Top Sites In China

Most websites linked to on this blog are language learning sites. If you already speak the language, or, since some have an English version, are interested in properly immersing yourself in the culture, you can visit some of the most popular websites among Chinese nationals themselves. Alexa.com shows website ranking by country. Be patient, some of them take time to lead. Happy reading!

Your Questions

★ When you have a question about China or about the language, do not hesitate to ask me (post a comment at the bottom of this page or write to [Loading, please wait]). I can answer from personal experience or help you quickly find the most relevant information online.
If you want to get more answers, you can also try one of these websites:
StackExchange is where many people go when they have a question. It started with IT and soon other areas were added, like Chinese. By now they have a large number of questions already replied to, so you can search for the answer to yours before posting, they might already have it!
★ After a free registration on Lang8 you can post any text in Chinese you have written and get help with corrections from native speakers. You can also help by correcting other people's mistakes in your native language.

Street life

Outdoor gyms
This article presents the outdoor exercise equipment that is now all over the capital. It is widely popular, and gives the elderly one more thing to do in their free time, and one more way to stay in good shape. A little more on the subject here.

Table tennis
Needless to say, table tennis is for China what football is for Brazil. You find tables everywhere, and people play all the time. They are sometimes places in the outdoor gyms, sometimes stand on their own. Wherever they are, they enjoy lots of attention from the locals.

Jianzi
Popular with all ages, you will see people playing this anywhere there is space available - in parks, schoolyards, in front of apartment buildings. It is played with what resembles a large plastic shuttlecock.

Tai Chi
You would see people exercise in parks in the mornings. The slow movements are usually accompanied by music. Luckily for all those who haven't had the chance to go to China yet, some nice people make videos like these and these of such events.

Flying kites
Chinese people like to fly kites everywhere: in parks, on squares, on bridges. Sometimes there are so many people flying kites at the same time that it is amazing how they manage to stay out of each other's way.

Ballroom dancing Beijing style
Not that Chinese people do not have proper ballroom dancing, but they also like to dance like that in the streets, in parks, in university gyms and basically wherever they can. I was invited once to one of these regular happenings at a university gym, where everything had been put away and with an average age of 50, people danced away happily the entire evening.

Dancing
In the morning and in the evening you would often see people dancing in parks (video, video). They would all repeat certain steps and everyone is welcome to join.

Yang ge
Middle-aged ladies enjoy dancing with huge fans in bright colours (called yang ge). It is another activity you can observe in parks.

Mahjong
The popular online game has very little in common with the actual game of Mahjong. This Wikipedia entry has quite a lot to say about it.
Typically a gambling game, it has lost some of its charm, as gambling is outlawed in China. Friends would play with small stakes, and there would be places where you can play properly, and completely illegally. In this video you can see it explained well (audio is not too good).
They say that it is hard to learn, easy to play. Here is a guide to the rules of mahjong.

Weiqi (Go)
This game, as opposed to mahjong, is easy to learn, hard to play. It is a game of strategy and you need a lot more than a knowledge of the rules to win. 
This video has a short presentation of the rules.

Chinese chess

Opera singing in the parks
Chinese people do not feel that singing is something that should be done in enclosed areas or when performing at a concert. They would sing anywhere they please, anywhere they find appropriate, like in this video.

Water calligraphy
People would use huge brushes to write on the ground in parks (video, video, article) Once dry, the characters disappear.


Cricket fighting
This video and this article offer an insight into this popular pastime for the elderly.


Bird - walking
Often where there are cricket fights, you will also see the bird owners, sitting under a tree with a cage hanging from the branches. Eventually another old man will show up, hang his cage next to the other one and then the birds will keep each other company while the men chat about this and that.
I once watched a man who had let two birds out of their cages and would occasionally call out to them if they wandered off too far away from him.

Beijing opera

Beijing opera (Peking opera)
Strictly speaking, it is not opera. This art combines singing, acrobatics, dance, music. It is not exactly from Beijing, also. It originated in the south of China but became popular after it reached the imperial court in Beijing.
There are people who enjoy the performances. I personally think that the mewing which occurs on stage (and is supposed to be called singing), is completely unlistenable. That is, if you approach it without any prior knowledge to what, in the world, is going on up there.
What I do enjoy about it is pretty much everything else, really: the costumes, the heavy make-up, and all the other prerequisites to a good performance. Everything which occurs on stage has its significance. For instance, the performers are obliged to walk in a certain way and if the male  character takes one step too many, this could be a tragedy for the real fan.

