I'm interested in finding any webpages or books that list words and phrases of more than one character that share the same pronunciation but not the same tones.

For instance, here are some terms I've discovered in EDICT with the syllables "li" and "ji" in different tones:

  • Lǐjì 禮記 礼记 "Classic of Rites"
  • lǐji 裡脊 里脊 "(tender)loin (of pork, beef etc)"
  • lìjī 利基 利基 "niche"
  • lìjí 立即 立即 "immediately"
  • lìjǐ 利己 利己 "personal profit / to benefit oneself"
  • lìji 痢疾 痢疾 "dysentery"

I'm looking for something like this but with lots more words and phrases so that I can listen to the differences in tones in words and phrases, not just isolated syllables/characters, and without the distraction of also having varying pronunciation.

Resources including audio would be amazing, but just lists of words is quite good enough so that I can get a Mandarin-speaking helper to pronounce them for me.

Please do not paste a list or partial list as an answer

  • I think this question is too broad and open ended to be answered.
    – amateur
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 21:25
  • Can I trouble you to update your question and specify why you need this. I want to avoid answers where people post random stuff, I would prefer people provide answers to your actual problem. Once you updated can you flag it for moderator attention.
    – going
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 0:46
  • 1
    @hippietrail I don't downvote (I see no point in it) and I didn't close/suspend this question. The only thing I've done here is add two comments (including this one).
    – amateur
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 10:23
  • 1
    I voted to reopen your question so that it can be edited to be clearer. I think your question is useful for students, teachers, and linguists. It's a problem students struggle with (getting the right tones vs. saying the wrong thing).
    – amateur
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 11:12
  • 1
    @hippietrail - I've reopened, sorry for the delay, I was unwell since Friday.
    – going
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 0:49

3 Answers 3


I suggest you use an online dictionary similar to this site: http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=worddict&wdrst=0&wdqb=shishi

The linked site above allows you to hear the pronunciation (click on the arrows), however I suggest you copy and paste two characters into Google translate which has the audio and it pronounces it as a set phrase rather than separately as the first site does e.g. https://translate.google.com.au/?hl=en&tab=wT#zh-CN/en/%E6%97%B6%E4%BA%8B

  • Yes I have been using the Google Translate technique and wondering how accurate its pronunciation is. I can usually hear that words with different tones sound a bit different but not always, and I certainly can't pick out the tones in them. Unfortunately I moved to Japan today so won't have native speakers to practice with so often now. Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 13:04
  • I can see that site uses CEDICT. I actually began some work processing CEDICT to pull out all of these sets of terms. But with this site it's made trivially easy, even if it doesn't give you the whole set at once. Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 13:09

Here are some exmaples:

shi jian

尸检 shi1 jian3
时间 shi2 jian1
实践 shi2 jian4
使剑 shi3 jian4
世间 shi4 jian1
事件 shi4 jian4
试建 shi4 jian4

shi shi

失实 shi1 shi2
失事 shi1 shi4
实施 shi2 shi1
时时 shi2 shi2
时事 shi2 shi4
实事 shi2 shi4
十世 shi2 shi4
史实 shi3 shi2
史事 shi3 shi4
誓师 shi4 shi1
事实 shi4 shi2
事事 shi4 shi4
逝世 shi4 shi4

yi yi

一亿 yi2 yi4
疑义 yi2 yi4
意义 yi4 hi4
异议 yi4 yi4

ji jian

鸡奸 ji1 jian1
肌腱 ji1 jian4
基建 ji1 jian4
击剑 ji1 jian4
急件 ji2 jian4
己见 ji3 jian4
计建 ji4 jian4 
计件 ji4 jian4

And a lot others:

技艺 — 记忆
景观 — 警官
密集 — 秘籍
未免 — 慰勉 — 卫冕
毅然 — 屹然
文明 — 闻名
夕阳 — 西洋
幽雅 — 优雅
长枪 — 唱腔
机动 — 激动
记起 — 激起 — 机器 — 极其
  • Sorry 孤影萍踪, I'm sure you meant well by posting a sample, but as you can see it has lead people to not properly read my question and close it because they think I want people to paste entire lists here into answers. What I really want is some website or book similar to "501 verbs". I know there are books and websites focusing on characters, idioms, particles, verbs, etc. because those are all areas of difficulty for learners. So they could well be one I haven't found that deals with distinguishing tones. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 6:43

Here's the ultimate one for you. 92-character poem by Zhao Yuanren (赵元任)

《施氏食狮史》 石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。 氏时时适市视狮。 十时,适十狮适市。 是时,适施氏适市。 氏视是十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。 氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。 石室湿,氏使侍拭石室。 石室拭,氏始试食是十狮。 食时,始识是十狮尸,实十石狮尸。 试释是事。

« Shī Shì shí shī shǐ » Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī. Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì. Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì. Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.

« Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den » In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions. He often went to the market to look for lions. At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market. At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market. He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die. He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den. The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it. After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions. When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses. Try to explain this matter.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-Eating_Poet_in_the_Stone_Den

  • I know of this but there are two problems: 1) I'm pretty sure it's mostly single-syllable words and I already mentioned those are easy to find and easy to pronounce even for beginners. It's the multi-syllable words we have trouble with and those are not easy to find. 2) It only gives us one syllable to work with. Having access to a big list with more examples is what's needed. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 6:39
  • The only true polysyllabic terms seem to be 石室 "sarcophagus, grotto", 时时 "always, often, constantly", and possibly 十时 "ten o'clock" since it gets a Wiktionary entry (only in Japanese though!) Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 7:12
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    OK, the one you're looking for is called "Chinese homonyms/homophones" (同音异形词 or 同音异义词). You'll find many resources online with examples.
    – amateur
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 10:45
  • Thanks amateur, though as a very beginner I can't read most of the search engine results so an answer here from somebody who knows would be helpful to me and I can only assume to many others. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 10:49
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    You can google "chinese homonym" or "chinese homophone" (in English) and get quite a good selection of English websites on the matter. Example: carlgene.com/blog/2011/11/…
    – amateur
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 11:09

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