Modern Chinese Encyclopaedic Dictionaries: Novel Concepts and New Terminology (1903–1911)

Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


During the first decade of the twentieth century the Chinese encyclopaedias of new knowledge, which had developed since the 1880s, were joined by a new genre—the encyclopaedic dictionary. It addressed the problem that many of the new ideas coming from abroad—particularly from Japan, the main transmitter of Western modern culture—were expressed in a new and unfamiliar terminology. These new terms were formed through a combination of several Chinese characters. The lack of reference works that could provide short definitions and show the place of a term in a taxonomic order proved an obstacle to Chinese students and scholars who were eager to revitalize the country by absorbing these new ideas. In short, what was acutely needed was a modern Chinese encyclopaedic dictionary. In their 1911 preface to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Henry Watson and Francis George Fowler marked the difference between an encyclopaedia and what in fact was an encyclopaedic dictionary: “The book is designed as a dictionary, and not as an encyclopaedia; that is, the uses of words and phrases as such are its subject matter, and it is concerned with giving information about the things for which those words and phrases stand only so far as correct use of the words depends upon knowledge of the things.” This study will deal with the transition from traditional Chinese dictionaries, with their focus on the individual character, to the encyclopaedic dictionaries that explained the polysyllabic new terminology.


General Knowledge Chinese Character Chinese Student Word Dictionary Encyclopaedic Dictionary 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PrahaCzech Republic

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