Chinese Notes
Chinese Notes

Dictionary Entry Templates

This page explains information to include in common types of entries. All the Chinese dictionary metadata should be entered in simplified, except when quoting literary Chinese sources, due to the predominant use of traditional Chinese in literary Chinese texts.

Entries of similar types should be treat consistently. Similar types can be identified through similar Concept field values. Some examples are given here.


The Notes field should explain the number and use of the arguments and give a simple example that illustrates use of typical arguments. It should include a comment on the relation or absense of a subject.


The Concept field values are (作家, Writer). The Domain field value will most likely be (文学, Literature). The Subdomain field will typically be the country that they are from. For example, (中国, China). The Notes field should start with their year of birth and death. Only give the years of birth and death, not months and days. Use a referable source, like Idema and Haft and check against other sources, such as Wikipedia and Baidu Baike. Make a one or two sentence note about their contribution and their style in English and Chinese. Cite one or two of their works in English and Chinese. The value of the Grammar field should be proper poun. Example: 叶圣陶 Ye Shengtao.

Classical Chinese

A word used in literary Chinese with a definition that goes back to pre-modern times, usually classical or pre-classical times but may include medieval. The term literary Chinese refers to the language and classical Chinese to a period. However, there are no categories in the dictionary for pre-classical or post-classical. The way to differentiate a classical Chinese entry from a modern entry is via the topic_cn and topic_en fields. The classical definition will have topic_en: Classical Chinese. Modern Chinese will have a more specific topic.

For literary Chinese, historic dictionaries may be quoted. For example, 。 'Yì: a grand beast with long hair.' (Shuo Wen Jie Zi, Scroll 10 《說文解字》) The advantage of this is the considerable etymological value. However, the problem is the difficulty of understanding the historical text. One solution is to use examples for as simple a source as possible.

One good source of simple examples is the 千字文 Qiān Zì Wén ‘Thousand Character Classic’ (Wu and Tee 2015). This text was composed by Zhou Xingsi (d. 521) used for teaching students in historic times (Giles 1898, s.v. ‘Chou Hsing-ssu’). Each phrase in the Thousand Character Classic is four characters long and stands by itself. The first phrase is (Wu and Tee 2015, loc. 296),

[sky] [dark] [earth] [yellow]
‘In the distant past, the sky was dark and the earth was yellow.’

Example: 6988
Set these fields
grammar: noun
concept_cn: Try to use a classical term, if possible. For example, use instead of 动物.
concept_en: Add to match concept_cn
topic_cn: 古文
topic_en: Classical Chinese
notes: Try to find the definition from one of the historic dictionaries or an example from a literary Chinese source and reference it. Try to find a modern Chinese synonymn.


A radical in any of the Kangxi, Shuo Wen, or other schemes.

Example: 40348
Set these fields
grammar: noun
concept_cn: 部首
concept_en: Radical
topic_cn: 语法 if modern Chinese,古文 if literary Chinese
topic_en: Grammar if modern Chinese,Classical Chinese if literary Chinese
notes: Add the radical set that the radical belongs to, eg 'A radical in Shuo Wen Jie Zi 《說文解字》'


A person's surname

Example: 3235
Set these fields
grammar: proper noun
concept_cn: 姓氏
concept_en: Surname
topic_cn: 名字
topic_en: Names


Idioms should be included where possible. They are distinguished from commonly occurring word patterns in that the meaning of idioms is not immediately obvious in modern Chinese (DeFrancis 2003, p. xvii). The sense of each of the words should be added in the Notes field, especially when the meaning is not obvious.


  1. DeFrancis, J (Ed.) 2003. ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.
  2. Giles, HA 1898 A Chinese Biographical Dictionary. B. Quaritch; Kelly & Walsh, London; Shanghai.
  3. Wu, K & Tee, S 2015, Thousand-Character Classic, China Publishing House, Singapore.