Finding free Chinese reading resources online for upper-intermediate, advanced and Chinese-heritage learners would seem to be a simple proposition: Just go to the website of one of the many Chinese newspapers or magazines online and start reading. In reality, this method will leave you with a lot of work sifting through articles that you either can’t understand because you don’t have the necessary background knowledge, or perhaps you will only encounter the same boring reports of the 59th (or whatever!) Communist Party Congress. In this article I will show you a few tips and tricks for finding and understanding online Chinese reading resources for upper-intermediate, advanced and Chinese-heritage learners and I will also provide you with a long list of my favorite online resources.
The best part about reading advanced Chinese materials online is that you can take advantage of interactive tools such as dictionaries and translation software. Therefore, make sure that whatever text you find is accessible to being copied/pasted into an online dictionary or other tools.
Top Tools for Reading Chinese Articles: Use Translation Tools for Headlines
It’s an open secret that translation tools have advanced greatly since their laughable beginnings in the early 2000s. At the upper-intermediate and advanced stages, however, you won’t want to become too dependent on machine translation before you read the article yourself at least once yourself because you will want to be developing your own translation skills! However, I find that if I have trouble with an article, translating the headline alone is often enough to give me the context I need to understand the rest of the article.
Google also provides a Pinyin transcription below your inserted text.
This AI translator doesn’t display Pinyin but does translate Chinese into uncannily good-sounding prose.
Chinese text-reading apps are another great resource which allow you to insert any Chinese reading materials which you find online into an interactive format.
1. DuShu (iOS/Android)
This is my favorite free Chinese text-reading app for shorter articles that I find online (it also has premium version but the free version offers most features) which displays any text you have copied to your clipboard then breaks it down into sections, highlights vocabulary, provides a pop-up dictionary, toggles on/off Pinyin, switches between simplified/traditional characters, translates each section upon command and finally stores your highlighted vocabulary for future flashcard study.
2. Readibu (iOS/Android)
Readibu is a similar Chinese text-reading app great for longer texts like novels which incorporates the text from a website address, then provides you with features such as pop-up dictionaries, toggling Pinyin, simplified/traditional characters, etc. The premium version also supplies machine translation.
My 25 Favorite Free Websites and Apps to find Chinese Reading Materials for Upper-Intermediate, Advanced and Chinese-Heritage Learners
First of all, here are some Apps and Online Resources Specifically for Chinese Learners which provide excellent interactive features such as pop-up dictionaries, turning pinyin on/off, translations, etc. Many of these even allow you to switch between simplified and traditional characters.
1. Todai Easy Chinese app (iOS/Android)
Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not that easy. This app provides an outstanding daily news feed from several sources featuring short articles on a variety of international topics in a format that is easy to use. I love this app, but one deficit is that it tends to focus on international news and not specifically on Chinese topics.
This website provides a lot of well-written articles, many with a Chinese focus, e.g. explaining idioms or Chinese culture. There are plenty of articles at the upper intermediate and advanced levels – over 100 at each level – and it supplies many interactive learning features. There are also recordings of the texts made by a real person reading in a clear voice which is perhaps on the slow side for advanced learners, but might be appropriate for writing exercises like dictations. Additional, paid features include lesson notes and a translation of the text.
3. The Chairman’s Bao online or as an app
The Chairman’s Bao is not a free site but it does offer free sample content for all levels which changes every week. This website is the gold-standard for presenting news articles to Chinese learners and includes countless articles for upper-intermediate, advanced and Chinese-heritage students. Articles are presented as intact lessons with a presentation of grammar and vocabulary and in-depth content testing. The learning tools for each article such as flashcards and Chinese character writing practice are all available for the free articles. There is a good mix of Chinese and international topics and the audio recordings are excellent. Check the site/app frequently because the free articles change very frequently.
Another website which provides many longer articles for advanced and upper-intermediate Chinese practice. These articles feature a side-by-side translation which you can turn on/off. The selection range is very broad and I especially like the presentation of the first pages of novels which allows you to get a feeling for a book before you decide to read it. The upper-intermediate and advanced content is extensive and there is a very good explanation of key vocabulary. Unfortunately, this site stopped providing new content around 2020.
A website with an interesting selection of topics especially about Chinese history and culture. There is also useful section of song lyrics with videos. The reading passages are longer and key vocabulary is well presented. The selection of intermediate+ and advanced topics is quite comprehensive.
A website with lots of short articles featuring a variety of topics and a few comprehension questions after each text. Many of the advanced articles provide audio spoken at a faster (but not too fast) tempo. The recordings, however, are not professional studio recordings.
Online Chinese Newspapers
I find that Chinese newspapers from Mainland China or Taiwan can offer quite interesting articles, but – since I’m not a news junky – I usually have to look beyond the front page and into other sections such as 生活 life, 教育education or 体育sports to find something that intrigues me. Therefore, my personal tip is to find a paper with a lot of different sections.
