Children’s Story: 《小马过河》Little Horse Crosses the River

Yayzors, horsies.

I know that when you first start reading, it’s hard to hold a narrative thread through a longer post, but give this one a try – 6 short paragraphs, all of them very straightforward. This one has mostly very beginner language, with a couple of intermediate or upper-intermediate words. The grammar, rather than the vocab, is probably the hard part of this post, which is an great survey of every basic Chinese sentence structure. If you can read this, your foundation in Chinese grammar is very solid.

A few notable points:


I figure that might be confusing for new readers, since there are two different uses of the word 过 guò here. I tend to find that the easiest way to remember what 过 means in every context is that it almost always means either “past” or “pass”, or one of many variations thereon. Let’s look a few usages of 过.

1) In the most common usage, the one we see earliest in our learning, 过, when used after an action, means that the action has “been done before”, or “has been done in the past”, as in “Have you ever been to Shanghai (in the past)?” (你去过上海吗?), or “Have you ever eaten this type of fish (in the past)?” (你吃过这种鱼吗?).

2) Usage two, 过去, means “to pass by”, as in “The days passed one by one” (一关一天就过去了).

3) Usage three, also 过去, means “The Past”, a noun, as in the opposite of the future. “To forget the past is a betrayal.” (忘记过去,就意味着背叛)

4) The fourth usage is “to pass (time)”, or “to pass one’s days” (过日子), or to “How were you [how did you pass] the last few days?” (这些天过得怎么样?).

5) Another 过去 – to “pass across”, “to cross” (as in a river or street).

6) 过去 “to pass by” (someone or something).

And on and on. In our sentence here, we’re using #4 first, and then #2.


“He passed [his days] very happily, time flew past.”

Make sense? Hope so, because several different usages of 过去 come up in this post, so keep an eye out.

One more thing:

咱们 zán men5. This means “us” or “we”. I know, I know, you learned that 我们 means “us” and “we”, and it does. 咱们 only refers to “us” and “we” when the speaker is including the person they’re talking to. So 咱们 means really “You and I”, not “we”. Confusing, right? Here are some examples:

我们: “Sorry, you can’t come with us, we’re going to see a movie alone.” (The person being spoken to is not included in the “we”.)
咱们: “Why don’t we see a movie this afternoon?” (The speaker is including the person spoken to in the “we”.)

我们: “I’ll call you as soon as we get back.” (The person being spoken to is not included in the “we”.)
咱们: “What should we do when we get back?” (The speaker is including the person spoken to in the “we”.)

我们: “We’re not home right now, leave a message!” (The person being spoken to is not included in the “we”.)
咱们: “We could go home right now and check the messages.” (The speaker is including the person spoken to in the “we”.)

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 »
Little Horse and his mother lived by the river. He passed his days happily, and time flew by. One day, Mother called little horse to her side and said: “Little Horse, you’re all grown up, you can help mother with a few things. Today, take that sack of grain and take it to the village on the opposite riverbank.”

Little Horse happily agreed. Carrying the grain on his back he flew to the river. But there was no bridge over the river, he could only wade across. But he didn’t know how deep the river was.(?) While he was hesitating he lifted his head, and saw Uncle Ox eating grass not far away. Little horse hurriedly ran over and asked: “Uncle Ox, do you know if the river is deep or not?”

Uncle Ox straightened his big, tall body and laughing, said: “Not deep, not deep. It only comes up to my calf.”

Little Horse happily ran back to the riverside and prepared to wade across. He’d just taken one step, when suddenly he heard a voice say: “Little Horse, Little Horse, don’t go in, this river is so deep!” Little Horse lowered his head and looked down, and saw it was Little Squirrel. Little Squirrel raised her pretty tail, round eyes opened wide, and spoke earnestly: “Two days ago my companion accidentally fell into the river, and the water swept him away.”

Little Horse had no idea. Uncle Ox said the water was shallow, Little Squirrel said the water was deep, what was he to do? He had to go back and ask Mother. From a distance, Mother Horse saw Little Horse returning with a lowered head and carrying the sack of grain. She knew in her heart that he must have run into trouble, so she went to welcome Little Horse and ask. Little horse, crying, told Mother what Uncle Ox and Little Squirrel had said. Mother consoled Little Horse, saying: “Don’t worry, let’s go together and have a look.”

Little Horse and Mother went back to the riverbank again, and Mother let little horse test out how deep the water was. Little Horse carefully tried it out, and step by step waded across the river. Hey, he understood, the river on the one hand wasn’t as shallow as Uncle Ox said, and also wasn’t as deep as Little Squirrel said. You only know if you find out for yourself.

