Publisher receives funds to revise authoritive Chinese dictionary

Words from Qing dynasty and Nationalist period to expand standard guide to 25 from 13 volumes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 4:32am

A mainland publishing house was given 27 million yuan (HK$33.2 million) in state funding to revise the Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Chinese Word Dictionary), in the first revision of the premier Chinese language dictionary in nearly two decades.

Peng Weiguo, deputy director of Shanghai Century Publishing Group, the publisher of the dictionary, said the company planned to expand the current 13 volumes, containing 50 million words, to 25 volumes with 60 million words by 2020.

The revision would include more entries drawn from late Qing dynasty novels and works from the period of Nationalist rule, before 1949. It would also feature more words from contemporary literature that were deemed controversial when the current edition was published between 1986 and 1994.

The revision will be overseen by an advisory body and an editorial board made up of dozens of veteran Chinese studies academics, publishers and bureaucrats, as well as an executive committee.

Hua Jianmin, a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress and the dictionary's editor-in-chief, said the revision was an important step in efforts to build the "socialist cultural power" envisioned by Communist Party leaders during the party's national congress last month.

He said the revision would ensure that the dictionary remained the most authoritative guide to the Chinese language.

"With authoritativeness at the core of the revision, the nature of the dictionary as a consistent source for scientific and academic knowledge should also be upheld," he said.

The first of the 13 volumes of the first edition, including an index volume, was published in 1986, but the 13th volume was not published until 1994. The dictionary contains about 375,000 entries, with more than 50 million words.

Wang Tao, the editor-in-chief of the first edition, said the dictionary was still a major publishing undertaking because it had pooled contributions from several hundred academics over a period of 11 years.

However, he said it had several shortcomings by today's standards, because of its limited coverage of contemporary Chinese history and culture.

"It's also flawed in that it contains only a few encyclopaedic entries on ancient culture, something that attracted a lot of complaints from our readers," he said.