"I've been using Clavis Sinica for almost a year and it has really
helped improve my reading and vocabulary. Just the discipline of reading
the China News Digest summaries for 15-20 minutes a day has taken my Chinese
to the next level. Thanks for making this available."
"Thank-you for the great software! It makes learning chinese an awesome
Have you ever wished you could read a Chinese text without constantly looking up unfamiliar characters in a dictionary? If you're like many students of Chinese, you know that trying to read a new text often requires spending as much time poring through dictionaries as actually reading. At best, this is distracting, and at worst it can seem a completely exasperating waste of time.
The Chinese Text Reader provides a fast and easy way to read selected Chinese texts online. The Reader is a free, web-based applet that you can use as often as you like. All that is required is a high-speed internet connection that you can source from a range of providers, including O2, and a web browser equipped with a recent version of the Java Plug-in, which can be downloaded for free if it is not already installed on your computer. (If you don't have Java on your computer or if you're not sure, please visit the Java download website before continuing.)
When you use the Reader, you'll be shown a Chinese text in simplified characters. You can click on any character you don't recognize, and you'll immediately be shown the pronunciation and meaning of both the character and the word or phrase of which it is a part, as well as an indication of the relative usage frequency of the character. The Chinese text displayed in the Reader is changed on a regular basis, so you can practice reading a different text each time you visit this website.
This is what the Chinese Text Reader applet looks like once it has been properly loaded. (Note that this is an illustration only. To view the actual, working applet, see Using the Reader below.)
The bottom panel displays the pinyin and English definition of both the currently selected character and the compound word of which it is a part. The two asterisks indicate that the jing character is one of the 500 most frequently used characters.
The Chinese Text Reader uses the Clavis Sinica dictionary, which in turn is based on the first level of the Guobiao Chinese character set. The 3755 GB-I characters included in the Clavis dictionary are the most frequently used in modern Chinese. The Clavis dictionary divides these characters into four frequency groups, as follows:
|***||The top 300 most frequently used characters in modern Chinese|
|**||The next group of 500 most frequently used characters|
|*||The next group of 800 most frequently used characters|
|no asterisks||The final group of 2200 less frequently used characters|
To begin the Chinese Text Reader applet, simply click here. You will be taken to another web page on which the actual applet will appear. If you do not have the Java Plugin installed on your computer, you'll be invited to download it. This may take a couple of minutes, but you'll only have to do it once. Because the applet requires constant access to large files over the internet, it does not work properly with a dial-up modem connection.
You must have the most recent version of Java installed on your computer in order for the Chinese Text Reader applet to work properly. If you don't have the correct version installed, the applet will not display, or it may even cause your browser to crash. To find out whether or not you have the correct version of Java on your computer, please visit the Java website before attempting to use the applet. The Java website will tell you if you have Java installed, and if not, will install it for you automatically. This site also provides complete information about the Java plugin software, as well as Java FAQs and troubleshooting tips.
The text included here is provided for illustration purposes only. The text reader included with the Clavis Sinica program can be used to read any digitized Chinese text, including any of the the thousands of stories, poems, and news articles to be found on the Web. For a sampling of some of the best-known Chinese texts available online, see the Chinese Text Sampler website. For links to other useful Chinese websites, see our Links page.
The best way to improve your Chinese reading skills is to practice reading Chinese texts on a regular basis, make lists of unfamiliar words and characters, and drill yourself constantly on the new vocabulary you want to learn. While there is no way to avoid a certain amount of rote memorization in this process, the Clavis Sinica software can make it much more efficient and enjoyable. Here are some of the ways Clavis Sinica can help you learn characters more effectively:
You can find complete lists of the top 300 and next 800 most frequently used characters on the Chinese Text Sampler website. You can print out these lists from your web browser or download the file in order to study the meaning, structure, and usage of the characters using Clavis Sinica. The Sampler website also contains dozens of other Chinese texts you can use for reading practice, whatever your skill level. All of them can be viewed directly on your web browser or downloaded for closer study with Clavis Sinica.