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Beginner

Communist folk tales: 《朱德的扁担》- Zhu De’s Carrying Pole

Zhu De (朱德) is an early Communist folk hero, and the founder of the People’s Liberation Army (解放军), also called the Red Army (红军). This popular revolutionary story highlights his willingness to toil alongside the rank and file soldiers. HSK 3-4.

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Beginner

Communist songs: 《东方红》- The East is Red

This song is a relic of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The melody was adapted from an old farmer’s folk song back in 1942, and became popular when Mao Zedong’s (毛泽东) cult of personality was in full swing.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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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Beginner

Children’s Story: The “Beautiful” Rabbit

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

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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 […]

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Beginner

Essay: Catching Frogs

Though this post is beginner-level, it’s also very condensed. I’d say you’ll have to stop and remind yourself what something means every few words or so.

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Beginner

Poem: Dewdrops

A quick and simple poem about morning dew.