The Monkey’s Paw
LEVEL 1 (300 unique characters)
Mr. and Mrs. Zhang live with their grown son Guisheng who works at a factory. One day an old friend of Mr. Zhang comes to visit the family after having spent years traveling in the mysterious hills of China’s Yunnan Province. He tells the Zhang family of a monkey’s paw that has magical powers to grant three wishes to the holder. Against his better judgement, he reluctantly gives the monkey paw to the Zhang family, along with a warning that the wishes come with a great price for trying to change ones fate…
This story is an adaptation of English author W. W. Jacobs’ 1902 classic horror story, The Monkey’s Paw. 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. We have used the English language classic title’s official translation in Chinese, but we have converted all character names to natural Chinese names and changed some details to better fit a Chinese setting.
The period of this adaptation is the 1980’s not long after Deng Xiaoping famously instituted China’s new policies of “Reforms and Openness”. China was gearing up its industrialization to eventually become known as “the world’s factory.” In this time period, 10,000 RMB was a substantial amount of money, similar to the feeling of “a million dollars” in early 21st century America.
The following is a list of the characters from The Monkey’s Paw in Chinese followed by their corresponding English names from W.W. Jacobs’ original story. The names below aren’t translations; they’re new Chinese names used for the Chinese version of the original characters. Think of them as all-new characters in a Chinese story.
- 张希平 (Zhāng Xīpíng) – Mr. White
- 张太太 (Zhāng Tàitai) – Mrs. White
- 张贵生 (Zhāng Guìshēng) – Herbert White
- 钱运来 (Qián Yùnlái) – Sergeant-Major Morris
- 爪子 (zhuǎzi) n. claw, paw
- 猴子 (hóuzi) n. monkey
- 有意思 (yǒuyìsi) adj. interesting
- 叔叔 (shūshu) n. uncle, father’s younger brother
- 小看 (xiǎokàn) v. to look down on, to think little of
- 神奇 (qíguài) adj. strange, weird
- 魔力 (mólì) n. magical power, magic
- 认真 (rènzhēn) adj. serious, earnest
- 实现 (shíxiàn) v. to realize, to make real
- 愿望 (yuànwàng) n. a wish
- 好奇 (hàoqí) adj. curious
- 可能 (kěnéng) adv. maybe, possibly
- 得到 (dédào) vc. get, gain
- 失去 (shīqù) v. to lose (something)
- 看起来 (kànqǐlai) vc. to appear, to look (a certain way)
- 生意 (shēngyi) n. business
- 害怕 (hàipà) v. to fear
- 家人 (jiārén) n. family, family member
Really enjoyable to read for a beginner intermediate like me. And to reread! I’ve been reading the chapters over again out loud, which is excellent practice and encourages me to become more fluent in Chinese speaking. I really need more confidence applying the Chinese that I know to reading and especially speaking, and this helps.
I think there are two camps of Mandarin learners: those who avoid characters and those who embrace them. I was firmly in the first camp…until I read this book. I don’t think I was fully prepared for how much I would enjoy it, and now I can see the usefulness (and fun) of learning to read Chinese.
The book description says its for learners who know 300 characters, and that seems accurate. I’ve been studying spoken Chinese for almost a year and know roughly 1500-2000 words, but I’ve only started studying characters a month ago and know about 300. The first few chapters were slow-going. In each paragraph, I had to look up 1-2 characters (in addition to the lower-frequency keywords the book lists in its glossary). But by the end, I was breezing though it.
I chose The Monkey’s Paw as my first Chinese book because I was already familiar with the story (a childhood favorite of mine). This version stays more or less true to the original, and even though I already knew what was going to happen, the events still pack an emotional punch (which is impressive, considering the 300-character limitation). The characters are well realized, and their inner lives are well expressed. There is a lot of repetition in the descriptions—certain words and grammatical structures are used over and over—but for the language learner, this is a good thing. In the end, I not only improved my ability to recognize high-frequency characters, but I’ve also picked up some vocabulary and grammar along the way.
Regarding the format, I chose the Kindle version because I thought the digital format would make it easier for me to look up characters. I found this to be true on my iPhone, but on my Kindle Paperwhite, I couldn’t figure out how to import a Chinese-English dictionary (if you know how to do this, please share in the comments). However, I subsequently bought the paperback version of another Mandarin Companion Reader (The Country of the Blind) and found that format to be superior. Not only does it look better, but it’s actually easier to look up words. Keyword definitions are listed in the footnotes (rather than just the glossary) so you don’t even have to flip the pages. And if you have Pleco’s OCR reader, you can easily look up characters that way as well.
It was great to be able to finish this book without having to use the dictionary several times on each page. This level is not too difficult but the story is very interesting.