Backpacking In Sichuan Province

Posted on 28. Apr, 2016 by in Uncategorized

Although China is not exactly known as a hotspot for backpacking like Southeast Asia or South America, there are plenty of great places across the massive country for travelers seeking such an experience. Perhaps one of the best spots is Sichuan province – home to some of the country’s most stunning national parks, mouth-numbingly spicy cuisine, and of course the adorable giant pandas. In my 5+ years of living and traveling in China, one of my favorite experiences was taking a 2-week backpacking trip around Sichuan. Here’s a little rundown of our trip, with plenty of videos to get you excited about traveling there:

Chengdu (成都 – chéng dū)



With a major airport and train station in the provincial capital of Chengdu, it makes the most sense to start your trip there. There’s a lot to do in this big city, so it’s best to give yourself a couple of days here to take it all in. Spend a morning wandering around the People’s Park (人民公园 – rén mín gōng yuán) and Tianfu Square (天府广场 – tiān fǔ guǎng chǎng) to take in a bit of the local culture.

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In the evening, make sure you catch a performance of Sichuan opera (川剧 – chuān jù). The show features dance, acrobatics, comedy, and the famous face-changing.

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Without a doubt, the highlight of any visit to Chengdu is a trip out to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. Get here early to see the “bear cats” (熊猫 – xióng māo) – the literal translation of their Chinese name – while they are most active at feeding time.

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If you have another day to spare, you can visit the city’s YMCA, Wenshu Monastery, and Church of the Immaculate Conception.

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Pingle Ancient Town (平乐古镇 – píng lè gǔ zhèn)

Jinhua Mountain outside of Pingle.

Jinhua Mountain outside of Pingle.

If you’d like to get out of the city for a bit before heading to the parks, a great choice is the ancient town of Pingle. Once an important stop on the Tea Horse Road (茶马古道 – chá mǎ gǔ dào), this riverside town is a nice place to relax and explore for a day or two.

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The town itself is a bit touristy, popular with urbanites who flock here on the weekend to experience a bit of rural life. Outside of town, you can visit the Li Family Courtyard (李家大院 – lǐ jiā dà yuàn) to see a Qing Dynasty-era home and fully functioning farm. You can also check out some elaborate tea fields, and spend a night in the Bamboo Sea (竹海 – zhú hǎi), which is actually a forest.

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Another option is taking a short bus ride out of town to visit the scenic Jinhua Mountain (金华山 – jīn huà shān) for a nice and easy hike.

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Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟 – jiǔ zhài gōu)

Amazing Jiuzhaigou

Amazing Jiuzhaigou

No visit to Sichuan would be complete without a trip to the breathtaking Jiuzhaigou National Park. Enjoy the stunning scenery of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and more at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The name of the park literally means “The Valley of Nine Villages,” named after the Tibetan villages that are located both in and around the park. A great option for your visit is staying in a Tibetan guesthouse in one of the villages. You can also explore the ones inside the park, although don’t be surprised to find that they are mostly souvenir shops.

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Zharu Valley Eco-Tourism Hike

Home for the night on the trek.

Home for the night on the trek.

While the park is wonderful, it’s not exactly a real backpacking experience – the crowds are massive, you ride a bus along nicely paved roads, and you walk on flat and easy paths to viewpoints. Those seeking to really get out there and experience nature in Sichuan should consider the epic Zharu Valley hike. There are one, two, and three day options for the hike. Stay in shacks used by yak herders, climb to the peak of a sacred Tibetan mountain, and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenes in China free of the crowds.

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Huanglong (黄龙 – huáng lóng)

The Yellow Dragon

The Yellow Dragon

Another epic national park, the “Yellow Dragon” is easily combined with a visit to Jiuzhaigou. Known for its colorful pools formed by calcite deposits, a visit here is a walk in the park compared to the Zharu Valley trek. Take a cable car up, snap some photos, and take your time walking down.

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Chuanzhusi (川主寺 – chuān zhǔ sì)

Chill out to end the trip.

Chill out to end the trip.

Unless you want to take another 10-hour bus ride back to Chengdu, you can stay a night in this little town before catching a flight. From here, you can even fly direct to Beijing, Shanghai, or Xi’an. After such an action-packed trip, enjoy a day strolling around this peaceful and scenic town to wind down your adventure in Sichuan.

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There’s lots more to do in Sichuan, from the massive Buddha statue at Le Shan to hiking Mt. Emei to the incredible Lugu Lake. Have you ever traveled in Sichuan? Where did you go and which places did you like best? Leave a comment and share your adventure with us!

Yes No Questions in Chinese

Posted on 27. Apr, 2016 by in Uncategorized

We’ve already talked about asking questions in Chinese here on the blog, so go back and review that post if you need more practice with your who/what/where/when/why type of questions. For this post, I’d like to review asking and answering simple yes/no questions in Chinese. There are basically two ways to ask these types of questions, so let’s take a closer look at both. First of all, though, let’s talk about yes and no in Chinese.

There is No “Yes” or “No”

How can there be "no tooting" without a word for "no"?!

How can there be “no tooting” without a word for “no”?!

Yes/no questions in Chinese may seem impossible when you realize that there really aren’t Chinese words that directly translate as “yes” or “no.” Never fear, though – we’ll get to the questions in due time, and they are in fact possible. In Chinese, the words you will use to express the meaning of “yes” or “no” depend entirely on the context/grammar of the question. You’ll see how this all works through the examples that follow. Now let’s get on with the lesson and learn about the two ways to ask/answer these types of questions.

