The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

based on The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

LEVEL 1 (300 unique characters)

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Li Ye (Mary Lennox) grew up without the love and affection of her parents. After an epidemic leaves her an orphan, Li Ye is sent off to live with her reclusive uncle in his sprawling estate in Nanjing. She learns of a secret garden where no one has set foot in ten years. Li Ye finds the garden and slowly discovers the secrets of the manor. With the help of new friends, she brings the garden back to life and learns the healing power of friendship and love.

Adaptation Notes

This story is an adaptation of British author Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 classic novel, The Secret Garden. This Mandarin Companion graded reader has been adapted into a fully localized Chinese version of the original story. The characters have been given authentic Chinese names as opposed to transliterations of English names, and the locations have been adapted to well-known places in China.

The following is a list of the characters from The Secret Garden in Chinese followed by their corresponding English names from the original novel. These aren’t translations; they’re new Chinese names used for the Chinese versions of the original characters. Think of them as all-new characters in a Chinese story.

  • 李叶 (Lǐ Yè) – Mary Lennox
  • 马阿姨 (Mǎ Āyí) – Mrs. Medlock
  • 文先生 (Wén Xiānsheng) – Archibald Craven
  • 文太太 (Wén Tàitai) – Mistress Craven
  • 王乐心 (Wáng Lèxīn) – Martha Sowerby
  • 林爷爷 (Lín Yéye) – Ben Weatherstaff
  • 王乐天 (Wáng Lètiān) – Dickon Sowerby
  • 文思远 (Wén Sīyuǎn) – Colin Craven

Study Resources















  1. (lǐ)v. to pay attention to
  2. 叔叔 (shūshu) n. uncle, father’s younger brother
  3. 开心 (kāixīn) adj. happy
  4. 奇怪 (qíguài) adj. weird, strange
  5. 关心 (guānxīn) v. to be concerned about
  6. 里面 (lǐmiàn) n. inside
  7. 有意思 (yǒuyìsi) adj. interesting
  8. 想法 (xiǎngfǎ) n. thinking, idea
  9. 一定 (yīdìng) adv. definitely
  10. 总是 (zǒngshì) adv. always
  11. (wán) v. to play

I LOVED this book. I have only just recently discovered graded Chinese readers, and wish I had found them months ago. Because this is a story I am familiar with in English I knew while I was reading whether how I was interpreting what I was reading actually matched up with what was really happening in the story.

Beyond all that, reading an entire book in Chinese while having fun and learning new words and grammar structures made me feel like I climbed Mount Everest!!

– Erin Smidt

Being able to read an extended text for the first time in a new language feels a little like standing on your own two feet before you take those first steps. For me it’s the moment when I’ve felt a real boost for further learning! Up to now, I’ve searched for some such book in Chinese. This series promises to be the best I’ve found to date.

At present I’m preparing to sit the HSK3 and I think this book fits my level perfectly. The final really clever thing I’ve found is that the story is an adaptation of a known story. It’s been MADE Chinese, so that the whole thing sounds more natural when reading it in Chinese. So even if you remember “The Secret Garden” from your childhood, you are still confronted with a new story reminiscent of that classic.

Altogether great – looking forward to the series expanding alongside my Chinese level!

– Von Xi

I have to admit I loved [this story] despite my age (old enough not to say). Moreover, for the first time since I began studying Chinese, I forgot I was studying while I studied. I spend hours a week engaged with Mandarin situational dialogs, textbooks, and excerpts from news stories. While that content is often interesting, it always feels like work. Reading this was different. I just enjoyed the ride.

The story uses frequent repetition of words, phrases, and plot in order to make it very accessible to the learner, and it was enjoyable enough that I could return to it several times.

That is the power of fiction. Graded readers give learners access to the world of fiction which is mostly beyond our academic ability, and we get to have fun on the journey. Highly recommended for low-intermediate Mandarin students, even you old ones!

– Gary

This is exactly the kind of material I have been looking for. Not only is it a great learning tool but the content is engaging. I will be buying the entire set and looking forward to the second level readers.