117 replies on “Children’s Story: 《小马过河》Little Horse Crosses the River”

I had to look up surprisingly many words.

淌 is still not super clear for me, as the dictionary definitions “drip, trickle, shed (tears)” do not seem to fit well. “dip”?

Also, it might be nice to show the title in Chinese, not just in English: 小马过河

Anyway, a lovely little story, thank you!

Hi My name is Ivy, I’m from China,I’m learning English now, Can we be friend? Do you use some social media? please add me on Skype:ivy1990122 and Wechat: 441020455

Hi! I am an American College student beginning to learn Chinese. Can we email or talk to advance our language skills?

I’ve been studying Chinese on and off for about 13 years. I’d enjoy having someone to work on speaking with.

Hello i have been learning chinese since 1st grade (age 6) all the way up to now, seventh grade (age 13). It was so helpful to me with when you hover over the characters it will pop up with the pin yin and meaning! I wish my papers would do this!!

I just open this site, while searching something to improve my Mandarin learning progress. I believe you have mastered your English by now, but if you have time to help me practicing my mandarin would be appreciated so much. I’m living in Melbourne, Adalia…… : )

the correct character here is 趟,not 淌。and another mistake in”小马赶紧跑过去问 到 “,it should be “问道”

hi i am self studying chinese for a very long time , its became my hobby to learn chinese language. i am glad to be in these kind of discussion .

I clicked on the Show English Translation, and it says ‘to wade across’. The character should be 蹚 (tāng) not 淌 (tǎng). Looks like a simple input problem.

thank you Jen, 蹚 makes a lot more sense!

It reminds me that it’s a good idea to look up sound-alikes when I really don’t understand a character.

I think 淌 could mean ‘to flow down the river’ in this context. Since it seems like 淌 originally means to drip, shed or flow tears, the only way it could make sense to me is that he is ‘flowing across the river’. What do u think?

I had the same problem, Kai. I reckon the character 淌 / “tang3” = “to drip”, “to trickle”, should be: 趟 / “tang1” , which means: “to wade” = walk in water. This would make sense!

The correct word should be 趟 (wade across) not 淌 (drip). Both of them are pronounced “tang” with different tone. The word 趟 is pronounced with the first tone in mandarin while the word 淌 is pronounced with the third tone in mandarin.

Was not clear for me neither, but if you write 淌过去 on google images, all you see is people crossing the river

In this context 淌 means “to swim across”, “to cross over” because it is used with resultative verb complement “过”.

Hard question for Chinese.For here, 淌 means walk through the water, the author did not use swim(游) because the water is not deep enough, in this case , we use 淌。

Hi! I just love this site <3 Ive been waiting for new material for a long time now!!! There is something special and momentum creating with reading and understanding a whole text written in chinese!

Thanks :p

A big Thank-You to the author.

I found this website when searching for Chinese short pieces for my 7-year old. This is such a gift from heaven. A great example of resource/knowledge sharing via new technology (i.e. internet).

I will try and send you some reading materials if I find them.

Hi there, I love this website!

In this sentence i dont understand why we need 去 at the end: 今天你把这袋粮食送到河对岸的村子里去吧。It feels like 送到 already makes it clear the bag is being taken somewhere…


Hey Greg – this might make more sense if we look at it in English: “Go send (or take) the grain across the river.” But in Chinese, we just put the “go” at the end – “send the grain across the river go”.

i totally agree with anthimos. It would be a great help if there was an audio file with it. I manage to read the text, but need to hear it being read for me to make sense of it.

Yeah, it takes about 10 hours to put together a single audio file, so that’s probably not in the cards. Chinese Pod does good audio, though, if you guys want listening practice.

I am eager to learn chinese, this web is very helpful for my study. Please send me the other material to on going my study.

May you be blesse.

I glanced at several of the stories on this website, and this is a great site to read short stories. I just wish they were written in traditional Chinese characters!!

good efforts of simple stories to be learnt for practising reading mandarin.
I have done a beginners course and was stuck with practising the use of the language.
This will be helpful for the learning as the explanations are very good.

I’ve been studying Mandarin for about two years now, and honestly, reading this was a headache ;P

I’m young, though, and I’m still learning this at school, but I don’t think it’s enough.

This website already seems like a great help! Thank you!!

