A Treasury of Literary Classics -
Chinese Fables and Tales Series (2)


    Read the Chinese story and answer the following questions.

Grinding an Iron Rod into a Needle

Click here to read the text.

1. What did Li Bai not like to do when he was young?

A. He did not like to study.
B. He did not like to play.
C. He did not like to be lazy.
D. He did not like to run.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 1.

"However, he was lazy and afraid of difficulties when he was a young boy. He did not like to study and always ran out to play without finishing his homework."

2. Which of the following adjectives best describes Li Bai when he was in class?

A. Curious
B. Active
C. Inattentive
D. Impatient

Your answer:

Read paragraph 1.

"Being absent-minded in class, he made slow progress in his studies."

3. Read paragraph 2. What was the old woman doing?

A. The old woman was looking for a needle.
B. The old woman was breaking an iron rod.
C. The old woman was cooking some food.
D. The old woman was grinding an iron rod.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 2.

"She was grinding a very thick iron rod on a rock."

4. In paragraph 2, why did Li Bai ask the old woman a question?

A. Li Bai was eager to make friends with the old woman.
B. Li Bai was interested in knowing what the old woman was doing.
C. Li Bai was worried about the old woman's safety.
D. Li Bai was keen to offer a helping hand to the old woman.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 2.

"Driven by curiosity, he asked the old woman at once."

5. How did Li Bai feel when he knew that the old woman wanted to turn an iron rod into a needle?

A. He was excited and wanted to learn the skills.
B. He was curious and wanted to know the reasons.
C. He was shocked and could not believe what he heard.
D. He was upset about how confident the old woman was.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 4.

"Li Bai's jaw dropped. He asked, 'How can you turn such a thick iron rod into a needle? This would take many years.' "

6. According to the old woman, how would she achieve her goal?

A. She would keep grinding the iron rod in order to turn it into a needle.
B. She would study hard to find out how to grind an iron rod into a needle.
C. She would ask Li Bai many questions to learn how to grind an iron rod.
D. She would ask Li Bai to help her turn an iron rod into a needle.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 5.

" 'This doesn't matter. If I am willing to put my effort and continue to work very hard, I will be able to turn it into a fine needle! ' "

7. Antonyms are words with opposite meanings. For example, "bad" is an antonym of "good" .

Read the following descriptions. Turn each of the underlined words into the opposite meaning by choosing an adjective from the list given. Each option can be used once only.

A. hard-working B. old C. fine D. focused
Description Adjective
7a. When Li Bai was young, he was lazy. However, he became ___________ after talking with the old woman.
7b. Li Bai was absent-minded when he was in class. He was very _____________ in his studies after he made up his mind.
7c. When Li Bai was young, he was afraid of difficulties. In contrast, the woman was determined to overcome her difficulties even though she was __________.
7d. Li Bai was motivated by how determined the old woman was in turning a thick rod into a ____________ needle.

Read the sentences carefully to understand their meanings.

8. How did Li Bai feel after talking with the old woman?

A. He was afraid.
B. He was absent-minded.
C. He was worried.
D. He was ashamed.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 6.

"Deeply moved by what the old woman had said, Li Bai felt ashamed and made up his mind to study hard since then."

9. What did Li Bai become when he grew up?

A. He became a Chinese historian.
B. He became a Chinese teacher.
C. He became a great poet.
D. He became a brave soldier.

Your answer:

Read paragraph 6.

"With his determination, he accomplished many difficult tasks and made great progress in his schoolwork. He finally became one of the greatest poets in Chinese history."

Grinding an Iron Rod into a Needle

Score Sheet

Questions Results
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7a
Question 7b
Question 7c
Question 7d
Question 8
Question 9

10. What is the moral lesson of the story? Based on the story, which Chinese saying can you think of?

Extension Activity

Watch the video clip "Paper that Takes Years to Make", which is about the process of making paper developed over centuries in China and recognised as a cultural treasure by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Acknowledgements: The China Current


People put a lot of time and effort into making quality rice paper. What have you learnt from them? What should we do to overcome difficulties and acheive our goals? Think and share your ideas or experiences with your parents or classmates.