– Mark Havemann

Love this, it’s a fun twist on the familiar story of “The Secret Garden.” The authors manage to make it interesting while using a very limited vocabulary. They also provide a very helpful glossary for any words they feel may be unfamiliar. This is great for adults learning Chinese, who need appropriate reading material at a basic level that is not boring. You should be able to read this after maybe a year of dedicated Chinese study?? I am really excited about this series, thank you!

– Nancy Wang

This book is an ideal material for early (to intermediate) learners of Mandarin. With a familiar (British) story set in a Chinese context, this book felt much more accessible to me than many of the texts I was offered in my college mandarin courses back in the day – wish I’d had access to this then!

The Secret Garden is engaging, the pictures are fantastic (and this is important, especially when reading is still a labor! Hence the need for gorgeous children’s books, right?), and the format is convenient. In particular, the availability of definitions for the more-advanced vocabulary through hyperlinks in the text makes this a really accessible Chinese language experience.

As a native English speaker who uses Chinese texts frequently in my own work, I am sold on the idea that a reading experience that is uninterrupted by frequent character look-ups is essential in getting comfortable with the rhythm and the structure of the language. Unfortunately, one has to have a text relatively well matched to one’s vocabulary level before getting those benefits from reading. This book will fill that need fantastically for early and intermediate learners of Chinese, giving an opportunity for seriously enjoyable reading practice that can increase speed of comprehension as well as comfort with basic vocabulary and sentence structures.

– Amy R.M. O’Keefe

As someone who has lived in China for five years and has studied Mandarin Chinese formally (in university classes and with private tutors and small group classes) and is constantly looking for practice and study methods that I actually enjoy, I found this book to be just the thing! Already a lover of The Secret Garden, I couldn’t put down this contextualized, Mandarin translation. The level wasn’t challenging for me; however I found it very encouraging to read swiftly without needing to stop and mentally translate. I did learn some new words, and though the level wasn’t a challenge, some of the “new” words in the glossary were ones that I’d learned previously but still had trouble with.

As an Oral English teacher, I tell my students that the best way to improve their vocabulary is to read English articles and others written works of interest to them. It turned out to be a great way for me to learn, too! Happy reading, and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

– Julia K. Curcio

I’m sold on the graded reader concept. I taught myself more German reading a primer than my boring German teacher ever taught me. So after having some Chinese language under my belt (in part thanks to ChinesePod where John Pasden used to work), I thought I would give this a go. I’m glad I did. It is repetitive, without being boring. The repetition is by design to drill into the brain the language patterns available to us within the bounds of a typical vocabulary for an advanced beginners.

The Secret Garden is a delightful story and this Chinese adaptation is well done. I look forward to reading the entire set of books from Mandarin Companion. John Pasden, you are a good language teacher. I wish my German teacher had your gift to teach a foreign language!

– Dave

This book is a delightfully re-written classic tale. It helps me to keep practicing my reading skills in Mandarin.

– JK

I’m an adult Chinese language learner who has been at it for quite a few years, on and off. Reading is definitely a weakness of mine. I guess the level of this book was too easy for me but then I that’s not such a bad thing since extensive reading should be easy and enjoyable. I highly recommend reading the kindle version on an ipad – you can download a Chinese English dictionary and get a pop up definition for any word that you don’t recognize. Otherwise the footnotes provided should also do the trick and you won’t need to mess around with the dictionary much as long as you already know some Chinese. I’m going to read the other level 1 stories. Really looking forward to more challenging texts.

– Jeff Mather

Really liked the [organization] of characters in a logical order to help remember them. The plot was really good and kept my interest the entire time. Never thought I’d be at the stage to be able to read a Chinese book while [being] excited to see what happens next. Overall definitely worth it!

– G23

I teach High School Chinese. My students really liked the fact that it was simple, repeated vocab and easy to follow. I plan to implement this good in my Chinese 3 class curriculum. Easy to teach for Chinese Teachers.

– Mark Neville

This is a great series of books. So many graded readers are either so basic you nod off to sleep or too complex. These are both interesting and great learning tools. I have reviewed so many words and structures from HSK level 3 and 4 by reading these books and have a better understanding of the meaning and use of the language I’ve struggled to memorize. I can’t get enough of them. Please continue this series.

– T.L Barnes