From CEDict:

MBP-WWG:~ Admin$ egrep "\t石\t" /Users/Admin/Downloads/cedict_1_0_ts_utf-8_mdbg.txt 
石   石   Shi2    surname Shi
石   石   dan4    dry measure for grain equal to ten dou 斗<br/>ten pecks<br/>one hundred liters
石   石   shi2    rock<br/>stone<br/>stone inscription<br/>one of the eight ancient musical instruments 八音[ba1 yin1]

Is the second one an error?

Is this what is meant by "variant readings" in How many Chinese characters have multiple readings/pronunciations in Mandarin? ?

1 Answer 1


Of course it's not an error.

Any respectable dictionary will have

石 shi2


石 dan4

Variant readings refer to when one character has more than one pronunciation - based, usually, on different meanings.

Taking 石 for instance: when we're talking about rocks and stones - it is pronounced shi2; when we're talking about a specific measurement unit it is pronounced dan4.

  • Cool. I knew of several that had similar pronunciations, likely from linguistic evolution. This is the first one I've seen where the pronunciations do not seem "related."
    – 伟思礼
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 15:19
  • 1
    石 dan4 is not used now, it is an ancient measurement unit. now we use metric units. Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 1:02
  • Yes, it seems to be interesting that 1 石 is 100升 (for volume), and 1 擔 is 100斤 (for mass), so perhaps that pronunciation for 石 as a unit of volume was borrowed from its counterpart 擔 in mass. That's what Wiktionary suggests.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 12:05

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