12 Best Chinese Reading Resources

December 30, 2022

When I started learning Chinese over a decade ago, I struggled to find interesting, engaging Chinese reading materials that kept me motivated. Fast forward to today, the internet is crawling with hundreds and thousands of Chinese reading resources. Some are great and others mediocre.

After sifting through all the Chinese readers that I have ever used, I’d like to present to you in this article my top selection of the 12 best Chinese reading resources.

The first six can be used by all Chinese learners, regardless of your HSK level, while the rest comprise recommendations for different levels of Chinese skills: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Let’s dive in!

Best Chinese Reading Resources for All Levels

1 Du Chinese

Du Chinese is an app crafted with a major challenge of learning Chinese in mind: having to stop and look up the meaning of a single Chinese character when attempting to read Chinese. Not only does this challenge often disrupt the student’s concentration, making reading sessions less enjoyable, but it can also hurt the reader’s efforts to improve their Chinese reading skills.

Du Chinese presents itself as a solution to this difficulty by providing comprehensive reading lessons classified into five categories: newbie, elementary, intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced, and master.

In each lesson, pinyin is provided for the entire passage, and vocabulary words that are part of the HSK are underlined in different colors depending on the HSK level.

Hovering over a specific word will display the HSK level and the word meaning above the text, so you can keep reading without having to look away from the text for more than a second to find the translation of unfamiliar Chinese characters.

    Price: Free with optional upgrade starting at USD 14.99 for a month.
    Available as: Website, app

Du Chinese

2 The Chairman’s Bao

Have you ever dreamed of being able to read Chinese newspapers? The Chairman’s Bao will certainly bring you closer to that goal. Their graded reading lessons are based on re-written news articles, curated to match HSK levels from HSK 1 to HSK 6+.

The lessons address a cornucopia of issues from society and culture to business and crime, to sports and technology, to name a few. They also come with audio recordings, a pop-up dictionary, a keywords list, grammar notes, reading exercises, and listening exercises.

My only complaint is that the live dictionary displays translations at a weird angle, instead of just showing them above the Chinese characters you click.

    Price: Free with option upgrade starting at USD 10 for a month.
    Available as: Website, app

The Chairman's Bao logo

3 Mandarin Companion

For bookworms that enjoy reading enticing novels, be sure to check Mandarin Companion. They specialize in graded readers of classic novels such as Sherlock Holmes or Jekyll and Hyde as well as original stories. How cool is that?

The books are divided into three categories: Breakthrough (beginner), Level I (intermediate), and Level II (advanced), with 150, 300, and 450 unique characters respectively.

Each reader is prefaced with a story note and cast introduction. In the footnote, you will find keywords with their pinyin and English translation, and you can also download the word list for free, though the list only includes the Chinese characters.

As for grammar, you can view what grammar structures are covered in each Mandarin Companion book here.

    Price: USD 7.99 per book with free downloadable sample PDFS.
    Available as: Website

4 Mandarin Bean

Mandarin Bean offers hundreds of graded reading lessons for Chinese learners from absolute beginners (HSK1) to more seasoned ones (HSK 6). Their collection of beginner materials is not as extensive as their advanced ones, but beginners are still sure to have enough texts to read. Once you run out of beginner content, that would simply mean that it’s time to graduate and move on to the next level.

Topics covered include relationships, lifestyle, culture, and economics to name a few. Each reading practice is accompanied by an audio recording so that you can train your Chinese listening and detect any mispronunciation you make at the same time. You can also turn the pinyin on or off as you wish, and hover above unfamiliar words to display their English translation and HSK level.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend you do your best not to become overly dependent on the built-in dictionary as the translations can be a bit wonky.

In addition to the graded reading lessons, the free plan also gives you limited access to their grammar exercises, HSK mock tests, and YCT mock tests, without having to sign up or download an app!

    Price: Free with optional upgrade starting at USD 29.99 for 12 months.
    Available as: Website

MandarinBean logo

5 HSKReading

I love this website! The simplistic yet beautifully designed interface makes the website easy to navigate, and it provides a rather hefty number of HSK-based graded readers all for free, with no sign-up required. Pinyin is only available through the pop-up dictionary, but the full translation can be viewed below the original Chinese text.

Each reading lesson is followed by a set of reading comprehension questions, and the answers are conveniently available on the same page.

    Price: Free
    Available as: Website


6 Clavis Sinica 释文解字

Clavis Sinica offers a variety of Chinese learning resources for different levels of Chinese learners, including reading materials.

Beginners can start learning Chinese with the Stepping stones series lessons, which are illustrated with short passages, before graduating to the intermediate-level mini-essays offered under the Chinese voices project.

On the other hand, if you can read Chinese at an advanced level, their Chinese text sampler section may be more suitable for you. This page features an annotated collection of Chinese text samples from a variety of popular classical and contemporary Chinese literature, with genres including novels, short stories, poetry, Xiangsheng (Chinese crosstalk), film scripts and song lyrics, fables, as well as historical and political speeches and documents.

