I just discovered a new Chinese-English synonym dictionary (and more) called TLS, or Thesaurus Linguae Sericae: An Historical and Comparative Encyclopaedia of Chinese Conceptual Schemes. In Chinese, it is Hanxue Wendian 漢學文典. It is a work in progress, but that progress is already substantial.

The chief editors are Christoph Harbsmeier and Jiang Shaoyu 蔣紹愚. But the list of other editors is nothing less than amazing. Here’s a partial list:
William Baxter, Christoph Aderl, Wolfgang Behr, Françoise Bottéro, Bruce and Taeko Brooks, Carine Defoort, Hans van Ess, David Keightley, Martin Kern, Michael Nylan, Pan Wuyun, Pang Pu, Jens Ostergaard Petersen, Jessica Rawson, Matthias Richter, Axel Schuessler, Kenichi Takashima and Rudolf Wagner.

Other contributors include: Qiu Xigui, Li Ling, Chen Guying, Edward Shaughnessy and Redouane Djamouri.

“TLS offers the functions of a traditional dictionary, full-text database, synonym dictionary etc. But by combining multiple levels of analysis in one overarching structure which is accessible from any possible angle (technically achieved by means of a relational database), the types of questions that can be asked and for which answers can be obtained go far beyond those possible with traditional resources on the history of the Chinese language, whether printed or digital.”

So, it also includes many pre-Han and post-Han texts, including English translations of a great many of these, including some excavated texts from Guodian, Mawangdui and even Oracle-bone inscriptions. I think all the texts here that have been translated at some point in time have translations here, and sometimes alternative translations are given as well (since there are sometimes many to choose from).

One can search in English or with Chinese characters, but not Pinyin, apparently.

“The easiest way to access TLS is by using “Basic Search.” Click on “Basic Search” in the menu above, then choose whether you wish to search for a Chinese or an English expression and what you wish to search for – a word, a synonym, a passage in a text or a translation, etc.”

Searching for 德, for example, under “a headword” brings numerous entries of just 德, but also compounds like 凶德, 功德, 恩德, etc.
Searching for “a Word” just brings results of 德
Searching “a Synonym Group” brings results of synonym labels such as FEATURE, GOOD, TALENT under which 德 can be found.
Searching “a word in a text” results in a list of places in the texts where 德 occurs. There is 2918 records found. The passage is displayed, along with an English translation where available.
Searching “a word attributed to a text” brings (144) results where 德 occurs.
Searching “a character definition” results in a wealth of information on the word/character, but not much in the way of English definitions (search instead in “a word” for this info). References are given to where the word occurs in various resources, but it does not display, or link to the Kangxi Zidian, Shuowen, Yupian or any other historical dictionary. For this IMPORTANT information, I suggest either
Han Dian, Donald Sturgeon’s Chinese Text Project, or Shuowenjiezi.com, (which is the only place I know which links to the Hanyu Dacidian). See an older post discussing these and other dictionary websites.

To search for a character (e.g., 德) in a specific text, click “Select File”, then select Texts. In the field labeled Text, you input “德”; in the field labeled Text Reference, you input “莊子,”or whichever text you are interested in.

To search for a specific chapter of a text, (e.g. the Daodejing), in the “Complex Search” input e.g. 道德經 in “Text Reference and” “38” (or whatever) in “Sequence No. 1.”

TLS provides a corpus of classical Chinese texts wherever possible with interlinear [sort of] translations.
It links the texts incorporated with an analytic dictionary of the Chinese language.


TLS seeks to make available up-to-date databases on historical phonology and the history of Chinese characters — Pan Wuyun’s 潘悟雲 Old Chinese reconstructions and E.G. Pulleyblank’s Middle Chinese reconstructions.

There is an almost overwhelming number of help pages, both throughout the website and on the Terminology/Glossary page.

I’m still learning about the site, so I have probably missed some things.