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吉林美術出版社

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Title: 小故事大道理 – 童話故事
Translated title: The Little Stories – Folk Tales
Language: Chinese
Author:
吉林美術出版社
Year: 2005

This is the fourth book I read in this series, and, fortunately, it’s also the last one. I’m not sure if the steadily declining grades for these books are a result of my standards growing more exacting or if I just happened to read the best book first. The point here, though, is that this book isn’t worth very much. The stories are either already familiar to me (because they are very common in the West, such as the King Midas story) or utterly boring and pointless. It’s still worth something for language practice (the style and language is almost identical to the other volumes, but there are still plenty of characters I don’t know, but not enough to actually make it difficult to understand). The problem with books such as 小故事大道理 – 成語故事 is that apart from the language, there is simply nothing that attracts my attention. The subject matter of at least two other books dealt with phenomena or stories related to China or the Chinese language, but here, only a few stories are genuinely interesting.

I think I need to start reading books for slightly older readers. Right now, I’m reading a book presenting various famous soldiers and strategists throughout Chinese history, and it does look promising.

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Title: 小故事大道理 – 成語故事
Translated title: The Little Stories – Idioms
Language: Chinese
Author:
吉林美術出版社
Year: 2005

Not much remains to be said about this series, although I must say that this book confirms the origin of the stories’ importance for my appreciation of them. This one is about something genuinely Chinese, namely 成語. It’s not correct to translate this into “idiom” in English, but since there is no better word for it, that will have to suffice. A 成語 is a special idiom, always using exactly four characters and usually expressing a profound meaning which is sometimes not obvious only from looking at the characters. This book sets out to explain a number of idioms by presenting the stories behind them in a relaxed manner.

For instance, let us take the idiom 自相矛盾. Literally translated,自相 means “mutual”, 矛 means “pike” or “lance” and 盾 means “shield”, a combination of characters which is of course completely incomprehensible if read without any background information. The story behind this, however, brings it into a different light. In ancient times, a merchant was selling pikes and shields. Trying to attract people’s attention, he boasted that his pikes were of so fine quality that they could pierce anything, and that his shields could withstand any attack. An onlooker asked the clever question what would happen if one of the merchant’s pikes hit one of his shields. The merchant fell silent. Thus, these four characters nowadays represent something which is paradoxical or mutually contradictory.

There are thousands of these in the Chinese language, some of them very common, some of them fairly rare and only known by people who read a lot. They appear in everyday speech, text books, novels and news articles and learning a few of them is a must. This is quite a nice introduction to a few of them, and I enjoyed reading this book a lot! The Chinese isn’t too complex, but that isn’t the point here. I’m reading for enjoyment and quantity, and if I can learn something genuinely Chinese at the same time, that’s even better.

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Title: 小故事大道理 – 寓言故事
Translated title: The Little Stories – Fables
Language: Chinese
Author:
吉林美術出版社
Year: 2005

I don’t know if this just happens to be a worse collection of stories than the previous one about folk tales or if my dissatisfaction simply stems from the fact that these stories appear duller because they are more familiar. I know very little about Chinese mythology, at least if compared to what I know about fables. Regardless of the reason, this book was hardly worthwhile.

Some of the stories are too simple and to repetitive (and no, this isn’t because of the language level, because the next book I will review shortly is in the same series and I read that one the day after I finished this, and I noticed no such tendencies). The manga style for the pictures also seems more suitable for Eastern stories, but feels a bit out of place illustrating Western fables. Of course, I still think the format is quite interesting and some stories also merit a couple of snails.

It was good that I decided to read this book now, though, because if I wait too long, this kind of book will be too easy, and since I’ve already bought the book, it would feel a bit wasted.  As I have already mentioned, I have already finished another book in this series, and after that, only one remains; expect more reviews in the near future! My quest for better reading comprehension and speed continues!

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Title: 小故事大道理: 民間故事
Translated title: The Little Stories – Folk Tales
Language: Chinese
Author: 吉林美術出版社
Year: 2005

This neat little book from Windmill is the first book I read in Chinese. I asked my teacher back in Xinzhu and she said it was possibly for grade four or five, which made it very difficult for me in the beginning, although the later stories were quite easy. To give you an idea of what it means to read this book, I will provide a brief outline of my progress.

In all there are over 30 tales in this volume, totalling around 7000 Chinese characters (the book is richly illustrated as well). Looking up all the characters I didn’t know, I amassed a total of 777 new words, which is quite a lot. For the first five stories I needed to look up 291 characters, but for the last five, I only needed to check 107. It didn’t feel like progress when I was in the middle of it, but that’s of course what it was.

What about the stories, then? Some of them are, to be honest, quite menial and fail to either entertain or educate, but most of them are wonderful. It is truly fascinating to read about Chinese legends like this, even though the language sometimes makes it difficult. Each story is concluded by a moral lesson, which in some cases is just stupid (most of the time there is an obvious moral in the story, but sometimes the author has just added one).

I have another three books in this series, but rather than continuing with these now, I need to focus on my language courses. There will be plenty of time in the future to read more legends, which is something I look forward to. This was a demanding first book to read in Chinese, but it was also truly rewarding!

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