    Price: Free with optional paid products
    Available as: Website

Clavis Sinica logo

Recommended Chinese Reading Resources For Beginners

7 Chinese Tools

I nearly overlooked this website due to its off-putting design, but this is the only beginner-focused online reading resource that I actually found useful. The disorganized and chaotic interface makes it rather difficult to navigate; however, the platform still has a lot to offer. Still, the materials on Chinese Tools should not be ignored, considering how difficult it can be to find beginner-level reading materials, especially since it’s all free!

In the Reading Chinese section, you will find Chinese poetry, songs, and idioms with pinyin, although translations seem to only be available for single characters. It also provides 40 Chinese lessons for free, which are not made for reading practice per se, but still contain beginner-level texts.

Additionally, the website offers a plethora of tools for Chinese students that you are sure to find useful.

    Price: Free
    Available as: Website

Recommended Chinese Reading Resources For Intermediate-Level Learners

8 Culture Yard Blog – Chinese Idioms Category

For anyone HSK level 4 and up that’s looking for a good read packed with cultural elements, look no further. In our Chinese Idioms category, you will learn some of the most popular Chinese idioms as well as their origins. You can also learn how to say common English phrases like “a drop in the ocean”, “to put up a front” or “practice makes perfect” in Chinese. Pinyin is only provided for the Chinese idiom itself, but we’ve also included the stories’ translations.


9 Slow Chinese

慢速中文 Slow Chinese describes itself as a “cultural podcast for Chinese learners” where a team of native Chinese speakers shares personal narratives. Besides being a great Chinese listening resource, the Slow Chinese podcast transcripts are also excellent for improving your Chinese reading. They cover subjects related to the Chinese language, Chinese culture, and social issues.

The transcripts are not assigned an HSK level; however, they do not come with pinyin or English translations either, making them more suitable for Chinese learners at an intermediate to advanced level.

    Price: Free
    Available as: Website

Recommended Chinese Reading Resources for Advanced Level Learners

Advanced-level Chinese learners and heritage speakers of Chinese have endless possibilities of reading resources. Although there aren’t many textbooks written for advanced Chinese learners on the market, students can keep educating and challenging themselves by reading materials made for native Chinese speakers. This includes news articles, novels, and even classic Chinese literature.

Such pieces are generally not written for language learning purposes, so you won’t see pinyin or English translations along with them, but you can always use a popup Chinese dictionary such as Zhongzhong on the occasions when you encounter unfamiliar Chinese characters.

10 Informational pieces

Informational documents such as news articles or encyclopedia articles often discuss complex matters like finance, economics, science and politics, which will expose the reader to more intricate vocabularies.

A great place to start would be BBC News in Chinese, but why stop there? Other news portals such as Caixin which we covered in this list of recommended China news websites, as well as the Chinese version of Harvard Business Review are also sure to satisfy your thirst for learning.

As for subject matter articles, you can read anything that catches your interest on Baike Baidu, the Chinese version of Wikipedia, or simply read articles on Wikipedia in Mandarin Chinese.

    Level(s): Advanced
    Price: Varies
    Available as: Website

11 Novels and short stories

Reading novels and short stories written by Chinese authors for native Chinese speakers is also a great way for heritage speakers of Chinese and advanced Chinese language learners to leisurely pick up new vocabulary.

For novels, check out Qidian. This literature hub hosts original works with genres ranging from Wuxia to science fiction to history. Most of the content is paid, but a generous amount of the library is available for free.

As for short stories, my go-to would be Xiaogushi. On this website, you will find 11,264 short stories, divided into various categories including humor, children’s stories, love stories, workplace stories, inspirational stories, philosophical stories, and fables. You might think that reading children’s stories would be a piece of cake, but they’re often still more challenging than graded readers despite the simplistic language. The website is not particularly beautiful, but that does not take away from the abundance of free content it provides.

    Price: Qidian: free and paid | Xiaogushi: free
    Available as: Qidian: Website, app; Xiaogushi: website

12 Chinese text projects

This online library is a treasure trove of ancient Chinese texts dating from the pre-Qin and Han era.

It offers digitized versions of popular Chinese philosophy books like the Analects of Confucius and Mencius, in addition to 诗经 - Book of Poetry, 尚书 - Shang Shu, 礼记-the Book of Rites and 周易 - Book of Changes which are all part of the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism.

    Price: Free
    Available as: Website

To summarize, the multitude of reading resources available online includes both useful and high-quality materials. In this article, I narrowed down and curated a list of my absolute favorite Chinese reading materials that helped me improve my Chinese over the years. I hope you enjoyed this article. If I missed your favorite Chinese reading resource, be sure to let us know!

About the Author

Juli Mboty has called China home for over 11 years where she became passionate about the Chinese culture, language, and history.

Juli Author Culture Yard