Chinese Wikipedia

Chinese Wikipedia
Favicon of Wikipedia Chinese Wikipedia
Main Page
Main Page
Commercial? No
Type of site Internet encyclopedia project
Registration Optional
Available language(s) Chinese
Owner Wikimedia Foundation
Chinese Wikipedia
Traditional Chinese 中文维基百科
Simplified Chinese 中文維基百科
Literal meaning Chinese Wiki encyclopedia

Chinese Wikipedia (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhōng wén wéijī bǎikē) is the Chinese language edition of Wikipedia, run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Started in October 2002, Chinese Wikipedia had over 270,000 articles as of September 2009 and 383,391 articles as of November 7, 2011. It has 87 administrators, including 29 from mainland China, 18 from Taiwan, and 15 from Hong Kong.

Chinese Wikipedia is the third largest online Chinese encyclopedia after Hudong and Baidu Baike.



Chinese Wikipedia was established along with 12 other Wikipedias in May 2001. At the beginning, however, the Chinese Wikipedia did not support Chinese characters, and had no encyclopedic content.

In October 2002 the first Chinese-language page was written, the Main Page. A software update on October 27, 2002 allowed Chinese language input. The domain was set to be On November 17, 2002, Mountain translated the Computer science article into zh:计算机科学, thus creating its first real encyclopedic article.

In order to accommodate the orthographic differences between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese (or Orthodox Chinese), from 2002 to 2003, the Chinese Wikipedia community gradually decided to combine the two originally separate versions of Chinese Wikipedia. The first running automatic conversion between the two orthographic representation started on December 23, 2004, with the MediaWiki 1.4 release. The needs from Hong Kong and Singapore were taken into accounts in the MediaWiki 1.4.2 release, which made the conversion table for zh-sg default to zh-cn, and zh-hk default to zh-tw.[1]

In its early days, most articles on Chinese Wikipedia were translated from the English version. The first five sysops, or administrators -- zh:User:Samuel, zh:User:Menchi, zh:User:Lorenzarius, zh:User:Formulax, and zh:User:Shizhao -- were promoted on June 14, 2003. Since then, Shizhao in particular has performed many maintenance tasks, and was also instrumental in removing the first blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China in June 2004.

Wikipedia was first introduced by the mainland Chinese media in the newspaper China Computer Education (中国电脑教育报) on October 20, 2003, in the article, "I, too, shall write an encyclopedia" (我也来写百科全书). On May 16, 2004, Wikipedia was first reported by Taiwanese media in the newspaper China Times. Since then, many newspapers have published articles about Chinese Wikipedia, and several sysops have been interviewed by journalists.


The Chinese name of Wikipedia was decided on October 21, 2003, following a vote. The name (Traditional Chinese: 維基百科; Simplified Chinese: 维基百科 "wéi jī bǎi kē") means "Wiki Encyclopedia". The Chinese transcription of "Wiki" is composed of two characters: 維/维, whose ancient sense refers to 'ropes or webs connecting objects', and alludes to the 'Internet'; and 基, meaning the 'foundations of a building', or 'fundamental aspects of things in general'. The name can be interpreted as 'the encyclopedia that connects the fundamental knowledge of humanity'.

The most common Chinese translation for wiki technology, however, is not 維基/维基; but tends to be 維客/维客 (literally "dimension visitor" or similar) or 圍紀/围纪 (literally "circle/enclose period/record" or similar), which are also transcriptions of the word "wiki". As a result, the term 維基/维基 has become associated exclusively with Wikimedia projects.[2]

Chinese Wikipedia also has a subtitle: 海納百川,有容乃大/海纳百川,有容乃大. It means, "The sea encompasses a hundred rivers; it has capacity i.e. is willing to accept all and is thus great." The subtitle is the first half of a couplet composed by the Qing Dynasty official Lin Zexu.


