Last Updated on August 4, 2015
There are some incredibly good sources on the web to help you master your Chinese reading ability for free. This article is about the two best Chinese encyclopedias on the web. Furthermore, this article will talk about how using Wikipedia and Baidu’s Encyclopedia can improve your Chinese reading ability.
I recently was listening to a Cantonese radio station on Spotify.com. I heard an HK singer named 江海迦 (Agatha Kong) who I had heard in Hong Kong before. Then, I decided to look up information about her. That got me to look at Wikipedia and Baidu Baike. And like I often do, once I start reading one article on Wikipedia, I end up reading many more. This got me to learn some new vocabulary, and get more interested in Chinese things.
Agatha Kong 江海迦
Below is a screenshot of Agatha Kong’s Chinese Wikipedia page.
About The Chinese Version of Wikipedia and Baidu Baike
The front page of wikipedia.org as of 13 August 2016 says that there are 892 000 + articles on the Chinese version of Wikipedia. And as of 04 August 2015, there were 833 000 + articles for the Chinese version of Wikipedia as evidenced by a screenshot I took of wikipedia.org. You can see that screenshot below. Most of the Chinese Wikipedia articles that I have read are in Traditional Chinese, but there does seem to be some in Simplified Chinese as well.
As of 04 August 2015, there are 12,153,511 articles on Baidu Baike (百度百科), as evidenced by a screenshot I just took of the main page. As far as I know, nearly all of Baidu’s articles are written in Simplified Chinese.
As a side note, zh.wikipedia.org is a subdomain of wikipedia.org, but is essentially treated a separate website. So, if, for example, you search for a something in Chinese on en.wikipedia.org, you probably will come up with no search results. You will have to search in the zh.wikipedia.org site. Likewise, baike.baidu.com is a subdomain of baidu.com. As another interesting side note, the Chinese name of Wikipedia is 維基百科 (wei2 ji1 bai3 ke1 in Mandarin Pinyin). 維 has several possible definitions: /to preserve/to maintain/to hold together/dimension/vitamin. 基 has several possible definitions: /base/foundation/basic/radical (chemistry). So, one could translate Wikipedia’s name in Chinese into English as “the base maintaining encyclopedia”. Or the “foundational preserving encyclopedia”. The characters of Wikipedia were obviously chosen with sounds somewhat mimicking “Wikipedia” and with good meanings.
If you Live in China Baidu Baike Is Preferred
If you are in Mainland China, it will probably be better to use Baidu Baike because Wikipedia may be super slow or blocked due to the Great Firewall of China.
How To Use The Encyclopedia Sites And How To Read A Chinese Encyclopedia Article To Improve Your Chinese
I recommend that you take small parts of an encyclopedia article at a time as they can sometimes be quite long. Even trying to translate just one small paragraph can help you out a lot. I recommend that you use a dictionary along with reading, and also using translate.google.com can be very helpful. That being said, do your best to try to translate it as much as you can BY YOURSELF, before using a dictionary or translator.
To get started, I recommend you go to one of the sites, and start searching directly on the site about what you want to read about. You can also search in Chinese on baidu.com or google.com and it might give a direct link to either the appropriate Wikipedia or Baidu baike article. If you want to read about a subject that you want to actually learn something about, you should at least know the Chinese name for that. In the case you don’t know the Chinese word for what you want to read about, I recommend you use a dictionary to find it out. For example, imagine that you wanted to learn about the Planet Venus. I just looked up the Chinese name of Venus, and it is 金星, meaning literally “golden planet or golden star”. You just copy and paste 金星 into zh.wikipedia.org or baike.baidu.com, and go from there.
Read About Things That You Are Interested In
I hope it is self-evident that if you read about things that you are interested in, you are more likely to continue your study of Chinese. I think that it would be doubly beneficial because you might learn something new and interesting. In addition, you will probably improve your Chinese reading ability as well.
What did you think of this article? Your comments are welcomed below.