The Chairman’s Bao – The Definitive Review
Summary: A simplified Chinese news site, specifically aimed at Mandarin learners.
Content: A large variety of different news articles about China, updated regularly, filterable by HSK level.
Ease of use: 8/10
Fun factor: 9/10
Value for Money: 8/10
Availability: The Chairman’s Bao is accessible via it’s website and also via it’s app which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play.
Costs: The app is free to download, but there are subscription costs to access articles and resources.
1 Month – 10USD
3 Month – 25USD
6 Month – 45USD
12 Month – 80USD
What We Think – The Chairman’s Bao
This review is brought to you by Rebecca Payne, an LTL student on her Chinese learning journey!
Having learnt spoken Chinese for over a year, I’ve only recently started learning to read and write Chinese characters. When I first saw The Chairman’s Bao website, I thought that it would be way too complicated for me to ever read properly. A news site that’s entirely in Chinese characters? I’m only just beginning to read characters, that’s way too difficult!
However, I quickly realised what a useful tool TCB would be for my Hanzi education.
This is because it is a differentiated news site, and publishes articles from beginner to advanced Chinese levels. Not only that, but TCB enables you to learn as you read their articles. There’s no getting stuck because you can’t read some of the characters – TCB guides you through!
The first useful thing about TCB is that you can instantly see how difficult an article will be to read. Because you can filter by HSK level, you already know how readable an article will be before you click on it. You can also search articles by category.
The Interactive Live Dictionary is a another highly useful element of TCB. As you are reading an article, you can highlight any character(s) you don’t understand, and immediately on the right hand side of the screen appears the pinyin and definition. This means that no matter what level you’re at, you can understand the article you’re reading. Even if you can only read half the characters independently, you can use the Live Dictionary for the ones you don’t understand, so you are learning at the very same time. You can also save words into your Word Bank and come back to review them later. The Word Bank is pretty useful, as you can create groups of words (for example “Place names”, “adjectives” or “measure words”) and export them to other apps (Pleco, Skritter, Memrise and Anki).
Every article is supplied with an audio recording of the article, read out loud by a native Chinese speaker. These audio readings are very cleanly and clearly recorded, and really do add another string to TCB’s bow. I will often read the article first, then listen to it to see if I read it correctly, then my last step is to use the Live Dictionary to check my understanding is correct. These recordings enable you to practice your reading, listening and comprehension all at the same time.
I think what that makes TCB unique as a Mandarin learning tool is that it is a news site, so the content is always fresh. Every time you log on to the website there is a new article to read that is current and up to date. Especially for those users living in China, it’s a great way to learn up to date news, usually quite funny or quirky stories, that are relevant or relatable. They publish 3-6 new articles daily, so you never get bored of the content they provide. There is also a massive archive of articles (over 1600) so it’s very hard to run out of interesting reads. You can also bookmark articles so you can come back to them later.
You do have to pay a subscription fee, which I think is pretty reasonable considering the service you are provided with. They also offer institutional subscriptions for schools or companies.
One issue I have found is that occasionally the dictionary can be a bit buggy. A few times I’ve highlighted a character X and the definition has come up as “Old variation of X”. You have to scroll along to the next definition to find out what X actually means. This can slow down your reading but apart from this the user experience is smooth.
The Chairmans Bao – Overall Summary
I would highly recommend The Chairman’s Bao for anyone who is learning Hanzi. Even total beginners with little knowledge of characters will find a benefit from using TCB. It is a fun site with entertaining and informative stories, which makes learning Chinese characters a fresh and varied experience.
Our thanks go to LTL student Rebecca Payne for writing this review
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