Chinese Wikipedia contributors come from a variety of backgrounds. According to statistics from March 2005 (before the site was blocked by the P.R.C. government), 46% of users connect from mainland China, 22% from North America, 12% from Taiwan, 9% from Hong Kong, 3% from Japan, 3% from Europe, 2% from Southeast Asia, and 3% from other regions. Just as English Wikipedia tends to be more detailed in western-related topics, Chinese Wikipedia has very detailed descriptions of China-related topics. Within that region, Chinese Wikipedia tends to be more detailed in topics about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the wealthy east coast provinces of mainland China.

Also due to the geographical origin of its participants, the most discussed and debated topics on the Chinese Wikipedia are those related to Taiwan independence, Falun Gong, the Tiananmen Protests of 1989 and other political issues. For example, the six most edited articles as of August 2007 were Republic of China, China, People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, and Hong Kong, in that order. In contrast, issues such as the Israel-Palestinian conflict are much less contentious.

In order to avoid systemic bias, one of the cornerstones of the Chinese Wikipedia (along with neutral point-of-view) is avoiding "sinocentrism". Editors are advised to avoid writing from the point-of-view of China or any other country/region; to avoid using terms such as 我国/我國 ("our country"; referring to the People's Republic of China or the Republic of China, depending on viewpoint), 本港 ("this Hong Kong"; referring to Hong Kong), or 本澳 ("this Macau", referring to Macau); and instead, to refer to locations in the Chinese-speaking sphere or periods in Chinese history by explicitly stating China (e.g. "Yunnan province, China", instead of just "Yunnan province").


As of October 2011, there are 75 administrators, or sysops. Due to blocks of Chinese Wikipedia within mainland China, sysops and other Wikipedians have had to log on to Wikipedia via proxy servers or other unconventional means. The Great Firewall does not completely block access to Chinese Wikipedia, but Mainland Chinese visitors need a degree of technological know-how to successfully access the site.


One month after the Chinese government unblocked the Wikipedia for the first time, the first Chinese Wikipedian meeting was held in Beijing on July 25, 2004. There was no Chinese police presence at that time. Since then, Chinese Wikipedians from different regions have held many gatherings in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Currently, a regular meetup is held once every two weeks in Taipei and Hong Kong, and once every month in Tainan City. In July 2006, Taiwanese Wikipedians also held a "travelling meetup", travelling by train through four Taiwanese cities over a period of two days. In August 2006, Hong Kong hosted the first annual Chinese Wikimedia Conference. Administrators in several Chinese cities continue to advertise for meetings of Wikipedia, and have met in person.

Automatic conversion between traditional and simplified Chinese

Original situation

At the beginning, there were virtually two Chinese Wikipedias under the names of "zh" (or "zh-cn") and "zh-tw". Generally, users from regions that used Traditional Chinese (such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau) wrote and edited articles using Traditional Chinese characters while those from regions that used Simplified Chinese (such as mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia) wrote using Simplified Chinese characters. Many articles had two uncoordinated versions; for example, there was both a Traditional (法國) and Simplified (法国) article on France. Further exacerbating the problem were differences in vocabulary (particularly nouns) and writing systems, between mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore that developed through their relative lack of communications during much of the 20th century. For instance, a computer is called 计算机 in China, but 電腦 in Taiwan. Another example is, a computer printer is called 打印机 in mainland China, but 印表機 in Taiwan.


To avoid this near-forking of the project, starting around January 2005, the Chinese Wikipedia began providing a server-side mechanism to automatically convert different characters and vocabulary items into the user's local ones, according to the user's preference settings, which may be set to one of two settings that convert the script only, or one of four settings that also take into account regional vocabulary differences:

Variant's name Chinese name iso Effect
Simplified 简体 zh-hans
Traditional 繁體 zh-hant
Simplified and using Mainland Chinese terms 大陆简体 zh-cn
Traditional and using Taiwanese terms 台灣正體 zh-tw
Simplified and using Singaporean and Malaysian terms 马新简体 zh-sg
Traditional and using Hong Kong and Macau terms 港澳繁體 zh-hk
NB: the user can also choose to read each article in whichever script it is stored in, without conversion
For more information, see :

meta:Automatic conversion between simplified and traditional Chinese.

