Improve Your Chinese Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters

Improve Your Chinese Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters

Learning Chinese tongue twisters (绕口令, ràokǒulìng) makes for great language practice; Learning Chinese tongue twisters with native speakers in real life situations makes it even better. In this CLI series, CLI's own Zicong 老师 (lǎoshī, teacher) ventures through the...

An Overview of the Chinese Zodiac

An Overview of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac, called 生肖 (shēngxiào) or “birth likeness” in Mandarin, is an ancient belief system considered to be a tool for deciding one’s destiny. Following the traditional lunar calendar, this scheme is based on a 12-year cycle in which one of 12 animals is...

YouTube’s Best Channels for Learning Chinese

YouTube’s Best Channels for Learning Chinese

When learning Chinese, it's important to mix-up your daily study routine. YouTube is a great way to stay sharp when you're not studying in China, and we want to help you stay sharp. We’ve selected and organized a list of our top 8 YouTube channels for learning...

Why study abroad in Guilin?

Why study abroad in Guilin?

As if spending a semester abroad in China wasn't reason enough, we felt compelled to list 12 reasons (out of countless) why you should study abroad in Guilin. We've also included some photos from our Instagram account and we suggest you watch a video called Guilin is...

10 Reasons to Learn Chinese

10 Reasons to Learn Chinese

Did you know that approximately 1.2 billion people speak Chinese worldwide? That’s more than any other language on Earth. In fact, Chinese is now the third most commonly spoken language in the United States, with wide populations of native speakers also living in...

Improve Your Chinese Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters

Improve Your Chinese Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters

Learning Chinese tongue twisters (绕口令, ràokǒulìng) makes for great language practice; Learning Chinese tongue twisters with native speakers in real life situations makes it even better. In this CLI series, CLI’s own Zicong 老师 (lǎoshī, teacher) ventures through the scenic pathways and lively downtown sidewalks of Guilin to see who can master Mandarin’s trickiest word games.




We hope that you enjoyed these tongue twisters as much as we enjoyed sharing them with you! Subscribe to the CLI YouTube channel for fresh new videos on Chinese language, culture, and lifestyle.

An Official Review of Yoyo Chinese’s Newest Courses

An Official Review of Yoyo Chinese’s Newest Courses

Have you heard of Yoyo Chinese,
a popular online platform for learning Mandarin? Established in 2012 by native Chinese speaker and expert teacher Yangyang Cheng, the Yoyo Chinese curriculum utilizes videos, flashcards and an extensive range of other educational materials to create a comprehensive study experience for virtual language learners.

A Quick Intro to the Yoyo Chinese Program

To date, the program has helped over 300,000 students move towards Mandarin fluency, including many CLI Immersion Program students who enjoy supplementing classroom time with online practice. No matter where you are in the world or what your proficiency level may be, Yoyo Chinese offers an excellent option for learning the world’s most spoken language — and it’s available right at your fingertips.

Beginner Chinese with Yoyo and CLI

You can get started with the Beginner Conversational Course on the Yoyo Chinese website. The first 20 lessons are free to see if you want to take the course. If you’ve already studied Mandarin in the past, there are free lessons at the start of the more advanced courses as well to help you find your place. What’s more, we’re glad to offer you a special offer code to save you 15% when you sign up for Yoyo Chinese — use ‘cli15’ and save!


Once you’re in, arrive at the homepage and gain access to all your lessons and course materials on a customized homepage dashboard. From the dashboard, students can also review flashcards from completed lessons, which include such features as audio (always an extra bonus), the option to favorite certain flashcards, and a nifty “up for review” deck which handpicks priority cards based on your feedback.


As of spring 2018, Yoyo Chinese offers learners the following courses:

  • Beginner Conversational
  • Chinese Character
  • Intermediate Conversational
  • Upper Intermediate Conversational

CLI’s Review of The New Chinese Character Course

Our review focuses primarily on Yoyo Chinese’s two newest courses — the much anticipated Upper Intermediate Conversational course and their Chinese Character Course.

Geared towards students who are already somewhat comfortable with spoken Chinese, the Chinese Character course covers 300 of Mandarin’s most essential characters (汉字, hànzi).


Gradually introducing new characters according to their structural composition, the five levels of the course are divided into three to four units per level, which are further broken down into engaging mini-lessons that cover several characters per episode.

learning chinese online with yoyo and CLI

Mandarin language learners, get ready to read and write words and phrases that you can say out loud! Each mini-lesson begins with a video led by Yangyang 老师 (lǎoshī, teacher) that breaks down the pictographic, ideographic and/or logographic origin story of a given single character. The visual resources included during this portion are spot on, conveying the evolution and essence of a character in a way that really clicks in the learner’s mind.


