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Classic Chinese-English Dictionary (25,000 Characters)


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Hello,

I guess my researching skills betrayed me and I need your advice…I apologize in advance if I missed a discussion, which could answer my question; in this case I would really appreciate the link.

I am looking for the classical Chinese to English Dictionary. The one which contains at least 25,000 characters and has ancient meanings of these characters. I am Russian and we have a huge Chinese to Russian Dictionary (6 volumes), which, sometimes, contains 2-3 pages translations just for one character. For example, it may include a Taoist meaning, the Chinese cosmology meaning, ancient idioms and proverbs in which this character has been used (and also explains western meaning of these proverbs), and all of the possible translations and also combinations of the looked up character with other characters and how they are translated. It includes mythological, zoological, botanical, historical meanings on top of the contemporary meanings. Is there an equivalent of something like this for Chinese to English Dictionary? I would prefer for this dictionary to be compiled in China. The price doesn’t matter to me, I just want this dictionary in my library for everyday use :)

I will really appreciate any leads. And thank you very much in advance.

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Sadly, there are no specialised Classical Chinese - English dictionaries yet. There is, however, a good Classical Chinese - French dictionary, Couvreur's Dictionnaire classique de la langue chinoise, which is the best I know of in any Western language. But I don't know if you can read French.

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear emaze,

I am looking for the classical Chinese to English Dictionary.

I've been looking at some of the syllabi available online for classical/literary Chinese courses at American universities and most of them list Mathews Chinese-English Dictionary as a reference book for their students.

syllabus 1

syllabus 2

syllabus 3

I had a look at Google Books at some of the available for view pages from the dictionary and didn't think much of it.

But then I don't know that much literary Chinese. Of the few characters that I know that have vastly different meanings today from then I didn't find the definition I was thinking of or the character wasn't part of the pages on view.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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It's probably one of the best dictionaries to use in a classical Chinese course if students cannot read Mandarin well, but I wouldn't recommend using it if you can consult other resources (such as the Russian dictionary you speak of), and certainly not if you can read Mandarin well enough to consult such classical - Modern dictionaries as 王力古漢語常用字字典 :)

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OneEye

It's probably one of the best dictionaries to use in a classical Chinese course if students cannot read Mandarin well, but I wouldn't recommend using it if you can consult other resources (such as the Russian dictionary you speak of), and certainly not if you can read Mandarin well enough to consult such classical - Modern dictionaries as 王力古漢語常用字字典 :)

Agreed here. My Classical Chinese abilities are pretty limited, but I was using Mathews for a while before I finally bought a copy of 古漢語常用字字典, and there is a world of difference. To be honest, my modern Chinese reading skills aren't quite up to the task either, but I can work my way through it well enough for it to be worth it.

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear Daan and OneEye,

...certainly not if you can read Mandarin well enough to consult such classical - Modern dictionaries as 王力古漢語常用字字典 :)

...I finally bought a copy of 古漢語常用字字典, and there is a world of difference.

Really?

Why a character dictionary and not a word dictionary?

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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I have both word and character dictionaries. I usually consult the 王力古漢語常用字字典 first, as it's surprisingly comprehensive for its size, and I can generally work out the meaning of polysyllabic words if I know what its constituent syllables mean. If that proves impossible, the next step is of course looking it up in one of the bigger character dictionaries. But there is certainly a case to be made for only using character dictionaries. A matter of personal preference, I would say :)

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Sadly, there are no specialised Classical Chinese - English dictionaries yet. There is, however, a good Classical Chinese - French dictionary, Couvreur's Dictionnaire classique de la langue chinoise, which is the best I know of in any Western language. But I don't know if you can read French.

I do speak French a little bit, but I need this dictionary for English speaking people. So if there is a question about the particular character, I could just direct them to the dictionary, which explains this character. Thank you for letting me know that Chinese to French source exists though. I might need it in the future!

I had a look at Google Books at some of the available for view pages from the dictionary and didn't think much of it.