Conversion is done through a set of character conversion tables that may be edited by administrators. Through special wiki markup syntax, editors may override the conversion tables for specific articles or specific words.

Furthermore, page title conversion is used for automatic page redirection. Those articles previously named in different characters or different translations have been merged, and can be reached by means of both Traditional and Simplified Chinese titles.

To provide an alternative means to harmonize the characters when the server-side converters fail to work properly, a special template was created to manually convert characters and article titles in one specific page.

Differences with other versions of Wikipedia

According to a survey conducted by Wikipedia in September 2006, the main editors of Chinese Wikipedia included 28.6% from Hong Kong, 25.9% from Taiwan, 13.7% from USA and 8.2% from Netherlands. In recent years, editors from Mainland China are increasing rapidly. According to a survey conducted between April 2010 and March 2011, the editions of Chinese Wikipedia were made by people of which 37.8% from Taiwan, 26.2% from Hongkong, 17.7% from Mainland China, 6.1% from USA and 2.3% from Canada.[3]

Because of the diverse backgrounds, living places, political ideology, social habits and ideas of the Chinese Wikipedia users, too many articles written in Chinese Wikipedia are the results of many compromises. Further, as the regulations on copyrights are strict in Wikipedia, the Chinese one also upholds these principles strictly.

Also, there are many articles in Chinese Wikipedia that focus on Chinese culture and regions in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Chinese-speaking regions. Many articles are written according to Chinese values closely, and more understandable in users of the Chinese language.

In the articles of Chinese geography, the regions by the sea in China can be introduced detailedly in contrast with the regions in the West of China, which usually can not get introduced well. This may be a certain evidence of the difference of development in Internet between the East and the West of China.

Different from the English Wikipedia, in which some controversies are usually around the Israeli-Palestine conflict and other Middle East related topics, in Chinese Wikipedia, many controversies arise from the problems related to Taiwan problem, North Korean Nuclear Crisis, Tiananmen Square Protest and some prominent activists or elections.

Wikipedias in other varieties of Chinese

Chinese Wikipedia is based on written vernacular Chinese, the official Chinese written language in all Chinese-speaking regions, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. This register is largely associated with the grammar and vocabulary of Standard Chinese, the official spoken language of mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore (but not exclusively of Hong Kong and Macau, which largely use Cantonese).

The Chinese/Sinitic languages are a diverse group encompassing many regional varieties, most of which are mutually unintelligible and often referred to as separate languages, such as Wu, Min Nan (of which Taiwanese is a notable dialect), and Cantonese. In regions that speak non-Mandarin tongues or regional Mandarin dialects, the Vernacular Chinese standard largely corresponding to Standard Chinese is nevertheless used exclusively as the Chinese written standard; this written standard differs sharply from the local spoken language(s) in vocabulary and grammar, and is often read in local pronunciation while preserving the vocabulary and grammar of Standard Chinese. After the founding of Wikipedia, many users of non-Mandarin Chinese tongues began to ask for the right to have Wikipedia editions in non-Mandarin tongues as well. However, they also met with significant opposition, based on the fact that Mandarin-based Vernacular Chinese is the only form used in scholarly or academic contexts. Some also proposed the implementation of an automatic conversion program similar to that between Simplified and Traditional Chinese; however, others pointed out that while conversion between Simplified and Traditional Chinese consists mainly of glyph and sometimes vocabulary substitutions, different regional varieties of Chinese differ so sharply in grammar, syntax, and semantics that it was unrealistic to implement an automatic conversion program.

Objections notwithstanding, it was determined that these Chinese tongues were sufficiently different from Standard Chinese and had a sufficiently large number of followers to justify the creation of six Wikipedias in regional dialects:

Finally, requests were also made, and granted, to create a Classical Chinese Wikipedia (Main Page), based on Classical Chinese, an archaic register of Chinese with grammar and vocabulary drawn from classical works, and used in all official contexts until the early 20th century, when it was displaced by the Vernacular Chinese standard.

