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Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary [Paperback]

Rick Harbaugh
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 21.57 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1999 0966075005 978-0966075007
This dictionary is specially designed to help students understand, appreciate and remember Chinese characters. It has the following features:
-Every character entry includes a brief traditional Chinese etymology.
-Genealogical charts highlight the connections between characters, showing the creation of more than 4000 characters from less than 200 simple pictographs and ideographs.
-Mandarin standards in China and Taiwan are distinguished.
-Simplified forms for each character are given.
-Character entries list all words which use the character in any position, allowing a word to be found even if the first character is unknown.
-English definitions are referenced in an English-Chinese index.
-A word pronunciation index allows students to directly search for an overheard word without having to guess the initial character.
-A stroke count index lists every character by number of strokes.

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Product Description

About the Author

Rick Harbaugh started the dictionary many years ago while a graduate student in economics at National Taiwan University. He now teaches economics and strategy at the Yale School of Management.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no better Chinese dictionary Jan. 4 2004
Format:Paperback
Like many of you, I'm certain, I have purchased more Chinese dictionaries than I care to remember - each one serving a different purpose. Not only is this dictionary the best all around resource for the student of Chinese, it is one of my favorite books in general. It's character etymology is that interesting, and I can't think of another book that contains as much useful information. This one also contains more words and phrases than any other I've seen. My only complaint is that simplified characters are not included in the word combinations following each single-character entry. For those of us learning simplified characters, when you look up a multiple-character word or phrase and need to write it, you will have to reference each character individually, beyond the first one, in order to know how the phrase or compound is written on the Mainland. But this slight flaw in no way diminishes the ingenuity and practicality of this book, especially as a single-source reference for both writing and speaking Chinese. For anyone studying or traveling in China or Taiwan, you will not need to bring any other dictionary. This is the one. If you love Chinese, you really can't go on without Zhongwen Zipu.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific tool for learning and memorization! April 21 2003
Format:Paperback
This is a review of _Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary_ by Rick Harbaugh.
This is an excellent book for helping students to (1) learn and memorize Chinese characters, and (2) identify characters that are difficult to find in traditional dictionaries. However, as Harbaugh himself makes clear, it is important not to confuse this learning tool with a scholarly guide to the actual etymologies of Chinese characters.
In order to understand what is distinctive and especially useful about this dictionary, you need to know a little about how Chinese characters are composed. (If you already know this, or are not interested, skip to the next paragraph in this review.) Traditionally, there are five types of Chinese characters. The simplest characters are either pictograms (which were originally pictures of something concrete) or simple ideograms (whose structure suggests their meaning, even though they are not pictures). So, for example, the character for "person" was originally a drawing of a person, and the character for the number three is three horizontal lines. Many people assume that all Chinese characters fall into these two classes, but in fact only a small percentage do. Most Chinese characters are semantic-phonetic compounds, in which part of the character gives a hint about the sound, and another part gives a hint about the meaning. The last two types of characters are compound ideograms (in which two characters are compounded into one, and their individual meanings contribute to the meaning of the whole) and phonetic loans (in which a pre-existing character is borrowed to represent a word whose sound is similar to that of the word the character originally represented). Now, traditional dictionaries are organized according to over 200 so-called "radicals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
You'll might need several dictionaries to be comfortable learning Chinese. This simultaneously phonetic and semantic-based dictionary and character genealogy is too unique not to be in your repertoire. Not only can you search by stroke, radical, pinyin, or English spelling, but also by looking for the part of the character you do regognize and going from there, or by pronounciation, or by bopomofo. Its format is perfect for learning characters and their roots. Presented are 182 root ideographs from which 4000 other characters are derived. Find the character for horse ("ma") and you'll find associated terms which contain that character (e.g. saddle) as well as homophones which have nothing to do with horses but sound somewhat similar to "ma" (e.g. jade, scold, mom). Very well done.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great resource, but be forewarned June 27 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This dictionary isn't entirely historically accurate in its geneaologies. That said, whatever is does give you in terms of the root of the characters is often very easy to remember, and it does help you remember how to write the characters, if not what they look like. For practical reasons, it's very good in that sense.
Yes, it allows you to search for characters based on pin-yin, stroke count, some sort of Mandarin pronunciation system I've never heard of, English equivalents, or by radical. You can search for characters by the part of the character that you DO recognise; obviously this builds a lot of redundancy into the dictionary, which isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't always work that way, i.e. sometimes you recognise a component of a character and want to search for it, but it just isn't there. There are simply too many bases to cover, and though it generally works, it doesn't in all cases. Another thing, I find the radical index difficult to use until you're quite a ways into studying Chinese: for example, if I see the three-dots-of-water radical, and want to find it, I can't look under 3-stroke radicals, because this radical is, in fact, listed under 4-stroke radicals in the form of the water (shui3) character. Same thing with the 3-stroke grass radical, which is actually listed under the full 6-stroke grass. Sure, the radical, when alone, is written out in 6 strokes but as part of a character, it's liposuctioned down to 3, thus, you must get used to it, which isn't a big deal after you've studied for a while, but for beginners, it's tough.
The dictionary encompasses about 4000 characters, which is quite sufficient for most students, just not for people who are very advanced, but you may still find it interesting in that case anyways.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, and the on-line version is better!
I'm a novice who simply wants to learn a little of how chinese is put together. I too have half a dozen dictionaries but I return to this one most regularly (not always first... Read more
Published on Dec 15 2008 by Kevin Austin
5.0 out of 5 stars an eye opener, mind opener dictionary.
1-has pinyn & bofomo that helps me to find traditional characters that i love.2-you can memorize/remember 4 to 8000 characters if you were a child who started learning chinese... Read more
Published on July 16 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good dictionary
Things I like about this book:
*Easy to use (the characters are referenced by Pinyin, radical index, stroke number, and Bopomofo; there is also a small English to Chinese... Read more
Published on April 21 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good if you want to learn all the characters
There are approximately 7000 chinese character, but this book only have 4000 character in it. I wanted to learn all the character, therefore this book is no good.
Published on March 13 2004 by Saram Chea
5.0 out of 5 stars The best dictionary I've seen
This book has everything I had been looking for in a compact dictionary, plus some. It is the easiest and most functional dictionary to use. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Not comprehensive, but more than makes up for it
Being a Western-educated Chinese person who wants to learn his mother tongue long after he has ceased to speak it, this dictionary I have found to be invaluable. Read more
Published on May 25 2003 by B. Fang
4.0 out of 5 stars A great addition to my collection
This book is one of my favorite Christmas presents! I've been interested in Chinese language for a number of years, and particularly in the written language and its history. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars extremely useful
The traditional way of ordering Chinese characters is so woefully inadequate and antiquated. It is so much easier to find the character you want using this dictionary. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2003 by esseyo
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Unique Approach for a Dictionary
Guess I should have gathered that from its title, but my initial mistake was thinking it was a traditional dictionary. I am now in my second year of learning Chinese. Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002 by David M
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