Yangyang then takes students through a brief tutorial on strokes, at which point we suggest that you pause the video and practice writing the 汉字 a few times on your own. Each lesson has Lecture Notes you can download, with a section for handwriting practice.

Grounding your understanding in applicable practice, students are also given examples of different ways the individual character is used and which other characters it is often paired with to make a word phrase. For example, the character for ‘end’ (末, mò) is used with weekend (周末, zhōumò), end of the month (月末, yuèmò) and end of the year (年末, niánmò). This process is repeated to explain several related characters with shared components. Example: the measure words for book (本, běn) and body (体, tǐ).

Yoyo Chinese Review

After completing the video, you’ll have the chance to “start practice,” making your way through flashcards that cover all characters and character compounds taught so far. The flashcards are also available in list form so that you can work in an extra review before the end-of-lesson quiz. Quizzes in this course are composed of both pinyin and characters, offering a great deal of variety in their questions from multiple choice, to fill-in-the-blank, to tone work.

Is yoyo chinese helpful

One advantage is the quizzes also utilize characters taken from real life imagery, such as from billboards, street signs or movie captions. Familiarizing students with the diverse aesthetic of how written language appears in the Chinese landscape is immensely helpful in preparing you to tackle 汉字 in real life.

Throughout the course, the logic of how Chinese characters are taught remains on point; characters are grouped by radicals/components and each new lesson builds off the last to create a solid foundation for reading and writing. We absolutely love this teaching method, so we were excited to hear that they are releasing their Character Course II with the next 300 characters this spring! One suggestion — a stronger emphasis on handwriting in this course could be beneficial for students looking to build a wholistic skill set.

The New Upper Intermediate Conversational Course

The next new release from Yoyo Chinese is the Upper Intermediate Conversational course, which is excellent for students at an approximate HSK 4-5 level. Divided into units that are grouped coherently by theme, with the difficulty increasing as you progress through the lessons, the organization of course material makes it simple to move through the system at one’s own pace. By far, the most innovative and striking aspect of this course is that each lesson revolves around a real-life video snippet of Yangyang 老师 communicating in a real Chinese environment. This exposure to raw conversation between families, friends and passerbyers allows online students to gain familiarity with Mandarin as it’s spoken in daily life.

Review of Yoyo Chinese new Upper Intermediate Conversational course

Usually, the video is repeated and particular segments are broken down for further elucidation, followed by a review of previous lessons and comprehensive explanation of all new words and phrases. We love how each lesson introduces a refreshing combination of vocabulary, grammar and slang, teaching us new meanings for the common words and phrases we might already know. The English translations are also colloquial, making it super simple to wrap our minds around the Chinese meaning.

CLI's review of Yoyo Chinese new Upper Intermediate Conversational course

Differing from the practice component of the Chinese Character course, the Upper Intermediate Conversational course also offers audio reviews of information covered, offering a great way to sharpen your listening comprehension (听力, tīnglì). The downloadable flashcards and lecture notes consolidate all new points in English, pinyin and characters, and students can choose to take the final quizzes in either pinyin or characters. Currently, only the first four levels are available in the Upper Intermediate Conversational course, with levels 5 and 6 are coming out in April and May. Therefore, despite the addition of this course, Yoyo still does not offer an option for advanced learners to improve their Chinese skills, which could be disappointing for students hoping to move all the way to fluency under the guidance of Yangyang 老师. In the future, we hope that even more course options are added, because Yoyo’s signature detail-oriented logical curriculum is simply 厉害.

CLI is delighted to recommend Yoyo Chinese to beginner and intermediate students who are looking to boost their language skills with online lessons. A big thank you (谢谢/xièxie) to Yangyang 老师 and the whole Yoyo Chinese team for helping bring Mandarin education to learners around the globe!

The CLI Blog Table of Contents helps you find CLI blog posts

Learn Basic Chinese Words

Learn Basic Chinese Words

Are you considering visiting China or finding ways to connect with Mandarin-speaking friends? Whatever your reasons for learning basic Chinese expressions, CLI has your back. To help you get started, we have compiled a list of the commonly searched basic words in Chinese!

1. How do you say ‘Hello’ in Chinese?

This is probably the most used Chinese phrase. In Chinese, 你 (nǐ) means ‘you’, and 好 (hǎo) means ‘good’. A slight variation of this greeting is 你好吗?, which translates to mean “How are you?”

