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This is another thing I’ve found at archive.org. Only, it’s not really just another thing. It’s the best thing.
“平民千字课” [平民千字課] (Píngmín qiān zì kè) or “1000 Character Lessons for Common People” or “1000 Chinese Foundation Characters” is a Chinese literacy primer for adults. That’s like describing a space elevator as “a kind of ladder” though.
It’s aimed at rural Chinese of the early twentieth century. To make it more accessible for a modern, non-native speaker, I’ve converted it to simplified characters and added a list of characters/vocabulary to each lesson in【 brackets】, so they can can looked up without too much effort, for example by using the mandarinspot annotation tool. Aside from that, and some minor formatting, I have not changed anything about the text itself. Well, not deliberately. It’s very possible I’ve made some mistakes.
The source text is at archive.org. (Chose pdf versions if you want to download it.) Book I and Book II on there also feature an English translation (which I would assume to be fine, but can’t vouch for), romanization (Wade-Giles?) and vocabulary by William C. White. Book III and Book IV don’t, but have the original illustrations.
There’s also a fairly epic backstory to this, which I can’t even start to do justice to at the moment. Instead, have some links:
- Y. C. James Yen (en.wikipedia)
- International Institute of Rural Reconstruction – Our History
- Tell the People by Pearl S. Buck (archive.org)
- 100 years the Rockefeller Foundation — Digital Library search
- Copernican Citations 1943 (adsabs.harvard.edu)
- Source Text at archive.org — Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV)