7 of the best Mandarin Chinese English Bilingual Picture Dictionary

  • Post last modified:3 September 2022
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Picture dictionaries are very useful for learning new vocabulary and looking up unfamiliar terms independently for young children. Visual representations make it easier for children to learn and retain new Chinese vocabulary words.

Honestly, even a native speaker like me doesn’t know all the Chinese words in the world. As I read these picture dictionaries with my children, I find myself learning new Chinese words too. Plus, it’s ok to show your children that you do not know it all, and you are learning new Chinese words together. It’s a much better attitude to instill than “I know it all”


And while it’s not everyone’s top pick of books to read, some children (like my son 👦) actually enjoy reading dictionaries for fun. He’s always liked non-fiction book, so I guess dictionaries fall right under that category too. 

There have been nights when his choice of a bedtime reading book was a Chinese dictionary. Definitely not my choice of books any given day!I guess as long as it feeds into his inquisitiveness for more Chinese knowledge, I can’t really complain!

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bilingual picture dictionary

Here are 7 of our favourite Chinese English picture dictionaries (in Simplified Chinese, pinyin and English). 

For young Chinese readers who may prefer cute cartoon graphics instead of real pictures

bilingual picture dictionary

Fun Chinese Picture Dictionary (2nd Edition)

Most Singaporean children would have a copy of this! It’s aligned with the 2015 Ministry of Education (MOE) Chinese curriculum, so if you are Singaporean, live in Singapore, or plan to live in Singapore at some point in the future, you should grab a copy of this. 

The pictures are brightly coloured which really appealed to my children. My children and I were so excited to read about the local Southeast Asian fruits on the page, and thrilled to recognise and relate to the local Singaporen scenes such as the hawker centre and shopping centre. Contrasting with traditional picture dictionaries where the pictures are more or less static, the pictures in here are presented within context, and there were plenty of opportunities within the pages to work on describing skills.

I like that the picture dictionary comes with access to a fully interactive mobile app which includes all the Chinese vocabulary, the audio reading as well as additional teaching about Chinese verbs and quantifiers.

Read My Story Treasury’s detailed description of the book.

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: 1000
  • Audio aid: Yes. Download the mobile app for audio and more. See “Extra” 
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Extra: mobile app of the entire picture dictionary with audio, and additional teaching about quantifiers and verbs. 
  • Available on My Story Treasury, and bookstores in Singapore such as Popular, and Kinokuniya.
bilingual picture dictionary
Xiao Bao reading the Fun Chinese Picture Dictionary (at 4.5 years old)
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
The Singapore Pledge
bilingual picture dictionary
A very typical Singaporean teacher furiously marking away!

As with all Usborne books, children will like finding the duck as they flip through the pages to learn new Chinese words. If you are looking for a bilingual Chinese English picture dictionary, this may not be the book for you. The labels are only in Chinese and pinyin, which means that to check on the English words, you have to flip back to the glossary. 

Take a peak into the entire book in the video below.

Colourful illustrated scenes that covers the basic Chinese vocabulary your child will need to know. This is probably out of print, and may be hard to find now. This was a hand me down from my niece and nephew in Australia who used it when they were learning Mandarin Chinese in school. I love how lively the scenes are in this book, which makes it great as a book for describing.

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: 1000 
  • Audio aid: Yes. CD-Rom included.
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Available on Amazon.

There are so many things happening within the pages which makes for developing of describing and comprehension skills.

Quirky illustrations that will appeal to children with a sense of humour. This one is highly recommended for primary aged children and adults who are interested in learning interesting Chinese vocabulary not normally included in “essential” picture dictionaries. For instance, you will not find the word for “car” in this picture dictionary, but you will learn about 20 different types of vehicles and road signs!

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: 1500
  • Audio aid: Yes
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Available on Amazon and Book Depository.

Learn about all types of motor vehicles in English and Chinese, but there isn’t one for car?! 

If you like to learn more about Chinese culture, the McGraw Hill’s Chinese illustrated dictionary offers more than the other bilingual picture dictionaries here with its special “Cultural Window” section. 

For example, at the Chinese Musical Instruments section, you can read about the classic Chinese tale of “Butterfly Love Story” 《梁祝》 the  tragic love story of 梁山伯 Ling Shan Bo and 祝英台 Zhu Ying Tai. 

bilingual picture dictionary


While not strictly a picture dictionary, I wanted to mention this series of thematic Chinese picture books which is a fantastic addition to a Chinese preschooler library. There are four themes: transport, daily life, general knowledge and nature. This was one of the first set of Chinese preschool books we ever bought and used, and is well-loved by all three of my children.

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: approximately 800
  • Audio aid: No
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Available on Taobao and JD.com. We bought our copy in bookshops in Singapore, Popular.
bilingual picture dictionary
This was one of the first Chinese books Da Bao every read. He's about 1 year old in this picture.
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
bilingual picture dictionary
Xiao Bao loves this series too!

For older Chinese readers who are ready to learn more complex Chinese vocabulary and real pictures

For older Chinese learners, these are the top picture dictionaries available on the market.

When I was learning Chinese in Singapore during my primary school years, I had a boring words only Chinese English dictionary like this one. It was nowhere as interesting as these ones listed below. 

DK Visual Mandarin Chinese English Dictionary

Chock a block with over 6,000 Chinese words in this book, if you are seeking an encyclopedic knowledge, this pocket sized dictionary is perfect for you. Not every word has a corresponding picture though, so if you are after a fully visual dictionary, or feel that 6000 words is too much (!!) then you are better off with the Collins or Tuttle version. 

I was shocked at the number of Chinese words covered in this book, and honestly if you want a truly comprehensive Chinese English visual dictionary of all the Chiense words you could possibly learn in a lifetime, this will be my top pick. 

Please note that the words are very small, as it is pocket sized!

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: 6000
  • Audio aid: Yes
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Available on Amazon and Book Depository

everything you need to know about kitchen utensils…

everything you need to know about fish and seafood…

everything you need to know about main courses and cooking techniques…

I kid you not, this book has absolutely every Chinese word you want to learn (and not learn!)

The best feature of this dictionary is the sample conversational phrases, making it a great choice for readers who want to learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese properly. This is a valuable addition because of the additional teaching resources on Quizlet.

Be warned that if you purchase this as an ebook, the file is very big! I strongly suggest purchasing the paperback copy instead. 

  • Number of targeted Chinese words: 3000
  • Audio aid: Yes
  • Language: Simplified Chinese, English and pinyin
  • Bonus: Collins has teamed up with Quizlet to create additional teaching resources such as flashcards and quizzes to accelerate your Chinese language learning. 
  • Available on Amazon and Book Depository 
  • Available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and Apple Books

I love the visual presentation of this picture dictionary which is set against a simple white background, with the Chinese characters in a different colour to emphasise them more than the English words and pinyin.

A concise dictionary that will cover all the Chinese words you need for HSK and AP. It doesn’t cover nearly half of what DK Visual Mandarin Chinese English dictionary covers, but it has all the essential Chinese words you need to learn. There are additional phrases and sentences to learn within each context. 

After reading this post, which bilingual picture dictionary are you going to get? 

Do you have a favourite Chinese English picture dictionary that isn’t on the list?

Do comment and let us know!

Other blog posts you might be interested in

Interested to know which bilingual parenting books to get? In this post, you can read about the expertly researched bilingual parenting books available now which will be a valuable addition(s) to your home.

What kind of Chinese readers should you invest in? These books are costly but essential. So read this blog posts of the Chinese readers we’ve read and loved: Sage Books Basic Chinese 500 Readers, Odonata Chinese Readers.

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