The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper

based on The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

LEVEL 1 (300 unique characters)

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During a chance encounter, two nearly identical boys, one a poor beggar and the other a prince, decide to exchange places. The pauper, now living in the royal palace, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is while the Prince, dressed in rags, lives on the street enduring hardships he never thought possible. Both children soon discover that neither life is as carefree as they expected.

Adaptation Notes

Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Prince and the Pauper, has been the subject of countless retellings, but has never been done in such a uniquely Chinese way before. In order to put the focus on the story in our adaptation, we set our version of the story in a fictional Chinese kingdom in the remote past. We never say exactly what year or dynasty it is, and the character names used, while sometimes inspired by real historical figures, are not straight out of the history books. The characters have been given authentic Chinese names as opposed to transliterations of English names, which sound foreign in Chinese. The location of the story, a city called 西京 (Xījīng), is also fictional.

Some elements of the story have a certain relationship to actual Chinese history, however. For example, although (Sòng) is the name of a historical Chinese dynasty, we chose it for the king’s name in our story precisely because there was no famous Chinese emperor with that surname. As for the name 宋知远 (Sòng Zhīyuǎn), we borrowed the given name from the actual historical emperor 刘知远 (Liú Zhīyuǎn).

One challenge in adpating this work was the title, The Prince and the Pauper. The word “pauper” means “beggar,” and can be translated as 乞丐 (qǐgài) in Chinese. However, this word is both formal and also contains two low-frequency characters, so it’s no good for a graded reader. The more colloquial option, 要饭的 (yàofàn de), also means “beggar,” but is so informal that it is not suitable for a book title (but it does appear in our book). Thus, we decided to go with 穷孩子 (qióng háizi), meaning “poor child,” a less literal translation of the English “pauper.”

Finally, our Chinese staff would like to make it clear to the reader that the hairstyle of the prince in our story does not conform to the actual historical royal hairstyles of ancient China. (Sometimes you just have to go with design choices that look a little cooler.)

  • 宋知远 (Sòng Zhīyuǎn) – Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales
  • 李小朋 (Lǐ Xiǎopéng) – Tom Canty
  • 李大 (Lǐ Dà) – John Canty
  • 周兵 (Zhōu Bīng) – Sir Miles Hendon
  • 白老师 (Bái Lǎoshī) – Father Andrew
  • 雨平 (Yǔpíng) – Lady Edith
  • 老国王 (Lǎo Guówáng) – King Henry VIII

Study Resources

The Prince and the Pauper








  1. 王子 (wángzǐ) n. prince
  2. 不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) adj. embarrassed
  3. (gōng) n. palace
  4. 礼貌 (lǐmào) n.; adj. manners; polite
  5. 生活 (shēnghuó) n. life
  6. (lèi) adj. to be tired
  7. 没想到 (méi xiǎngdào) phrase to not have imagined
  8. 喜欢 (xǐhuan) v. to like
  9. 王宫 (wánggōng) n. the royal palace
  10. 可能 (kěnéng) adv. maybe, possibly; possible
  11. 穿 (chuān) v. to wear
  12. 衣服 (yīfu) n. clothing
  13. 马上 (mǎshàng) adv. immediately (lit. “on horseback”)
  14. 房间 (fángjiān) n. room
  15. 仆人 (púrén) n. servant
  16. (pò) adj. beat-up, run-down
  17. 漂亮 (piàoliang) adj. pretty
  18. (xiàng) v. to resemble, to be like
  19. 告诉 (gàosu) v. to tell

Greatest Level 1-story of Mandarin Companion so far. The story is really compelling, especially considering its limited vocabulary. I can recommend this book to anybody who’s learning Chinese, even if you are not a beginner anymore.

B. Rauh

This has been one of my favorite so far. I enjoyed the story and how it fit so perfectly into the time period. I have gained some great vocabulary that helped me when I was on holiday in Beijing and listening to the tour guide talk about the history of the Forbidden Palace.

Victor J.

I can read level one books quite easily, but I alway find little vocabulary gems in Mandarin Companion graded readers. I love Mark Twain novels and found this Chinese adaptation endearing. Textbook learning has its place, but graded readers such as 王子和穷孩子 are far more enjoyable.


Easy to read at the intermediate level without stopping to look up uncmmon words every other page, great review. It also sticks to using common words, not obscure seldom used words or jargon, so provides great practice using words needed for day to day activities.

Donald Beduhn

Loved this book! I especially like how the new words appear at least 3 or more times in different context each time. I feel like I learned 300 new words without trying to memorize them from a word list AND I got to enjoy a great story I’m already somewhat familiar with. I’m impressed and will likely be getting the other options they offer.

Chinese Panda