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Seeing as how I just got back from a trip to the Wall myself, I figured I’d stay on that theme. This traditional and very famous story, called 孟姜女哭长城 mèng jiāng nǚ kū cháng chéng, is set in the Qin Dynasty, and is super sad in the way that only East Asian stories can be sad (are we noticing a trend, here?). If you’re the “watches a lot of anime” type, you’ll easily find the beauty here (which lies in the power of tears – where else?), but if you like your fairy-tale endings, prepare for a big downer.

Learn to Read Chinese Characters - Intermediate Chinese ReadingI happen to enjoy sad stories as long as there’s some sweetness in them, and this one is paced very nicely, so I’m translating it for you here, though it’s much longer than my usual fare (I seem to be trending towards longer stuff these days).

This story happens between 259 B.C. and 210 B.C., and describes two characters, our heroine 孟姜女mèng jiāng nǚ, and her love, 范喜良 fàn xǐ liáng, who live under the rule of emperor 秦始皇 qín shǐ huáng during the building of the Great Wall. The story describes how they meet and how they finally part, and dwells on the strength of 孟姜女’s love for her man. There are a few specialized words here pertaining to weddings. One is 喜酒 xǐ jiǔ, meaning “happiness wine”, which is alcohol drunk at weddings to wish the bride and groom well. Another is 洞房 dòng fáng, or “marriage chamber” (literally “cave room”). And yet another is 成亲, meaning “to get married”.

An interesting word here is 眼看 yǎn kàn, which means “in a moment”, or “when ____ is just about to happen”, not “the eye sees” or “to look”, as may be supposed.

One difficult few words to puzzle out here is in the second paragraph, when it’s stated that some soldiers “不容分说” bù róng fēn shuō charge into the room. 不容 here means “without tolerating” or “would not tolerate”, and 分说 means “to explain”. So we can imagine that this means the soldiers barged in and though people tried to explain the situation to them, they weren’t interested in listening.

Click to Listen

连连 – lián lián – Again and again
逃难 – táo nàn – Run away from trouble
抓 – zhuā – Grab, catch, seize
知书达理 – zhī shū dá lǐ – Educated and well-balanced
眉清目秀 – méi qīng mù xiù – Good-looking with delicate features
心心相印 – xīn xīn xiāng yìn – Two hearts beat as one
成亲 – chéng qīn – To get married
张灯结彩 – zhēng dēng jié cǎi – Decorated with lanterns and colored banners
满堂 – mǎn táng – jam-packed, a full house
喜气洋洋 – xǐ qì yáng yáng – Full of joy
干着急 – gān zhán jí – Worry needlessly
跋涉 – bá shè – To trek, trudge
顽强 – wán qiáng – Tenacious
工地 – gōng dì – Construction site
踪影 – zōng yǐng – A trace (no trace of sthg)
尸首 – shī shou – Corpse
噩耗 – è hào – News of someone’s death
猛烈 – měng liè – fierce / violent
血肉模糊 – xuè ròu mó hu – Badly mutilated
残暴 – cán bào – Cruelty


秦朝时候,有个善良美丽的女子,名叫孟姜女。一天,她正在自家的院子里做家务,突然发现葡萄架下藏了一个人,吓了她一大跳,正要叫喊,只见那个人连连摆手,恳求道:“别喊别喊,救救我吧!我叫范喜良,是来逃难的。”原来这时秦始皇为了造长城,正到处人做劳工,已经饿死、累死了不知多少人!孟姜女把范喜良救了下来,见他知书达理眉清目秀,对他产生了爱慕之情,而范喜良也喜欢上了孟姜女。他俩儿心心相印,征得了父母的同意后,就准备结为夫妻。

成亲那天,孟家张灯结彩,宾客满堂,一派喜气洋洋的情景。眼看天快黑了,喝喜酒的人也都渐渐散了,新郎新娘正要入洞房,忽然只听见鸡飞狗叫,随后闯进来一队恶狠狠的官兵,不容分说,用铁链一锁,硬把范喜良抓到长城去做工了。好端端的喜事变成了一场空,孟姜女悲愤交加,日夜思念着丈夫。她想:我与其坐在家里干着急,还不如自己到长城去找他。对!就这么办!孟姜女立刻收拾收拾行装,上路了。

