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A short first-person essay about a kid lighting firecrackers with his parents. I went back and forth on whether to classify this as “beginner” or “intermediate”. It’s easier than most of my intermediate stuff, but it’s got a tighter density of higher-level words than my beginner stuff. But it’s only a few sentences long. I finally settled on “Intermediate”, but if you’re beginner level and you’re willing to walk through it word-by-word and puzzle it out, you may be able to get it.

Chinese Beginner Intermediate Vocaublary Essay - Setting Off FireworksThis isn’t really an essay, per se. The Chinese have a different word for this type of “what I did that day” article: they call it 记事 (a record of events, like a diary) or 叙事 (a narrative). The weirdest part about this, I think, is the part where the kid says he smokes a cigarette his dad gave him. How old is this child? The rest of the piece makes it sound like he’s about 7-10? Anyway… The Chinese title of this little story is 放花炮.

Click to Listen

放 – fàng – To release, to put, to place, to set off (in this case, to “set off” fireworks)
花炮 – huā pào – Firecracker, fireworks
打火机 – dǎ huǒ jī – Cigarette lighter
香烟 – xiāng yān – Cigarette
吸 – – To smoke something
喷出 – pēn chū – To spray out, to spurt out
五颜六色 – wǔ yán liù sè – Multicolored
火苗 – huǒ miáo – Flames
冲天炮 – chōng tiān bāo – Rocket type of firework that shoots into the air
危险 – wēi xiǎn – Dangerous


今天晚上,我和爸爸妈妈一起放花炮。 爸爸用上打火机点上一根香烟,我拿着烟,了几口后就开始放花炮。我点了一个,花炮喷出五颜六色的的火苗,真是太美丽了!冲天炮危险了,我不敢放,爸爸帮我放,我只在旁边看。 不一会儿,花炮放完了,我们就高高兴兴地回家了。

SHOW ENGLISH TRANSLATION »
This evening, my mother father and I set off fireworks together. Father used a lighter to light a cigarette, I took the cigarette and after a few puffs we began lighting the fireworks. I light one, and the firework sprayed multicolor flames, so beautiful! Rockets are too dangerous, I don’t dare light them, so father helped me do it, and I stood beside and watched. Soon after, the fireworks were all gone, and we happily returned home.



10 comments to "Setting Off Fireworks"

  1. Great site, thanks so much for posting!

  2. Fantastic, glad you enjoy it.

  3. I can answer the “smoking child” riddle. My girlfriend’s father tried to set me on fire this Spring Festival, much fun was had by all.

    But the “traditional” way to light firecrackers is to poke the “fuse” with a lit cigarette. Possible because they don’t have a normal firework fuse, but rather, seem to be made of even more firey death. Literally, milliseconds.

    Word of advice: When they tell you “light it and leap backwards!”, you may want to take them seriously :D

  4. Reply Patrick McAsey says: June 8, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Thank you so much for all these readings! The variety of subject matter, genres and degree of difficulty (this one was very easy!) is really interesting and really motivating. It’s helping my Chinese reading a great deal.

  5. Reply Garrett sheagley says: June 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    大家好! 我有一个问题: why is “了“ not really used to show past actions in this story? Am I having brain fog or am I missing something?

    谢谢大家,
    Garrett

    • Not 100% sure what you mean, but let me try a deconstruction here:

      今天晚上,我和爸爸妈妈一起放花炮。

      No 了 really needed here, because a time was specified (this evening).

      爸爸用上打火机点上一根香烟,我拿着烟,吸了几口后就开始放花炮。

      There’s one 了 here at the end – when describing a series of actions, the 了 is only placed on the last one.

      我点了一个,花炮喷出五颜六色的的火苗,真是太美丽了!

      Two 了 here – the first one is describing a past action, the second one, 太美丽了, is part of a standard phrase 太…(usually and adjective or adverb) … 了。

      冲天炮太危险了,

      Same deal here, 太…了

      我不敢放,爸爸帮我放,我只在旁边看。 不一会儿,花炮放完了,

      This 了 is a little different, it expresses a changing state.

      我们就高高兴兴地回家了。

      This one expresses a past action – they went home.

      Make sense?

    • Sometimes “了” means past tense(for example:我已经走了), sometimes it means a kind of state(for example:它太美丽了).[I only know a little English,and I don't know if you can understand what I mean.Welcome to reply]

  6. Reply Garrett sheagley says: June 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Haha, as soon as I wrote my question I answered it! Heavy dose of brain fog when I first read the story, but all is clear now. Nevertheless, I appreciate you taking the time to respond.(:

    Xie xie,
    Garrett

  7. Sometimes “了” means past tense(for example:我已经走了), sometimes it means a kind of state(for example:它太美丽了).[I only know a little English,and I don't know if you can understand what I mean.Welcome to reply]

  8. Reply Matthew Cao says: January 2, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    why is there a child smoking?….

    great post though thank you <3


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