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Beginner

Children’s Story: 最可口的食物 – The most appetizing meal

One picky little horse doesn’t appreciate the food he is served, until he sees what everyone else is eating. Upper-beginner, bordering on intermediate, HSK 4.

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Advanced

Mythology: 女娲补天 – Nvwa Mends the Heavens

Doesn’t it seem like humankind has a collective memory of some prehistoric natural disaster built into our DNA? So many cultures have ancient myths about close calls with total destruction, be it Noah’s Ark, or the story of Atlantis, or in China’s case, “Nvwa Mends the Heavens” (女娲补天).

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Story: 有学问的儿子 – The Learned Son

In this short story, a garden rake (草耙 – cǎo pá) teaches one stuck-up kid a lesson in humility. HSK 3-4.

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Intermediate

Essay: 《感谢困难》Thanking Life’s Challenges by Lin Qingxuan

You can skip your Instagram yoga gratitude break today, here’s another one from Taiwanese Buddhist essayist Lin Qingxuan (林清玄). HSK 4-5.

Categories
Beginner

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.

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Advanced

Novels: Start reading Chinese sci-fi novella 《赡养人类》by Liu Cixin

Assassins and spaceships and evil doings! Start reading Chapter One of the novel Support Human Beings by Liu Cixin, author of China’s most famous sci-fi Three Body Problem.

Categories
Beginner

Story Behind the Idiom: 画蛇添足 – The dangers of showing off

This is the first 成语 backstory I recall reading in class. It’s about a guy who can’t help but flaunt his superior skill in front of others, and the nasty surprise he gets as a result. This is upper-beginner, HSK 4.

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Intermediate

Story behind the idiom: 画龙点睛 – Perfect words at a critical moment

This is the legend that underpins the idiom “画龙点睛”, which typically describes the use of a couple of perfectly-chosen words or sentences, added a critical moment in written works or spoken arguments, which illuminate a deeper meaning and give the content more power. The story itself, though, it about dragons, and is only tied to that concept in the loosest way.

Categories
Beginner

Story Behind the Idiom: 盲人摸象 – To only partially understand something

This story is believed to have originated from a Buddhist sutra, the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra 《大般涅槃经》, donated to us by the content team over at Du Chinese. A challenge for HSK 2, should be smoother for HSK 3.

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Advanced

Folk tales of real people: 《岳飞纹字》Yue Fei’s Tattoo

Song dynasty warrior-poet and folk hero Yuefei (岳飞) gets a tattoo to remind himself of his duty to his country. This is an “advanced” post for three reasons: one, there are some words in here that can’t be found in the dictionary, two, there are quite a few proper names, and three, to understand this, you need to know a little bit about Song history.

Categories
Beginner

Children’s Stories: 《胆小先生》Mr. Coward

Mr. Coward’s home is invaded by mice, but he doesn’t have the gumption to do anything about it. Or does he? This little story will be comfortable at HSK 3-4.

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Intermediate

Essay: 《蝴蝶的种子》Seed of a Butterfly by Lin Qingxuan

Taiwanese Buddhist essayist Lin Qingxuan marvels at the wonders of nature, time, space, and reincarnation. This piece is all about awe of the natural world, and you’ll learn some Discovery Channel vocab, like “pupa”, “mate”, “breed”, “spawn”, and lots of animal names.

Categories
Beginner

Famous poetry: 《咏鹅》Ode to Geese by Luo Binwang

This well-known nursery jingle that Chinese kids learn in kindergarten was written 1400 years ago, by Tang Dynasty poet Luo Binwang, who, in the tradition of great artists everywhere, did some jail time for dissing the reigning empress. You don’t get much sense of Luo’s rebellious side in this short poem, though – it’s about geese, and that’s about it.

Categories
Advanced

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

In Part II of this two-part series, we’ll read acclaimed author Ba Jin’s reply to the 10 elementary school students who wrote him a letter asking him for moral guidance in 1987. I’m not a super weepy person, but I legit cried reading this. This is a noble, elevating piece of writing, and reading it, I’m reminded that in all societies, there are those who struggle with the materialism that engulfs us.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.