1. Animal Proprieties Company
Crazy Ancient Pride (古傲狂生)

      Penguin started a Proprieties Company to teach customers how to walk like a true gentleman. Before long doing the Penguin Walk was quite the thing.
      Duck and Goose weren’t persuaded at all. They joined together to open their own company, the Uniquely Superior Proprieties Company. As the two CEOs told it, the Penguin Walk was merely a beginning-level course in walking like a gentleman. To become a true gentleman, one must practice the Duck Walk or the Goose Step.
      Cat also opened a company but took an alternate route. Executive Cat advertised that “Walking like a gentleman has long been behind the times. The Penguin Walk, Duck Walk and Goose Step are all no good. The top in-thing now is the Model’s Walk, which is also called the Cat Walk.” That said, Executive Cat turned several circles lithely and gracefully to demonstrate the Cat Walk, winning widespread appreciation from customers. (Page 247)

2. Big Hands and Feet
Ma Chang Shan (马长山)

      “Mom, gimme some money to buy fish!” Spotted Kitten held his paw out toward his mother.
      “We need to be frugal in life, son,” his mother told him as she dug out the money. “Don’t have big hands and feet when you spend money.”
       Spotted Kitten covered his mouth with his paw, trying not to show his amusement.
      His mother, curious, asked, “What do you find so funny, son?”
      “You told me not to have big hands and feet, Mom. But we cats only have paws, so how can you talk about hands and feet.” The kitten couldn’t stop laughing.
      “What was I wrong about? You think I didn’t know that?” She was laughing, too. “Having ‘big hands and feet’ means ‘be extravagant’ in Chinese human-talk. I just wanted to let you know that when you borrow idioms from other languages, it’ll most likely come out funny.” (Page 253)

3. Sizing Up the Blind Date

Third Master from South Lake (南湖三少)

      Fatty got all gussied up to go on a blind date arranged by his aunt. The girl, a government employee, was vivacious – Fatty had seen her picture.
      “Such a great girl! How come she’s not already taken?” Fatty was mystified.
      They’d agreed to meet at a park.
      It was a weekend and people were crowded on the bus. A handbag that hadn’t been zippered up completely appeared before Fatty’s eyes. The wallet inside, only half-hidden, was like a young maiden casting flirtatious glances at him.
     Fatty stood there and stood there, feeling the pressure. Then his occupational disease had the audacity to flare up.
      Someone yelled “Thief!”
      Like a peal of thunder coming too fast for you to cover your ears, Fatty’s hand was caught tightly in someone else’s.
      “Police! Don’t move!”
     His blind date had him firmly in her grasp and was shouting at him with an officious look on her face. (Page 238)

4. The Boss’s Wit

Crazy Ancient Pride (古傲狂生)

      Our company is small but pretty efficient. Inflation took off recently, so the boss called a meeting to figure out raises for everyone.
      Everyone at the meeting started talking at once. Old Zhao said, “This round of raises better be really good, or we won’t be able to buy ten pounds of pork.”
      Old Qian said, “We ought at least be able to buy rice.”
      Old Sun said, “Peanut oil’s going up, too.”
      Old Li said, “Even instant noodles are going up like crazy.”
      The boss listened attentively and took frequent notes.
      Just a few days later, the Finance Department distributed a Wage Regulation Plan to everyone. Impressively, it said, “Old Zhao’s raise is eight pounds of pork; Old Qian’s raise is fifty pounds of Northeastern Rice….” There was also a note at the end. “Please refer to today’s retail commodity prices.” (Page 280)

5. A Cruel Maneuver
Liu Qi (刘齐)

      Ms. Wang, an elevator operator, is really a talker. She talks to whoever gets on the elevator. And she doesn’t talk about anything but soccer.
      She complained about her son in high school. He was going to be taking a test soon but wasn’t studying hard. He was always watching ball games on TV. She asked her husband to take care of the situation but he didn’t do it. Father and son paired up and watched the games together, discussing them as they watched. Ms. Wang did everything she could to dissuade them, carrots and sticks and promising anything, but nothing worked. They kept watching.
      Finally she freaked. With a loud cry of pain, she pulled the switch. Taking advantage of the force of her anger, she wrapped the TV up in a big blanket, crisscrossed it with a luggage strap and pulled as tightly as anything. Then, with the strength of a wild animal, she tied a sturdy knot.
      Father and son stared at each other in amazement. Only then did they let it go. (Page 294)

