Le Grand Ricci now available on DVD

cover of le Grand Ricci numeriqueThe magnificent Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise, better known as le Grand Ricci, has just been released on DVD, almost a decade after its release in book form and exactly four hundred years after the death of Matteo Ricci.

The list price is 120 euros (about US$150), which is much cheaper than the printed edition. A long video in French (16:31) discusses the work. For those who would prefer something in English, a PDF gives background information on the dictionary project.

For a sample of the dictionary’s format and entries, see the 25 pages of entries for shan. Alas, as this example shows, the entries are not word parsed. But at least Hanyu Pinyin is now available for those who prefer it to Wade-Giles.

As long as I’m mentioning Ricci-related work, I might as well use the occasion to note that the Taipei Ricci Institute is putting its collection of books on permanent loan to Taiwan’s National Central Library.

Also, I’d like to note that parts of Matteo Ricci’s original dictionary can now be viewed through the Google Books scan of a publication from earlier this century of his Dicionário Português-Chinês.


image from a manuscript page of Ricci's original dictionary

recent milestones for Sino-Platonic Papers

The Web site for Sino-Platonic Papers, Professor Victor Mair’s iconoclastic journal, has expanded to the point that, as of the most recent batch of reissues, it offers more than half of the journal’s 198 (and counting) issues in full and for free. So if you haven’t visited that site recently you might want to have another look.

I’ll mention just a few of the recent additions:

Other recent milestones for SPP include

Below: A chart from SPP 198, Aramaic Script Derivatives in Central Eurasia, by Doug Hitch.
chart of scripts derived from Aramaic. See SPP 198 (the link for this image) for a version of this chart with machine-readable text.

China and U.S. study abroad programs: update

In one of my posts about a year ago, China and U.S. study abroad programs (Pinyin News, Nov. 23, 2008), I noted that China had become the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students in study abroad programs.

More recent data show that the China has remained in fifth place. In fact, the order in the top ten list has not changed, though the figures for each of the countries have increased.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years
China shown as the fifth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the U.K., followed by Italy, Spain, and France. See the link to my source material for the actual numbers.

Growth for China as a destination, however, remained strong, at 19.0 percent, while study abroad as a whole increased 8.5 percent. Top growth, however, belonged to India, followed by Austria, then China, and Ireland. If China continues to grow at such rates as a destination, it could knock France out of fourth place in a few years, which would be a dramatic development.

10 highest growth rates for destinations for study abroad by U.S. students (comparing the 2007-08 school year with the 2006-07 school year)

China now accounts for 5 percent of U.S. study abroad, which has helped Asia’s overall growth as a destination region.

Percent of study abroad performed in Asia, 1996-2007
chart showing percentage of study abroad in Asia flat at about 6% from 1996-2000, with growth increasing since 2003 to the present 11.1% for the 2007-08 school year

Some predictions for the next installment:

  • Economic woes are probably going to reduce the rate of study abroad, though that may benefit China, relatively speaking, as students opt for it over more expensive destinations like the U.K. and France.
  • Terrorism could affect India’s numbers, though I expect them to continue to increase dramatically over the long term.
  • And should China reevaluate its currency, that could slow its growth as a destination for U.S. students.

source: Open Doors Report 2009

A new look at early character forms

Cover of the book: 'Orthography of Early Chinese Writing'A review in a recent journal issue focusing on romanization led me to discover online the entire text of an interesting new book: Orthography of Early Chinese Writing: Evidence from Newly Excavated Manuscripts, by Imre Galambos.

This gives an idea of what the book covers:

Beside offering a more useful approach to both studying Warring States manuscripts and variant character forms in general, this study sheds new light on the development of the Chinese script, its transition into the clerical script stage, and the reality of the Qin reforms. The variability of Warring States character forms demonstrates that Chinese characters evolved not along a linear path that stretched from the oracle-bone inscriptions to the modern script but followed a complex process involving distinct cultures and languages. The “fuzziness” of the line of evolution with respect to the spoken languages and dialects of ancient China raises questions regarding the national identity of the Chinese script. A related issue is how far can one go back in time and say with certainty that the various scripts were not only the predecessors of the Chinese script but were in fact Chinese.

Some numbers for searches:

  • ISBN 963 463 811 2
  • ISSN 1787-7482

Pinyin with audio and Chinese characters: Fortress Besieged

cover of the book 'The Besieged City' (??)Sinolingua‘s terrific series of abridged editions of classic Chinese books includes one of my favorites, which may well be the finest novel written in Mandarin during the twentieth century: Qian Zhongshu’s Wéichéng (??/??), best known in English as Fortress Besieged but published by Sinolingua with the English title of The Besieged City.

I’m very pleased to announce that Pinyin.info now offers the first chapter of Sinolingua’s edition this book, along with an audio file of it being read aloud. This edition is in Mandarin, in word-parsed Hanyu Pinyin (with Chinese characters underneath) and has a few notes in English as well as mp3 files of the text being read aloud.

Here’s the download page: Wéichéng (??/??/).

I’ve often told people who plan to go to China and want me to recommend a book that will help them “understand” the country (as if!) they’re about to visit: “By all means, read the Analects of Confucius, the Dàodéj?ng, and the Zhu?ngz?; but know in advance that they’ll be about as relevent to your trip as reading the Gospels would be to someone from China who’s about to travel to the West for the first time. And don’t waste your time with crap like The Tao of the Chinese Boardroom’s Inner Art of Feng-shui or whatever. Read Fortress Besieged. It’s as good a start as just about anything — and a lot more fun to read.”

The novel is also available in a fine English translation.

Related reading:

screenshot of part of a paragraph of the PDF of this book

books bought in Beijing

cover of a book by Zhou YouguangI didn’t have any luck finding anything in Sin Wenz (L?d?nghuà X?n Wénzì / ??????), despite trips to several large used book stores. (Fortunately, the Internet is now providing some leads. Thanks, Brendan and Joel!) But I did find some other books to bring home.

I acquired lots of books by Zhou Youguang, not all of which focus primarily on linguistics:

Other than the Zhou Youguang books, here are my favorite finds of the trip, as they are for the most part in correctly word-parsed Hanyu Pinyin (with Hanzi underneath), along with a few notes in English:

I’ll soon be posting more about the above books with Pinyin, so watch this site for updates. Really, this is gonna be good.

Although this collection of Y.R. Chao says it’s volume 15, it’s actually two books:

  • Zhào Yuánrèn quánjí, dì 15 juàn (??????15?)

Some more titles:

  • Measured Words: The Development of Objective Language Testing, by Bernard Spolsky
  • P?t?nghuà shu?píng cèshì shísh? g?ngyào (???????????). Now with the great smell of beer! Sorry, Brendan, I owe you one — more than one, actually.

The following I bought because Yin Binyong, the scholar primarily responsible for Hanyu Pinyin’s orthography, is the author of these titles from Sinolingua’s series of Bóg?t?ngj?n xué Hàny? cóngsh? (“Gems of the Chinese Language through the Ages” (their translation)), all of which are in Mandarin (Hanzi) and English, with Pinyin only for the sayings being illustrated:

cover of 'Chinese-English Dictionary of Polyphonic Characters' (?????????)cover of 'Putonghua shuiping ceshi shishi gangyao' (???????????)cover of 'Xinhua pinxie cidian'


And finally:

Of course I already have that one — more than one copy, in fact. But it’s always good to have more than one spare when it comes to one of the two most important books on Pinyin orthography. I really need to follow up on my requests to use excerpts from this book, as it is the only major title missing from my list of romanization-related books (though it’s in Mandarin only).

sign in a Beijing bookstore reading 'Education Theury' [sic]