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Reading & Writing Chinese: Traditional Character Edition, A Comprehensive Guide to the Chinese Writing System 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0804832069
ISBN-10: 0804832064
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

William McNaughton has taught at Hong Kong's City University since 1986. He is the author of numerous books and journal articles on Chinese literature and language.

Li Ying teaches at Hong Kong University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 1 edition (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804832064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804832069
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
I started learning to write Chinese by working my way through this book, memorizing the characters, pronunciation, and definitions. Now I sort of regret it. The list of characters is reasonable enough. If your goal is to memorize a bunch of characters, these are good ones to concentrate on, and they're generally presented in a reasonable order. The stroke order diagrams are helpful when you're first starting out, and it isn't a problem that they're only present for the first half of the list of characters; by the time you finish the part of the book with the diagrams, you will have long since developed a good intuitive sense of the stroke order rules.

Unfortunately, beyond the selection of characters and the diagrams, it kind of falls short.

My biggest complaint is that the definitions are often not good. When a character has multiple meanings (as most of them do) you can't count on the most common meaning being first in the list, and in some cases common meanings aren't listed at all. If you're using the definitions to make flashcards, you'll be frustrated by the number of times two characters are given exactly the same English definition, even though in reality they differ in connotation or in usage.

There is never any distinction made between characters that stand as words on their own and characters that only ever appear as parts of compound words, which will definitely trip you up a lot if you're using this as a source of vocabulary. And the compound words are sometimes obscure or very old-fashioned terms that, if you say them to a Chinese speaker, will cause them to give you a puzzled look and ask where the heck you learned THAT old word.

The font used for the characters is a typewritten one.
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Format: Paperback
This book systematically introduces the 2000 Chinese characters that McNaughton feels are the core of the language. Though it can be used this way, the book makes an even better reference source as a basic character dictionary. Its most helpful features are the dual-indexes of Romanized and original characters. Approximately half of the characters in the book (about 1000) have explanatory diagrams showing how to properly write them in the correct stroke-order. These are accompanied by etymologies explaining the origins of the character, the character's radical, and the simplified forms. A chart of all 214 radicals is also provided. The only drawback is that the romainization is Yale, not Pinyin, but a helpful conversion chart is provided.
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