But then I don't know that much literary Chinese. Of the few characters that I know that have vastly different meanings today from then I didn't find the definition I was thinking of or the character wasn't part of the pages on view.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

Thank you, Kobo-Daishi! I will look into this dictionary to see if it is detailed enough. Are there other sources than just dictionaries, which could have detailed discussions of historical development of different characters? From their ancient meaning to today's use?

It's probably one of the best dictionaries to use in a classical Chinese course if students cannot read Mandarin well, but I wouldn't recommend using it if you can consult other resources (such as the Russian dictionary you speak of), and certainly not if you can read Mandarin well enough to consult such classical - Modern dictionaries as 王力古漢語常用字字典 :)

Daan, thank for mentioning this Mandarin dictionary. My goal is to study ancient meaning of different characters and see their progression into the contemporary China. So any source might help. Ultimately, I am looking for all-encompassing source, but I need to combine a few, it will do, I guess.

Sorry in advance for a stupid question, but I don't know American resourses that well, where online can I purchase this dictionary?

My Classical Chinese abilities are pretty limited, but I was using Mathews for a while before I finally bought a copy of 古漢語常用字字典, and there is a world of difference. To be honest, my modern Chinese reading skills aren't quite up to the task either, but I can work my way through it well enough for it to be worth it.

OK, thank you for your reply, OneEye!

Yes, don't let your modern Chinese fall too far behind your classical now. You don't want to be living in the past. ;-)

Agreed :) But the goal of my project is to take ancient meaning of different charaters and study their meaning progression to the contemporary use. There are so many things you learn about Chienese philosophy and culture in general just by studying history of the character and breaking down characters into parts.

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I'm not sure where you could buy that dictionary in the States. Try some online retailers or ask a friend in China, would be my suggestion. Maybe someone else has a better idea. But can I just point out, perhaps superfluously, that characters are only written representations of words, and it's these words that have meaning, not the characters themselves? :)

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear Emaze,

Unfortunately, there is no Classical Chinese-English dictionary out there.

Here are three pages from Endymion Wilkinson's "Chinese History: A Manual" from Google Print:

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In 1936, the Harvard-Yenching Institute started work on a Classical Chinese-English dictionary. After they came up with 30 different meanings for the character 子 and 68 pages of compounds with the character as head character they abandoned the project.

In 1938, the Shangwu company gave up after coming up with 58 definitions for the character 一 and 5,474 words and phrases that begin with 一.

This really confuses me since the Wangli dictionary is merely a character dictionary and they don't bother with words composed of more than one character. Also, Wilkinson says that in classical Chinese only about 20% of words were disyllabic.

This is a page from Edwin G. Pulleyblank's "Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar" also from Google Print:

2q8d7ww.png

According to Pulleyblank, he was given a grant to put together a Concise Dictionary of Classical Chinese, of which the Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar was to serve as an introduction.

But it was decided it was better to publish the outline separately. Supposedly the dictionary exists as a preliminary draft on computer and I guess they still haven't put it out since I asked about it at the thread titled "Concise Dictionary of Classical Chinese" found at the following link:

Concise Dictionary of Classical Chinese

The Outline came out in 1995, or fifteen years ago, you'd think that they'd have made some progress on the dictionary in all that time.

You're better off with Chinese only dictionaries anyway.

They're all available online through peer-to-peer sharing.

Still amazed that they haven't cobbled together a free online classical Chinese dictionary with all the resources available online nowadays.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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Yes, don't let your modern Chinese fall too far behind your classical now. You don't want to be living in the past. ;-)

I wouldn't care if my Classical Chinese was better than my Mandarin, I seem to read more interesting things in Classical Chinese than I have interesting conversations in Mandarin.

the goal of my project is to take ancient meaning of different charaters and study their meaning progression to the contemporary use. There are so many things you learn about Chienese philosophy and culture in general just by studying history of the character and breaking down characters into parts.

The dictionary you need for this is called the 汉字源流字典 I very stupidly passed up the chance to buy it, because I had been in China too long and thought the price was a bit steep, also I had too many other dictionaries in my bag when I saw it!

http://baike.baidu.com/view/1701700.htm

As for dictionaries to English, why not try to get hold of Herbert Giles' Chinese English Dictionary? It only has about 14,000 characters but I find it much better than Matthews for translating.

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