Chinese Folktales
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.

Sometimes you have to give up what you truly love to get what you really want. That can be a hard lesson when you have almost nothing. This lesson looks at who has the responsibility to be generous and what changes can come about because of one’s generosity. Through a second story one learns that it is not enough to be generous. Others must be taught to be generous as well.

PrintTwo Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods
The learner will:
  • use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe settings and cultures represented in folktales.
  • identify aspects of various cultures revealed in stories.
  • analyze whether the author’s sequence of events was crucial to the story.
  • debate the possibility of a different conclusion to the story and analyze whether it would have been as effective.
  • decide if there are legitimate reasons why one can be excused from giving to others.
  • represent the lessons of the stories graphically.
Home Connection: 
Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Share the story of Lo-Sun with a family member and explain that there are times when a person must make great sacrifices to gain greater rewards. Such sacrifices are often made by parents who give up many things they would rather have or do when they start and raise a family. Ask family members about sacrifices they have made for their families.
  • Lord of the Cranes: A Chinese Folktale. Retold by Kirsten Chen. (New York and London: North-South Books, 2000).

  • "Lo-Sun, the Blind Boy". Originally published in Chinese Fairy Tales by Norman Hinsdale Pitman by Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1910.
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the learners to imagine something they would like to have so much that they would be willing to make a sacrifice to get it. Then ask them to think of something they have that means "the world" to them. What would happen if they had to give up the thing they loved to get the thing they desired?

  2. Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying their folktales. These stories, "Lo-Sun, The Blind Boy" and "Lord of the Cranes", come from China. On a map, locate China’s absolute location (longitude and latitude) and relative location (general descriptors of where the place is located, e.g., along the Pacific Ocean on the east and south of Russia).
  3. In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe China as a place by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, how inhabitants make a living).
  4. Read "Lo-Sun, The Blind Boy" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).
  5. Place the sequence of events in the story on a timeline. How did Lo-Sun learn to become generous after being told that his future generosity would reward him with the gift of sight? Why was it important for the story teller to include in the sequence of events lapses in Lo-Sun’s behavior?
  6. At times Lo-Sun indicated that he felt, because he was blind and a beggar, that he did not have to give to others who were beggars too. Are there legitimate reasons why one can be excused from helping others? According to the folktale, are only the wealthy obliged to give to others?
  7. Lo-Sun felt that he could not survive without his faithful dog, Fan. Nevertheless, he sacrificed Fan in order to help a drowning man and eventually regained his sight. Did Lo-Sun send out Fan to help the man because he needed to do another generous act to gain his sight? Would Lo-Sun have sent his dog into the water if he had known the man was his cruel father? If Lo-Sun had only regained his sight but not been reunited with his father, would the story still have had a good conclusion?
  8. In this folktale, whenever Lo-Sun was involved in an act of generosity, he noticed a change happening to himself, that is, an improvement in his vision. Think about whenever you have given to others, have you noticed a change in yourself? What was it?
  9. Ask the learners to summarize this story in one or two sentences, then add to the summary the lesson being taught in the folktale.
  10. Read "Lord of the Cranes" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).
  11. Discuss the details of the folktale:
  12. Ask the learners if the use of cranes was symbolic in the story or could another animal have been substituted. Explain that, in China, cranes represent long life and wisdom that comes with age. They were often represented as the means of transportation for the immortals.
  13. What was Tian’s motivation for becoming a beggar? Why did he test Wang, the innkeeper, over a period of months rather than just once? What was Wang’s motivation for providing for Tian? Was his reward a good one or Wang have been just as happy with no reward?
  14. Tian’s words, "Teach others to be as kind and generous to the poor as you have been to me," implies that he does not wish Wang to be silent about the lesson he has learned. Why not?
  15. Draw a large Venn diagram (two intersecting circles) on a display board. Let the left circle represent Lo-Sun from the first story and the right circle represent Wang from the second story. Fill in the intersecting section of both circles with similarities about the two "givers." The outer areas of the circles should be filled in with contrasting statements about the "givers." Is there a "generic" lesson both of them learned even though their stories were quite different?
Working individually or in teams, have learners design posters which represent the lessons of these folktales. Display the posters in a common area for others to see and discuss.