Digital Resources for Buddhist Studies

Useful online dictionaries

Posted by marcus.bingenheimer on 2009/06/13

Encoders at the Digital Archive Section often use three online Chinese dictionaries:

1. The revised Ministry of Education (Taiwan) 重編國語辭典

offers reliable and clear definitions of characters, compounds. It includes some names.

2. For variants we use:

also by the ministry of education. This allows us to ascertain if non-Unicode character variants are attested elsewhere. Together with a print source on Character variants in the Tripitaka Coreana ( 高麗大藏經異體字字典, 漢城市 : 高麗大藏經研究所, 2000) (29,478 characters), this is an important resource for us whenever we have to annotate characters.

The Variant Dictionary contains 106,230 characters and their variants. This is almost twice the number of characters included in the《汉语大字典》徐仲舒 (Ed.), 1990, (54,678) and still considerable more than the hitherto largest print reference tool the《中华字海》冷玉龙 (ed.), 1994, which contains more than 85,000.

Both websites are extremely badly designed. Especially the the Variant Database website is so badly designed that the interface obscures a valuable resource. If you encounter problems try IE 6, with the encoding set to BIG-5.

3. The website 漢典

is a good general purpose look-up tool for characters, compounds idioms. The user has to decide first whether to search the character, the compound or the Chengyu 成語 database. However, the underlying databases are  excellent. Looking up characters  漢典 contains older dictionaries such as the 说文解字 or the 康熙字典 as well as character variant information (look for 字源字形).


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