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.

Learn to Read Chinese: Learn to Read Mandarin Chinese for Beginners

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 men. 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”.)

Click to Listen

粮食 – liáng shí – Grain (or foodstuffs)
岸 – àn – Bank (of a river)
驮 – tuó – To carry on the back (of a pack animal)
犹豫 – yóu yù – Hesitate
迈 – mài – Stride, step
翘 – qiào – Lift up
卷 – juǎn – Roll up







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.

146 comments to "Little Horse Crosses the River"

  1. 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!

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

  3. 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

  4. Great website, please continiue on what you doing, really help on improving Chinese skills, thank you

  5. 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.

  6. 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”.

  7. Would be super cool if there was an audio file of the stories as well. Great work!

  8. 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.

  9. Reply Varian Kashira says: June 17, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    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.

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  10. Can you please help me copy and paste because it keeps on doing weird stuff.

  11. 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!!

  12. Such a cute story, thanks :)

  13. Reply chintamani kale says: June 27, 2016 at 2:33 am

    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.

  14. 我看了是很好的寓言故事

  15. I had a hard time reading this, but I learned quite a few new words. Very cute story, thanks for posting it.

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

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    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 .
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    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.

  20. 他过的很快乐 is wrong. Should be 他过得很快乐

  21. 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 :)

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  28. Reply Jiggly Puff 111 says: December 1, 2016 at 1:58 am

    There are some grammatical errors in the piece. For example, ‘他过的很快乐’ What did he ‘过的’?

  29. Reply Jiggly Puff 111 says: December 1, 2016 at 2:00 am

    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’

    • Reply 我在學繁體字 (学,体 in simplified) says: April 29, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      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

  30. is there some story I can found here. I really need it.

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  33. Reply meegan mccaffrey says: March 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm

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  34. Thank-you for posting,

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  35. It should be 他过得很快乐,not this 的

  36. 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!

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  51. Reply Waseem Raja says: March 30, 2018 at 6:22 am

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    • 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)

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