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

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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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: 2.5 x 13.3 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #286,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By A Customer on April 21 2004
Format: Paperback
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 index)
*Fairly good definition (although the book will certainly not distinguish between words like dai jia and jia ge [the former does not mean monetary price, while the latter means monetary], the definitions are overall pretty good)
*Somewhat comprehensive (the book isn't for the scholar, but for a student of Chinese it is fine; it has about 20,000 words, characters, and phrases)
Things I don't like about the book:
*Tiny print (although the main character is fairly large, the words list for that particular character is printed in TINY font; this book is certainly not for those with trouble seeing small print)
*It emphasizes traditional characters (although I am a student learning simplified character and is perfectly fine with the book; the book is really more suited for those learning traditional characters)
But if you want to buy a really good dictionary, however, try the Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary (ISBN 0195911512) and Xinhua Zidian (ISBN 7801031989).
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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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