2. How do you say ‘Thank you’ in Chinese?

Giving thanks in Chinese is easy, just say 谢谢 (xièxie). If you are saying thanks to your teacher, boss or an older person, you can say 谢谢您 (xièxie nín) to show respect towards them. 您 (nín) is the respectful form of 你 (nǐ) which means ‘you’.

3. How do you say ‘I love you’ in Chinese?

爱 (ài) is the word for love in Chinese. Just like in English, it can be used in various situations, from expressing love to your partner, family members, or just to express that you really like something. For example, I love ice cream = 我爱冰淇淋 (wǒ ài bīngqílín).

4. How do you say ‘Yes’ in Chinese?

If someone asks you something and the answer is “yes” you can say 是 (shì). However, bear in mind that you can only use 是 (shì) if the question is phrased “Are you …?”. Whereas, if the question is “Do you …”, you cannot answer affirmatively with 是 (shì), instead you need to use the verb itself.

For example,


  • Are you an American? 你是美国人吗?(nǐ shì měiguó rén ma?)

  • Yes. 是。(shì.)

    In this case, you can say 是 (shì).

  • Question:

  • Do you like ice cream? 你喜欢冰淇淋吗?(nǐ xǐhuān bīngqílín ma?)

  • Yes. 喜欢。(xǐhuān.)

    In this case you cannot say 是 (shì), instead you have to say the verb affirmatively.
    ie: Like. 喜欢。 (xǐhuān)

5. How do you say ‘No’ in Chinese?

If someone asks you something and the answer is “no” you can say 不是 (bú shì). However, bear in mind that you can only use this if the question is phrased “Are you …?”. Whereas, if the question is “Do you …”, you cannot answer with 不是 (bú shì). Instead, you need to use 不 followed by the verb itself.

For example,


  • Are you an American? 你是美国人吗?(nǐ shì měiguó rén ma?)

  • No. 不是。(bú shì.)


  • Do you like ice cream? 你喜欢冰淇淋吗? (nǐ xǐhuan bīngqílín ma?)

  • No. 不喜欢。(bù xǐhuān.)

    In this case you have to say the 不bù, followed by the verb.
    ie: Don’t like. 不喜欢冰淇淋。(bùxǐhuan bīngqílín.)

6. How do you say ‘Sorry’ in Chinese?

For a lower degree of error, you can also say不好意思 (bù hǎoyìsi), which means “excuse me”. For example, if you come into a room and realize that you are interrupting someone, you can say 不好意思 (bù hǎoyìsi).

7. How do you say ‘Good’ in Chinese?

好 (hǎo) is a very versatile character. Besides its literal meaning, ‘good’, it can also be an affirmative word the equivalent of ‘okay’ in English.

Moreover, this word can also be combined with other words (verbs) to give them a positive meaning.

For example,

  • 好吃(hǎo chī)= delicious (吃 / chī = to eat)
  • 好看(hǎokàn)= beautiful (看 / kàn = to look)

8. How do you say ‘Aunt’ in Chinese?

Compared with other languages, Mandarin has complex terminology for family members. There’s not just one translation for the word aunt. For example, your mother’s sister is 姨妈 (yímā), your father’s sister is 姑妈 (gūmā), your mother’s brother’s wife is 舅妈 – jiùmā, and so on. To make matters more complicated, there are variations of these terminologies in different regions in China.
But don’t worry! As a foreigner you don’t need to know everything. You can just use阿姨 (āyí) for most situation. 阿姨 (āyí) is a general term that you can use for any older Chinese lady, whether in the family, a neighbor, an acquaintance, or a shopkeeper.

9. How do you say ‘Grandma’ in Chinese?

Similar to what has just been said about the translation for aunt, there are also many ways you can say for grandma. Your father’s mother is 奶奶 (nǎinai), or 祖母 (zǔmǔ), which is more formal. On the other hand, your mother’s mother is 外婆 (wàipó) if you are in south China and 姥姥 (lǎolao) if you are in north China. However, if you meet an elderly lady who you’re not related to, you can just call them 奶奶 (nǎinai).

10. How do you say ‘welcome’ in Chinese?

This would probably be one of the first Chinese characters you will come across when you arrive in China’s airport. “Welcome to China” is translated as 欢迎你来中国 (huānyíng nǐ lái zhōngguó).

11. How do you say ‘cat’ in Chinese?

The Chinese word for ‘cat’ is 猫 (māo). You should find this one easy to remember as the sound of the word resembles the sound of a cat. In China people often also use the word 小猫 (xiǎo māo), literally “little cat” to refer to cats, just like “kitten” in English.

12. How do you say ‘water’ in Chinese?

水 (shuǐ) means water. If you want to ask for drinking water, you can say 白开水 (Báikāishuǐ) for boiled water, or 矿泉水 (Kuàngquán shuǐ) for mineral water.

13. How do you say ‘what’ in Chinese?

什么 (shénme) is commonly used to ask what questions. It is placed after the verb.
For example, What are you looking at? = 你在看什么 (nǐ zài kàn shénme)?
When combined with other words, it can make other question words.

For example,

  • 为什么 (wèishéme) = Why
  • 什么时候 (shénme shíhòu) = When
  • You can also use 什么 to express surprise just like how you would use “what” in English.

  • 什么 (shénme) = What!

14. How do you say ‘Family’ in Chinese?

家庭 (jiātíng) means family, but sometimes people also use 家 (jiā) to refer to family. 家 (jiā) by itself can also take on the meaning of home or house.

Here are some common combinations for 家 (jiā):

  • 回家 (huí jiā) = 回 huí (return) + 家 jiā (home) = Go home
  • 家人 jiārén = 家 jiā (family) + 人 rén (people) = Family members
  • 大家 dàjiā = 大 dà (big) + 家 jiā (family) = Everyone

15. How do you say ‘Friend’ in Chinese?

朋 (péng) means “friend” or to have a good relation with someone. 友 (yǒu) also means “friend” or “partner”. 好友 (hǎoyǒu) means “good friend”.

16. How do you say ‘Happy’ in Chinese?

There are three ways of saying happy in Chinese: 开心 (kāixīn),快乐 (kuàilè),高兴 (gāoxìng).

  • 开心 (kāixīn) = 开 kāi (open) + 心 xīn (heart)
  • 快乐 (kuàilè) = 快 kuài (fast) + 乐 lè (pleasure)
  • 高兴 (gāoxìng) = 高 gāo (high) + 兴 xìng (mood)

While they are similar and can be interchangeable, there are differences between them which means that some situation and more suited to one than the other. Both 开心 (kāixīn) and 高兴 (gāoxìng) can mean temporary feeling of happiness, while 快乐 (kuàilè) is a long term state of happiness. 快乐 (kuàilè) is also often used for greetings such as “新年快乐 xīn nián kuàilè!”, which means Happy New Year.

17. How do you say ‘Moon’ in Chinese?

Moon in Chinese is made up of two characters, 月 (yuè), which means month, and 亮 (liàng), which means light or bright.

  • 月亮 (yuèliàng) = moon

18. How do you say ‘Here,’ ‘There,’ and ‘Where,’ in Chinese?

‘Here’ is 这儿 (zhè’er). ‘There’ is 那儿 (nà’er). Where is 哪儿 (nǎ’er). You need to be careful with 那儿 (nà’er) and 哪儿 (nǎ’er) because the only spoken differentiation between them is the tone. If you get the tone wrong, your listener will be confused.

For example,

  • 我的朋友在哪儿? Wǒ de péngyǒu zài nǎ’er? : Where is my friend?
  • 我的朋友在那儿。 Wǒ de péngyǒu zài nà’er. : My friend is there.

Note: You can also replace 儿 (er) with 里 (lǐ) or 边 (biān). You will find 儿 (er) more commonly used by northern Chinese, while 里 (lǐ) by southern Chinese.

No doubt, Mandarin is not something you can learn overnight or through a few blog posts. If you would like to study the language further, read up on our Chinese language immersion program in Guilin.

May this be the start of your happy learning journey!

Basic Chinese Vocabulary:

1Hellonǐ hǎo你好
2Thank youxièxiè谢谢
3I love youwǒ ài nǐ我爱你
16Happykāixīn, kuàilè,
开心, 快乐, 高兴
18Here, There, Wherezhè’er, nà’er, nǎ’er这儿, 那儿, 哪儿

Additional Chinese Learning Resources:

How well do you know the Chinese radicals? Review the 40 most common Chinese radicals. Learn more about the Anatomy of Chinese Characters.

What is Skritter?

What is Skritter?

Skritter is a fresh, inventive way to master Chinese characters. If you’re not a current user, take the following steps to get hooked up immediately – trust us, your Chinese skills will thank you. Because each platform offers its own study mode, the first move is to decide if you want to use the tool online or via your mobile device. Skritter for iPhone and iPad strongly emphasizes character writing and stroke order, which is perfect for those looking to solidify their handwriting techniques. The app’s largest advantage is that it provides extremely thorough feedback to help you improve quickly, all the while giving you a feeling like you’re playing an iPhone game.