6. Expressing Oneself
Little Maple Tree (筱枫)

      Autumn had come, and the season for fruits to express themselves had arrived.
      After a struggle, Peanut ended up being pulled free of the earth. Its rich fruits showed and elicited tastings and shouts of pleasure. It glanced at crude, taciturn Pomegranate by its side and was quite self-satisfied.
      But Peanut felt suffocated as the sunlight became fiercer and fiercer. It thought it was going to die. Just then the nice round pomegranates came bursting forth on Pomegranate, showing their fire-red hearts and eliciting sincere appreciation.
      Peanut was groaning. Pomegranate took pity on it and said, “The sunlight is so good. Why do you have everything up out of the ground, even your roots, instead of living properly?”
      With its last gasp, Peanut answered resignedly, “I have no other talent, except to create essays with the bottom half of my body.” (Page 257)

7. Huang the Fortuneteller

Crazy Ancient Pride (古傲狂生)

      People called Old Huang “Fortuneteller Huang”. Rumor had it that he could penetrate mysteries and foresee the future; that he thoroughly understood the principles of nature, Yin and Yang; and that he had attained the status of a Taoist saint.
      The fact is, his wife had a serious case of rheumatism. Whenever a rainstorm was on the way, she’d grimace and moan to no end. That’s what gave Old Huang his ability to predict the weather.
      But one day Old Huang got into trouble. He went out without an umbrella, and the neighbors noticed, so none of them carried one either. As luck would have it, it did rain, and everyone got as soaked as the chicken that fell in the soup. They were all more than angry and complained that Old Huang was just a charlatan with a supposedly magic wand.
      Old Huang rushed home in a rage to confront his wife. His wife, on the other hand, was in seventh heaven. “This is wonderful! When I took that magic cold medicine I saw advertised, I never expected it would cure the rheumatism I’ve suffered from half my life!” (Page 280)

8. A Habit
Nine Rapids Eighteen Shallows (九泷十八滩)

      Migrant worker Dagui and his wife had jobs at an electronics factory in Shenzhen. They were deeply in love and seemed to be good friends as well, going everywhere together. They were like a couple who had only recently fallen in love, which made everyone green with envy.
      The thing I found odd was that they always walked one in front of the other, maintaining their distance, whether they were taking an after-dinner stroll or out shopping on their day off. One day I saw the couple out walking, apparently for exercise, and I jokingly asked Dagui, “Why do you guys walk like you were standing in line?”
      Dagui’s face turned red in a “whoosh”, all the way up to the base of his ears. He scratched his head and giggled, “When we were living in the countryside and started going together, we always walked on the ridges between the rice paddies. We never got out of the habit.” (Page 238)

9. The Heart is Willing

Wang Haoming (王豪鸣)

      Assistant Director Wang was a worrywart. Whenever he chaired a meeting, he always liked to say “this was a meeting of unity, a victorious meeting”, but if the applause from the floor was sparse, it made him exceedingly displeased.
      Today there was a
Democratic Life Meeting (where Communist Party cadres criticize themselves and each other, theoretically without regard to rank). It was attended by big shots from the City Commission for Discipline Inspection. Assistant Director Wang was the Chair, as always, and he invited everyone to speak freely. Contrary to his expectations, they’d all taken their courage pills: First one spoke up, and then another and another. They enumerated ten problems and three indictable offences of his.
      Then came the time for Assistant Director Wang to summarize the meeting and state his own views. First he hemmed and hawed a bit, his face ashen, but finally the old expressions bounded out from the gap between his teeth: “This was a… a meeting… of unity, a victorious… meeting….”
      Before he’d even finished, the whole room exploded with a lengthy round of fervent applause. (Page 291)

10. The Monster Lion
Ma Changshan (马长山)

      A man was raising a small lion and a small kitten.
      “It’s too dangerous,” a friend warned him. “Don’t you know that lions eat people?”
      “It doesn’t matter,” the man told him calmly. “I’ve only let it eat cooked food since it was a cub. By the time it grows up, it’ll have lost the instinct to eat people.”
      Two years later the lion had grown up.
     Something unfortunate happened one day. The man came home from work and found that his kitten was missing.
      “Where’s Mimi,” the man asked the lion in a stern voice.
      “I ate her,” the lion said listlessly.
      His voice filled with grief and indignation, the man shouted, “What? You Ate her? Haven’t I always let you eat only cooked food?”
      The lion answered factually. “I only ate Mimi after I put her in the oven and cooked her.” (Page 249)

11. Off-Color Joke

Poet Caravan (诗人马帮)

