In ancient China, there were many reference
books of Chinese characters and these books can be collectively called as
dictionaries. There are many dictionaries of the Chinese language and the most
important ones are listed below.
Erya (Examples of Refined Usage) was compiled in the 3rd century BC and it
laid emphasis on explanations of words of Chinese characters.
Shuowen Jiezi (Elucidations of the Signs and Explications of the Graphs) was
compiled by Xu Shen in 100AD. The Shuowen Jiezi is best consulted in one
of its annotated editions, which include materials drawn from the later
philological tradition. The two most important are Shuowen Jiezi Gulin (A
Forest of Glosses on the Shuowen Jiezi) compiled by Ding Fubao and
Shuowen Jiezi Zu (Commentary to the Shuowen Jiezi) compiled by
Duan Yucai. Shuowen Jiezi mainly contained characters of Xiaozhuan
(lesser seal script) and analyzed structures of characters according to
different character components.
compiled by Gu Ye in the Liang Dynasty (502-557). It included more radicals in
Chinese characters than Shuowen Jiezi and the arrangement order of
characters also saw big changes.
compiled by Sima Guang in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The whole dictionary was
arranged according to the order of radicals in Chinese characters and was
divided into 14 articles. It employed Fanqie (a traditional method of
indicating the pronunciation of a Chinese character by using two other Chinese
characters, the first having the same consonant as the given character and the
second having the same vowel with or without final nasal and tone) and listed
explanations of each character.
Zhengzitong was compiled by Zhang Zilie in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The
whole dictionary had altogether 241 parts and featured numerous and wide-ranging
Kangxi Zidian (Dictionary of the Kangxi Emperor) was
compiled by Zhang Yushu and Chen Tingjing according to the previous two
dictionaries Zihui (Collection of Characters) and Zhengzitong.
Zhongwen Da Zidian (Great Dictionary of the Chinese Language) was edited by Lu Feikui
and Ouyang Fucun and was published in 1915. The dictionary was compiled based on
Kangxi Zidian and corrected over 4,000 mistakes in the later and added
more than 1,000 characters.
(New China Dictionary) was compiled by Wei Jiangong and published by the
People's Education Publishing House in 1953. The whole book was arranged in the
order of Pingyin and was divided into 189 parts. It includes about 8,500 single
characters and indicates extended meaning, parabolic meaning and transferred
meaning besides the original explanation.