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Chineasy: The New Way to Read Chinese Flexibound – March 11, 2014

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Chineasy: The New Way to Read Chinese + Chineasy: 60 Flashcards: The New Way to Read Chinese + Chineasy: 100 Postcards: The New Way to Read Chinese
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Product Details

  • Flexibound: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Design; Bilingual edition (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062332090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062332097
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“These cute images make reading Chinese characters ‘Chineasy.’” (NPR's "Code Switch" Blog)

“In her delightful book...Hsueh offers an inspired approach to learning more than 400 Chinese characters.” (San Francisco Chronicle Blog)

From the Back Cover

Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages to master. However, using the Chineasy system, anyone can begin to understand and read Chinese. It works by transforming Chinese characters into illustrations to make them easy to remember. This book teaches the key characters on which the language is built and how these characters can be combined to form more complex words and phrases. Learning Chinese has never been this simple or more fun!

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Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, I don't have a coffee table.
Quantum Mechanic
This book is beautifully made, and it is organized to help people get started learning a very complex language in a simple and memorable way.
Gary M. Guinn
Great little book for learning to read Chinese characters!
AJ Prentice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've seen the author's Ted Talk and followed the crowd funding for this book. I really wanted to like it. However, the Kindle version of the book is designed for art, not for functionality (reading).

It is virtually impossible to read on a tablet because of the small print (and inability to increase the size), the colors used (example, dark orchid background for small black font), and the navigation. Tried to read it in the alternative on my computer. No dice.

I've purchased several hundred Kindle books in the past couple of years. This is the first one for which I've requested a refund.

If they fix the electronic version, I'll also remove this Kindle review upon request.

In short, avoid the Kindle version like the plague. The print edition should be fine (knock on wood). If I get the print edition, I'll update this review to address the content.


March 20, 2014 Update.

I purchased the print edition and have taken the time to go through it before writing this update.

The substance of the book is good. However, the design gets in the way of using it for its intended purpose - learning Chinese characters.

It's clear after seeing both the Kindle and print editions that the Kindle edition consists of imaged pages from the print edition rather than doing formatting for the Kindle. For that, the person in charge of layout for the Kindle should be sent to the woodshed with a dunce cap.

Unfortunately, the printed pages suffer from some of the same issues that afflict the Kindle. Specifically, the many pages with dark-colored backgrounds with small black font are difficult to read.
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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Quantum Mechanic on March 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm sad I missed the Kickstarter on this since I would have backed it because I love anything about learning Chinese language and it's a pretty nice idea. The book is colorful, bright and the Kickstarter backers should be proud that they helped something this pretty come to fruition. With its strong graphic design sensibilities and colorful content, it's a great book for anyone's coffee table.

Unfortunately for the learning side of things, it's not very good. I'm writing this review only because I think folks should know what exactly they're buying. While the pictures are clever, many times, the associations are a stretch and they just don't seem effective as memory devices. Also, the book switches between traditional and simplified characters seemingly to facilitate the illustrations, which can be confusing for students who would actually like to read one or the other. On top of that, some of the words that are illustrated are just not used any more (nuan2 - argue or xuan1 - shout, for example). Definitely helpful though if you're reading ancient Chinese poetry, which I'm sure, most folks are not. Of course, for that, it's not enough content.

I don't think this is a good resource for learning Chinese characters. Honestly, if the pictures thing works for you, I'd highly recommend Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters since they actually put together more of a system with their images and a LOT of great explanations of how everything works. I do,however, think that Chineasy is a unique coffee table book. Unfortunately, I don't have a coffee table.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Michael on March 18, 2014
Format: Flexibound
This book would only be bought by those with no prior knowledge of Chinese at all. Otherwise they would know better...

Naturally pictographs are a good way to learn the very basic chinese characters (only 4% of characters are pictographs, btw) and many, many other books have used this method, but this book seems to have missed a lot of good opportunities, going for striking pictures rather than ones that are similar to the original pictographs. A good example of this is the character yu3 鱼 which means "fish". The character itself looks like a fish and was derived from an ancient picture of a fish. However, Chineasy shows this character as the eye of the fish, rather than the body. Another example of this is "sheep" yang1 羊, Which looks like a sheep with horns and all. It is shown not as the body, but as the nose... Another missed opportunity. The characters for bug, tiger, woman, etc. all have this same problem.

When you are just learning a few hundred characters, this is not the end of the world, but as you learn more and more characters, remembering them because they were stuck onto the face of some animal or another will soon come up short. Additionally, using a pictographic method alone does not help with the vast majority of characters or with more complicated compound characters.

Also, as a few other people have pointed out, there is no attempt to reinforce characters with stories or other methods that are pretty standard with other character books I've seen. Chineasy is just rote memorization dressed up with attractive pictures.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 15, 2014
Format: Flexibound Verified Purchase
I thought this book would be different from the various other books that I have purchased over the years. I thought this book would introduce the reader to a few characters and them provide a short story using those characters as a way of helping the reader remember them. Not so. While the images are cute, the author just throws character after character at the reader with no opportunity to use them together and no opportunity to review them.

I am looking for a book or series of books that do a "Look Dick, see Spot run" approach. I would like to see a book that introduces ten or twenty characters and phrases, and then uses those characters to tell a simple story. Then I could read that story over and over again to help learn those characters. Then, of course, the book(s) would build on that by introducing more characters and more simple little stories.

This book sounded like it would do that, but it doesn't. By page 44, about 90 characters and short phrases have been introduced but no stories connecting them and no way to review them. At the end of the book, the story of Peter and the Wolf is told in English, not in Chinese. There are characters for the main players in the story, but no story. No way to put those characters together as a story. Thus, no real opportunity to learn how to read Chinese.
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More About the Author

Born in Taipei and now living in London, ShaoLan Hsueh is a creator, entrepreneur, geek, writer, traveller and dreamer.

Chineasy is based on a method that ShaoLan designed to help her two British born children learn to read Chinese. She launched Chineasy after a rousingly well-received TED Talk in Long Beach, California in 2013. Her aim with Chineasy is to help anyone in the world to understand China, Chinese culture and its language.

For her this is also an arts project, as she grew up in an artistic family, being the daughter of a ceramic artist and a calligrapher. She is connecting the dots by going back to her artistic upbringing, and connecting her life's journey through the East and West.