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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no better Chinese dictionary
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...
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by The Arch-Angel Gabriel

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3.0 out of 5 stars Great for searching and mnemonics; NOT accurate on origins
This a decent book for finding characters you don't know, when you only know one part of them (not necessarily the dictionary classifier, often mis-termed ¡§radical¡). That is, when you see an inverted L with a 'bean' graph and a 'hand' graph under it, you can look up 'bean' (dou4) and find chu2 'kitchen'. It's also useful as a mnemonic device, breaking...
Published on May 2 2002 by Kent M. Suarez


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no better Chinese dictionary, Jan. 4 2004
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (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
By 
bryan12603 (Poughkeepsie, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (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." Every character in Chinese has at least one radical in it somewhere. So if you want to identify a Chinese character you haven't seen before (or can't remember), you take an educated guess at what the radical in it is, then look for it under that radical in the dictionary. However, one problem is that the radicals of some characters are not obvious.
What Harbaugh has done is to organize his dictionary around 182 pictograms and simple ideograms. (Many of these overlap with the traditional radicals, but others do not.) Then he shows (using extensive "genealogical" charts) how about 4000 other characters are built up from the original 182 by adding more components. Part of what makes this book really useful is that Harbaugh builds the charts in a way that highlights the phonetic components of characters. For example, his basic character 175 is identified as a "pictograph of [the] interlocking framework of a house." This character is pronounced GOU, and underneath it in Harbaugh's dictionary you will find four characters with very similar pronunciations (and one with a different pronunciation) that include that character as a component. In contrast, in a traditional dictionary, the original GOU is not a radical at all. Furthermore, in a traditional dictionary, EACH of the similarly-pronounced characters would be found under a different radical. Consequently, Harbaugh's dictionary takes a lot of the mystery out of character composition and recognition. Harbaugh also gives you mnemonics for each character. For instance, the first character under GOU means "to construct." It has the wood radical on the left, so Harbaugh suggests you remember it by thinking of a "wooden framework."
Each character entry provides a wealth of additional information: the simplified form of the character (used in Mainland China), an identification of the components of the simplified form, the meanings of the character (and their parts of speech), a list of common expressions in which the character is the SECOND component (with an index number to help you find the first character in the expression), and then a list of common words in which the character is the first component (along with their pronunciations, in Pinyin, part of speech, and meanings).
Harbaugh has done almost everything imaginable to make this dictionary reader-friendly. Suppose you see one of Harbaugh's components in a character, and look for it there in his dictionary. Some characters have more than one component in them, so Harbaugh may not have put the primary entry for a character where you are looking for it. However, Harbaugh provides cross-references, so you can find a character under ANY of its components. Finally, this dictionary has a number of indexes: an index to expressions by their English translations, a Pinyin (pronunciation) index to characters and expressions, a "Mandarin Phonetic" (Bopomofo) index to characters and expressions, a total stroke number index to characters, and a traditional radical index to characters.
The only concern I have with this fine dictionary is that an incautious student (or scholar) might innocently confuse it with an actual etymological dictionary. Harbaugh knows better himself. As he explains in his introductory material, his etymologies are based on those in the 2,000 year old _Shuowen jiezi_ by Xu Shen. This is an important work, but as a result of modern archaeology, we now have access to earlier forms of characters than Xu Shen did. Anyone seriously interested in historical etymology will have to go beyond Xu Shen (and Harbaugh's dictionary).
With that minor warning, I can say that Harbaugh's _Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary_ is a godsend to students of Chinese.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The swiss army knife of Chinese character dictionaries., May 31 2003
By 
Eds Word (El Paso, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (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
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (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.
The full text of this dictionary is available online, and as another reviewer said, search for the title of this dictionary at Google and you will get the link; Amazon doesn't let you post URLs in reviews. I think one of the big advantages of the print version is that the main entry characters are printed in calligraphy-style, whereas the computerised version contains digitised, stick-figure characters that are difficult to copy properly by hand, not to mention difficult to recognise until you're used to reading Chinese in all kinds of fonts. Likewise, with the print version, you don't need to be reading Chinese beside your computer in order to look up words, although it doesn't really matter if you're reading over the internet...
