Read a novel in Chinese and English

Chinese edition of The Little Monk

The Little Monk in Chinese

The Little Monk

The Little Monk in English

Earlier this year I mentioned that I planned to publish a middle-grade novel in both English and Chinese. I am pleased to announce that the English and Chinese editions of “The Little Monk are now available as Kindle eBooks at

It’s been quite a few years since I started this blog site, and I hope that some of you have advanced to the intermediate level in your study of the Chinese language. Are you ready to take on the challenge of reading a complete novel in Chinese? To date there is still a shortage of bilingual English-Chinese reading material for intermediate level language students.

The fact is that reading the same material side by side in Chinese and English can greatly benefit both the Chinese and English language learners.

If you don’t have a Kindle reading device, you can still read Kindle eBooks─on your PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android-based phone or tablet. Please see the information provided at this link.

To give you an idea of what the story is about, here is a brief description.

十七世纪中, 台湾被称作福摩萨,  
Shíqīshìjì zhōng, Táiwān bèi chēng zuò Fú Mó Sà,
In the 17th century, Taiwan was called the Island of Formosa,

yì wéi měilì de xiǎodǎo.
meaning “Beautiful Island”.

岛上有宜人的气候, 令人瞩目的风景, 
Dǎo shàng yǒu yírén de qìhòu, lìngrén zhǔmù de fēngjǐng,
The island featured pleasant climate, eye-catching scenery,

yǐjí fēngfù de zìran zīyuán.
and rich natural resources.

各国强权纷纷来到, 建立了殖民地.
Gèguó qiángquán fēnfēn láidào, jiànlì le zhímíndì.
Foreign powers flocked to the place to colonize it.

Zhègè gùshi fāshēng zài yīgè bèi Xībānyá tǒngzhì de dìqū.
This story took place during the brief Spanish rule of part of the island.

Wáwa chūshēng zhīhòu bùjiǔ jiù yǔ tā de fùmǔ fēnlí
Shortly after Wawa was born, he was separated from his parents

ér bèi yī wèi shào lín héshàng shōuróng le.
and taken in by a Chinese Shaolin monk.

他十二岁时已经熟读佛经, 并且练了一身好功夫.
Tā shí’èr suì shí yǐjīng shú dú Fójīng, bìngqiě liàn le yīshēn hǎo gōngfu.
At the age of 12, he was already trained in Buddhism and kung fu skills.

Wáwa xiǎng yào cóng lìngwài yī wèi shīfu nàr xuéxí shí hóu gōng.
Wawa wanted to learn the unique Rock Monkey Kung Fu from another master.

在前往那位师父的途中, 他遇到了他的父亲尤大, 
Zài qiánwǎng nèi wèi shīfu de túzhōng, tā bùyì yùdào le tā de fùqin Yóudà.
On the trip to seek the other master, Wawa encountered his father Yotas,

Dànshì liǎng rén dōu bù zhīdào tāmen zhījiān de fù zǐ guānxi.
but neither one was aware of their kinship.

Wáwa yě yùdào tā de duìshǒu Míngshàn.
Wawa also encountered his adversary, Mingshan.

Míngshàn zhèng yào bāngzhù Xībānyá jūnduì dàibǔ Yóudà.
Minshan was helping the conquistadors to capture Yotas.

The twists in the plot of this story will keep you wondering what eventually happened to each of the main characters. At the same time, you will have a glimpse of the local scenery and the multi-cultural history of the place. You will be entertained by the amazing kung fu fighting actions, and hopefully also give some thought to racial prejudice and religious tolerance.

To watch a video showing scenes similar to those used as the background of this story, please click on this link:

To watch a video about the aborigine tribes in Taiwan, please click on this link:

Sing Yiddish Song Tumbalalaika in Chinese


I came across an old Yiddish folk song “Tumbalalaika” and found the lyrics rather amusing. Are you the type who will quiz your future mate to scrutinize his or her intelligence or integrity? Or, will you, like most of us, simply fall head over heels for the one with whom you think you will live happily ever after? Compared to this tough question, perhaps learning Chinese isn’t so hard after all.

Here is my translation of a couple of the stanzas of the song. If you would like to read or sing along, please click on this link: Sing Tumbalalaika in Chinese.

少女,少女, 我请问你:
Shàonǚ, shàonǚ, wǒ qǐngwèn nǐ.
Maiden, maiden, may I ask you.

什么会成长, 但不用雨水?
Shénme huì chéngzhǎng, dàn bùyòng yǔshuǐ?
What can grow, but it needs no rain?

什么会燃烧, 永远不停息?
Shénme huì ránshāo, yǒngyuǎn bù tíngxī?
What burns forever and never will end?

什么会思念, 但不流泪?
Shénme huì sīniàn, dàn bù liú lèi?
Which thing can yearn, but sheds not a tear?

Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika.

Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika.

Tumbalalaika, 彈我們的琵琶.
Tumbalalaika, tán wǒmén de pípa.
Tumbalalaika, strum balalaika.

Tumbalalaika, 願我們快樂!
Tumbalalaika, yuàn wǒmén kuàilè!
Tumbalalaika, may we be happy!

