Chinese Wikipedia: Wikis


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Type of site Internet encyclopedia project
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Available language(s) Chinese
Owner Wikimedia Foundation

The Chinese Wikipedia (Chinese: 中文維基百科/中文维基百科 wéijī bǎikē) is the Chinese language edition of Wikipedia, run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Started in October 2002, the Chinese Wikipedia has over 270,000 articles as of September 2009. It has 87 administrators, including 29 from mainland China, 18 from Taiwan, and 15 from Hong Kong.

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



The 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.

It was in October 2002 that the first Chinese-language page was written, the Main Page. The first registered user of the Chinese Wikipedia was Mountain. 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, 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 starts from December 23, 2004, with MediaWiki 1.4 release. The needs from Hong Kong and Singapore were taken into accounts in MediaWiki 1.4.2 release, which made conversion table for zh-sg default to zh-cn, and zh-hk default to zh-tw.[1]

In its early days, most articles on the Chinese Wikipedia were translated from the English version. The first five sysops: 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 Wikipedia, and several sysops have been interviewed by journalists.


The Chinese name of Wikipedia is shown on the main page.

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'. Therefore 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 or 圍紀/围纪, 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]

The 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.


The Chinese Wikipedia encompasses participants from a variety of backgrounds. According to statistics from March 2005 (before the site was blocked by the P.R. Chinese 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 the English Wikipedia tends to be more detailed in western-related topics, the Chinese Wikipedia has very detailed descriptions of China-related topics. Within that region, the Chinese Wikipedia tends to be more detailed in topics about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the wealthy east coast provinces of mainland China, reflecting the economic disparity in that part of the world.

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 so forth. For example, the six most edited articles as of August 2007 are 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 port"; 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").



There are 90 sysops on the Chinese Wikipedia as of March 2008. Within the Chinese-speaking world, there are 29 from mainland China, 20 from Taiwan, 16 from Hong Kong, and three from Macau; outside the Chinese-speaking world, there are nine in the United States, five in Canada, two in the United Kingdom, one in Australia, one in Germany, one in Japan, and three whose origins are unspecified.

Within mainland China, there are six sysops in Beijing, five in Shanghai, seven in Guangdong province, three in Jiangsu province, and eight elsewhere.[3]

Due to the continued block 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 the Chinese Wikipedia, but Mainland Chinese visitors will need good technical abilities in using computers and the Internet 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, despite the continued block on Wikipedia in mainland China.

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, due to the lack of communication and separate systems, many proper names are quite different in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. For instance, 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 proper names 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.

Wikipedias in other varieties of Chinese

The Chinese Wikipedia is based on Vernacular Chinese, a register of written Chinese that is the official Chinese written language in all Chinese-speaking regions, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. This register is largely associated in grammar and vocabulary with Standard Mandarin, the official spoken language of mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore (but not exclusively of Hong Kong and Macau, which largely use Standard 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 Mandarin 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 Mandarin. 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, whose main justification was that no form of written Chinese except Mandarin-based Vernacular Chinese is ever 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.

These objections notwithstanding, it was eventually determined that these Chinese tongues were sufficiently different from Standard Mandarin and had sufficiently many contributors interested in their creation. Six regional Chinese tongues now have their own Wikipedias:

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 between June 2 and June 21, 2004. It began when access to the 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 the Chinese Wikipedia's treatment of the protests. The 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 the capital city - 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 into protection which may last more than 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. The reason is unknown.

Third block and temporal 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 are 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 of the 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, reported a possible partial or full unblocking of Wikipedia. Some reports indicated a complete unblock; others suggested that some sensitive topics remained blocked, and yet other suggested that the Chinese Wikipedia was blocked while other language versions were not. From November 17 onwards, the complete block was once again in place. It is still unknown when the next unblock will be.

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 are blocked.[4]

As of 2 April 2008, the block was lifted.[6]

As of 5 April 2008, the Chinese Wikipedia is difficult to access from the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou. Connections to the Chinese Wikipedia are completely blocked as of April 6, 2008. Any attempt to access the Chinese Wikipedia results in a 60-second ban on all Wikimedia websites. However, users are able to log on to Chinese Wikipedia using https. All other languages are not blocked, but politically sensitive searches such as Tibet were still blocked.

Starting on 3 July 2008, the government lifted the ban to access Chinese Wikipedia. However, some parts are still inaccessible.

On July 31, 2008, the BBC reported that the 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 such as the Chinese edition of the BBC were being unblocked following talks between the International Olympic Committee and the Games' Chinese organisers.[7]

Self-censorship allegations

In December 2006, the International Herald Tribune Asia-Pacific[8] published an article that sensitive topics get gentle 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 as "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 the Chinese Wikipedia in light of the P. R. Chinese government's censorship policies have indeed 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 the Chinese Wikipedia.

Hudong Wiki is China's largest online encyclopedia.

See also


External links

Chinese Wikipedia edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simple English

[[File:|right]] The Chinese Wikipedia (In Chinese: 中文維基百科/中文维基百科) is the Chinese-language edition of Wikipedia. This edition was started in October 2002, and currently has 338,848 articles. [1]


Unlike usual Wikipedias, users who registers an account on the Chinese Wikipedia needs to make at least 50 edits and have an account for more than 7 days before being autoconfirmed, which allows the user to edit semi-protected pages.[2]


  1. Special:Statistics - Retrieved January 2, 2010
  2. Information about being autoconfirmed on the Chinese Wikipedia - Retrieved January 2, 2010

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