Fable: 天堂里的自由 – Freedom in Heaven

A little thrush (画眉 huà méi) trades one cage (笼子 lóng zi) for a bigger one, and doesn’t much like the upgrade. Suitable around HSK 3.

A little thrush (画眉 huà méi) trades one cage (笼子 lóng zi) for a bigger one, and doesn’t much like the upgrade. Suitable around HSK 3.

You could take a lot of lessons away from this story. Maybe it’s trying to tell us that money is immaterial without friends and loved ones around us. Or maybe that God is fallible. Or that the grass is always greener. You read it, you decide.

Some language stuff

说道 shuō dào – Usually, when we first start reading dialogues, we learn that “说” means “said”, as in “He said,” (他说). There are actually a few different ways to say “said” in Chinese, three off the top of my head. 说 is the “beginner” way. At the intermediate level, this can become 说道 shuō dào, or simply 道. In ancient Chinese, they often use 曰 yuē, which looks like 日 rì, but if you look closely you’ll see it’s a little wider, and the line crossing it in the middle doesn’t quite touch the right side of the character. In this piece, we’ve got 说道 and a 问道 – don’t let that “道” confuse you, it just means “to say”.

翡翠 fěi cuì – My translation software has this as “jadeite”, but this can be both jade or emerald, and since I usually see “jade” translated as 玉 yù, I’m going with “emerald” here.

大得我飞都飞不到边 dà de wǒ fēi dōu fēi bu dào biān – We’ve also got one slightly rough sentence construction here. This clause is being used by the thrush to describe a house, let’s break it down:

大 – Big
得 – To the extent that / to the point that
我 – I
飞 – fly
都 – but even
飞 – fly
不到 – can’t arrive at / can’t reach
边 – the edge.

In other words, the house is so big that even if the bird starts flying at one side of the house, he can fly and fly but still won’t reach the other side.

Finally, the last clause is a bit long, so here’s a trick for figuring it out: find the 跟 gēn, which in this case means 比 bǐ, a comparative word. Everything before 跟 is being compared to what’s after it.

Source here

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Show English translation »
A cute little thrush was shut in a cage by its master, so God said to the thrush: “Come and live with me in Heaven.”

“My life is very good now, why should I go to heaven?” the thrush said.

God answered, “Well, do you have freedom?”

The thrush was silent.

The thrush followed God to Heaven, and God arranged for it to settle down in an emerald palace, and then he went to deal with other matters.

After a long time had passed, God suddenly thought of the thrush, and so he went to the emerald palace to see it. He asked the thrush: “My dear child, are things going well now?”

The thrush uttered a sorrowful sigh, and said: “The house is beautiful, so big that [no matter how long] I fly I can’t reach its edges, but how is living by myself alone in this big house any different than living in a cage?”

14 replies on “Fable: 天堂里的自由 – Freedom in Heaven”

I started to read just in quriosity, In my age reading this story on garbage and freedom is a total BS,
Politics in teaching of any language is a wrong way to go.

Didn’t parse this as particularly political, but read into it what you will. Actually that’s a great idea, I should post some Communist propaganda from the Cultural Revolution, that would be a super fun read.

Would be great if you could accompany each story with a voice recording. I really appreciate all the stories you publish. Thank you very much for putting so much effort.

You’re welcome! It would be great, and I get that request pretty frequently, and I considered it many moons ago, but each one of these stories takes about 2 hours to source, translate, write up and annotate, I get up at 6am to do it, and editing audio would add another 3 hours to the process, so that’s not probably not in the cards.

Love this story and I also didn’t think it was particularly political…as they say “haters gona hate”

You mentioned a translation software you use was curious what that was as it may help with my Chinese learning? I currently just use Google translate and it isn’t really good 🙁

Heh, thanks. Afraid I may not be able to help there – there aren’t any great auto-translation tools for Chinese > English: the translations I do myself, manually. The software I use (from Mandarinspot) is what automatically adds Pinyin to the tops of the characters, and generates those little dictionary definition pop-ups when you hover over the characters. But the English I write. However, I’d recommend getting the Pleco app if you don’t have it already. It’s free, and it includes a “reader” tool that lets you copy any Chinese text, paste it into the app, and then you can tap any word for the definition of that word.

Thank you so much for your stories and the translations. I’ve been struggling to learn and read Chinese along with a dictionary but with your stories everything is much more easier!


Just wanted to say thank for doing these. Every time you post something I will write down the words I don’t know and study them. So far ive made great progress and really want to thank you for enabling this.

Keep up the good work !

Hi Kendra,
Thank you for you time and effort in making these reads possible. Regardless of the topic you choose, the value in these passages are educational, which I believe is your ultimate intention. Much appreciated. Please keep them coming.

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