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A Century Chinese-English Dictionary to be released

A Century Chinese-English Dictionary, learning Chinese

People behind dictionaries attracted rare media attention in 2013 after The Great Passage, a Japanese film, competed for the Academy Awards that year as a contestant in the best foreign-language film category.


In China, Wu Guanghua's world is somewhat similar to that of the movie's main characters. The 75-year-old compiler has spent the past 14 years working on a dictionary. As a result the largest Chinese-English dictionary by scale has been created.


The two-volume A Century Chinese-English Dictionary is expected to be released by the Shanghai Translation Publishing House later this year.


To the publishers, it was an "opportunity of a lifetime" to work with compilers such as Wu. Zhu Yajun, an editor at the publishing house, says it was difficult to find one's way in Wu's house through the piles of reference material when he was working on the dictionary.


Born in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Wu has been working as a lexicography professor at Dalian Jiaotong University since 1965. He has published 20 dictionaries, including the award-winning The Chinese-English Dictionary, since the 1980s.


The dictionary is comprehensive and updated, says Zhang Yihua, a professor with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in South China's Guangzhou city. It contains more than 860,000 entries, covering about 200 areas. About 360,000 entries are related to science and technology.


The entries are listed under 40,000 individual Chinese characters, according to Wu. The authoritative Kangxi Dictionary, one of the major Chinese-language reference books compiled in the early 18th century under Emperor Kangxi's decree, has about 47,000 characters, he says.


"We've turned all the 40,000 characters into English," Wu says.


The new dictionary contains about 20,000 phrases that have surfaced in more recent times but are widely used. They include zhongguo meng (Chinese Dream), fangchan xiangou (restrictions on the purchase of multiple homes) and jiong yidai (an online term for young people). In addition, phrases such as shanhun find standardized mention as "rush wedding", instead of the more popular "flash marriage".

这部新字典包含了2万多个最新才出现但广泛使用的词汇,如"中国梦"、"房产限购"、"囧一代"等。另外,像"闪婚"等短语有了规范英文翻译,即用rush wedding,而不是flash marriage。

"New words keep appearing with the country's rapid development, especially in the past 15 years. Our study should follow the progress and offer readers as much as possible," Wu says.


The dictionary sticks to older Chinese wisdom, too. It contains 30,000 Chinese set phrases, slang expressions and proverbs, as well as nine appendices with more information.


"The dictionary will serve as a record of the Chinese language and society, and as a cultural carrier for future generations," says Zhang Boran, a professor of Nanjing University in East China's Jiangsu province. Zhang describes the dictionary as a "positive attempt to gain stronger power of discourse as Chinese culture deepens its interactions with the world".


The dictionary also has 160,000 quotes, some of which are from classical literary masters.


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