Chinese History A New Manual, Wilkinson

rizen suha

this book provided by pleco is f a n t a s t i c.
but it annoys the s... out of me that the pinyin therein is "toneless".

thanks wilkinson, a truly remarkable work.
and i do understand your choice of toneless pinyin for visual elegance and considerations toward a broader (scholarly) audience.

but im not proficient enough to keep my eyes from being sucked to this mis-pronunciation.
im a chinese learner and it frankly disturbs my learning.
at least i tell myself so.
so it does...;-)

could pleco/wilkinson please consider options (a switch) to show either

0) pinyin w/o tones (as now)
1) pinyin w tones
2) zhuyin w/o tones
3) zhuyin w tones (preferably in ruby)

since most pinyin has the hanzi right next to it, providing the above automatically* should be doable.

* there may be ambiguities but i could honestly live with pleco just choosing the most likely tone in those cases.
* also some japanese/korean/etc pronunciations with hanzi will have to be ignored.
* and a great deal of pinyin (fx "song" for the dynasty) that is unaccompanied by hanzi, must be ignored.
* so just let the machine ignore what has to be ignored.
* i think, that stylistically, the end result may be quite acceptable.
* the reader will know the an automatic processing (the one he has chosen) of the book has been carried out. so he will be able to ignore apparent quirks, like when wilkinson points out a pinyin homophony that no longer exists.
* wilkinson does not have to care about the above mentioned quirks since the reader will know that they are not in the original manual and that he, the reader, is to blame.

can do?
i personally would choose option 3.
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The book is mostly in English, right? I'm not sure I understand... Pleco is acting more like an ebook reader in that case, you read, and when there is a word you don't understand, you can tap on it and it opens the Pleco dictionary translation, isn't it?

In my screenshot I have the tones, could it be that you didn't configure the Pleco display correctly?
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Hi rizen and François,

when reading pinyin without tones, I usually fill in the tones subconsciously, and I think that's a great exercise. Reading the tones in a book may make you too dependent on the book. If you already know the tones, it may weaken your memory of them if you always see them written out. I guess that's why language learning materials include tones with pinyin, but other books do not.

Of course, I'm always open to counterarguments. :)

Cheers, Shun
I am not sure if my screenshot shows the material we are talking about here or not... because the book I downloaded as demo version is mostly in English, so I don't understand which part has pinyin without tones... so maybe my answer is not spot on.
But my advice would be, when reading, try to only look at the Chinese characters. Ignore the pinyin, ignore the zhuyin.

Obviously when doing flashcards, you can test your knowledge of the Chinese character and see if you got the correct pinyin/zhuyin.
But when reading a book, you should only look at the Chinese characters.
If the characters are too hard so that you feel you always need to check the pinyin, then maybe the book is too difficult?

I started to read books only when I knew 9000 Chinese words, it was extremely painful to read the first book (I added 1600 words just reading that book), but after that the next books were much easier.


@FrancoisTaipei Your screenshot was just right. The Endymion Wilkinson only has pinyin names and terms. I made it seem like there are long pinyin texts in the book—there aren't. I also wouldn't want to read a longer text in toneless pinyin. (or pinyin with tones)

rizen suha

for example

The name of the pagoda changed only to Small Wild Goose Pagoda (Xiaoyan ta 小雁塔) during the Ming (because it was smaller than the Large Wild Goose Pagoda).

=> (pinyin w tones)

The name of the pagoda changed only to Small Wild Goose Pagoda (Xiǎoyàn Tǎ 小雁塔) during the Ming (because it was smaller than the Large Wild Goose Pagoda).

pleco could do this automatically. and provide a disclaimer for possible errores, stylistic problems and inconsistencies with respect to he original and the pedagogical discourses and intentions of wilkinson.


Staff member
Thanks for the feedback.

To be honest, though, these are not formatted consistently enough for us to be able to do them automatically - he tends to insert pinyin in varying places, sometimes right before or right after but sometimes a bit farther along or by itself or in some other way detached from the characters to a point where our parser would miss it. Or in some cases the format might be missing, or be using a different tag than we're used to, and it wouldn't be obvious to our parser whether or not something was pinyin or English, or, worse still, pinyin being presented as English (e.g. 'Ming' in your example).

