Folk tales of real people: Bao Gong Interrogates A Rock

This is definitely my favorite find so far, as it falls solidly within my favorite Chinese story genre with my favorite Chinese archetype: the clever government official who catches a crook.

This is definitely my favorite find so far, as it falls solidly within my favorite Chinese story genre with my favorite Chinese archetype: the clever government official who catches a crook. The official in this case is Bao Gong (包公) a historical figure from who lived from 999-1062 A.D. and who, like so many historical figures in Chinese history, somehow became a fictional story character. Bao Gong was known to be fair, just and smart.

In this story, you can also expect to learn a few Chinese onomatopoeia, words that sound like what they are, like the English word “boom”. There’s a ton of them in here. We find “呜呜” wū wū, the Chinese equivalent of “Boo Hoo!”. There’s also 劈里啪啦 pī li5 pā la5, the sound of someone whacking something (in this case, with a stick). There’s 扑通 pū tōng, the Chinese equivalent of the English word “plunk” – the sound of something falling into water. And there’s 唧唧喳喳 jī jī zhā zhā, the sound of a crowd of people chattering.


从前有个小孩,爸爸死了,妈妈病了,日子可不好过了。小孩每天一早起来,提着一篮油条,一边跑,一边嚷:“卖油条咯,卖油条咯: 又香又脆的油条,两个铜钱买一根。” 有一天,他把油条全卖完了,坐在路边一块石头上,把篮子里的铜钱一个一个的数了一遍,正好一百个。他卖油条,把一双手弄得油乎乎的,用手数铜钱,把铜钱也弄得油乎乎的。他瞧着这些油乎乎亮闪闪的铜钱,可高兴了,心想: “今天卖了一百个钱,可以给妈妈买药了。”


包公是什么人呀?包公是个,黑脸黑胡子,人家叫他“包老黑”,又叫他“黑包公”,他办事公道,又很聪明。包公看见小孩哭得很伤心,就问他: “小孩,你为什么哭呀?”“我卖油条得的钱不见了,呜——呜。”“谁偷了你的钱?”“不知道。我靠在这块石头上睡着了,醒来一看,钱就不见了。呜——呜。”

包公想了一想说: “我知道了,一定是这块石头偷了你的钱,我来审问这块石头,叫它把钱还给你。”人们听说包公要审问石头,觉得很奇怪,都跑来看热闹。包公对那块石头说: “石头,石头,小孩的铜钱,是不是你偷的?”石头会说话吗?不会。包公又问了: “石头,石头,小孩的铜钱,是不是你偷的?快说,快说!”石头还是一声不响,它不会说话呀。包公发火了: “石头,石头,你不说实话,打烂你的头。”手下的人听包公这么一说,就拿起棍子,劈里啪啦地打起石头来,一边打,一边喊: “快说,快说!”

看热闹的人哄的笑起来了,唧唧喳喳地说: “石头怎么会偷钱?”“石头怎么会说话?”“人家都说包公聪明,原来是个胡涂蛋!”包公听了很生气,就说: “我在审问石头,你们怎么说我的坏话。哼! 你们每个人都得一个铜钱!”包公叫手下的人借来一只盆子,倒上水,让看热闹的人往盆子里丢一个铜钱。看热闹的人没办法,只好排着队每人往盆子里丢一个铜钱,“扑通,扑通,扑通……”

有一个人刚把铜钱丢进盆子里去,就给包公叫手下的人抓住了。 包公指着这个人说: “你是小偷,你偷了小孩卖油条得来的铜钱!”大家都觉得很奇怪,这是怎么回事呀?包公说: “你们瞧,只有他丢下的铜钱,水面上起了一层油,他的铜钱一定是趁小孩睡觉的时候偷来的。” 那个小偷没办法,只好把一百个铜钱还给小孩。 大家都说,包公真聪明。

Show English translation »
Long ago, there was a little child whose father was dead, whose mother was sick, and who had a rough life in general. The child woke up early every day, and scooping up a basket of fried breadsticks, ran about shouting “Buy breadsticks, buy breadsticks, they’re fragrant and crispy, two coppers buys one!” One day, after he’d sold all his breadsticks, he sat on a rock by the side of the road and counted all the coppers in the basket one at a time – he had exactly 100. Well, selling breadsticks had made his two hands greasy, and when he used hands to count the coppers, it had made the coppers greasy. Looking at these greasy, bright coppers, he was happy, and in his heart he thought, “Today I sold 100-worth, I can buy mother some medicine.”

The child had been running all morning, he was exhausted, so he let his head droop, leaned against a rock, and, snoring “hu hu” [sound of snoring], fell asleep – after he’d slept a bit he finally woke up. “Ai ya! I have to quickly run and buy medicine for mother!” The child stood up but, oh no, there was not a single coin in the basket. The child was worried and broken-hearted, and began to cry “wu wu” [sounds like ‘boo hoo’]. It was just then that Bao Gong, with his men and horses, happened to walk past.

