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Several Important Chinese Dictionaries

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.

Yupian was 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.

Leipian was 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 explanations.

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.

Xinhua Zidian (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.

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