Lesson Title: Yeh-Shen- Chinese Cinderella
Author: Rhonda Thornburrow
Class and Grade level(s): Library Media Class, grade 3-4
Goals and Objectives - The student will be able to:
o Compare Chinese version to the familiar version from France.
o Identify characteristics of a fairy tale.
o Recognize that goldfish originated from China and their importance to the culture.
o Recognize the influence of the original Cinderella story to those from other cultures.
o Discover the procedures in taking care of their fish
o Use of a Venn diagram
Curriculum standards addressed: For
Kansas Reading Assessment Standards (third grade)
o Standard 3: Learners demonstrate knowledge of literature from a variety of cultures, genres,
and time periods.
o Benchmark 1: The proficient reader demonstrates knowledge of the effects of cultures on
o Indicators 1: Recognize customs as expressed in literature from a variety of cultures.
o Benchmark 2: The proficient reader identifies characteristics of a wide variety of literacy genres
in various formats.
o Indicators 1: Identify fiction and nonfiction and a variety of genres, such as folklore (fairy tales,
folk tale, and tall tale), poetry, animal fantasy, and informational text.
Time required/class periods needed: 4 - 25 minute class sessions
Primary source bibliography:
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China. videocassette. Fox Video, 1992,25min.
Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. Chinese Civilization. New York: The Free Press, 1993.
Murphey, Rhoads. East Asia, A New History. New York: Longman, 2001.
“Ancient China.” Kids Discover. April 1997: Vol.7 Issue 4.
Qi, Liu. .email@example.com Introduction of Chinese Goldfish. Sept. 24, 1999. Feb. 26,2002
East Asia in World History. Columbian University, East Asian Curriculum Project.
Other resources used: n/a
Required materials/supplies: Yeh-Shen Chinese Cinderella book and video, Sheh Hsien
(Chinese Cinderella version), Photos of Chinese Goldfish, basins and pools, Kids Discover- Ancient
China (each student), Pictures of the Emperor, Zhao Gou, Pictures Deshou Palace in Hang Zhou, Venn
Cinderella stories are considered by many to be folk tales. There is a lesson to be learned in most
fairytales. They usually express a truth about life or something that happens in nature.
Most folk tales include:
A beginning which starts with, “Once upon a time…
Some form of royalty
A wicked character
A kind character (who is usually treated badly)
Goodness rewarded in the end
The story ending with, “they lived happily every after.”
There may be over 1,500 versions throughout the world. Almost every country in Europe has a version
of Cinderella. The oldest known version has been to come from China. Today, I will be reading a
version of the Chinese Cinderella Fairy Tale. Please listen closely so that later in our unit you can
compare the similarities and differences of these versions.
The Chinese scholar, Tuan Ch’eng-shih, had a hobby of gathering all the stories he heard about strange
and supernatural events. In the year 853, he published a collection of these under the title
Miscellaneous Offerings from Yu-hang. (Yu-Yang was the name of a place in China)
He interviewed a servant or a “caveman” as he described him. It seems that this man came from an
area of China that was still a wild area where it wasn’t very populated.
***Long ago there was a chief of a mountain cave who had two wives. One of them died, leaving him a
clever and intelligent daughter named Sheh Hsien. After he himself died, however, she was always
treated badly by her stepmother. One day she caught a small fish which she kept in a bowl until it grew
so large that she had to put it into a pond behind her house. There she fed it scraps of food, and it
became so tame that whenever she approached, it would rise out of the water and rest its head on the
bank. The stepmother learned of this and wanted to see the fish for herself, but when she came near, it
refused to show itself. So one day, after sending Sheh Hsien away on an errand, she disguised herself
in Sheh Hsien's clothes and went to the pond. When the fish, fooled by this trick, came out, she killed
and ate it. Then she hid its bones under a dunghill.
When Sheh Hsien returned and could no longer find the fish, she wept bitterly. But suddenly a man, with
long flowing hair and wearing old clothes, came down from heaven and consoled her, saying: "Do not
weep. Your stepmother has killed the fish and hidden its bones under the dunghill. Take them secretly to
your room, and if you want anything, only pray to them. Your wish will be fulfilled." The girl did as she
was told, and as a result got gold, pearls, dresses, and food whenever she wanted.
One day the stepmother went away to a cave festival, leaving the girl to watch the house. After she
had gone, the girl dressed herself in beautiful clothes, put on a pair of golden shoes, and also went to
the festival. There, unfortunately, her stepmother’s daughter recognized her. As a result, she had to
run home so quickly that she left one of her shoes behind.
