Children’s Story: 《大树公公》Grandpa Tree

This very sweet story about an old tree who sacrifices himself for the animals of the forest might be the longest piece I’ve ever found that’s suitable for a beginner (probably HSK 3-4) audience. Both language and grammar is mostly quite straightforward.

This very sweet story about an old tree who sacrifices himself for the animals of the forest might be the longest piece I’ve ever found that’s suitable for a beginner (around HSK 3-4) audience. Both language and grammar is mostly quite straightforward.

I say “mostly”, because suddenly in paragraph five, this very easy read round-house kicks you in the head with three super science-y words and some intermediate language, before going back to being simple. Because paragraph five is such an outlier in terms of difficulty, I marked it out as a [HARD PART] in the text, and I’m going to walk you through some of the vocab and grammar in that one bit. The science terms it uses are:

叶绿素 yè lǜ sù – Chlorophyll (the chemical that makes leaves green)
光合作用 guāng hé zuò yòng – Photosynthesis (the process of turning sunlight into nutrients)
养料 yǎng liào – Nutrients

This story being about a big tree, you can imagine why these words are needed, and they were probably included to help teach Chinese kids about how trees work. Four other intermediate words pop out in that paragraph:

进行 jìn xíng – To undertake or conduct
制造 zhì zào – To manufacture or create
等于 děng yú – To be equal to, to be just like
组成部分 zǔ chéng bù fèn – Component part

It’s also worth noting that similar to the story Little Grass’ Silver Hair, the natural elements here are personified as people. The wind is “Auntie Wind”, the rain is “Grandma Rain”. Keep an eye out for those names.

This story is also great for learning measure words. Measure words are words like “a flock of birds”, “a herd of deer”, “a bunch of flowers”, that help count nouns, or describe the nature of nouns. In English, only some nouns have their own measure words, but in Chinese, almost all nouns have one. In this piece, we learn the measure word that goes with forests and leaves (片 – piàn ), the one that goes with trees (棵 – kē), and the one that goes with ears (只 – zhī).

And one last note: what on Earth is up with the “儿” after “叶” (leaf)?! So, 儿 has a bajillion usages in Chinese, and one of them is that it makes the noun preceding it a little cutesy. You can’t use it with every noun, but for example, 鱼 is “fish”, while 鱼儿 is “fishie”, 鸟 is “bird”, and 鸟儿 is “birdie”. And in this case, 叶 is “leaf” and 叶儿 is … leafie? We don’t have a diminutive form for “leaf” in English, but it basically means “cute little leaf”.

Source here – I modified some of the harder words to make it a little simpler.

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.






[HARD PART] 雨婆婆知道了大树公公的想法,她对大树公公说:”树叶儿是你生命中重要的组成部分,你要用叶绿素进行光合作用,制造养料。失去树叶儿,就等于失去了自己的生命。”






Show English translation »
Long, long ago, in a forest, there grew a big tree. All the little animals in the forest all liked to sing and dance and play beneath it. Everyone called it: “Grandfather Tree”.

At that time, little animals had no ears, they couldn’t hear the wind or the rain, they couldn’t hear happy songs or the sound of laughter, and they couldn’t hear each other’s calls.

Seeing the little animals’ innocent faces, Grandpa Tree was very worried, he thought for nine days and nine nights, and suddenly thought of the leaves that covered his own body. If he took them and gave them to the small animals to use as ears, wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

Auntie Wind saw what Grandpa Tree was thinking, and she said to Grandpa Tree: “You can’t do that, if you pluck off all the leaves on your body, your life will be in danger.”

[HARD PART] Grandma Rain knew about Grandpa Tree’s idea, and she said to Grandpa Tree: “Leaves make up an important component of your life, you must use the chlorophyll in leaves to conduct photosynthesis, and create nourishment. If you lose your leaves, it’s equal to losing your life.”

Smiling, Grandpa Tree said: “[Now] you [two] don’t push me, as long as the little animals [each] have two ears that can hear all kinds of wonderful sounds, I’m willing to give my all.”

And so, Grandpa Tree plucked off each leaf on his body, and gave them to every animal.

The elephant received two big leaves, and he had two big ears. The mouse received two little leaves, and he had two little ears. The white rabbit, the squirrel, the fat pig, and all the little animals all had two ears that could hear all kinds of sounds.

Just as Grandpa Tree plucked off the last leaf on his body, and was about to lose his green life, the little animals all cried. The animals’ tears moistened the branches on Grandpa Tree’s body. As the branches fell to the ground, they sprouted, and became many green tree shoots.

Grandpa Tree smiled slightly, and slowly dissolved into the earth at his feet.

Later, those tree shoots grew into a verdant big trees, and those big trees became a huge forest.

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