World's Biggest Chinese Character Dictionary Nearly Complete

Korea will soon see completion of the world's largest Chinese character dictionary. Dankook University Institute of Oriental Studies on Tuesday announced its "Dictionary of Chinese Characters Korean Use", the fruit of 30 years¡¯ labor, will be finished in April and the full set will be published in May.

With 15 volumes excluding the index, the dictionary is a massive lexicon of some 60,000 Chinese characters for the culture sphere that uses Chinese characters such as Korea, China and Japan, and includes about 500,000 Chinese words. It is much bigger than any of the three major Chinese character dictionaries published earlier in East Asia - ¡°Dai Kanwa Jiten¡± (an encyclopedic Chinese-Japanese dictionary compiled by Tetsuji Morohashi in Japan in 1960) with 49,000 characters and 400,000 words; ¡°Zhong Wen Da Cidian¡± (an encyclopedic dictionary of the Chinese Language published in Taiwan in 1962) with 50,000 characters and 400,000 words; and ¡°The Hanyu Da Cidian¡± (a comprehensive Chinese word dictionary published in China in 1994) with 56,000 characters and 370,000 words.


The ¡®Dictionary of Chinese Characters Korean Use.¡¯ The full set will be published by Dankook University Institute of Oriental Studies in May. The ¡®Dictionary of Chinese Characters Korean Use.¡¯ The full set will be published by Dankook University Institute of Oriental Studies in May.


The project was initiated by the Institute of Oriental Studies in 1978, when it recruited Lee Hi-seung (1896-1989) as its director, motivated by neighboring countries' compilation of such dictionaries. More than W20 billion (US$1=W941) has been spent on a compilation that had been unprecedented in the country. Work progressed at a snail's pace to the point when the first volume was published in 1999, some 20 years after work began.

The project was on the brink of folding due to lack of funds. But in 2005, a Special Committee for the Publication of a Dictionary of Chinese Characters Korean Use was launched, and the project has since gained momentum. In 2007, the committee published vols. 10 through 12 simultaneously. It developed no fewer 60,000 new computer typefaces because no ordinary computers had that many Chinese character fonts.

Some 600 researchers and experts took part in the project over the past 30 years. Director Yoon Nae-hyun of the Institute of Oriental Studies, who is in charge of the compilation, said, "A complete Chinese character dictionary is the key to efforts to decipher our own classics and understanding traditional culture. So the compilation and publication of such a dictionary is a stepping stone for the advances of the humanities."

Prof. Kim Eon-jong of the Department of Korean Literature in Classical Chinese at Korea University said, "This project has great significance from the standpoint of cultural history. But it's a pity that the institute hastened the final stage. It must complement and supplement the dictionary later."

englishnews@chosun.com / 1¿ù 09, 2008 09:41 KST