All of the above Wikipedias have sidestepped the Traditional/Simplified Chinese issue. The Wu Wikipedia uses Simplified Chinese exclusively, while the Cantonese, Gan and Classical Chinese Wikipedias use Traditional Chinese exclusively. The Minnan, Mindong, and Hakka Wikipedias use respectively Pe̍h-ōe-jī, Bàng-uâ-cê, and Pha̍k-fa-sṳ, which are orthographies based on the Roman alphabet, thus avoiding the issue completely.

Blocking of Wikipedia

The People's Republic of China and Internet service providers in mainland China have adopted a practice of blocking contentious Internet sites in mainland China, and Wikimedia sites have been blocked at least three times in its history.[4]

First block

The first block lasted from June 2-June 21, 2004. It began when access to Chinese Wikipedia from Beijing was blocked on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Possibly related to this, on May 31 an article from the IDG News Service was published,[5] discussing Chinese Wikipedia's treatment of the protests. Chinese Wikipedia also has articles related to Taiwan independence, written by contributors from Taiwan and elsewhere. A few days after the initial block of Chinese Wikipedia, all Wikimedia sites were blocked in mainland China. In response to the blocks, two moderators prepared an appeal to lift the block and asked their regional internet service provider to submit it. All Wikimedia sites were unblocked between June 17 and June 21, 2004. One month later, the first Chinese Wikipedian moderators' meeting was held in Beijing on July 25, 2004.

The first block had an effect on the vitality of Chinese Wikipedia, which suffered sharp dips in various indicators, such as the number of new users, the number of new articles, and the number of edits. In some cases, it took anywhere from 6 to 12 months in order to regain the stats from May 2004. On the other hand, on today's site, some of the articles are put under protection which may last for a month or more without any actions.

Second block

The second and less serious outage lasted between September 23 and September 27, 2004. During this 4-day period, access to Wikipedia was erratic or unavailable to some users in mainland China — this block was not comprehensive and some users in mainland China were never affected. The exact reason for the block is a mystery. Chinese Wikipedians once again prepared a written appeal to regional ISPs, but the block was lifted before the appeal was actually sent, for an unknown reason.

Third block and temporary unblocks

The third block began on October 19, 2005, and there was no indication as to whether this block was temporary or permanent, or what the reasons or causes for this block were. According to the status page currently maintained on the Chinese Wikipedia, the Florida and Korea servers were blocked, while the Paris and Amsterdam servers were not. Dozens of editors from across mainland China reported that they could only access Wikipedia using proxy servers, although there were isolated reports that some users could access Wikipedia without using a proxy. Most Chinese people were not able to connect to the site at all.

During October and November 2006, it first appeared that the site was unblocked again. Many conflicting reports came from news outlets, bloggers, and Wikipedians, reporting a possible partial or full unblocking of Wikipedia. Some reports indicated a complete unblock; others suggested that some sensitive topics remained blocked, and yet others suggested that Chinese Wikipedia was blocked while other language versions were not. From November 17 onwards, the complete block was once again in place.

On June 15, 2007, China lifted the block for several articles, only to then block an increasing number of articles. On 30 August 2007, all blocks were lifted, but then a block was placed on Wikipedia for all languages on 31 August 2007.[4] As of 26 January 2008, all languages of Wikipedia were blocked,[4] and as of 2 April 2008, the block was lifted.[6]

By 5 April 2008, Chinese Wikipedia became difficult to access from the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou. Connections to Chinese Wikipedia were completely blocked as of April 6, 2008. Any attempt to access Chinese Wikipedia resulted in a 60-second ban on all Wikimedia websites. However, users were able to log on to the Chinese Wikipedia using https. All other languages were accessible, but politically sensitive searches such as Tibet were still blocked.

On 3 July 2008, the government lifted the ban on accessing Chinese Wikipedia. However, some parts are still inaccessible. On July 31, 2008, BBC reported that Chinese Wikipedia had been unblocked that day in China; it had still been blocked the previous day. This came within the context of foreign journalists arriving in Beijing to report on the upcoming Olympic Games, and websites like the Chinese edition of the BBC were being unblocked following talks between the International Olympic Committee and the Games' Chinese organizers.[7]

Self-censorship allegations

In December 2006, the International Herald Tribune Asia-Pacific[8] published an article saying that sensitive topics got subdued treatment on Chinese Wikipedia.

