Eight Chinese lessons

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  • Published 20071204
  • ISBN: 9780733321276
  • Extent: 280 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

CHINESE LESSON 1: I was nine and it was dinner time. My father was in monologue mode. He said that at the north bank of the west end of Qutang Gorge on the Yangtze River, there were many caves in the cliffs. During the Ming Dynasty, Zhang Xiangzhong, an insurgent (my father took pleasure in pronouncing this word and swallowed half a glass of wine to indicate he was on a serious mission) was driven with thirteen of his followers to take refuge there.

The Emperor’s soldiers blockaded the river just below the gorge, hoping to starve them out. But they didn’t count on Zhang’s ingenuity. He ordered his men to chisel holes in the rock-face during the night. They used what was left of their fighting sticks and staves and cut them into sections, which were then fitted to the holes. In this way they descended, one by one, removing one rung at a time to place it in the slot below. At the bottom, they were able to drink water and catch fish.

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