Now, who was Bao Gong? Bao Gong was an official, black of face and black of beard, whom the people called “Old Black Bao” or “Black Bao Gong”; he handled matters fairly, and was very smart. Bao Gong saw the child crying so broken-heartedly, and he asked: “Child, why are you crying?” “The money from selling bread sticks is gone, Boo Hoooo!”

Bao Gong thought for a moment and said, “I know, it was definitely this rock that stole your money, I’ll question the rock, and tell it to give you your money back.” The people nearby heard that Bao Gong was going to interrogate a rock, and they thought this was very strange, so they all ran over and watched excitedly. Bao Gong said to the rock: “Rock, rock, was it you that stole the child’s coppers?” But can a rock speak? It cannot. Bao Gong asked again: “Rock, rock, the child’s coppers, wasn’t it you who stole them? Speak up, speak up!” The rock still said nothing, it couldn’t speak. Bao Gong exploded, “Rock, rock, tell the truth or I’ll beat you over the head!” Bao Gong’s men heard him say this, and they found a stick for him, and he began to pi li pa la [sound of stick hitting rock] hit the rock, hitting and shouting “Speak up! Speak up!”

The people watching excitedly roared with laughter, and chattering “ji ji zha zha” [sound of many people chattering], said: “How can a rock steal money?” “How can a rock speak?” and “Everyone said that Bao Gong is smart, actually he’s a muddled idiot!” Bao Gong heard all this and was very angry, so he said: ” I’m interrogating this rock. How can you all say bad things about me? Huh! Each one of you will be fined one copper!” Bao Gong called his men to bring him a borrowed pot – he poured water into it, and made every spectator throw one copper in the pot. The spectators had no choice, they had to line up and each one had to put one copper in the pot. “Pu tong, pu tong, pu tong…” [the sound of metal coins plunking into a pot]

When one man in particular put his copper in the pot, Bao Gong ordered his men to seize this man. Bao Gong pointed at the man and said, “You’re the thief, you took the coppers the child made from selling breadsticks!” Everyone thought that was very strange, for how could it be? Bao Gong said: “All of you look, it was only when this man dropped a copper in the pot that a film of oil floated to the surface, his copper is certainly one that he took advantage of a sleeping child to steal.” The thief had no choice, he had to give the 100 coppers back to the child. Everyone said, Bao Gong sure is clever.

21 replies on “Folk tales of real people: Bao Gong Interrogates A Rock”

Hi! Don’t stress it! If you check out the “How I classify reading levels” section on my “What’s this all about” page, you’ll see that I note that not much on this site it truly “beginner”. That’s because, in order to string a sentence together, and especially a few paragraphs, a higer-than-basic grasp of grammar is needed.

That’s why real beginner texts are usually dialogues, like, Person one: “Hi, how are you?” Person two: “I’m fine! Do you want to get some dinner?” But those are boring and in every textbook – I wanted to avoid that here.

So, you’re right – this is definitely not “beginner”, for people who are just starting out in Chinese. This is more “beginner” for people who can piece a sentence together, but only one that has very simple grammar – no curveballs.

Hi I would like to just say thank you and you are amazing! Im a Chinese language major at WVU in my second year and this is the best source Ive found for studying, learning, and enjoying WHAT it is Im reading at the same time! Im definently showing this to my professors and classmates

This story is amazing. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s something I’d actually read if it were in English. I love how it’s so long – it gives us beginners a real sense of achievement when we get to the end of it!

I’m really enjoying this website; I think it’s really helping my reading comprehension. I’m six months into my studies (as a hobby – I’m also working, and also in university), so there are some characters I don’t know, but with the fantastically useful ability to hover over unknown characters here and there, I’d say it’s perfect for people who are starting out. Thank you so much!

Great site! Thanks for putting this together. I have a question about the line


which is translated

“Buy breadsticks, buy breadsticks…”

I notice “卖” is used instead of “买” , so it is like he is shouting ” [I’m] selling breadsticks” ?

Thank you so much for putting this and the other stories up. The care you’ve taken with it is really fantastic and a massive help to me in learning Chinese!

Thank you SOO much for these contents! they are just right for my level! and these stories are so interesting!!! Thanks a lot 🙂

About 55 years ago, I read a Burmese version of this story. In that version, both the boy’s parents had died, the boy was robbed when travelling to his uncle, and the judge fined everyone for laughing when he interrogated the stone. He then gave the money to the boy. I think this version is better.

Incidentally, “pili-pala” is Welsh for “butterfly”.

Thanks a lot for this great story. I just have two questions. First, where did you get this story? Who is the author? Secodnly, how would you explain this 打这儿走过 in this part: 这时候,正好包公带了人马打这儿走过. Is the verb like 打走? But I could not find in anywhere.

You’re welcome. A lot of these stories, especially the folk tales, don’t have authors listed, because they’re part of the oral tradition, and have been passed down a zillion times and the stories told in a zillion ways, no one knows who wrote them first. If you want to see many of the sources, go to and search the title: 包公审石头.

I think you might have found a typo – that’s probably supposed to be 到。

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *