English Chinese Dictionary
Lexiconer.com Web
English Chinese Dictionary Chinese English Dictionary Language bookstore home Language Video Store TOEFL/GRE/GMAT Vocabulary
Browse Bookstore by languages:

Reading and Writing Chinese: A Guide to the Chinese Writing System

Title: Reading and Writing Chinese: A Guide to the Chinese Writing System

Author: William McNaughton, Li Ying
Format: Paperback
List Price: $24.95
Where To Buy

Amazon USA Price: $13.57

Buy from Amazon USA

Amazon Canada Price

Reading and Writing Chinese: A Guide to the Chinese Writing System

Recommended: Auralog TeLL me More Language Software, a superb and effective system for learning a foreign language. Proven method and highly praised system.

Where To Buy This Item

Product Details
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Charles E. Tuttle Co.; Revised edition (September 1, 1999)
  • ISBN: 0804832064
  • Product Dimensions: 9.0 x 6.0 x 0.8 inches
  • Average Customer Review: based on 20 reviews.

Spotlight Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful:

Useful for Learners, November 25, 2002

Reviewer: "radagasty" (Sydney, Australia)

McNaughton's 'Reading and Writing Chinese' remains a very useful guide for learners attempting to acquire literacy in Chinese. It comprises two sections, the first listing some 1,062 elementary* characters with its stroke order, Mandarin pronunciation and meaning, as well as a few compound words using the character and the simplified version of the character if it exists. The second section comprises the remainder of the characters in the official list of 2,000 basic characters promulgated by the Chinese government, and gives much the same information as the first section, save the stroke order (which the learner should already be conversant with after learning the first section) and the compound words. The book contains a number of useful indices that may be used to look up unfamiliar characters by pronunciation, stroke-count, etc.

*McNaughton has adopted a largely pedagogical order in the presentation of characters. Unlike many books which present the most commonly-used characters first (although this is not to say that the characters he presents are not, in the main, common ones), characters that are geometrically simplest are first presented, and complex characters are built-up from the simpler parts already presented. This does, in many ways, aid the memorisation of complex characters, if their parts are already known, but it also has the effect of presenting some rare, obscure, archaic or otherwise obsolete characters early on, so that they may be used as a section of a more complex, but common, character later on. Similarly, the compound words are chosen so that they only use characters that have already been learnt.

One feature that I liked about this book is that it gives hints on learning the characters, and etymological information on the derivation of the character if it is useful for helping memorise the characters. As mentioned before, there is great emphasis placed on the building up of a character from its parts.

This edition is a revised version of the 1979 edition containing a number of changes. The most significant change is probably the switch from Yale romanisation to Pinyin. The former was designed for pedagogical purposes, and is perhaps more convenient for English speakers, but the latter is increasingly becoming standard and the switch was probably not unwise. The second notable change is the use of the kaishu (model script) in the head characters in place of the (often idiosyncratically) handwritten characters of the original edition. I thought there was some charm in the handwritten edition, but I suppose, for the sake of standardisation, the new format is better, for the kaishu script is something of a normative standard in Chinese. (The disadvantage is that it looks like it has been written with a brush rather than the pen, whereas most learners would probably use a pen. The differences between brush- and pen-written characters, however, are slight.) The compound words have also been increased in number, and chosen to better reflect the vocabulary of contemporary Chinese, an added bonus, although they really only illustrate the uses of the character, and does not constitute a resource for acquiring Chinese vocabulary.

All in all then, it is a very useful book for a learner beginning on the road to literacy in Chinese. I have not given five stars, not because I discovered any major flaws, but because I did not get the impression of outstanding excellence that merits it. I really have no complaint of note to make about the book. (Inclusion of Cantonese pronunciation in addition to the Mandarin, however, would be a welcome bonus.)

65 of 68 people found the following review helpful:

The Best Way I Found to Learn Chinese Characters, January 6, 2001

Reviewer: Adam Alfert "dufu" (New York, NY USA)

If you are serious about learning the Chinese writing system, this is one of the best books. It's a tough job and no resource should be overlooked, but this is one which can provide tremendous support.