少年, 少年, 这没问题.
Shàonián, shàonián, zhè méiwèntí.
Young man, young man, no problem at all.

岩石会成长, 但不用雨水.
Yánshí huì chéngzhǎng, dàn bùyòng yǔshuǐ.
A rock can grow, but it needs no rain.

爱情会燃烧, 永远不停息.
Àiqíng huì ránshāo, yǒngyuǎn bù tíngxī.
Love burns forever and never will end.

真心会思念, 但不流泪.
Zhēnxīn huì sīniàn, dàn bù liú lèi.
True heart can yearn, but sheds not a tear.

Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika.

Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika.

Tumbalalaika, 彈我們的琵琶.
Tumbalalaika, tán wǒmén de pípa.
Tumbalalaika, strum balalaika.

Tumbalalaika, 願我們快樂!
Tumbalalaika, yuàn wǒmén kuàilè!
Tumbalalaika, may we be happy!

In the above, the Chinese verses mostly parallel the English verses and should be easy to understand. Please note, however, that the 琵琶 (pípa pipa) and the balalaika are two different musical instruments. The balalaika has three strings. It was featured in the film “Dr. Zhivago”. On the other hand, pipa is a Chinese musical instrument that has four strings. I used this word as it rhymes with balalaika. I could as well have used 吉他 (jítā guitar) instead.

Another thing worth pointing out is that the Chinese expression for “will never” is phrased as “always will not”, namely 永远不 (yǒngyuǎn bù) or 永不 (yǒng bù) for short.

Please see “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for more songs and rhymes to sing or read in Chinese.

Gǎnēn jié kuàilè!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Learn Chinese word radical – Mountain

If you stack a hill, (qiū), on top of a mountain, (shān), the result is a high mountain, (yuè). The father of one’s wife is called 岳父 (yuèfù) or 丈人 (zhàngrén). Correspondingly, the mother of one’s wife is called 岳母 (yuèmǔ) or 丈母 (zhàngmǔ).

(yuè) is also the surname of an ancient Chinese general, 岳飞 (Yuè Fēi), who was regarded as a symbol for loyalty to one’s country. Why, on his back were tattooed these characters: 尽忠报国 (jìn zhōng bàoguó). (jìn) means to exhaust, being exhausted, or to do something to the limit. (zhōng) means loyalty, or being loyal and trustworthy. It’s a popular character in Chinese names for men. 报国 (bàoguó) is to devote oneself to serving one’s country. There will be hope for world peace if we apply such dedication and fervor to participation in constructive projects for our own country rather than to acts of harming people in other countries.

Chinese folklore and kung fu stories often tell of immortal beings or wizards who live as hermits in remote high mountains. A 仙人 (xiānrén) is usually depicted as a kindly old man with a balding head and a long white beard and dressed in a long white robe. On the other hand, his female counterpart, a 仙女 (xiānnǚ), is the Chinese equivalent of a beautiful young fairy. Records show that many a party were dispatched by ancient Chinese emperors to foreign lands in search for the elixir of life, which is referred to as 仙丹 (xiāndān). The most well-known story is about Xu Fu and the boys and girls he took along on such a journey.

(chà) means to branch off or to turn off. It appropriately contains the character (fēn to divide). 打岔 (dǎchà) means to interrupt a conversation. 出岔子 (chūchàzi) is for something to go wrong.

Qǐng bùyào dǎchà.
Please do not interrupt.

小心去做. 不要出岔子.
Xiǎoxīn qù zuò. Bùyào chūchàzi.
Go about it with care. Don’t bungle up.

(yán) is a cliff, while 岩石 (yánshí) is a general term for large rocks.

(tàn) is coal mined from mountains.

(xiá) is a gorge. 海峡 (hǎixiá) is a strait.

(yá) is a cliff. 悬崖 (xuányá) is a steep cliff. 悬崖勒马 (xuányálèmǎ) is a common idiom used to describe how one is able to avert danger at the last moment as with reining in one’s horse at the brink of a precipice.

A rugged mountain that is high and steep can be described as being 峻峭 (jùnqiào). Its homonym, 俊俏 (jùnqiào), written with the “person” radical, is what you would use to describe someone with handsome physical features.

Wǒ xīnshǎng tā jùnqiào de bízi.
I admire her handsome nose.

(àn) is a shore. 靠岸(kàoàn) is a verb that means to pull in to shore.

Chuán kàoàn le méiyǒu?
Has the boat pulled in yet?

崇高 (chónggāo) means high or sublime. Now you see why 崇拜 (chóngbài worship) contains the character (chóng lofty, high).

Take care not to mix up (chóng lofty, high) and (suì evil spirit).

鬼祟 (guǐsuì) means clandestine or surreptitious. It’s often used in the form 鬼鬼祟祟 (guǐguǐsuìsuì).

他鬼鬼祟祟的作风, 令人怀疑.
Tā guǐguǐsuìsuì de zuòfēng, lìngrén huáiyí.
His clandestine ways arouse suspicion.

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