Ages: 6.5 & 9.5
Suitable for: 6 and up
Reading 西遊記 to the kids this semester is our foray into more advanced Chinese, including vocabulary used in court. Chinese is kind of like Japanese and Korean. There is a more formal and polite way of speaking, with specific vocabulary used to denote relationship hierarchy. But thankfully, unlike those two languages, there are no verb tense changes. I’m hoping that knowing these terms will help with reading more advanced Chinese literature.
Since a very good way to introduce new vocabulary is through listening, namely audiobooks or TV, first, off I went to finally look into 甜心格格, translated as Sweetheart Princess (though the official images I’ve seen says Ori-Princess, which makes no sense). We first watched the anime series when we were in Taiwan 3 years ago on Momo TV and the kids really liked it. But I hadn’t been able to find a Taiwan dubbed version.
This time around, I gave up on the Taiwanese version and just used the Mainland version available on Youtube. The series is from China anyway. I knew some of the pronunciation and terms used in China are different from Taiwan, so I’d wanted to keep the exposure consistent. But at this point, with the kids Chinese fairly good enough, it doesn’t matter.
The series is set in the Qing dynasty and about a princess who was raised amongst the commoners and “rediscovered” by her father the emperor. He brings her back home and attempts to convert her to a princess and the antics that ensue. Sophia the First she’s not. Don’t let the title Princess turn you off. It’s more just about her adventures with the background set in the imperial palace.
In one of the first episodes, the princess meets the son of some high court bureaucrat who was educated in the west and introduced her to things like a boomerang, skateboard, etc. Yes, the creators play it loose with history. But there was also a short 5 second exposition on some western inventor in the episode. So they try to add some “educational” elements in.
All perfect for me, as it’s more comprehension exposure on non-fiction vocabulary.
I don’t watch the series with the children, but I do listen with half an ear while they’re watching. Overall, the series is fairly tame. The princess gets into trouble because she’s a commoner and they somehow resolve it. The characters are nice toward each other and the dialogues are all fairly positive. Thumper’s favorite part is at the end of some episodes, where they teach you a little joke or puzzle. Like, “什麼掌不能拍?“ “仙人掌!“
There are 3 seasons on Youtube. I used some random website online and downloaded all of these into mp4 formats and loaded them onto the kids iPad. Sucks I didn’t bookmark the converter website! Also allows me to Chromcast it when we watch at home. I figured with 130 episodes total, it will be awhile before I have to look for other videos for the kids!
Here’s the first episode
And here’s a summary of the first few episodes. You will notice after awhile that the show plays loose with historical facts and really it’s just about a bunch of kids who happen to live in a palace.
Episode 1 － The Princess starts her life in the palace and meets her best friend
Episode 2 – A new boy joins the class and introduces a lot of new Westerns toys. Princess starts spending a lot of time with him. What happens to her best friend?
Episode 7&8 – The kids travel overseas to Spain (fight with bulls), Thailand (meets elephants), America (plays Russian roulette), Egypt (pyramid), etc.
Episode 16 – It’s too hot and the emperor wants some shaved ice. They end up getting chased by a snow monster when they went looking for ice blocks. But trading their lychee for ice blocks saved the day!
Episode 23 & 24 – The emperor decides to hold a Sports Day. And the princess learns the meaning of working hard for your medal.