an industrialized nation within several years. It led to widespread famine.
A second famous campaign was the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命 (wén huà dà gé mìng). Here Mao sought to totally convert China to communism by purging anything related to capitalism, breaking away from traditional elements of Chinese society, and heavily imposing Maoist ideology.
It was the communist revolution that produced simplified Chinese characters, or 简体字 (jiǎn tǐ zì), used today in Mainland China. Taiwan and Hong Kong did not undergo communist revolution and still use traditional Chinese or 繁体字 (fán tǐ zì).
3. Jackie Chan – Actor and Father of Celebrity Son
Modern day China also has some famous Chinese dads, including Jackie Chan. His artist name is 成龙 (chéng lóng), which means “the city’s dragon.”
Best known for his martial arts comedies, Chan has been featured in over 150 films, including “Rush Hour” and “The Karate Kid.”
His best Chinese-language films include “警察故事” (jĭng chá gù shì – “Police Story”), in which a police officer, his daughter and a group of strangers are taken hostage. You can learn many modern conversational and slang phrases in this movie.
Another great Jackie Chan movie is “辛亥革命” (xīn hài gé mìng – “1911 Revolution”). This film depicts the revolutionary overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. By watching this movie you can learn Chinese modern history, vocabulary relating to history, names of famous Chinese cities and key revolutionary figures.
Recently Jackie Chan’s own son was caught in a drug bust. Jackie Chan expressed that as a dad he was angered and ashamed.
In Chinese culture it’s especially important to be a good son, or 做个好儿子 (zuò gè hǎo ér zi) and not embarrass your family or cause them to “lose face” 丢脸 (diū liǎn). “Losing face” is a Chinese concept meaning to feel ashamed and lose public dignity.
4. Popular TV Show About Celebrity Dads
If you want the scoop on more modern Chinese families, you might want to check out a very popular TV show “爸爸去哪儿” (bà bà qù nǎ er), “Dad, Where Are We Going?”
In this travel show, celebrity dads take their children to different places and have adventures. Here, you can learn lots of everyday conversational Chinese, as well as vocabulary relating to travel and play.
Aside from famous Chinese fathers, many people have a father or know a father they’d like to congratulate on Father’s Day. So how can you do this in Chinese?
4 Ways to Wish Your Dad “Happy Father’s Day” in Chinese
1. 爸爸父亲节快乐 (Dad, happy Father’s Day)
On that special Sunday, you’ll want to say: 爸爸父亲节快乐! (bà bà fù qīn jié kuài lè – Happy Father’s Day)!
爸爸 (bà bà) means “dad” and 父亲 (fù qīn) is father. 节 (jié) refers to any kind of special holiday, and 快乐 (kuài lè) is happy.
2. 爸爸我爱你 (Dad, I love you)
You can say to your dad, 爸爸我爱你 (bà bà wǒ ài nǐ – I love you, dad). Though interestingly, it’s not common to verbalize feelings in Chinese culture. Moreover, it’s actually quite rare to directly say “I love you” to someone (but acceptable among young dating couples).
Kids might say “I love you” to their parents, but older or adult children may not. In fact, “I love you” is so awkward for Chinese people to say, that whenever people do say “I love you,” they often say it in English!
3. 爸你辛苦啦 (Dad, you’ve worked hard)
This is like the Chinese equivalent of “I love you.”
Instead of talking about feelings, Chinese are more likely to recognize others’ hard work and sacrifice. They thank or show love to people by pointing out perseverance and effort.
So saying 爸你辛苦啦 (bà nǐ xīn kǔ la) is very thoughtful. It will make a Chinese dad feel that you appreciate and value his effort and sacrifice. It means that you honor and recognize him.
4. 爸谢谢 (Dad, thank you)
Although Chinese tend to honor each other indirectly instead of verbalizing sentiment, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “thank you” 爸谢谢 (bà xiè xiè).
An adult child may say, “Thank you for raising me” 谢谢你把我养大 (xiè xiè nǐ bǎ wǒ yǎng dà). This is sometimes said at wedding speeches by the new couple to their parents. It’s an example of pointing out another’s greatest sacrifice as a way of honoring them.
You can also say, “Thank you for all that you’ve done for me” 谢谢你为我付出的一切 (xiè xiè nǐ wèi wǒ fù chū de yī qiè). This is actually quite sentimental and tough for some Chinese to say, but on special occasions they might open up and say this.
4 Useful Chinese Phrases to Show Love on Father’s Day
So how do Chinese usually show love, if not with sentimental phrases? When it comes to Chinese parents, what they usually look for in children is respect and care, which is part of filial piety. So to care for your parents’ needs and to obey them is perhaps the most “Chinese” way to love your parents.
Outside of this, Chinese are best at showing love through two things: food and money! So here are four phrases Chinese might use to show love on Father’s Day:
1. 爸我请你吃饭 (Dad, let me take you out for a meal)
爸我请你吃饭 (bà wǒ qǐng nǐ chī fàn – Hey dad, let’s go out for a meal—it’s on me!)
This is probably the most popular Father’s Day gift in China: having a special meal.
In China, food represents gathering, unity, connection, care and love.
Chinese culture is definitely a food-centric culture. In fact, a common way of saying “How are you?” is to say “Have you eaten yet?”
As Chinese people commonly give gifts of food or money, other popular Chinese Father’s Day gifts would be expensive wines, expensive teas, expensive cigarettes or cigars, or brand name items.
2. 爸我敬你一杯 (Dad, here’s a toast to you)
What do you do when you’re eating with your dad on Father’s Day? You toast him! 爸我敬你一杯 (bà wǒ jìng nǐ yī bēi).
Toasting is another common way to honor or thank someone, especially someone older or of higher rank than you.
During the toast, that’s your opportunity to say nice things, usually well wishes such as “I wish you great health” 祝你生体健康 (zhù nǐ shēng tǐ jiàn kāng) and “I wish you a long life” 祝你长命百岁 (zhù nǐ cháng mìng bǎi suì), which literally means, “I wish you live to a hundred years.” These are both common Chinese words of blessings, and they reflect things that Chinese value—health and longevity.
3. 爸你好棒啊！(Dad, you’re awesome!)
This phrase is non-traditional and more slangy. But in today’s culture, people often say 好棒! (hǎo bàng) which means “awesome!” So you can say 爸你好棒啊! (bà nǐ hǎo bàng a) or “Dad, you’re awesome!”
4. 爸我给你按摩 (Dad, I can give you a shoulder massage)
Another very “Chinese” thing to do for your elders is to gently thump their shoulders with your fists in a kind of massage or 按摩 (àn mó). Grandparents especially love this.
Generally, you don’t need to say “I’ll give you a massage” (remember, Chinese tend not to be verbally sentimental). When your dad or grandfather is sitting in a chair, you can come up and gently hammer their shoulders, back or knees.
You could simply say,”Here, let me help you” 来我帮你 (lái wǒ bāng nǐ), or say the favorite phrase mentioned above, 爸你辛苦啦! (bà nǐ xīn kǔ la) “My goodness, Dad, you’ve worked hard!”
Now you have a handful of awesome Chinese phrases to appreciate and honor fathers on Father’s Day! With all these meaningful words, plus your active display of love and care, any father would be deeply touched.
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