Using the Particle “Ma” (吗)

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The easiest way to form a question in Chinese – yes/no questions to be more specific – is to simply attach the particle ma (吗) to the end of a statement. Here are a few examples of statements and how they become yes/no questions with the addition of 吗:

1. You are a student.
nǐ shì xué shēng

Are you a student?
nǐ shì xué shēng ma

2. He has children.
tā yǒu hái zi

Does he have children?
tā yǒu hái zi ma

3. They want to go to Beijing.
tā men yào qù běi jīng

Do they want to go to Beijing?
tā men yào qù běi jīng ma


See how easy that is?! Just simply tacking 吗 onto the end of a statement changes it into a yes/no question.


Of course they want to go to Beijing!

Of course they want to go to Beijing!

Now, how do you go about answering these questions if there’s no Chinese word for “yes” or “no”? To answer affirmatively, you simply repeat the verb:

1. Yes (am).


2. Yes (has).


3. Yes (want)


In these examples, the verbs 是 (to be), 有 (to have), and 要 (to want) are simply repeated to give an affirmative answer. How about negative answers? To give a negative answer, simply add either 不 (bù) or 没 (méi) in front of the verb:

1. No (am not)
bù shì

2. No (doesn’t have)
méi yǒu

3. No (don’t want)
bù yào

Knowing whether to use 不 or 没 takes a bit of practice, but for now just know that 不 is much more common in forming negative answers. Now let’s look at the other way to form yes/no questions.


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Another way you can ask a yes/no question in Chinese is to use both the positive and negative forms of the verb. If that seems strange, keep in mind that we do this in English as well – “Do you or don’t you want to go?” Thankfully, forming these kinds of questions is simpler and less awkward in Chinese. Let’s look at the same questions from above but change them to match this format:

1. Are you (or aren’t you) a student?
nǐ shì bú shì xué shēng

2. Does he (or doesn’t he) have children?
tā yǒu méi yǒu hái zi

3. Do they (or don’t they) want to go to Beijing?
tā men yào bú yào qù běi jīng

See how easy that is? You can use either way you like to ask yes/no questions in Chinese, although it’s more common and a bit easier to stick with 吗. If you’re wondering why the tone of 不 changed from 4th to 2nd, go back and review our post about Tricky Tones.


Now that you’ve learned how easy it is to form yes/no questions, why not try a bit of practice? Try to translate these English questions into Chinese, using both forms taught in this post:

1. Can you speak Chinese?

2. Does she want to drink coffee?

3. Do you have a car?

4. Is this yours?

5. Are they American?

Chinese House and Home Vocabulary

Posted on 25. Apr, 2016 by in Uncategorized

Home life is a big part of Chinese culture. People spend a lot of time at home, and home ownership is very important. Interestingly enough, the Chinese word for home ( – jiā) can also be used for family – perhaps because the two go hand in hand. When you chat with people in China, whether you know them very well or not, they might very well ask you where you live, whether you rent or own, how many square meters your place is, how much your rent is, and so on. While some of these questions may seem taboo in Western culture, they’re perfectly alright in China. To help you chat about your home in Chinese, here’s some useful vocabulary to get started:


A typical Chinese apartment complex.

A typical Chinese apartment complex.

  • house (房子 – fáng zi)

  • apartment (公寓 – gōng yù)

Rooms (房间 – fáng jiān)

A glance at a Chinese apartment.

A glance at a Chinese apartment.

  • bedroom (卧室 – wò shì)

  • living room (客厅 – kè tīng)

  • dining room (饭厅 – fàn tīng

  • kitchen (厨房 – chú fáng)

  • bathroom (浴室 – yù shì; 卫生间 – wèi shēng jiān)

  • attic (阁楼 – gé lóu)

  • basement (地下室 – dì xià shì)

  • garage (车库 – chē kù)

  • laundry room (洗衣房 – xǐ yī fáng)

Furniture (家具 – jiā jù)

Welcome to my living room.

Welcome to my living room.

  • bed ( – chuáng)

  • sofa (沙发 – shā fā)

  • table (桌子 – zhuō zi)

  • coffee table (茶桌 – chá zhuō – lit. “tea table” in Chinese)

  • chair (椅子 – yǐ zi)

  • lamp (台灯 – tái dēng)

  • cabinet/cupboard (柜子 – guì zi)

  • wardrobe (衣橱 – yī chú)

  • bookshelf (书架 – shū jià)

  • desk (书桌 – shū zhuō)

  • television (电视 – diàn shì)

  • washing machine (洗衣机 – xǐ yī jī)

Now, try answering these common questions about your home in Chinese:

Where do you live?
你住在哪里? nǐ zhù zài nǎ lǐ

How many rooms are in your home?
你的家有几个房间? nǐ de jiā yǒu jǐ gè fáng jiān

Did you rent or buy your home?
你的家是租的还是买的? nǐ de jiā shì zū de hái shì mǎi de

How much is it per month?
多少钱一个月? duō shǎo qián yī gè yuè

What furniture is in your home?
你的家里有什么家具? nǐ de jiā li yǒu shén me jiā jù

For further practice, check out this video I made a while back giving a tour of my awesome Beijing apartment:

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