What is The Chairman’s Bao
The Chairman’s Bao (TCB) is an online newspaper for people learning Chinese. It’s one of the best resources out there and I highly recommend it to everyone.
TCB offers news articles rewritten and simplified for people studying Chinese. They are categorized from HSK 1 to HSK 6+ with new articles coming out daily. The lessons get progressively more difficult, detailed and longer as you move up HSK levels. While it’s not perfect, it’s one of my favorite resources out there.
An important part of learning Chinese is finding appropriate material for your level that doesn’t bore you. While textbooks have their advantages, it’s important to find resources that are actually enjoyable to use. Similarly, while flashcard systems like Pleco, Anki and Memrise (review) are very useful – it’s much easier to remember and then be able to use words that you learn from context.
TCB releases more news articles than I’m able to keep up with. They average around six new articles per HSK level per week. It’s one of the only resources that provides so much new material that you can jump around and only pick the articles that are most interesting to you. If somehow that isn’t enough material for there’s a large backlog of articles to read as well – plus you can always jump up or down a level.
Most of the articles focus on current events in China but there is also world news as well. While there’s only so much you can say at the lowest (HSK 1 or HSK 2 levels) TCB does a great job of creating interesting content. These low-level articles have to be shorter and simpler than the rest but they still can be quite interesting. For example, some HSK 1 headlines include Tianjin Girl Searches for Boy from 18-year-old Photo and Chicken Headwear Takes Off for Year of the Rooster.
One thing worth mentioning is that although these are HSK 1 level articles, they still might be too difficult for a lot of beginner students. So, for that reason, I’d recommend people study from other materials for their first few months of learning Chinese before jumping into TCB articles.
As you move up HSK levels, the content becomes longer and much more interesting. This is where TCB really excels. As you reach an upper elementary or intermediate level, you’re capable of understanding quite a bit, but native materials are still far too difficult and frustrating to try to read. Some example HSK 4 headlines include Jackie Chan Calls for Increase in Number of Foreign Films Screened in China and Exam Candidate Replacement Gang Arrested in Hebei. These articles give you a great insight into the culture and current events happening in China.
The App and Design
The articles start with a headline in English which can be clicked on and turned into Chinese. This makes it quick to find an article that fits your interests. All articles have a picture and an audio recording so you can listen and read in Chinese. The text has a pop-up dictionary that shows you the character, pinyin, definition, audio (I’ll mention this later) and the option to save it to your word bank. You can pause the audio, rewind or fast-forward five seconds. You are given a list of keywords from the text as well as any idioms used. There is also a grammar tab that will show you various grammar points with the corresponding example from the text. TCB isn’t necessarily the best place to study grammar, but it’s still better than most. You’ll also be able to see any idioms that were used in the article. You can choose either traditional or simplified characters as well as changing the text size.
Room for Improvement
While TCB is great, it isn’t perfect. The problems I have with it are mostly technical. First, when I click on an individual word and try to play the audio, it never works for me. Another issue is that if you want to sort by HSK level, it can be fairly slow and takes some time to load. While these issues can be annoying, I’ll happily put up with it because of how good the content is.
They also have a word bank with SRS flashcards that give you the English translation and you have to remember the Chinese. After answering, you’re also given the original sentence from where the word was saved which can help jog your memory. However, here as well, the audio for the individual word won’t play.
One thing that is missing from the app is English translations. One thing I find annoying about a lot of Chinese learning resources is the over-use of English. With TCB though, besides the headline and pop-up dictionary, there isn’t any English being used. I think it’d be helpful if there was a way to switch between the Chinese and English version. There have been several instances where I’ve been reading an article and although I could figure out the meaning of every word, the meaning of the sentence was a bit unclear.
If you’re a beginner level student, the lack of English translations could be a problem. A similar app, Du Chinese, may be worth considering as they include translations. Click here to read my comparison article.
TCB is currently updating and rebuilding their platform which should solve these technical issues. They’re planning for it to be ready in the next few months. I’m looking forward to trying out the new version.
Character Stroke and Writing Practice
They’ve recently released a character stroke and drawing integration that provides a lot of extra value. Here, you can see the stroke order and then practice tracing the strokes with your finger over the character. This, of course, isn’t nearly as robust and complete as Skritter for learning to write Chinese. However, for many people, learning to write characters by hand is a fairly low priority and not worth spending the extra money. For those people, this addition to TCB is great news.
Cost and Final Thoughts
TCB costs $10/month or $80/ year with three and six-month options as well. Using the Promo code tcbalr20 will lower the yearly cost to only $64 – a little over $5/month.
The only real room for improvement I see with TCB is on the technical side (which should be improved very soon). Although it has some minor bugs, I’ve found it to easily be one of the best resources out there for learning Chinese. It’s an enjoyable way to improve your Chinese reading and listening skills, as well as learn about what’s happening in China. You can try out some sample articles and see if it’s right for you.