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Beginner

Essay:《帮忙》 Helping Out

In this one-paragraph read (HSK 2-3), Little Brother wants to help dad get ready to leave the house, but his contribution falls flat.

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Intermediate

Fable: 《上帝的铲子》God’s Shovel

A devout Christian explains the benefits of charitable giving to his neighbors. A short, 7-sentence read, but a little dense on new vocab with harder sentence structures (suitable around HSK 4-5).

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Stories: 《西红柿女孩》Tomato Girl

Poor little Mile (米乐) is so shy (害羞 – hài xiū), she never speaks, and her face turns bright red whenever someone speaks to her. This story is upper-beginner, will be a reasonably comfortable read at around HSK 4, and a do-able read at HSK 3 with a bit of effort.

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Advanced

Essay: 《丑石》The Ugly Rock by Jia Pingwa

Jia Pingwa (贾平凹) is one of China’s modern literary greats, and in this short story, it shows. I don’t know how this guy crammed so many insights on the human condition into a few paragraphs about a rock, but he undeniably did.

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Story: 《老爷爷的帽子》The Old Man’s Hat

Aw, reciprocity. An old man does a kindness for a little bird, and he receives a kindness in return.

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Intermediate

Letter: Ba Jin’s Correspondence with “Young Friends Searching for Ideals” – Part I

In the first of a two-part post, we’ll look at a letter sent in 1987 from a group of elementary school students to the anarchist writer Ba Jin (most famous for his 1931 novel The Family) as they struggle to cope with China’s changing social values. In Part II, I’ll translate Ba Jin’s reply.

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Story: 《小猴子偷玉米》Monkey Steals Some Corn

A bite-sized story with repetitive sentence structure which seems to be about a fickle monkey who can’t focus long enough to enjoy his meal, but which is actually a gut-wrenching satire of my entire life.

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Advanced

Letter: Famous 20th Century author Lu Xun writes to his friend in 1926

Lu Xun (鲁迅) lǔ xùn was one of China’s great 20th century writers and thinkers who felt that the heart and soul of the Chinese people had been sickened by the depravity and corruption that ran rampant after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.

Categories
Beginner

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.

Categories
Beginner

China’s most famous poem: 《静夜思》by Li Bai

This bittersweet 1000-year-old rhyme from China’s artistic golden age is perhaps the country’s most well-known verse. Even better for beginners (HSK 2-3), it’s only a few lines long, and there are only a couple of difficult characters. In fact, this is such a perfect lesson, that the fact that I haven’t posted it until now may be a sign of early-onset dementia.

Categories
Intermediate

Mythology: 《精卫填海》 from the Classic of Mountains and Seas

This one’s pretty cool, guys. Today, we’re going to take look at a short text that’s almost 2000 years old. This passage comes from the 《山海经》shān hǎi jīng, or The Classic of Mountains and Seas, an ancient compendium of mythological beasts that was formalized during the Han Dynasty – that’s around the same time as the Roman Empire.

Categories
Advanced

Novels: Start Reading “To Live” 《活着》by Yu Hua

Yu Hua (余华) is for sure my favorite author of Chinese modern lit. He writes the lives of ordinary village people, and like pretty much all great Chinese village-based fiction from the 20th century, the stories are full of vulgar realism, as you will soon see. But Yu Hua’s work is also tinged with bittersweetness, and for anyone with an HSK 5-6 vocabulary, his novels are surprisingly approachable.

Categories
Beginner

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 […]

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Advanced

Modern Chinese Poetry: 《雨巷》by Dai Wangshu

Hey guys. Been a while. I’m studying Chinese IRL, so I’ve got less reason to focus on the blog, but I have been getting all the letters – thank you all. I’ve also received two guest posts that I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t put up yet. Apologies, it may be a while, but they’re […]

Categories
Intermediate

Children’s Story: The Little Polar Bear and the Doll Dance Together

Feels like it’s been a hundred years since I threw something up here. Rest assured I carry the shame of an un-updated blog around with me constantly, so – yay, guilt. I’m actually taking intensive classes in Chinese (yet again) to push my reading level higher, hence the lack of posts. I’m more active on […]

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Story: The “Beautiful” Rabbit

A fairly simple read for newbies about a self-hating rabbit.

Categories
Beginner

Story Behind the Idiom: 刻舟求剑 – Being too rigid in the face of change

Yang over at Learn Mandarin Now is spoiling me with all these guest posts. I’ve been struggling to find something that suitable for beginners lately – everything I stumble across ends up being intermediate. But this is a very good place for beginners to start reading chéngyǔ (成语 idiom) stories, because you’ll get an introduction […]

Categories
Intermediate

Guest Post: Story Behind the Idiom: 塞翁失马 – A blessing in disguise

Hey hey, lookie here, an excellent guest post submitted by native Chinese speaker Yang from Learn Mandarin Now. This story tells us a bit about the Chinese chengyu (idiom),塞翁失马, which can mean “a blessing in disguise”, or can conversely mean “bad luck disguised as good”. It’s used to point out the hidden positives or negatives […]

Categories
Intermediate

Novels: Start Reading 《最后一个阴阳师》The Last Yin Yang Master

Happy Year of the Sheep! Couple of days ago, I stumbled across the Book “The Last Yin Yang Master”, aka “The Last Onmyoji” 《最后一个阴阳师》, a supernatural ghost story available for free online. Grab the whole thing Zhuaji.com.

Categories
Intermediate

Story Behind the Idiom: 专心致志 – Single-minded devotion

Story behind the Chinese idiom 专心致志 zhuān xīn zhì zhì, which means “to do something with single-minded devotion”.