I know that the Chinese ministry of education did release a lot of authoritative books on how characters should be simplified, how their stroke orders should be, and other similar stuff. But it doesn't seem like the ministry released anything related to measure words.

So is there any authoritative work that gives for a word what measure words can be applied to it and what meaning does it imply? And also the reverse, a list of all measure words and with what kinds of words they should be use with? In English or in Chinese?

For instance, take the word 专辑:

  • 一张专辑, an actual album object (e.g. as a CD album)
  • 一种专辑, an album title
  • 一部专辑, an album taken as a piece of art

Then the measure word 款: used to design a software as a piece of work, comparable to 部 when used to single out pieces of art.

  • There are dictionaries about measure words.
    – fefe
    Sep 14, 2013 at 0:21
  • 专辑 refers to an album, it need not be in a CD format.
    – 杨以轩
    Sep 14, 2013 at 4:59
  • Then is there any authoritative dictionary concerning this matter?
    – OOEngineer
    Sep 14, 2013 at 15:19
  • For beginners, I recommend 张 for counting 专辑 and for now don't touch others. That's enough for the word 专辑 in many situations, casual or formal.
    – George
    Sep 15, 2013 at 6:03
  • lol, one time when I was China, people corrected me from using 一个 by asking if I meant 一张 or 一种. But I'm not a beginner anymore.
    – OOEngineer
    Sep 19, 2013 at 6:12

2 Answers 2


It depends on your definition of 'authoritative'.

If you are looking for formal dictionaries as opposed to crowd-sourcing efforts, dedicated to measure words, there are 《量词词典》, 《现代汉语量词用法词典》, 《现代汉语量词规范词典》, etc. You can find them by searching '量词+词典' on Amazon, Douban or other book sources.

If you are looking for 'the source' that's used by all the schools as standard reference, there is none. At least in Mainland China, the only dictionaries that are used as standards are 《新华字典》 and 《现代汉语词典》. Both of them cover measure words but are not 'measure word dictionary' i.e. they do not provide reverse look up from a noun to corresponding measure words; they do not contain an extensive list of usages for each measure word; etc.

  • Thanks for defining 'source' as school standard reference. It's really what I wanted to know. I'm quite astonished that nothing has been defined by the Ministry of Education as measure words are quite a fundamental concept in Chinese.
    – OOEngineer
    Sep 19, 2013 at 6:22

If you look into things like 常用量詞手冊 (use Big5 encoding), all you can get is some absolutely out of date information. The process of becoming authority is opposite to daily usage of a living language.



The Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) from International Components for Unicode (ICU) might be the closest thing you can get and might be able to submit your revision. The bottom line you can have your version of ICU and make your own mapping table based on your rules.

  • 1
    By ICU do you mean International Components for Unicode.
    – George
    Sep 15, 2013 at 5:52
  • Yes. BTW. What's your application for this? How are you going to use that table?
    – james sa
    Sep 15, 2013 at 15:21
  • Uh... sorry I don't know that table, never use it before...
    – George
    Sep 16, 2013 at 13:41
  • I quite understand that being authoritative is opposite to the concept of a living language. Nevertheless, it doesn't prevent governments from releasing reference material evolving with time. But I didn't know that the CLDR contains this kind of information. I'll go look it up.
    – OOEngineer
    Sep 19, 2013 at 6:19
  • There is really nothing related to measure words in the CLDR. I really don't understand why jaime sa wrote about it. I could imagine that listing measure words for every language requiring them can be quite a daunting task...
    – OOEngineer
    Sep 21, 2013 at 19:29

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