In Chinese poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines of poetry with certain rules.
A couplet must adhere to the following rules:
- Both lines must have the same number of Chinese characters.
- The lexical category of each character must be the same as its corresponding character.
- The tone pattern of one line must be the inverse of the other. This generally means if one character is of the level (平) tone, its corresponding character in the other line must be of an oblique (仄) tone.
- The last character of the first line should be of an oblique tone, which forces the last character of the second line to be of a level tone.
- The meaning of the two lines need to be related, with each pair of corresponding characters having related meanings too.
Outside of poems, they are usually seen on the sides of doors leading to people’s homes or as hanging scrolls in an interior. Although often called antithetical couplet, they can better be described as a written form of counterpoint. The two lines have a one-to-one correspondence in their metrical length, and each pair of characters must have certain corresponding properties.
Based on the information on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antithetical_couplet
it is interesting to listen to the pinyin: duìlián
Note: with some imagination we could phonetically transfer that perhaps into ‘daiin’.
In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi Qiji (《西字奇蹟》; Xīzì Qíjī; Hsi-tzu Ch’i-chi; “Miracle of Western Letters”) in Beijing. This was the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write the Chinese language.
What is also interesting are the rules, for pinyin. For example:
AA: Duplicated characters (AA) are written together: rénrén (人人, everybody), kànkan (看看, to have a look), niánnián (年年, every year)
ABAB: Two characters duplicated (ABAB) are written separated: yánjiū yánjiū (研究研究, to study, to research), xuěbái xuěbái (雪白雪白, white as snow)
AABB: Characters in the AABB schema are written together: láiláiwǎngwǎng (来来往往; 來來往往, come and go), qiānqiānwànwàn (千千万万; 千千萬萬, numerous)
Prefixes and Suffixes
Words accompanied by prefixes such as fù (副, vice), zǒng (总; 總, chief), fēi (非, non-), fǎn (反, anti-), chāo (超, ultra-), lǎo (老, old), ā (阿, used before names to indicate familiarity),
kě (可, -able), wú (无; 無, -less) and bàn (半, semi-) and suffixes such as zi (子, noun suffix), r (儿; 兒, diminutive suffix), tou (头; 頭, noun suffix), xìng (性, -ness, -ity), zhě (者, -er, -ist), yuán (员; 員, person), jiā (家, -er, -ist), shǒu (手, person skilled in a field), huà (化, -ize) and men (们; 們, plural marker) are written together: fùbùzhǎng (副部长; 副部長, vice minister), chéngwùyuán (乘务员; 乘務員, conductor), háizimen (孩子们; 孩子們, children).
Nouns and names
Words of position are separated: mén wài (门外; 門外, outdoor),hé li (河里; 河裏, under the river),huǒchē shàngmian (火车上面; 火車上面, on the train),Huáng Hé yǐnán (黄河以南; 黃河以南, south of the Yellow River)
Exceptions are words traditionally connected: tiānshang (天上, in the sky or outerspace), dìxia (地下, on the ground), kōngzhōng (空中, in the air), hǎiwài (海外, overseas)
Surnames are separated from the given names, each capitalized: Lǐ Huá (李华; 李華), Zhāng Sān (张三; 張三). If the surname and/or given name consists of two syllables, it should be written as one: Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (诸葛孔明; 諸葛孔明).
Titles following the name are separated and are not capitalized: Wáng bùzhǎng (王部长; 王部長, Minister Wang), Lǐ xiānsheng (李先生, Mr. Li), Tián zhǔrèn (田主任, Director Tian), Zhào tóngzhì (赵同志; 趙同志, Comrade Zhao).
The forms of addressing people with suffixes such as Lǎo (老), Xiǎo (小), Dà (大) and Ā (阿) are capitalized: Xiǎo Liú (小刘; 小劉, [young] Ms./Mr. Liu), Dà Lǐ (大李, [great; elder] Mr. Li), Ā Sān (阿三, Ah San), Lǎo Qián (老钱; 老錢, [senior] Mr. Qian), Lǎo Wú (老吴; 老吳, [senior] Mr. Wu)
Exceptions are: Kǒngzǐ (孔子, Confucius), Bāogōng (包公, Judge Bao), Xīshī (西施, Xishi), Mèngchángjūn (孟尝君; 孟嘗君, Lord Mengchang), among others
Geographical names of China: Běijīng Shì (北京市, city of Beijing), Héběi Shěng (河北省, province of Hebei), Yālù Jiāng (鸭绿江; 鴨綠江, Yalu River), Tài Shān (泰山, Mount Tai), Dòngtíng Hú (洞庭湖, Dongting Lake), Táiwān Hǎixiá (台湾海峡; 臺灣海峽, Taiwan Strait)
Monosyllabic prefixes and suffixes are written together with their related part: Dōngsì Shítiáo (东四十条; 東四十條, Dongsi 10th Alley)
Common geographical nouns that have become part of proper nouns are written together: Hēilóngjiāng (黑龙江; 黑龍江, Heilongjiang)
Non-Chinese names are written in Hanyu Pinyin: Āpèi Āwàngjìnměi (阿沛·阿旺晋美; 阿沛·阿旺晉美, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme); Dōngjīng (东京; 東京, Tokyo)
The first letter of the first word in a sentence is capitalized: Chūntiān lái le. (春天来了。; 春天來了。, Spring has arrived.)
The first letter of each line in a poem is capitalized.
The first letter of a proper noun is capitalized: Beǐjīng (北京, Beijing), Guójì Shūdiàn (国际书店; 國際書店, International Bookstore), Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì (国家语言文字工作委员会; 國家語言文字工作委員會, National Language Commission)
Single words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each character of the word: Beǐjīng (北京, Beijing) → BJ
A group of words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each word in the group: guójiā biāozhǔn (国家标准; 國家標準, Guobiao standard) → GB
Initials can also be indicated using full stops: Beǐjīng → B.J., guójiā biāozhǔn → G.B.
When abbreviating names, the surname is written fully (first letter capitalized or in all caps), but only the first letter of each character in the given name is taken, with full stops after each initial: Lǐ Huá (李华; 李華) → Lǐ H. or LǏ H., Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (诸葛孔明; 諸葛孔明) → Zhūgě K. M. or ZHŪGĚ K. M.
Words can only be split by the character:
guāngmíng (光明, bright) → guāng-
míng, not gu-
Initials cannot be split:
Wáng J. G. (王建国; 王建國) → Wáng
J. G., not Wáng J.-
Apostrophes are removed in line wrapping:
Xī’ān (西安, Xi’an) → Xī-
ān, not Xī-
When the original word has a hyphen, the hyphen is added at the beginning of the new line:
chēshuǐ-mǎlóng (车水马龙; 車水馬龍, heavy traffic: “carriage, water, horse, dragon”) → chēshuǐ-
-Source texts here-
If we do not merge letters with accents, pingying shows 45 well used characters:
Taiwanese Romanization System uses 16 basic Latin letters
(A, B, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, S, T, U),
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