      In the Mayor’s eyes, only Old Chen among all the people around him could be considered unambitious. Aside from having a somewhat listless appearance, he was invariably dependable. All the other fellows, on the other hand, were open about some things but secretive about others, and were only too anxious to kick him out of his position as Mayor.
      “Sometimes I’m behind you, and sometimes I’m under you, but in the end I will climb above you.” The Mayor received a text like this on New Year’s Day. What surprised him was that the message had been sent by Old Chen.
      Old Chen got demoted right away. Maybe he’ll never understand the reason he was demoted. It was that, after he’d been drinking, he’d mistakenly sent the Mayor an off-color joke he’d intended for his mistress. (Page 258)

12. Old Man Gao

Wang Haoming (王豪鸣)

      A small vehicle hit a pedestrian and sent him flying, then ran off with its tail between its legs. Old Man Gao happened to be passing by. Crying, he carried the victim to the hospital on his back.
      After paying the deposit for admission to the hospital, Old Man Gao grabbed the doctor’s hand and wouldn’t let go. “He’s my hope! You absolutely mustn’t let him die!”
      “Are you his uncle?” the doctor asked.
      “Closer than his uncle,” Old Man Gao replied.
      The doctor asked another question. “Are you his father?”
      “Closer than his father,” Old Man Gao answered once more.
      A TV station heard about it and sent some people over. Old Man Gao ducked into the toilet, but the reporters weren’t amateurs. They blocked the toilet door and waited, cameras on their shoulders.
      “Really, what relation are you to him?” the reporters asked. “Why did you rescue him?”
      “I’m a creditor. I’m counting on him for my funeral expenses.” (Page 263)

13. One Dime

Liu Yalun (刘亚伦)

      He needed the makings to fry some food, but he only had ten cents.
      He got out a worn ceramic bowl to buy some cooking oil with the dime. The proprietor used an oil-dipper to pour out some oil. It only made a small round blob in the bottom of the bowl.
      He hurriedly said, “I made a mistake. I wanted soy sauce. Please pour out the oil.”
      The proprietor poured out the oil and was ready to pour in some soy sauce when he said, “Proprietor, sorry to bother you, I’d like a little vinegar while you’re at it.”
      The proprietor’s expression showed some anger, but he didn’t take such things to heart. “And Proprietor,” he said, “it’s best if you don’t mix the soy sauce and the vinegar together. Please separate out the soy sauce a little in the bottom of the bowl, so the vinegar and the soy sauce stay apart. Sorry ‘bout that.”
      He waited while the proprietor poured the soy sauce and the vinegar. As he was leaving, he snatched a piece of Sichuan steeped ginger. (Page 292)

14. One-Night Stands

Liu Qi (刘齐)

      There’s a one-night stand in every crowd, but it seems like there’s a lot more one-nighters these days than there used to be.
      Everyone’s busy these days, and rich, and open, and sly, and concerned with sex, and emphasizing safety. They’re in love with fast food and looking for novel stimulation, and they’re unwilling to take responsibility. Besides that they have Viagra, cars, birth control meds, and romantic feelings that are short-term and changeable. Hotels these days are more convenient than inns in former times, and roomier, and they have glass windows instead of those paper windows that were transparent if you even spit on them.
      That’s why people these days like to say that you don’t need eternity, you just need to have the use of. Get past the itch, and leave without looking back when it’s gone. Or if you do look back, don’t get that itch again because it’s already gone, so trade it in for another one. As businessmen in the Northeast say, get it and be done with it. (Page 242)

15. Seeing a Doctor
Su Chi (苏迟)

      I had a backache and went to see a doctor. The doctor said, “Let’s do an NMR.”
      “That’s too expensive. Do you have to do it?”
      “Let me put it like this. If I compare you to a building, your foundation has a problem and you could fall down at any moment.”
      “Do a preliminary diagnosis first, OK?”
      “Didn’t I tell you? Comparing you to a building, your foundation has a problem.”
      “Doctor, just tell me directly why I have this backache. Is that OK?”
      “Didn’t I tell you? You’re a building and could fall down at any time….”
      “In that case, I’ll tell you. I’m a senior architect and I bet the house every day. Who do you think you’re intimidating?”
      That said, I stood up and left. (Page 232)

16. She Never Imagined

Ma Changshan (马长山)

