Happy New Year

Chinese New Year is a big thing in China. Pardon me, it’s a huge thing. This is the time for the Sinology Institute to wish all its current and prospective students and alumni a great new year of the Monkey. Because we cannot give you all a hug, we will give you a little special knowledge about the upcoming year.

There are Chinese phrases for everything

If you have been learning Mandarin Chinese for a while you will know that the language is in love with its Chinese phrases aka 成语 cheng2yu3. There seems to be a Chinese phrase for almost any situation and this new year is no different.

The following Chinese phrase refers to the coming year:

hou nian ma yue

hou2nian2ma3yue4 means something like “something to happen a long time later, but you don’t exactly know when or if”.


Example:

做这个工作猴年马月才会发财。

zuo4 zhe4 ge4 gong1zuo4 hou2nian2ma3yue4 cai2 hui4 fa1cai2

Meaning: “Doing this work I will never get rich.”

As there are 12 Chinese zodiacs, one representing a calendar year in a fixed order, 猴年马月 hou2nian2ma3yue4 naturally happens every 12 years, i.e. when the year of the Monkey is in session. However, you can say the same about any other Chinese zodiac, for example 龙年马月 long2nian2ma3yue4. The latter has not found its way into Chinese phrase usage, however. Why the choice finally fell on 猴年马月 hou2nian2ma3yue4 is hard to determine. Some argue that the image is funny because it features a horse and a monkey. Others say that the rhythm of the tones is appealing. In other words, we don’t really know.

In this sense, happy year of the monkey... and happy month of the horse.