Fun Chinese poem: 'The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den'
Chinese is already confusing enough with all of its tones, characters, etc etc. but this poem really highlights how hard Chinese is.
Here it is in English:
Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den
In a stone den was a poet called Shi Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions. He often went to the market to look for lions. At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market. At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market. He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die. He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den. The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it. After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions. When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses. Try to explain this matter.
Here it is in Chinese:
And here's the Pinyin:
« Shī Shì shí shī shǐ »
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī. Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì. Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì. Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.
Chinese? Hard for non native speakers
Classical Chinese? You may as well study the bible and get the correct meaning, and that's just for native Chinese
A Mandarin tongue twister written in Classical Chinese that makes no sense? Yea... (Incidentally in Cantonese this is much easier to understand... provide, of course, you don't have to speak it out, due to the 9 tones)
Just saw a link to this discussion from this recent CNN article on learning languages (https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/learn-a-foreign-language-wellness). The Lion-Eating Poet text was actually written by Chinese-American linguist and scholar Chao Yuen Ren (Zhao Yuanren 赵元任). More info on the poem and Chao here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-Eating_Poet_in_the_Stone_Den https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuen_Ren_Chao