      Mister Leopard, Chairman of the Board, fell in love with his secretary: a beautiful, young female leopard.
      Mister Leopard gave his wife half an antelope.
      “My stomach really hurts” the mother leopard moaned as she rolled on the ground.
      “Sorry, I sprinkled some arsenic on it.”
      “Why did you want to hurt me?”
      “I want to start another family with my secretary.”
      “Even so, you shouldn’t have done this evil thing. You could’ve divorced me.”
      “I was afraid you wouldn’t agree.”
      “Why wouldn’t I? I’ve known about you two for a long time. You just had to mention a divorce to me and I would’ve helped you accomplish your fine plans….”
      Mister Leopard beat his breast and stamped his feet. “Why didn’t you say so earlier? Now your conscience will suffer for causing me pain in my life!” (Page 248)

17. Signature
Jiang Xiaohui (蒋小辉)

      Young Fan had an especially hearty laugh. It was his signature.
      He laughed every day. But he didn’t laugh the day Young Tang got promoted to Assistant Department Chief. He and Young Tang had been assigned to this unit together when they graduated.
      He didn’t laugh so much after that day.
      He made up his mind to get his signature laugh back.
      He researched the psychology, physiology and sociology of laughter. He became a specialist in the theory of laughter.
      He made out a plan to categorize every person, to stipulate how each category should laugh, and to work hard to put it into practice.
      But his smile was long gone, never to return.
      Until he was promoted to Assistant Department Chief. He naturally smiled broadly that day. But Young Cai asked him, “Chief Fan, why were you crying just now?”
      His face stiffened. The smile really had been lost.
      Seriousness in speech and manner became his new signature. (Page 260)

18. Silent Alarm

Poet Caravan (诗人马帮)

      Even in his dreams, Section Chief Wang hadn’t imagined that he could ever sleep with the Department Chief’s secretary.
      “You don’t have to worry about that thing with the Finance Section, Babe. The old creature’s done for, and as soon as I get promoted, the Finance Chief’s position is yours!”
      The two of them were talking while they were hard at it in bed. Ever since they’d hooked up, the two of them had been calling the Department Chief the “old creature”.
      “How do you know?” The Department Chief’s secretary probed for information. At the same time she merrily joined in with what the Section Chief was doing.
      “Hmpf! They’re gonna nab him soon. I wrote the materials to inform on him myself!”
      Section Chief Wang was taken away soon thereafter on “suspicion of entrapping a leader”.
      As he was about to leave, the Department Chief whispered in his ear, “I was using a silent alarm.”
      Wang’s jaw dropped and he understood everything. (Page 239)

19. Silent Leader

Cold Month Desolation (冷月萧萧)

      The County Commissioner was waylaid by the leaders of Cloud Forest Village while he was passing through on a trip. His secretary said forcefully that he would only be able to stop temporarily.
      The village leaders were ecstatic. Their showcase engineering project could come to the County Commissioner’s attention!
      The Village Mayor gave a report when they got to the showcase project. The County Commissioner nodded his head as he listened but didn’t say a word. The village leaders looked back and forth at each other – the Commissioner usually liked to give directives, so what was going on today? There’d be hell to pay if the Commissioner was so unimpressed that he didn’t say anything!
      The Commissioner left before he’d eaten lunch. As soon as his car was gone, the village leaders went into their conference room with solemn expressions on their faces.
      The meeting was almost over when the village’s Vice Mayor came back from a visit to the County Hospital. He said he’d run into the Commissioner’s secretary there. He’d learned that the Commissioner had a bad cold and was so hoarse that he couldn’t even talk. (Page 231)

20. Teach by Example

Yuzhang’s Past (豫章往事)

      A husband and wife were well-known as misers. They weren’t only niggardly towards people in the village; they treated their own father the same way. They lived off the husband’s father while he was still able to move around and work, but when the old man couldn’t get around or do anything to help them anymore, the couple divided up the family property and lived on their own.
      After splitting the family property, the couple attached a lean-to to their pigsty’s fence and had the old man move into it. They had their son take him three meals a day in a chipped ceramic jar.
      The old man passed his final days alongside the pigsty. After he died, the couple was going to tear down the lean-to and throw away that chipped ceramic jar. Their son promptly yelled, “Mom, Dad, don’t tear down the lean-to or throw away that old jar. Save them and they can still be used in the future, when you get old.” (Page 274)

21. Defending My Thesis

Cold Month Desolation (冷月潇潇)

      I almost laughed when I walked into the classroom to defend my senior thesis. The three teachers sitting on the platform were rather odd. The one on the left was as thin as the comedian Ma Sanli; the one on the right was as fat as the Laughing Buddha; and one in the middle with his shiny head was the spitting image of the actor Chen Peisi.
      Ma Sanli: “I can recite the first part of your thesis from memory.”
      Laughing Buddha: “And I can recite the second part.”
      Chen Peisi: “And I’ve thoroughly committed the third part to memory. You think that’s odd? It’s because we’re the authors of those three parts. Is there anything in this thesis that you wrote yourself?”
      Lord! My thesis only had three parts! I sat there with a lump in my throat for a long time before I squeezed out a squeak, “I wrote my name.” (Page 288)

22. Trees
Third Master from South Lake (南湖三少)

      On Arbor Day the County put on a “Plant Trees to Make a Forest” awards ceremony.
      The prestigious title Green Environmental Protection Town went to town A because of its exceptional accomplishments in greening the area. Town B, on the other hand, was punished by being criticized because industrial development there had destroyed a mountain forest.
      That afternoon, town A’s mayor invited the mayors of the other towns to a banquet which he hosted. The mayor of town B, an arrogant and domineering sort, was unusually taciturn, drowning his sorrows in drink.
      When the wine had made everyone mellow, the mayor of town A was so full of himself with success that he forgot appearances. Poking fun at town B’s mayor, he patted him on the shoulder and said, “Little brother, come to my town and learn something when you get a chance. Don’t leave your town completely treeless.”
      “Trees? Pfft! Haven’t you noticed what I planted?” Red-faced from drinking, town B’s mayor pointed out the window to the smokestacks belching black smoke over town B’s industrial zone. “Money making trees”! (Page 232)
[Chinese 摇钱树 (shake money tree) is the equivalent of English “cash cow” – Fannyi]

23. Wisest in the Ways of the World

Rainy Wang (王雨)

      In the new year, things were changing every time he turned around. He picked up his bowl and ate some meat, but then put down his chopsticks and cursed about having one problem after another. Paying bribes was no exception. Someone had sent a bribe and tape-recorded it, which made officials feel panic-stricken when they accepted one, like they were walking on thin ice.
      Boss Qian went to County Commissioner Zhao’s home with a thick envelope which included a note describing what he wanted done. As he pushed it across the table toward the Commissioner, he didn’t mention the “official business”, but only gossiped about other matters like building the municipal administration and economic development, as though he were a political commissar making strong suggestions and offering advice to the Commissioner. After several minutes he shook the Commissioner’s hand and left, making no mention of a “quid pro quo”!
      Commissioner Zhao counted the money, fifty thousand Yuan on the button, and was overcome with emotion. “This Boss Qian,” he told his wife, “he understands the ways of the world better than any other fellow I’ve ever seen.” (Page 230)

24. Is It Your Ears?

Bladeless Sword (无刃剑)

      After Little Flyer’s father came home from work, he gave Little Flyer twenty Yuan and told the boy to go buy him a jin of booze and a pack of cigarettes.
      Little Flyer went out on the street and bought a jin of booze for ten Yuan. He couldn’t help but drool as he passed a very aromatic stewed meat stall, and he used the remaining ten Yuan to buy a piece of stewed pig ears.
      With the booze in his right hand and the pig ears in his left, Little Flyer hummed a tune as he casually strolled home. His father, who was seriously addicted to smoking, asked Little Flyer where the cigarettes were as soon as he saw him. Little Flyer said he’d forgotten them.
      His father angrily cursed the boy. “Before you went out the door, I told you loud and clear to buy cigarettes. Do you lack the brains to remember something very long, or is it your ears that are lacking?”
      “I’ve got ears,” Little Flyer said as he raised his left hand. (Page 271)

To get Chinese text by return email, send name of story to jimmahler1@yahoo.com

Chinese Mini-Literature, One Thousand Stories (Page 3)
中国迷你文学1000 篇, Principal Eds. Ma Changshan (马长山) and Cheng Siliang (程思良)
Modern Press, ISBN 780244358X, 9787802443587 (Page numbers cited at end of each story)

7. Fortuneteller
8. Habit, A
9. Heart Willing
10. Monster Lion,The
11. Off-Color Joke
12. Old Man Gao

1. Animal Proprieties
2. Big Hands
3. Blind Date
4. Boss’s Wit
5. Cruel Maneuver
6. Expressing Self

19. Silent Leader
20. Teach by Example
21. Thesis Defense
22. Trees
23. Wise to World
24.Your Ears?

13. One Dime
14. One-Nighters
15. Seeing a Doctor
16. She Never Imagined
17. Signature
18. Silent Alarm

​​         Chinese Stories in English