Hi. I am a student from a singapore school. I was raised in only English so my chinese is not very good. Although i am a chinese. My aim now is to do well in my cl examination. I want to learn my second language, not as a flount language but as good as my first language bye guys. Wish u a good time learning cl or el .
Pls follow me on instagram @jehoshebateo

hii… if you don’t i will be cos also am interesting with chinese… but am beginner will you help me plzzz cos you have experience of 2yr..

hi.. am peter, but my chinese name is luo le.. am student of university of dar es salaam (africa-Tanzania) also am learning chinese…. really am interesting with your story.. thanks very much.

As a Chinese-born raised in America, my speaking is fluent but my reading and writing…not so much XD realizing that my Spanish literacy was all set to surpass my Mandarin in terms of writing gave me the impetus to start practicing again. Thanks for the post! Very helpful in jogging the memory again 🙂

Hey! I’m looking for a friend to practice my Chinese with. I’m a native speaker but my vocabulary is very limited. Please add me if you use wechat. Yyc2017 looking forward to making new friends.

Great site. I recognize most of the characters here, but takes me some time to determine the meaning. Still, that is the fun of it. Thanks!

There are some grammatical errors in the piece. For example, ‘他过的很快乐’ What did he ‘过的’? You did not say that he passed ‘the days’ only that ‘he passed’

他过得很怏乐 is completely grammatically correct. In Chinese we just say 过得,which means he passed his time. Or basically, he existed happily

I was wondering whether it was correct to use 他 or more appropriate to use 牠 to refer to the horse in this story. I have many questions… Is 他 used because in this story, the animal is a character – as a personifying mechanism? And does using 他 allow the narrator/writer to assign a gender to a character if it is an animal? Thank you!

Hello everyone, I am a Chinese. I am learning English now, I found this website when I looked for reference of my homework. Can I get some friends to help together? Or I just can help your guys learn Chinese. this is my wechat:245635031^_^ welcome any questions!

大家好!I’m a native Chinese, and I like Kendra’s website! But it hasn’t updated for a long time. So I try to build another Chinese reading website with my language learning partner, Richard. It has recordings and detailed explanations. I believe you will like it. Just have a try:

I love your website. It’s definitely the best one I’ve found! It also help me improve my chinese! Please continue your good work!

I would suggest getting a memory resident (readily available) popup dictionary like Perapera or Zhongwen Chinese Popup Dictionary. Just hover your cursor arrow over the word and instantly see the word, meaning and pinyin.

I would suggest getting a memory resident (readily available) popup dictionary like Perapera or Zhongwen Chinese Popup Dictionary. Just hover your cursor arrow over the word and instantly see the word, meaning and pinyin. It will work on any site that you go to. It attaches to your browser.

送到 = to transport/send/give/gift to… depending on context. 到 is a modifier after a verb if you’re using the verb with regard to location. E.g. 送到 = send to (a location), 跑到 = run to (a location)

Hi friends I’m a spanish native speaker and i’m learning chinese, well i’m trying to learn and if you can help me to practice i’ll be extremely greatful….

Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.

When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but
when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

Great website for helping with learning Mandarin. Suffice to say that most people will leave a comment on helpful sites like this because they want to express how grateful they are to the authors putting the content up in order to help us learn. Your website is everywhere where people are highlighting good website to help with learning. Which is how I happened upon your website. I have it constantly on my desktop among some other resources – only the best of the best of course. Thank you once again for this website. My Mandarin has really come on in leaps and bounds and to think I was going to give up but with a website like this it’s very encouraging.

Hi !
I am a student at a language faculty , I have been learning Chinese for about a year , It would be great to practice with someone ,If you want you can add me on facebook my name is SosiSal Bird
If anyone can speak Russian or learning Russian please add me too .

i have a headache reading this. I started learning over 5 years ago and I still don’t know many words. How is this beginner

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Se visiti Maramures, trova un alloggio a Maramures su Cazare Maramures.
Grazie e ti auguriamo molto successo con:, buona giornata!

I learned many new words in this wonderful story. I’m currently learning Chinese in China as well, it would be nice to have friends to converse and practice chinese with. You can find me on Wechat: UD1509

Thank you (including the ones who made very useful comments about the usage of some characters). Love this imperfectness, ’cause that’s the best way to master a language.

Hello, I was wondering that whoever posted this can help me at least read Chinese. I have this huge exam and I’m afraid I might fail it. This is my second attempt after 2 years. I mainly fail it because everything is in Chinese even the directions so it would boost my grade if I learnt how to read Chinese.

I don’t have a lot of time and want to practice listening/speaking as well as reading. Is there somewhere available where people read stories like this with accompanying text? Thank you. This resource is incredible.

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