My main problem with this dictionary, which is probably one of the best and most practical for English-speaking students of Chinese, is that is uses only traditonal (aka fan3ti3zi4, complex/full characters) characters. You can't look up simplified characters, and they can only be found in small print beside the main entry traditional characters.
Now, let's set this issue straight: simplified characters are less pleasant to look at, are a slap in the face to Chinese culture and, well, just feel fake to me. The problem is, all of mainland China uses almost exclusively simplified characters, i.e. knowing how to write traditional characters might land you a job as a sign-maker or a calligrapher, but you need to be functional in simplified characters! Let's be honest; maybe 30 or 40 million people in the world, that is, Taiwan, HK and a few Chinese communities abroad use traditional characters, whereas the 1.3 billion in China all use simplified. All the literature I have available to me is in simplified characters, so this dictionary isn't all that useful in that sense. Don't buy it thinking you'll get by without a hitch: the differences between simplified and traditional characters may not be a big deal for natively literate Chinese, and you can get used to the differences, but for beginners, it can be impossible. You don't want to be in the dictionary guessing from 10 entries, which traditional character most resembles the simplified character you're looking for. Don't do that to yourself. If you buy this dictionary but want to study simplified characters, get another dictionary as well to help you w/ simplified characters. Still, this dictionary helps you learn and appreciate the characters, and less than half of all characters are simplified anyways, so it's not useless, but you'll need another dictionary as an aid.
Otherwise, the only other thing I could wish for is a larger size dictionary. This one is about the size of an old Gameboy; i.e. very portable but the indices are printed so small they give me headaches if I'm doing heavy duty work in the dictionary. I wish there were an encyclopaedia or telephone book-sized volume with bigger print for those of us who don't need to take the dictionary backpacking in the Himalayas. Other than that, a great buy, you won't regret it, but like other people say, it won't be the only dictionary you'll ever need. It also comes shrink-wrapped, which may make it more difficult to return.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good dictionary, April 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an eye opener, mind opener dictionary., July 16 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (Paperback)
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 at age 5,but if you are an adult foreigner, you will need a more logic dictionary like Harbaugh's. 3-i wish he made a larger size dictionary w/ larger characters.4-i give him 5 stars because very few writer/instructor would tell you the trick
in learning dancing, playg piano,guitar, etc
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not comprehensive, but more than makes up for it, May 25 2003
By 
B. Fang "Audio Mercenary" (Brisbane, QLD Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (Paperback)
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. Although the 'etymology' of certain characters may be dubious, it has helped me to remember characters a lot easier than using ROTE learning solely. Typeface is a little annoying, but one can get over it after one sees the wealth of info this dictionary gives. Highly recommended for any student of Chinese. (NOTE: This is in Traditional Chinese, not Simplified Chinese)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Unique Approach for a Dictionary, Sept. 2 2002
By 
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (Paperback)
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. Two titles are indispensible, this one and the brief McNaughton one (revised, 1999). I continue to see increasing value in the Harbaugh approach: variable ways to find words and a thoroughly exhaustive entry on a word. As pointed out by other reviewers, entries include permutations of the word you are looking up with other words (in any order). Examining the genealogy helps you remember the character because of its origins, similar to McNaughton (but perhaps not with the humor that McNaughton displays occasionally).
On the down side, definitions don't give many contextual examples, so occasionally you might mis-use a word. This is a problem with any dictionary however, so I'm not sure it's a fair criticism.
Not to labor the point, this book dramatically improves with one's own knowledge of Chinese. It's remakably complete given its size and your ability to actually see the type.
I've used both the paper-edition and the online edition. I think the paper edition is easier to browse.
Now, if he only had an accompanying CD with all the words pronounced, I would be in heaven. But this book is a deal...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, and the on-line version is better!, Dec 15 2008
By 
Kevin Austin "R R1" (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (Paperback)
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 however). I have learned much by reading and browsing, but my best times have been wandering through the interactive on-line edition where whim can simply take me from character to character exploring the language.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best dictionary I've seen, Jan. 8 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary (Paperback)
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. If you are going to rely on one book to serve all your needs, this is it!
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Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary
Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary by Rick Harbaugh (Paperback - Sept. 1 1999)
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