The cave people then sold this shoe to the neighboring country of T'o-huan, where it fell into the
hands of the king. He told the ladies of his court to try it on, but it was so small that it fitted nobody.
The same thing happened when he ordered all the women of his kingdom to try it. Then he sent
searchers everywhere to look for its owner. Finally they found Sheh Hsien, who put the shoe on her
foot and it fitted perfectly. After that, they brought her before the king. She was married to him and
went away with him to his kingdom, taking with her the fish's bones. But the evil stepmother and her
daughter were stoned to death.
The first year after he was married, the king prayed so greedily to the bones for precious stones of all
sorts, that after a while his wishes were no longer granted. So he buried the bones on a beach, and
enclosed them in a golden parapet. One night a high tide came up and washed them away.***
Through studies of the Cinderella fairytale, it is thought that this story may have originated from
another country other than China. A suggestion has been that traders to Canton, perhaps by Arabs or
others from Southeast Asia brought the story to China. There are two main groups of the Cinderella
version, one involving the supernatural animal. The other versions concentrate more on Cinderella’s
ball. This version has both elements in the story. It seems to be related to both types. It has the
supernatural animal, which is the fish. It also has the ball, which is the cave festival. All the stories
have the same good versus evil. Good conquers evil.
Hand -out the Venn Diagram for reviewing the version read in Lesson 1. They will be using this for the
comparison of another version of the Chinese Fairytale, Yeh-Shen, during this lesson.
What are some characteristics of a fairytale?
What are the two main groups with the Cinderella versions?
Ask students to fill out the Venn Diagram for the Sheh Hsien version while discussing the elements of
Today’s assignment will be the viewing of the fairytale, Yeh-Shen. It is important for them to be aware
that folklore handed from generation to generation through the centuries can be altered when written
or told by a different storyteller.
Ask the students to record on the Venn diagram similarities and differences of this version of the
Hand back the Venn Diagrams. Review the differences and similarities of both versions. Did these
have the fairytale characteristics? (Refer to Lesson 1)
In each tale, they had a fish … what type of fish was it? What was the importance of fish in the
Chinese culture? What type of bowl did she keep the fish prior to it being released into the pond? Ask
the students to give their opinions to the answers of these questions.
China is the original home country of the Goldfish with over 1300 years of history to breed Goldfish.
China was the first to feed their Goldfish. Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) began to breed the fish. The
Emperor, Zhao Gou, asked the people to make a goldfish pool in Deshou Palace in Hang Zhou, and
collected a variety of goldfish from all over the world. In 1502, the goldfish were imported to Japan,
then to Europe. By the 19th century, Goldfish were brought to the United States.
Show various pictures with a description of Goldfish that were bred in China. Also, present the word
“Koi”. This is the term used in the Japanese language for Goldfish.
After looking at the pictures of the fish, ask them what type of container would a fish be kept in for
breeding? The Chinese during the Song Dynasty (AD1127) used Traditional Ceramic Basins. On
the inside of the bowls would have fish and water plants on the inside for decoration. On the outside,
the Chinese artists would paint the traditional paintings of landscape, birds and flowers. It was used
for breeding of the fish but also attractive enough to beautify the surroundings.
Refer to the photos
1. Ceramic Goldfish Basin is composed with two parts, one is basin, and another is the base. The
base of the goldfish bowl was intended for people to watch the fish without having to bend at their
waste. They could just stand and enjoy watching their fish.
2. There have been other Goldfish bowls painted with characters from famous novels. This
fish bowl has characters from the Chinese novel “Dream of the Red Chamber”.
3. Pictures of the four types of Chinese Goldfish, Cao Breed (Koi), Wen Breed (with dorsal
fin), Dragon Breed (Telescope) and Egg Breed (without dorsal fin). Gleden Chinese Crucian (Koi)
is the oldest breed of Chinese Goldfish.
Review over lessons 1-3. Students are being asked to design a Goldfish bowl that would demonstrate
the respect of nature in the Chinese Culture.
Assessment/evaluation: Students will be assessed on the following:
o Students will complete a Venn Diagram stating similarities and differences in the two Chinese
versions of Cinderella.
o The students will be able to state the origin and four breeds of Goldfish.
o Students will be able to demonstrate the importance of nature in the Chinese culture by
designing their own Goldfish basin.
o Have the students select other areas of the Cinderella story that they might question in the
o Family - children’s role
o Dress worn in different castes.
o Scraps fed to fish, what would they have been through foods eaten during various dynasty