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Stepping Stones Lesson Nine

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

A Tooth For a Tooth

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.


A Tooth For a Tooth


When Kong Rong was little


he was already unusually intelligent.


Many erudite high officials


were all unsuccessful at stumping him.


There was one time,


when very many people were all facing


Kong Rong’s face bragging about him.


However, there was an important official who nevertheless said:


“People who are clever as children,


once they grow up,


aren’t necessarily that great.”


Kong Rong replied tooth for tooth, saying:


“When great men were young


presumably they must have been be clever.”


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.

a tooth for a tooth
(n.) tooth; teeth
(n.) a small hole; surname Kong
(v.) to melt; to fuse
(adj.) small; little; young
(n.) time, age
(adv.) (indicates something is sooner/quicker than expected)
(adj.) smart; intelligent
(adj.) outstanding
(adj.) quite a few
(mW.) some (indefinite quantity)
(v.) to learn; erudition
(n.) high official
to stump; to frustrate
(adj.) difficult
(v.) to fall over; topple over
(mW.) time(s)
(v.) to be at;
(adv.) but; however
(v.) boast
(adv.) but, however
grow up
(n.) adults
(adj.) something special; how is it?
must be
(v.) to think; would like
(adv.) must

Vocabulary Notes

以牙还牙 is yet 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. This 成语 happens to have a direct English equivalent. It is not uncommon for Chinese and English to share the same expressions, although sometimes the exact phrasing may differ.

Here are few examples of Chinese and English shared idioms:
血浓于水            xuě nóng yú shuǐ           blood is thicker than water
以眼还眼            yǐ yǎn huán yǎn            an eye for an eye
一石二雕            yì shí èr diāo                hit two birds with one stone*

* Actually, a more common equivalent Chinese idiom is 一举两得 (yījǔliǎngdé), roughly meaning “one raise (of the arm) and getting two (things).”
Who is 孔融 (Kǒng Róng)?

孔融 (153CE – 208CE) was a famous poet, and also politician, scholar, and minor warlord during the late the Han Dynasty (汉朝 Hàncháo). He was also a descendent of Confucius. The common name of Confucius in Chinese is 孔子 Kǒngzǐ (literally “Master Kong”). The English name “Confucius” is a Latinized version of 孔夫子 Kǒngfūzǐ (“Great Master Kong”).

小 is an adjective, meaning “small” or “little,” but can also be used to mean “young.” For example, pony would simply be 小马 (xiǎomǎ); puppy would be 小狗 (xiǎogǒu).

时候 is generally pronounced shíhou. A toneless syllable is called 轻声 (qīngshēng); literally “light sound.” 聪明 is another example of a word ending in 轻声。

多音字:In Chapter 8 we covered a few characters with multiple pronunciations. In Chapter 9, there are also multiple 多音字, although only one reading for each is required to understand this chapter. Please refer to the vocabulary section to see the 多音字。Please take note that even the same reading of a character may have different meanings (e.g.: 才 meaning “not until”; 才 meaning “(literary) talents”).

些 is a very common measure word indicating “some” (an indefinite quantity of something).

次 is a common measure word, indicating the number of times that something has happened. The more colloquial equivalent is 遍 (biàn).

Using Opposites to Create Categories

In Mandarin Chinese, two opposites may be contrasted, creating a category. For example, take 大 (big) and 小 (small). When put together, 大小 actually means “size.” Another example: 长 (cháng) means “long” 短 (duǎn) means “short.” Put together, 长短 (chángduǎn) means “length.”

面 means face, or surface. The more common Modern Chinese word is 脸 (liǎn).

怎么样 can function as a question “how is/was it?” When used in a statement, it roughly means “so-so.”

不怎么样 means “not that great.”

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.