I’ve gotten way too busy with teaching and curriculum work to do any serious Chinese studying for quite a while. Thanks to my experiences while learning Japanese, I’m still an extensive reading believer, though. I still have one last bastion of Chinese reading in my life- bathroom reading material. I’ve been going through a series of little 10 page stories for kids.

Since they’re supposed to be for learning English, there are 10 vocabulary words selected for each page. They’re actually useful occasionally. Then in the main part of the story, each page is split between Chinese and an English “translation” mangled so badly as to sometimes leave out whole blocks of two or three sentences, or go on rambling about things that weren’t even brought up in the Chinese half. That doesn’t matter though. The books are easy, and I’m still picking up a bit of fantasy/fable related vocab from them.

Most of the books are based on western stories such as The Three Little Pigs, or Snow White. What’s really interesting though, is the ones that aren’t. I just finished reading 賣香屁, or the “sell fragrant fart”. The story starts out normally enough.

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Two brothers inherit a lot of property when their parents die. The other brother is a greedy bastard and takes almost all of the land, farm animals, and the house for himself, while leaving the younger one with a tiny barren field, a shed and a dog. The younger one is an all around good guy and hooks the dog up to a plow and goes about his work without complaints. When a merchant sees it, he bets him the dog can’t plow the field. The little brother wins, the big brother gets jealous, takes the dog, bets with it, loses his farm, and kills the dog in anger. Okay, so far.

Then, the younger brother buries the dog and a magic tree with bean pods hanging from it grows from the grave! Weird, but ok. Now here’s where the story goes wack. The boy starts eating the beans and gets gas… but his farts smell good! He then goes out and starts selling them on the streets and even impresses a government official enough with the “revitalizing powers” of his farts that he gets rewarded 120 gold pieces. The older, greedy brother then decided to steal some bean pods, and try to do the same thing. His farts smelled terrible though, so he ended up getting beaten by the provincial magistrate.

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The moral of the story is… COMPLETELY BEYOND ME!!! The fact that this story somehow got grouped with so many classics, both western and eastern, makes me suspect this is a famous Chinese story. Can anyone verify this? JT? Battlepanda? I find the idea of little kids all learning this story a bit disturbing, but I guess it’s no less disturbing than anything Lewis Carroll wrote.