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Chinese Title: 童年傻事

This essay about a kid who takes his father’s advice a little too literally (with amusing results) is almost as beginner as a five-paragraph read can get. You’ll find very few intermediate-level words, and extremely basic sentence structure.

Beginner Simplified Chinese Essays: Learn to Read MandarinOnly 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 le – is full (of)
甜蜜的 – tián mì de – sweet
糖果, – táng guǒ – candy,
也 – – also
装满了 – zhuāng mǎn le – 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.

Click to Listen

烈日 – liè rì – Scorching sun
炎炎 – yán yán – Scorching
抱上 – bào shàng – Pick up (the way one picks up a child, encircling them with both arms)
糖果 – táng guǒ – Candy
种 – zhòng – To plant (eg. vegetable seeds)
种子 – zhǒng zi – A seed
心想 – xīn xiǎng – Think to oneself
刨 – páo – To dig
坑 – kēng – Hole
埋 – mái – To bury
默默 – mò mò – Without speaking
宝贝 – bǎo bèi – “Baby”, “Darling” – term of endearment
如今 – rú jīn – Nowadays


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。

我出生在一个幸福的六口之家。有爸爸、妈妈、爷爷、奶奶、姐姐,还有我。

我四岁时,一个烈日炎炎的中午。爷爷、奶奶、妈妈和姐姐都忙着自己手中的活。爸爸抱上我去商店、给我买了很多糖果。回到家中,爸爸放下我,就去我们家的后院苹果树去了。我也跟了过去,我问爸爸你在干什么?爸爸说:“我在种苹果树,到了秋天你就有苹果吃了。”爸爸还说:“你种什么种子就会长什么。”爸爸说完就回家喝茶去了。当时我心想如果把刚刚买的糖果种到土中,秋天不就有很多糖果了吗!

我说做就做,我了个,把刚才剩下的糖果都放在坑里,用土了。我默默的许下愿说:“糖果快长!糖果快长!长成大树,长出很多很多糖果。”我把这个愿望告诉了爸爸,爸爸听了。大笑起来说:“糖果不会长出大树,也更不会长出糖果。”我听了爸爸话坐在地上大哭起来,我的糖果,我的糖果。爸爸赶快跑到我面前,抱起我说:“哦,不哭了小宝贝,爸爸给你买很多很多糖果。我听了就不哭了。

如今我已经长大了,种糖果的傻事也不会再做了。

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 left over 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.


19 comments to "A Foolish Affair from my Childhood"

  1. 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.

  2. 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 mandarintools.com, 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.

  3. Thank you for these stories, just what I need to bring my Chinese reading skill up to par

  4. 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! :D

    • 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.

  5. Reply may min min thu says: January 20, 2014 at 6:31 am

    i like very much and i also thanks all of these chinese essay

  6. Superb stuff – Kendra, your comments on tense above are extremely illuminating.

  7. 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 “

  8. yeah

  9. Reply Rachel Shen says: March 27, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you so much for posting these readings. They have been very helpful.

  10. Thank god you uploaded this. My senior wants me to read a Chinese essay. God bless you lots.

  11. 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!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. your link for the essay composition site leads to porn…

  13. If you don’t plant candy, can you be sure it won’t grow? It’s worth a try.

  14. Just like you write the essays in simplified Chinese can you also write in traditional?
    That would help me alot

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


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