"I am thrilled with the program. It is a new and powerful tool in my study of Chinese."
—Jos Spapens

"I have been using the program for about 5 months now and I have moved from knowing a little over 2,000 characters to consistently scoring 3,000 or more on your on-line character test. More importantly I have finally moved from reading intermediate texts to on-line news I find on the WWW. Your program has turned out to be an amazing aid. I am now a huge fan."
—Brent Nelson

"Big thanks for the software! I just started learning Chinese here at the UN, and your program is just what I need. It lets me follow up what I learn in the classroom and then explore further."
—Nikolai Galkin, United Nations

More User Comments


Stepping Stones Lesson Seven

Audio Immersion  |  Audio Practice  |  Vocabulary Study  |  Vocabulary Review
Reading Practice  |  Exercises  |  Stepping Stones Home

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Study the vocabulary for one line of the story along with the English translation of that line. You may want to go back to the previous step so you can listen to the line and practice reading it aloud. When you can read the line comfortably and with full comprehension, go on to the next line.


Blind Men Feel an Elephant

In ancient times,

there was a king who ordered an elephant to be brought forth,


and he ordered six blind men go feel it with their hands,


and afterwards describe what an elephant is like.


Due to the fact that the the six men stood in different positions,


their perceptions were different,


and the shape of the elephant that they described were also different.


They each stuck to their own opinion,


and they all felt they had spoken correctly,


and then began to argue with one another,


and no one was able to convince anyone else.


New Vocabulary

Click on any character to see how it is written. Click on any character's pinyin to hear how it is pronounced.

While learning to write the characters is not essential to learning to read them, it helps a lot and is highly recommended. Practice writing each yourself 5-10 times, being careful to follow the stroke order shown in the animation.

(n.) blind man, blind men
(v.) to feel, to touch
(n.) elephant
(n.) king
(v.) to pull
(measure word for certain types of animals); (n.) head
(v. + object) to use one’s hands
(conjunction) afterwards
(question word) what
(n.) type, manner, appearance
(conjunction) due to
(conjunction) therefore
(v.) to stand
(n.) location
(adj.) different
(n.) feeling; (v.) to feel
(n.) shape; form; appearance
(adv.) each
(v.) to think that
(n.) self
(conjunction) hence; and then…
(n.) dispute; (v.) to argue; to dispute
(complement) started to
(question word) who
(v.) to convince

Vocabulary Notes

盲人摸象 is another example of a Classical Chinese idiom, called a 成语(chéngyǔ). 成语 are commonly used in everyday life situations to explain complex situations with remarkable brevity. Our story literally involves blind men feeling an elephant, but 盲人摸象 is often used in a figurative sense, meaning that someone is unable to see the larger picture, or that the parts are being mistaken for the whole and that someone is coming to an inaccurate and incomplete conclusion.
摸 means “to feel” with one’s hand or sense of touch. It is different than 感觉 or 认为 which mean to feel (emotionally or mentally).

大象 means “elephant.” 大 means “big” and 象 means “elephant.”

国王 means “king.” 国 means “country” and 王 means “king.” Thus “king of a country.”

拉 means “pull.” The opposite, “push,” is 推 (tuī).

什么 is an integral question word, meaning “what.”

样子 is difficult to translate in a single word. It usually refers to the type, the appearance, the shape of an object; or the manner of an action.

站 as a verb means “to stand.” It can also be “a stand/station,” such as 地铁站 (dìtiězhàn), meaning “subway station.”

不同 means “different.” Literally “not the same.”

认为 usually means “to think (that).” It literally means “to acknowledge… as.”

为 is a character with multiple means and two pronunciations. Wéi can be “to be”or “to do; to make,” whereas wèi is a preposition meaning “for.”

自己 means “self.” It can function as a noun or as an adverb.

谁 is pronounced as shéi in Standard Mandarin, but in Southern China and Taiwan many people also pronounce this as shuí.

说服 means “to convince; to persuade.”

争论 can be either a verb or a noun. 争 meaning “strife” and 论 meaning “debate.”

Once you've studied the vocabulary and can read each line of the story with comprehension, you are ready to go on to the next step.