1. BBC Zhongwen
This is not a newspaper per se but it does provide a good introduction to news in Chinese which actually displays a strong focus on Chinese topics in addition to international news. You can read all the news in simplified or traditional characters. There are lots of videos obviously, but also many text articles.
This is a national daily mainland Chinese newspaper which serves as a more-or-less official organ of the government; however, I like it because it features a wide range of sections on non-political topics like 文娱 recreation，健康 health，书画 painting.
A newspaper with a business focus including categories like 地产 (real estate), 上市公司 (public companies) and财金 (finance and economics).
Regional newspapers also offer interesting perspectives from a particular area such as:
This paper provides regional news from southern China. It displays many sections such as 生活 https://life.dayoo.com/ where you will find the subcategories such as 汽车， 职教，美食.
This is the largest newspaper from Sichuan Province. To find the interesting (less political) articles, scroll down the page.
For advanced Chinese learners who would like to practice traditional characters, try newspapers from Taiwan.
Although this daily paper is designed for children and teens, the articles are not simplistic at all. Reports cover international and national news with a special focus on children and education.
This daily is one of the four largest newspapers in Taiwan. Although it is often criticized for being biased toward mainland China, it still provides plenty of interesting articles on topics such as 娱乐 entertainment，体育 sports, and科技technology.
Magazines in Chinese range from quite challenging publications showcasing high-quality literature to easier, illustration-heavy fashion and celebrity news.
A monthly magazine similar to National Geographic. The magazine offers in-depth articles covering geography, history and culture. The magazine is heavier on photography (which is stunning) than on text.
This magazine covers economics, city life and many other topics. It is known for depicting what is happening in modern China.
A Guangzhou-based political news magazine. The magazine is known for its relatively fearless reports on officials’ corruption, food safety and other sensitive issues in the country.
4. Dushu 读书
Dushu (not to be confused with the aforementioned app) is a monthly Chinese literary magazine based in Beijing. It offers interesting articles on a variety of cultural, historical and literary topics along with great photography and illustrations.
5. Yilin 意林
Offers a very good selection of short (often very short) stories which reflect everyday life. I find many of them worth taking the time to read and study.
6. Rayli 瑞丽
This fashion magazine presents 服饰 (style), beauty (美容), and other such trendy topics. It is the top fashion magazine in China.
7. Vogue 时尚网
The iconic international fashion magazine also has a Chinese version. The subsections are interesting – there’s even one called 鞋包 (shoes and bags)
Manga would seem to be an ideal way to learn Chinese by reading because you can follow the pictures as you read but there is one problem: the text is integrated into graphics so you can’t copy/paste vocabulary onto your phone or PC to look up in another window and this can hinder your reading enjoyment. Also, due to slang language and specialized vocabulary, the understanding seems to be hit or miss. They are definitely worth trying out because they are so long that once you have cracked open the difficult vocabulary, you will then have anywhere from 50 to a few hundred episodes to practice reading your new words and gain reading fluency.
There are many manga sites online (just search 漫画) but most sites only offer about 20 episodes for free before you have to pay. Here are two that I have found that offer completely free manga.
A large selection of free manga with several episodes each.
This site also offers completely free manga. I found selections of historical comics, adventure, fantasy, romance, action, etc.
Finally, here some websites which offer longer pieces and even novels. Actually， there are quite a few sites which offer 小说 online, but just like with manga, this often involves paying for content after the first few episodes. Here are three I found have at least some free Chinese reading material.
Has lots of reading materials including popular novels. I was happy to find the novel from a series I had watched “Put your Head on my Shoulder here/致我们暖暖的小时光 . Oddly, I couldn’t find a search bar.
2. QQ YueDu阅读
Another website with online 小说. Not all of the novels presented on this website are free, but many of the shorter ones seem to be.
Finally, this website which is presented by a university offers really difficult, longer texts including modern and classical Chinese literature, history, fables, etc. Some English translations are provided.
I hope that you have fun reading my tips to find Chinese reading texts for upper-Intermediate, advanced and Chinese-heritage learners. Remember that the more you read in Chinese, the easier it will get. You will soon reap many benefits.
An unashamed language nerd from Anchorage, Alaska, Heather’s life has led her to a degree in German and International Studies from Willamette University and a three-year stay in Taiwan with her German husband at the end of the eighties. In Taipei she took intensive Chinese courses at the Mandarin Training Center of Taiwan Normal University and also taught English at the Taipei Language Institute. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, she became intrigued by the life in a former East Bloc country and finally decided to relocate to Leipzig, Germany in 1991. There she and her husband established the FAE Fachinstitut für Angewandtes Englisch, a private English institute focusing on teaching adults, translations and language coaching. This has been a successful venture for over 30 years.