Essay: A Foolish Affair from my Childhood

This essay is about a kid who takes his father’s advice a little too literally (with amusing results).

Only thing intermediate about this read is the very first sentence, which we’ll talk about here. After this it’s pretty easy going. The essay starts out 童年仿佛是一条小船,里面装满了甜蜜的糖果,也装满了许多忧伤。 Let’s break this one down word by word:

童年 – tóng nián – Childhood
仿佛 – fǎng fú – seems like
是 – shì – [it] is
一条 – yī tiáo – a (literally: the word “one” plus the classifier for boats, which is 条)
小船, – xiǎo chuán – boat,
里面 – lǐ miàn – inside
装满了 – zhuāng mǎn le5 – is full (of)
甜蜜的 – tián mì de5 – sweet
糖果, – táng guǒ – candy,
也 – yě – also
装满了 – zhuāng mǎn le5 – is full (of)
许多 – xǔ duō – much
忧伤 – yōu shāng – distress.

Pretty straightforward when you look at it that way. A quick note on that: though the word 糖果 (which appears a lot in this text) means “candy”, it does not mean “candy fruit” or “sweet fruit”, as you might guess from the character 果. This is just a general word for candy, though the Chinese don’t consider chocolate a “candy” – it’s in its own category.

Want something easier?

Du Chinese has a big catalog of easy HSK 1 and HSK 2 texts for ultra-beginners. There are quite a few free practice lessons, but CRP readers get 10% off on paid accounts using the discount code CRP10.








Show English translation »
Childhood seems like a boat that is full of sweet candy, but is also laden with grief.

I was born into a happy six-person family. There’s father, mother, grandpa, grandma, my elder sister and myself.

[The story begins] when I was four, on a scorching afternoon. Grandpa, grandma, mother and my elder sister were all busy doing their own thing. Dad picked me up and carried me to the store, and bought me lots of candy. On the way back to the house, dad put me down, and went to our house’s back garden to plant apple trees. I went with him, and asked him ‘what are you doing’? Father said: “I’m planting apple trees, when autumn arrives you’ll have apples to eat.” Father continued: “Whatever seeds you plant will grow.” Father finished speaking and went back into the house to drink tea. Then I thought to myself, if I take the candy I just bought and plant it in the earth, in autumn I should have lots of candy!

I did just that, I dug a hole, took my leftover candy and put it all in the hole, using dirt to bury it. In silence I fervently hoped: “Candy, grow quickly! Candy, grow quickly! Grow into a big tree, and sprout lots and lots of candy.” I told this wish to my father, and he listened. Laughing heartily he said: “Candy can’t grow into a big tree, and it definitely can’t sprout more candy.” I heard my father’s words and I sat down on the grass and started sobbing, my candy, my candy. Father quickly ran up to me, embraced me and said: “Oh, don’t cry little darling, daddy will buy you lots and lots of candy.” I listened to him and stopped crying.

Nowadays I’ve already grown up, and I won’t try foolishly planting candy again.

20 replies on “Essay: A Foolish Affair from my Childhood”

Re: “. . . daddy will buy you lots and lots of candy.” 爸爸给你买很多很多糖果.
I don’t see a future tense indicated in this sentence. Don’t you need to add a 会 to 给你买?
Also, is the sentence structure correct? (not 买给你)

(Also left out the end quote after 糖果.)

No, you don’t need to indicate future tense in casual conversation. Beginning Chinese learners get really tripped up on this. You actually sound more Chinese if you drop most attempts at putting tense or time in your sentences, and drop as many “me”s and “you’s” as possible. (“I return house” 我回家了 sounds more native than “I’m going to go back to my house”, which sounds super awkward. 我会回我的家了).

In fact, in conversation, you’ll find that Chinese people may or may not indicate any tense at all. So, by western standards, this could mean “Dad bought you a lot of candy,” (but this doesn’t really make sense in context – he did buy the kid candy but that’s not relevant just now), “Dad is buying you lots of candy.” (but we know he’s clearly not) or “Dad will buy you lots of candy” (which makes sense).

Stuff like this is why texts like the Dao de Jing are essentially impossible to translate accurately – is the author telling a story about something that happened in the past? Giving a command about how to behave in the future? Through most of the philosophical books there’s no tense, no structure, no nothing, just words, some of which have multiple meanings. So many of those translations are just educated stabs in the dark. I’m finding more and more that tense doesn’t matter quite as much as we think it does. Our language is all wrapped up in knowing WHEN something happened. It’s crucial, and alien to think otherwise. So the sooner you can set your brain to be a little more wishy-washy about exactly when something occurred, you’ll find it easier to wrap your head around real Chinese.

给你买 is also fine – it means the same thing as 买给你. Google this phrase in Chinese to see other examples of it being used.

This is great- I just found this site and these readings are perfect for my level. Thanks so much!

One thing that might be nice is if the popup translations could be turned off. The Chrome plugin I use (perapera) does a better job, e.g. showing “大树” as the the two words 大 and 树 as well as as the town 大树, which was the only definition given in the popup.

You’re welcome!

Yeah, the pop-ups are actually a beta script created by Alex from, I just plugged it on in. I’d need to do a little custom work to turn off the pop-ups. One of these days! Thanks for the suggestion.

Hi there.
I am confused about the phrase, 忙着自己手中的活. It says that 中的 (zhong di) mean to hit the nail on the target. Could anyone shed some light on this? Also, why is that 的 pronounced as ‘di’ and not ‘de’?

Thank you for your work, this website is fantastic! 😀

Ah. That’s a mistake in the automation. Definitely de, not di in this case. Let’s take this one word at a time:

忙着 Busy / to keep busy doing sthg
自己 Self / ones own.
手 Hand(s)
中的 In the middle of
活 Activity

This translates roughly to: to busily occupy ones hands with whatever work is about, or to take care of whatever chores fall into ones hands. The sentence in the story says that each of the kid’s family members are just busily “doing whatever task is at hand”.

This character is also pronounced “di” in some cases, but not here.

could you please explain me the reason “不” appears in this sentence:
“秋天不就有很多糖果了吗!”, shouldn’t it be translated as “

There’s so much story’s that are related to this one, but this one was somehow different in a lot of ways. I like the detail at the beginning of the story. This one of the best websites I’v found! YHX!!!!!!!!!!!

Just like you write the essays in simplified Chinese can you also write in traditional?
That would help me a lot

Leave a Reply

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