But on sensitive questions of China's modern history or on hot-button issues, the Chinese version diverges so dramatically from its English counterpart that it sometimes reads as if it were approved by the censors themselves.

For some, the Chinese version of Wikipedia was intended as just such a resource, but its tame approach to sensitive topics has sparked a fierce debate in the world of online mavens over its objectivity and thoroughness.

On the evidence of entries like this, for the moment, the fight over editorial direction of Wikipedia in Chinese is being won by enthusiasts who practice self-censorship.

On December 1, 2006, The New York Times published another report by Howard W. French, titled "Wikipedia lays bare two versions of China's past."

Some say the object should be to spread reliable information as widely as possible, and that, in any case, self-censorship is pointless because the government still frequently blocks access to Wikipedia for most Chinese Internet users. 'There is a lot of confusion about whether they should obey the neutral point of view or offer some compromises to the government,' said Isaac Mao, a well-known Chinese blogger and user of the encyclopedia. 'To the local Wikipedians, the first objective is to make it well known among Chinese, to get people to understand the principles of Wikipedia step by step, and not to get the thing blocked by the government.

The report was subsequently repeated by CBS[9] and by Chinese-language media outlets such as the Apple Daily in Taiwan.

Since then Chinese Wikipedians have tried to clarify the situation. One Chinese Wikipedian sent a comment which was subsequently published in the Apple Daily Taiwan. The comment stated that:

... control over our content does not stem from any political motive, and we try to the extent of our abilities (even if we cannot do it perfectly) to prevent the influence of ideology; the motive, goal, and standards of control are very clear: to create an encyclopedia with rich content, good quality, and open copyright. All of our editing and deletion policies stem from this. There is no doubt about this point, and this will not change under any political pressure or personal beliefs.

Regarding the description of Mao Zedong on the Chinese Wikipedia, one can simply go online and see for oneself; in order to understand the operation of Wikipedia or to edit it oneself, just a few more mouse clicks would suffice. As Wikipedia continues to attract awareness, the number of users is increasing, and the media has increased interest in Wikipedia as well. Unfortunately, even a reputable international media source such as the New York Times was unable to find out the actual situation before passing biased judgment on Wikipedia. We can also see here that in quoting media overseas, even a notable one, one must still be cautious and check once again for oneself. (Translated)[10]

In another email addressed to the Wikimedia Foundation mailing list, a Chinese Wikipedian stated:

1) Chinese Wikipedia has and conforms to a high standard of NPOV, and Chinese Wikipedians take this policy seriously.

2) There is no such thing called "self-censorship" at Chinese Wikipedia; indeed any intention for such practice at Chinese Wikipedia will be denounced by most Chinese Wikipedians.

3) Chinese Wikipedia is written by people from various places of the world, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Asia, America, Europe, etc. Indeed, editors from Mainland China are disproportionally scarce because of the current block obviously imposed by the PRC government (though it never admitted that).

Previous proposals to self-censor Chinese Wikipedia in light of the P. R. Chinese government's censorship policies have been made before, but were overwhelmingly rejected by the community.


On April 20, 2006, the online Chinese search engine company Baidu created Baidu Baike, an online encyclopedia that registered users can edit, pending administrator reviews. The content of the encyclopedia is self-censored in accordance with the regulations of the People's Republic of China government. Within weeks, the number of articles in Baidu Baike had surpassed that of Chinese Wikipedia.

As of October, 2009, Hudong Wiki surpassed Baidu Baike as China's largest online encyclopedia.

Baidu Baike and Hudong are both commercial products. Whereas Chinese Wikipedia is released under the GNU Free Documentation License, Baidu Baike and Hudong are fully copyrighted by their ownership; contributors forfeit all rights upon submission. However, Baidu Baike has been accused of "widespread copyright infringement" by mass-copying Wikipedia pages and incorporate them into Baidu Baike pages since 2007 (see Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks/Baidu Baike for details).[11][12]

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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