Break into Reading Real Modern Chinese Literature
Due to its complex writing systems, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world. Full literacy of Chinese requires a working knowledge of three to four thousand Chinese characters and breaking into reading Chinese literature is a daunting task.
The Capturing Chinese series is a comprehensive tool to help students of Chinese read Chinese literature in its original form. Footnotes highlight the more difficult vocabulary and pinyin is provided for the entire text. There is no need to constantly consult a dictionary or look up difficult characters by radical. Historical events, people and places are explained throughout and illustrations recreate the scenes.
Every Capturing Chinese reader includes:
- Full story in simplified Chinese
- Pinyin for the entire text
- Definitions for difficult vocabulary
- Historical explanations and summaries
- Illustrations throughout
- FREE MP3s read by two native speakers
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Reviews of Capturing Chinese
“The book [Capturing Chinese] is a great aid for readers who want to learn about the father of modern Chinese literature and his works.”
- Carolyn Lee, Director of the Chinese Language Program at Duke University
“As reading material for the students who are learning Chinese and interested in Chinese literature and culture, your book is amazing and special!”
- Liu Liping, Chinese Professor at Columbia University
“Your book [Capturing Chinese Short Stories From Lu Xun’s Nahan] will offer teachers of the Chinese language an effective tool of accessing Lu Xun’s difficult texts.”
- Nanxiu Qian, associate professor of Chinese literature at Rice University
To be a part of the course reading in Qiuyun Teng’s Advanced Chinese Reading Class at Cornell University in the Fall of 2010!
Where to Buy Capturing Chinese
The author has been studying Chinese for the past eight years. Starting with no background in the language he studied hard at Cornell, went to Beijing, met his beautiful wife, and now speaks Chinese every day. Disappointed with the quality of intermediate and advanced Chinese books, he wrote this book focused on easing the intermediate/advanced student into reading some of China’s best literature. He currently lives in Japan where he continues his passion for learning languages. He continues to study Chinese and is now learning Japanese as well. Please feel free to contact him via the contact form on this web site.
Preface from Capturing Chinese Short Stories: Lu Xun’s Nahan
Lǔ Xùn (1881-1936) is one of the most influential and famous writers of modern Chinese literature. His stories have been read over and over by young Chinese students, and translated into English a variety of times, most notably Selected Stories of Lu Xun translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang and Diary of a Madman and Other Stories translated by William A. Lyell. While these translations are excellent, the true meaning and spirit of Lǔ Xùn’s stories are best understood by reading the stories in the original Chinese. Some Chinese words and phrases don’t lend themselves to translation into English, while some English words lack the historical significance of the original Chinese.
In addition, due to its complex writing system Chinese is also one of the most difficult languages in the world. Full literacy of Chinese requires a working knowledge of three to four thousand Chinese characters. Breaking into reading real Chinese literature is a daunting task and many students give up after just a few pages.
Capturing Chinese: Short Stories From Lǔ Xùn’s Nàhǎn helps readers to enjoy Chinese fiction without the frustration of spending countless hours looking up difficult characters in the dictionary or needing a teacher’s assistance to get through the text. Currently, one common method of reading Chinese stories is to buy a book, sit down with a dictionary in hand, and spend hours looking up characters by radical while slowly gaining an understanding of the text. Besides the drudgery of this approach, dictionaries lack many of the difficult words, lack historical explanations, and don’t list important historical figures and places. Also, since many Chinese characters have multiple meanings, knowing which meaning is appropriate in the given context is an additional obstacle. Therefore, even the most diligent student can get bogged down on a few difficult characters and phrases.
Capturing Chinese: Short Stories From Lǔ Xùn’s Nàhǎn is a tool to help students break into reading original Chinese literature. Each of Lǔ Xùn’s stories from his compilation, Nàhǎn, is included and is accompanied with a short historical introduction for each story. With a better understanding of the historical context, the reader will have a greater appreciation of the significance of Lǔ Xùn’s short stories. Only his story, The Real Story of Ah Q, (阿Q正传) is not included due to its length. We thought it best to keep this book to a reasonable size. The Real Story of Ah Q is published separately.
All stories in Capturing Chinese: Short Stories From Lǔ Xùn’s Nàhǎn have pinyin below each paragraph in the story. The pinyin is provided to help refresh one’s memory of certain characters and to help with looking up difficult characters, and is not intended to be read along with the characters. Therefore, the pinyin does not follow the characters, character by character, but instead only paragraph by paragraph. In this way, the reader’s eyes do not drift to the pinyin every time he or she is stuck on a character.
Difficult words and phrases are footnoted and accompanied by a definition. If the reader encounters an unfamiliar character not defined, he can use the pinyin that is listed below each paragraph to immediately look up the difficult words or phrases. Instead of using the complex method of looking up characters (recognizing the radical, counting strokes, finding the character’s pronunciation, and then looking up the definition), the reader will be able to directly use the pinyin to find the definition for the unfamiliar character. Students will save countless hours of flipping through a dictionary and instead be able to focus on learning new characters while enjoying Chinese literature.
Each story defines each word or phrase once. In that way the student is encouraged to learn the characters as they read, but this rule resets for each story. Therefore, the student can begin reading any story that he or she desires in any order.
Capturing Chinese: Short Stories From Lǔ Xùn’s Nàhǎn is a bridge for students to break away from fabricated textbook stories and into real substantial Chinese literature. The goal of this book is not to translate the story into English for the reader, or have the reader read pinyin instead of the characters, but only to provide him with tools so that he can read the text on his own, come up with his own translations, and master reading Lǔ Xùn’s stories in the original Chinese.