Here I offer a list of websites with articles, shedding light on what Peking opera is and what it is which makes it so special:
★ Start off  by watching a short video on the UNESCO website, which features parts of performances and general information on the art of Peking opera..
Chinavine gives a short introduction. Make sure you check the categories on the left for more on the subject.
★ Chinaculture is a bit difficult to navigate through, so here are links where you find a general introduction; a presentation of an exhibition where, if you scroll down, you can see a detailed description with pictures of the different types of characters.
Cultural China combines information from a variety of sources, and this helps form a somewhat complete picture of Peking opera. Make sure you look at the related topics at the bottom.

Superstitions in China

The Chinese are highly superstitious people. Up to this day the average business person would get an almanac calendar at the beginning of the year and consult it every day, to make sure that it is a good day to do one thing or other. A fortune teller is a respected profession, and taoists have devoted centuries to studying and developing the art of looking into the future.

Numbers

Characters

Stroke order:
Learnchineseez: learn low to write the 4000 most common Chinese characters.
Arch Chinese: animated stroke order with translation and words containing the character.
On the main page you can also find worksheets, flashcards and other learning tools
Mandarinstrokes helps you with stroke order. You can search for the characters by number of strokes, pinyin or character.
★ The MDBG dictionary includes stroke order animation.

Typing Chinese online:
★ If you need to type Chinese but cannot use a computer where it is installed, you can use quite a few websites. Most of them use the same software, some examples are: chinesetools, purpleculture, inputking, chinesebay. i2pinyin comes with a virtual keyboard.
★ I like this website because there you can type slightly longer phrases and select the characters afterwards.
★ If you know how the characters looks but have no idea how it is pronounced, then you need a dictionary with a handwriting recognition. Here are some choices, available online: hippodict (for iPhone), pleco (only downloadable).

Instant messaging

WeChat, the newest and hottest. Leave audio messages that your Chinese friends will listen and respond to.
QQ, a very popular instant messaging service in China

Find a language partner

The Beijinger: personal classifieds posted by people normally living in China, looking for a language partner
Interpals 
Meetup: you can join different meetings or write to members. Organize a Chinese language meeting wherever you are, and practice the language with others.
Couchsurfing is another way to meet other people, whether those who live near you, or travellers. Use the website to contact Chinese speakers all over the world.
Skype Community: find people looking to exchange Chinese for a language you speak well or post that you are looking.
Conversation Exchange
The Mixxer
Italki

Dictionaries

Online dictionaries:
MDBG Chinese-English dictionary, also downloadable
Kingsoft online dictionary
Ting
LINE
Baidu
Dict.cn

Chinese-Chinese online dictionaries
Xinhua
汉典

Offline dictionaries:
Offline dictionary for Android. Download the app and then select the language combinations you need.
Pleco - recommended. It has phrases with the word, meanings of individual characters, pronunciation, etc. Pretty much everything I've ever needed in a dictionary.

Media

This post contains links to:
1. Online radio sites
2. Online television
3. Chinese newspapers in English


Online radio:
Tunein lists a number of radio stations from all over the world, including China
China Radio International: online radio in English, news, lessons in Chinese and a lot more from China
CNR: When you open the link, the radio will start automatically. For another radio, choose from the choices to the left of the player.
Weibo: a Chinese radio in English.
For a different radio, you can start here: http://radio.weibo.com/area/china. Scroll down and select one of the blue boxes.
For even more choices, below these you see the names of the Chinese provinces. Select one and the list of regional radio stations will appear below, again in blue boxes. Choose the one you want to listen to. It will start automatically.
Multilingualbooks: I am adding this link because of the long list of radio stations available. However, many of them do not work, so be patient, give them sufficient time to load and if something does not start, try the next one.


Online television:
CCTV, China Network Television: scroll down to see all the available channels


Chinese newspapers in English:
    China Daily: the online version of the most popular English-language newspaper on the mainland.
    Global Times: an English-language Chinese newspaper under the People's Daily
    People's Daily: a website built by People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China
    Shanghai Daily: the only English-language newspaper that publishes seven days a week on the Chinese mainland
    ★ For a rather lengthy list of newspapers, you can always count on Wikipedia.

