Though with us these utterances cannot properly be called words, yet in Chinese they often do the duty of a verb, noun, or other "part of speech," and in such cases they may claim to be regarded as words. These expressions have been little attended to by Western students of this language, and Edkins, who gives ten examples in his Shanghai Grammar, apologizes in the following terms: "Words of this sort occur so frequently in conversation, that at the risk of their being thought too amusing for a serious book, they are here noticed." In the present treatise mention is made of only a few of the more striking of these imitations, or of those which are met with frequently.
The common word for wind in Mandarin is fêng, but older forms of this word are preserved in hung, hong, pong, varieties of it which occur in several dialects. These seem to point to a primitive attempt to imitate one of the many noises made by the wind. There are also several names for particular varieties of storm and wind, and these, too, seem to be imitative in origin. So also apparently is kua (颳) the common term used with fêng to denote there is a storm, it blows. And ch'ui (吹), which means "to blow into sound," and then "to play on any wind instrument," is perhaps similar in its origin. Then for the ways in which the wind blows, and the various noises it makes, there are specific imitative terms. Thus hsi-hsi-ku-fêng (習習谷風) is hsi-hsi, that is, gently breathes, the east wind. So also liu-liu expresses the blowing of a moderate wind, and ch'ên-ch'ên (陳) that of a gentle breeze. Then hu-la-la (䬍𩘊𩘊) is the noise of a fierce sudden gale, and sa-sa is a name for a sudden storm. Again, tsê-tsê imitates the noise made by the breeze among the dry leaves of a forest in autumn, when "Es Saüselt der Wind in den Blättern." The whistling of a gale is expressed by sak-sak, and kuah-lah-kuah-lah, given by Edkins, is "the wind blowing on reeds," while mu-mu is the moaning of a breeze in the shrouds of a vessel.
There are also several picturesque expressions for rain,
descriptive of the ways it comes down. Thus we find pa-ta-pa-ta for the pattering of the rain-drops; shua-shua for the sound
- Shanghai Gr. p. 137.