In this quick lesson about judging others, we learn that those who live in dirty glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. HSK 2-3.
This dialogue between a man and a sailor drives home a quick life lesson: there’s risk in anything you do, so there’s no point in trying to avoid danger entirely. HSK 2-3.
In this cutsey-face story intended for kindergarteners, Grandma Bear (熊奶奶 – xióng nǎi nai) comes down with an illness that can only be cured by seeing a rainbow (彩虹 -cǎi hóng), and Uncle Frog (青蛙大叔 – qīng wā dà shū) jumps in to make it happen. HSK 2-3.
A not-too-bright fellow heads to the market to buy a pair of shoes. Includes a beginner’s introduction to classical Chinese. HSK 3.
A man tries to make his treasured hunting bow (弓 gōng) even more perfect than it already is, but learns an obnoxious life lesson instead. HSK 3-4.
In this HSK 3-4 story, a crafty fox (狐狸 hú li) escapes being eaten by playing a cunning trick on a mighty tiger (老虎 lǎo hǔ).
A young man tries to copy the way people walk in the city of Handan (邯郸), but only succeeds in making a fool of himself. HSK 3-4.
A gentleman named Buzi (卜子) asks his wife (卜妻) to make him a new pair of pants (裤子), but he doesn’t give her very clear instructions. HSK 3-4.
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.
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.
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.
In this short story, a garden rake (草耙 – cǎo pá) teaches one stuck-up kid a lesson in humility. HSK 3-4.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aw, reciprocity. An old man does a kindness for a little bird, and he receives a kindness in return.