Over ten years ago when I began my studies, this book served as my guide in the absence of formal instruction. There are two unique elements to the book. The first is the etymologies, which serve to make the language-learning process more interesting and fun, as well as an extremely useful mnemonic. For those who wish to explore Chinese literature, both ancient and modern, it is invaluable that this book does not pass over radicals and certain basic characters which are not in common use but which are fundamental elements of the language.

The second wonderful aspect of this book is its explanation, on a stroke by stroke basis, of how to write each character in its complex and original form. Learning to write Chinese is a skill acquired through repetition, and this book provides the background for the necessary rote-work. But if you follow the stroke sequence clearly illustrated in this book, the way to write any Chinese character will eventually come naturally.

This book was my constant companion during the initial period that I was learning Chinese, and now I have a gift the value of which is truly beyond measure.

Customer Reviews
Avg. Customer Review:

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

A good supplement, May 1, 2004
Reviewer: A reader
This is NOT a dictionary. The book is really a collection of some 2000 characters with their English equivalents or close English equivalents. Each characters has some example character combinations (i.e., words) and the stroke order. Thus, the book is really geared towards the student who wants to learn all the essential 2000 and some odd characters (i.e., learn how to write them and their BASIC meaning; I say 'basic' because the meaning of each character is explained using English equivalents, as opposed to truly explaining what a particular character means). The book emphasizes traditional characters, but simplified forms are provided. So if you want a good supplement for learning Chinese character, buy this book. If you are looking for a Chinese/English dictionary this is NOT it (instead, try the Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary (ISBN 0195911512) and Xinhua Zidian (ISBN 7801031989).

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful:


Reviewer: Michael Chen (USA)

This book is akin to a dictionary. It is NOT an instructional book. From reading the other amazon comments, I was under the impression that I could learn chinese from self-study of this book. This is not the case. Much like a dictionary, it lists the character followed by the meaning and stroke order, and that's it. One could perhaps use this book as a companion dictionary, but I recommend Rick Harbaugh's "Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary" for that purpose. In short, this books is not a instruction book, and as a dictionary, it is too short. It is only good at showing you the stroke order of characters.

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

Good resource, September 2, 2003

Reviewer: Cameron Alverson (Mesa, AZ United States)

Good resource for learning Chinese characters and meanings. It gives a concise history and explanation for 2000 necessary characters and sets the stage for further learning and growth in Chinese.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Great, April 26, 2003

Reviewer: Michael J. Dudrich (Middletown, Pennsylvania United States)

This book is perfect for those of you who are interested in learning Chinese characters and how to write them. This book has all of the most important characters in the Chinese language, including the list of the 1020 characters students should know and the offical 2000 characters published by the People's Republic of China with over 2500 combinations. This book also includes the all-important pinyin romanization to help you with pronunciation. Definitions, explanations, memorization tips and stroke order is also given for every character. Overall, I think that this is one of, if not the best book out there for learning the written Chinese language.

Where to buy

Buy from Amazon USA

  Search Chinese books on Amazon:


Language Stores:

Top Recommended Language Programs

Learn Spanish Central: A collection of books for studying Spanish.

List of 3,465 Spanish English Cognates

Main Language Bookstore

Auralog TeLL me More Language Software

Fluenz Language Software

Pimsleur Language Program

Instant Immersion Language Software

Rosetta Stone Language Software
(Rosetta Stone Review)

Video Courses

Transparent Language Software

Power-Glide Language Software

Learn Chinese Central

View this page in: | | | | | | | | |

Copyright © 2000-2008 Lexiconer.Com or its partners.

English Chinese Dictionary  Site Map  Language Bookstore   Language Video  Rocket Spanish   Rosetta Stone Language Software (Rosetta Stone Review, Rosetta Stone SpanishAuralog TeLL me More Language Software Update History (About Us)   Contact Us   Testimonials   Privacy Policy