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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 08:56, September 20, 2005
Biggest Chinese dictionary on display
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The largest dual language dictionary ever compiled may lend its verbiage to the Shanghai Library.

The Grand Ricci French-Chinese Dictionary is an enormous tome developed and edited by more than 200 experts at a cost of more than US$10 million. It includes 13,500 characters and more than 300,000 Mandarin Chinese expressions.

The dictionary, along with supporting materials dating back more than a century, will be exhibited at the city's main library on Huaihai Road. The exhibit will be one of the last official events of the Year of France in China.

"It's a bit of cultural history of which China has a wealth," said Benoit Vermander, director of the Ricci Institute of Taipei. "It's the biggest Chinese language dictionary in the world."

The event is scheduled to start on Saturday, but library officials would not confirm the date after the dictionaries were delayed at customs.

"The exact date of the exhibition cannot be pinned down now, because some major exhibits a collection of dictionaries were stuck in customs," said a library official, without giving his name.

Vermander said later the problem had been solved, but would not elaborate. He was confident the exhibit would go ahead as planned.

The dictionary is the end work of more than 200 experts who first began compiling it in 1949.

The experts are from the Jesuit-led Ricci Institutes in Taipei and Paris. Given the number of different sources needed for a work of this magnitude, however, "it is fair to say the dictionary is not Jesuit any more," said Vermander.

The first dictionary, the Petit Ricci, was published in 1976. It included only 6,000 characters and 50,000 expressions. A more complete version, with 13,500 single characters, was published in 1999.

The Grand Ricci is 9,000 pages long. Weighing 17.5 kilograms, it was first published at the end of 2001. At US$800 each, it was not commercially viable. Instead, it was prepared and edited with grants from a number of French companies.

"The problem with dictionaries is that the bigger the dictionary, the smaller the market."

Plans are being made by the Commercial Press, one of the country's largest publishers, to publish a smaller version in China within two years, Reuters reported. Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit monk after whom the dictionary is named, was a 16th century missionary who spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and dressed as a Confucian scholar. Also known as Li Madou, he spent nine years in Beijing before his death in 1610.

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