So even if Wilkinson were OK with this, doing it at all well would require a great deal of tedious hand-editing and I don't know if we could justify taking the time to do that unless a lot of other people complain about it.

rizen suha

ok, understood
thank you very much for considering the idea, though

edit: i would be happy to have "backsubstituted" only pinyin that is neatly coupled up (within parentheses) with the hanzi (to right of the pinyin)
I understand the problem, but you can just tap on the chinese characters to immediately get the pinyin with tones right?
You are right, programmatically it may be possible to do so, but I think that Pleco here is more like an ebook reader software. An author writes a book and proposes it on the pleco platform, Pleco is not the owner and has no right to modify the content of the book. You should directly complain at the author of the book for missing out the tones...

rizen suha

the book contains not 100 pinyin words, more like 10000.
i would rather

1) not have to see these "mis-pronunciations" (my eyes are attracted to them and i cannot "unsee" them)
2) not have to look up the pronunciations
3) see the correct pronunciations in the first place (again, because i cannot unsee the wrong ones)

being thus able to read the book in the way it was conceived, without the imperious need to look up translations of characters and words (having it in pleco with its dicts is however an enourmous benefit)

let me also insist on the learning-disruption aspect. i am not a proficient chinese learner. i am still struggling to make tones second nature. for that to happen, i will need a couple of more years seeing only correct tones. your suggestions on the benefit of consolidating you learning w/o tone marks no doubt are correct: when you possess a large enough vocabulary (with correct hanzi and pronunciations) carved deeply enough into your neural network so that you could not care less about toneless pinyin - what you really perceive are the hanzi they represent. that is certainly not my case.


I love that word: an "imperious" need! :) Thanks for using it.

I favor choice, so of course, I wouldn't be against a function to turn some pinyin tones on and off. But then, most other books don't carry tones with their pinyin, either. Why not just study the tones of all the syllables you encounter using Pleco's Tone Practice learning mode (it's fun to do it very quickly, like in two seconds per question), then feel the blessed validation that you now know the tones of the words the next time you read them? :) New reading material often presents hurdles of understanding, why not see that tone-hurdle as just one of them? Having passed that hurdle, a lot more previously inaccessible material has now become accessible.

Just by seeing the tones, I'm not sure if they will stick in the brain. The neural network needs training in the form of

1. Getting a question
2. Trying to figure out the answer
3. Checking if the answer was right
4. Rewarding itself if the answer was right or punishing itself a little bit if it was wrong (that rewires the neural network's connections)
5. Then back to 1.

With simple reading, you don't go through this cycle. :)

rizen suha

thx shun

its not that im not enjoying the tone challenge
but im not reading this book to learn (to understand, speak, read, write) chinese

for that purpose im reading other books, hanzi only, of course, relying less and less on look-ups

im reading this book for the scholarly linguistic, historical, cultural contents
so in that process i would very much prefer not to be "imposed" the noise of absent tones

to begin with, wilkinson provides pinyin since he does not assume that the reader knows / is learning chinese
and then, he choses to omit the tone symbols since he knows that these will be only extremely annoying visual noise to the (majority?) of readers who are not learning chinese and much less tones
that is wise choice for the book as such (and standard for the genre)
it is a choice that i for myself would like to have the ability to amend


Hi rizen,

so it‘s less about learning the tones from reading them and more about avoiding a sense of disharmony you get from seeing the pinyin without tones. Anyhow, the reasons don‘t really matter.

Have a nice evening, (and view on today‘s lunar eclipse)


rizen suha

Hi rizen,

so it‘s less about learning the tones from reading them and more about avoiding a sense of disharmony you get from seeing the pinyin without tones. Anyhow, the reasons don‘t really matter.

Have a nice evening, (and view on today‘s lunar eclipse)

...and thxs for the "heads up"!
Obviously, the digitalized version of the Chinese History: A New Manual is more user-friendly that the printed one. As for its contents (which is identical in both versions), it strikes me as odd that it doesn’t include information on topics such as the administrative divisions of China or the baojia system. Maybe that’s because the book, as its title says, is a manual of China’s History, not an encyclopedia.


Hello sobriaebritas,

perhaps you could say it's "indirectly encyclopedic" in terms of the topics covered by its bibliography. Wikipedia calls it encyclopedic, probably also in this sense.
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My question is a bit different than those above. I have a friend who is not a Pleco user but is very interested in Chinese history and culture. I would like to give him a copy of this book for Christmas, and am trying to decide whether the print or electronic version would be better. Is the Pleco ebook version in a format that is usable outside of Pleco -- i.e., something I could put on a thumb drive for him to transfer to his device -- or is it only accessible within Pleco? Thanks.


Hi lcdrdata,

let me outline the advantages and disadvantages of getting the Pleco version vs. the printed version:

Pleco version:
+ You can tap on Chinese terms to get Pop-up Definitions throughout the book, or to store them as flashcards.
+ It's electronic; if you have a smartphone, it's easier to have with you at all times. It is also searchable.
- It requires Pleco on a smartphone/tablet, you can't get a DRM-free PDF file.

Printed version:
- It isn't easy to take with you.
- It takes up shelf space.
- It costs quite a bit more than the electronic Pleco version ( quotes $39.50).
- No direct lookups of Chinese words.
+ It doesn't require any electronic device.
+ It may be easier on the eyes because it's printed, and it's easier to concentrate on than on an electronic device. (in my experience)

Hope this helps you make the right decision.