    Free Chinese Courses

    Lessons complete with audio (and/or video), new vocabulary, dialogues, focus on characters and pronunciation
    Busuu: a website and an app for learning languages, a mixture between premium and free. You canlearn Chinese by topic, practising vocabulary, speaking, listening and writing. You can go step by step through the different levels.
    FSI Mandarin Chinese lessons: a complete course with textbooks and audio
    Practical Chinese Reader with vocabulary lists for it. 
    China Radio International
    BBC Chinese
    Clear Chinese: 15 lessons with basic phrases, audio and practice section.(!The listening is a bit clumsy)
    Confucius Institutes Online offer the opportunity to learn about China and its language online. Browse through the website to find interesting articles and online lessons.
    I Love Learning Chinese - for beginners
    ★ Study Chinese with real world video content
    Rudgers University: 80 units in 4 levels; lessons in Chinese with English translation and pinyin for the lower levels, grammar and vocabulary explanations for all.
    Zhongwen Red: lessons centered around a vocabulary unit that is presented in the context of several example sentences, then expanded upon by a short dialogue, complete with audio.
    Overseas Chinese Language and Culture Education: entire levels, complete with a book for the teacher and an exercise book

    Games

    Digital Dialects: learn common words and phrases by playing games
    Ting
    ★ On quia.com you will find over 500 Chinese language games

    Pinyin

    Learn and practice pinyin:
    ★ A thorough guide to pinyin
    Quick Mandarin: pinyin tables, tests and games. The content you need is at the very top of the page.
    Arch Chinese: a pinyin table with all possible tones of each syllable, and pronunciation explained for English language speakers

    Pinyin convertion:
    If you need to type pinyin, here are some tools which can help you convert to it:
    ★ with Learnchineseez you can type pinyin, using numbers to indicate the tones after the vowel which carries the tone. For example for guō you type guo1, for táng - ta2ng, for líu - li2u.
    ★ with Google Translate you can achieve the same by typing characters. Simply type your text in Chinese, then click on the Ä (capital A with an umlaut) in the bottom right corner and you will see the pinyin below the box.
    !Sometimes there might be mistakes in the syllables or tones, so use with caution!
    Chinese Tools: here you type the syllable followed by the tone. For example, for "Wǒ huìshuō hànyǔ", type "Wo3 hui4shuo1 han4yu3".
    ★ On this one you can proceed in the same way. I personally type the entire text and then go back and mark the tones. You will find that if you make a mistake with the tone, all you need to do is click anywhere in the syllable and write the new one. It changes automatically.

    Vocabulary

    Anki is a free app where you can download and create your own flashcards to learn Chinese vocabulary
    Memrise: after a registration you have access to loads of materials for vocabulary learning. Choose Chinese and give it a try.
    Prepare for HSK (level 1 to 6) with lots of exercise. Unfortunately they just made this website paid. I am keeping it in the list because it had very good resources but I will keep hunting for useful things online free of charge.
    LINE: vocabulary by topic with pinyin, audio and translation
    Chinese i Lab
    Digital Dialects: learn common words and phrases by playing games
    LearnChineseEZ: listen to the words and phrases and imitate the pronunciation. It can be displayed either in standard pinyin, or a particular favourite of mine, what the author calls "natural language pinyin".
    On the same website, here you can study words visually, with pictures by category.
    ★ On LingoHut you can learn vocabulary by category, listen to the words and phrases and play games to help you memorize
    Quizlet - lots of exercise on various topics
    China.org.cn: you find dialogues, idioms, reading materials, etc. All with pinyin, translation and audio.

    Audio and Video

    Audio lessons:
    Clear Chinese:
    Popup Chinese: the podcasts are available on the website free of charge.
    Chinese iLab

    Video lessons:
    Yoyochinese: after a free registration you gain access to demo video lessons, which are presented nicely and are easy to follow and remember. 
    (! You will be getting regular emails from them unless you unsubscribe from the mailing list)
    If you want to watch some of the videos, you can also go to their Youtube channel.
    Easy Chinese (CCTV): easy to use; simple, useful phrases; listen to the lessons and repeat.
    Growing up with Chinese (CCTV): teachers a lot of vocabulary, I recommend it for Lower Intermediate users.
    Chinese iLab
    Fluent U: Study Chinese with real world video content