Read the following passage and answer the following questions: A poor student, whose name was Niu, was once travelling to the capital city for
appearing in examinations. He decided to stay overnight in a village inn. It was the depth of winter, bitterly cold. Snow fell steadily from a leaden sky. Niu rejoiced in the warmth and comfort inside the inn. He sat toasting himself before a charcoal brazier and ordered hot soup and dumplings for his supper. While waiting for the food to arrive, he drove the chill from inside him with a bowl of hot rice-wine. Soon he felt a pleasant glow suffuse his whole body. The brief winter daylight was almost gone when a man knocked on the door and was admitted stumbling into the inn. He was poorer than Niu. His clothes were almost thin cotton rags, which was no proof against keen weather. His cheeks were pinched, and he moved stiffly as though half-frozen. His lips were too numb to allow him to speak, but he cringed before Niu, obviously pleading to be allowed to share the warmth of the brazier. Niu quickly made a place for him, and the man stretched his hands eagerly towards he glowing charcoal and began to thaw out gradually. The landlord brought Niu’s supper, the steam from which tickled the nostrils with a delicious smell. Then he turned to the ragged newcomer and asked what he could do for him. “A bowl of tea, and a place on the floor for the night,” said the man, and the landlord grunted and went off to fetch the tea. Niu was filled with pity for this poor stranger. He pressed on him his own supper and, when the landlord came back, ordered more for himself. The stranger wolfed down the soup and dumplings in no time at all, and Niu ordered noodles to follow. “I have no money to pay for them,” said the man; but Niu insisted that he should accept them, and in no time five bowls of noodles had disappeared in the way the soup had. When they retired to rest, Niu tried to give up his own bed for the stranger to sleep on, nut the man would not accept it. He lay down on the floor at the foot of the bed and slept immediately. As if to prove his satisfaction with the supper he had eaten, he snored loke a bull all through the night. As dawn was breaking, Niu was brought into the wakefulness by someone gently shaking his shoulder. It was the stranger, who gazed at him with eyes full of affection. “Please come outside with me,” he said. “I have something to say to you.” Wonderingly Niu pulled on his boots and followed the man out of the door of the inn. In the cold grey light, the stranger turned to him and said, “I am not a human being, but an envoy from the underworld.” Seeing Niu’s look of fear, he added hastily, “Don’t worry, i have not come for you. But I am very grateful for your kindness to me last night....”
Answer the following questions:
1. Why was Niu travelling to the capital?
2. Where did he stop?
3. What time of the year was it and what was it like?
4. How would you describe Niu? Use your own words.
5. Can you explain why the stranger was presented like he was? What is the purpose of this?
6. What did the stranger think of Niu? How do you know?