一路上,也不知经历了多少风霜雨雪,跋涉过多少险山恶水,孟姜女没有喊过一声苦,没有掉过一滴泪,终于,凭着顽强的毅力,凭着对丈夫深深的爱,她到达了长城。这时的长城已经是由一个个工地组成的一道很长很长的城墙了,孟姜女一个工地一个工地地找过来,却始终不见丈夫的踪影。最后,她鼓起勇气,向一队正要上工的民工询问:“你们这儿有个范喜良吗?”民工说:“有这么个人,新来的。”孟姜女一听,甭提多开心了!她连忙再问:“他在哪儿呢?”民工说:“已经死了,尸首都已经填了城脚了!”

猛地听到这个噩耗,真好似晴天霹雳一般,孟姜女只觉眼前一黑,一阵心酸,大哭起来。整整哭了三天三夜,哭得天昏地暗,连天地都感动了。天越来越阴沉,风越来越猛烈,只听“哗啦”一声,一段长城被哭倒了,露出来的正是范喜良的尸首,孟姜女的眼泪滴在了他血肉模糊的脸上。她终于见到了自己心爱的丈夫,但他却再也看不到她了,因为他已经被残暴的秦始皇害死了。

SHOW ENGLISH TRANSLATION »
During the Qin dynasty, there was a kind and beautify woman, called Meng JiangNv. One day, she was in her garden doing housework, when she suddenly realized that someone was hiding in the grape arbor. She was hugely startled, and was about to call out, when she saw the person repeatedly wave his hands, and begged her, “Don’t call out, don’t call out, save me! I am Fan XiLiang, and I’m running away from trouble.” Well, during this time, [Emperor] Qin Shi Huang, in order to build the great wall, was seizing people from everywhere to [force them to] do labor, and he’d already worked and starved countless people to death! Meng JiangNv rescued Fan XiLiang, and when she saw that he was well educated and sensible, and good looking with delicate features as well, she began to love him, and Fan XiLiang also liked Meng JiangNv. Their two hearts beat as one, and after seeking the approval of their parents, prepared to become husband and wife.

On the wedding day, the Meng house was lit with lanterns and colored banners, and was jam-packed with guests – it was a joyous scene. When it was almost dark out, and those that had come to drink the marriage wine slowly scattered, the bride and groom prepared to enter the marriage chamber, suddenly came the sounds of birds crying and dogs barking, and soon after a company of fierce officers and soldiers charged in, and without listening to any explanation, locked up Fan XiLiang in iron chains and hauled him off to the Great Wall to work. The lovely wedding had come to nothing, and Meng JiangNv felt both grief and indignation, and she longed for her husband day and night. She thought: Instead of sitting here worrying hopelessly, it’s better if I go to the Great Wall and search for him. Yes! That’s what I’ll do! So Meng JiangNv immediately prepared her traveling clothes and set out on the road.

On the road, though she couldn’t count how many times she endured wind, frost, rain and snow, trudged across dangerous mountains and treacherous rapids, Meng JiangNv never spoke one word of complaint, never spilled one tear, and finally, drawing strength from her tenacious willpower, and drawing strength from her deep love for her husband, she reached the Great Wall. The Great Wall at this time was made up of many small construction sites that had been strung together to form a long city wall, and Meng JiangNv went from each construction site to the next, but she never saw a trace of her husband. Finally, she drummed up her courage, and asked a group of workers who were just about to begin work: “Do any of you know a Fan XiLiang?” The workers said, “Yes, there was a man like that, he’d just arrived.” When Meng JiangNv heard that, she was indescribably happy! She immediately asked, “Where is he?” The worker said, “He’s dead, his corpse has already been tossed into the wall.”

When Meng JiangNv heard this grievous news, it was like a clap of thunder from a clear sky, Meng’s eyes went dark, and [she felt] a burst of sadness, and began to sob. She cried for a full three days and three nights, she cried until the sky was twilight and the earth was dark, [until] even Heaven and Earth were moved. The sky became more and more gloomy, the wind more and more fierce, and then there was a great “crash”, and a section of the Wall had been cried down, and Fan XiLiang’s corpse was revealed; Meng JiangNv’s tears dripped on his badly mutilated face. She finally was able to see the husband she loved, but he wasn’t able to see her, because he had already been killed by the cruel Qin ShiHuang.



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