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Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary Paperback – Sep 1 1999

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Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary + Reading & Writing Chinese Traditional Character Edition: A Comprehensive Guide to the Chinese Writing System + Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (Sept. 1 1999)
  • Language: English, Mandarin Chinese
  • ISBN-10: 0966075005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966075007
  • Product Dimensions: 17.9 x 12.9 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #72,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The Arch-Angel Gabriel on 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 By bryan12603 on 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 By Eds Word on May 31 2003
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 By A Customer on June 27 2004
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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