Want to study from a laptop or desktop computer? Head to and sign up for a free week-long trial. Once you’re in, hit ‘Browse Lists’ to scroll through user contributed or textbook-based vocabulary decks, then add one to your queue. Select a chapter or set to review, look over the new words in a convenient list-form, and then hit ‘study now’ to begin your session. You’ll see a Chinese character accompanied by its pinyin, an example sentence, an audio option and even the choice to see a mnemonic hint pop up on the screen. Click the character once you’ve got it, and the definition will be revealed, followed by options for you to rate the word between 1 (forgot) to 4 (too easy). A few cards later, you’ll be asked to input the pinyin for the same character.

One of our favorite things about Skritter is the ‘info’ button next to each word which provides a decomposition of the character and a useful list of related words. We’re also huge fans of its user-oriented model, which maximizes your ability to access and retain new information. There are even more benefits, like its clean, appealing interface and a built-in feature which consults all online Mandarin dictionaries at your command. Skritter has truly changed the way that we study and write Chinese characters. Don’t take our word for it – go check out Skritter for yourself!

What is the Chinese Currency Called?

What is the Chinese Currency Called?

The Renminbi (人民币, rénmínbì) is the official currency of the People’s Republic of China. Often referred to simply as RMB, this currency was introduced by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 and roughly translates to “the People’s Currency.” To date, the most commonly used RMB banknotes are 0.5, one, five, ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred, though 0.1, 0.2 and two RMB banknotes can sometimes be found. Chinese currency also includes three coins: 0.1, 0.5 and one RMB. For anyone studying, traveling or working in China, remember that banks generally provide customers with 100 RMB notes, so it’s normal for servers, shop owners or taxi drivers to provide you with change even for large denominations.

Chinese RMB Renminbi

If you’re learning Chinese or follow economics, you may also have heard of the yuán 元 or CNY, which measures an RMB unit. Prior to the Republican era, this word was first used to name the silver Spanish dollar coins that circulated in China during the mercantile age. In the language today, it’s common to say that something costs one or one hundred yuan. Other colloquial terms like 块 (kuài) – think of it like the American ‘buck’ or English ‘quid’ – are used daily. For example, a nice meal out for two may cost 一百块 (yì bǎi kuài) or 一百块钱 (yì bǎi kuài qián).

Do you want to know the current exchange rate? This link will provide you with the current value of 1 US Dollar to Chinese RMB.


1.人民币rén mín bìRMB, China’s official currency
2.yuánCNY, one unit of RMB
3.一百块yì bǎi kuàione hundred yuan
4.一百块钱yì bǎi kuài qiánone hundred yuan (literally. one hundred dollars money)
5.kuàicolloquial word for yuan
6.jiǎo1/10 of one yuan (written use)
7.máo1/10 of one yuan (colloquial use)
8.fēn1/100 of one yuan
10.零钱líng qiánsmall change
11.便宜pián yicheap
An Overview of the Chinese Zodiac

An Overview of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac,
called 生肖 (shēngxiào) or “birth likeness” in Mandarin, is an ancient belief system considered to be a tool for deciding one’s destiny. Following the traditional lunar calendar, this scheme is based on a 12-year cycle in which one of 12 animals is represented with each new year. Last February, as families across the Middle Kingdom gathered together to celebrate Spring Festival, they also welcomed the 10th animal in the rotation, marking 2017 the “Year of the Rooster”. During next year’s Spring Festival, Chinese people will honor the 11th animal in the zodiac cycle, naming 2018 the “Year of the Dog”.

While western astrology emphasizes the day and month that a person was born, the Chinese system regards one’s birth year as the most important factor in determining their fate. An individual’s personality, as well as dramatic events that occur in their life, may all be influenced by the zodiac animal to which they belong. An equally significant but less widespread theory is that each lunar year is also accompanied by one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. In accordance with the traditional philosophy, these five elements are affected by the delicate balance of Yin and Yang. For example, the lunar year 2018 will be both the “Year of the Dog” and “Yang Earth”, while 2019 will be the “Year of the Pig” and of “Yin Earth”.

There is no single definitive origin story, but rather many legends about how the Chinese Zodiac came to be. In contemporary China, the popular myth goes something like this: The Ruler of Heaven, also called the Jade Emperor, reigned over the universe in pre-historic times. One day, he invited all the animals on Earth to enjoy a banquet in his celestial palace. When they arrived, the Jade Emperor was so thrilled that he decided to gift each animal their own year, based on the order in which they had arrived at his palace that night. Check out the following video for the full story.

The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac

Here’s another very insightful video about the Chinese Zodiac and Chinese culture.

Vocabulary List:

1. shǔrat
7.馬 / 马horse
10.雞 / 鸡chicken
12.豬 / 猪zhūpig

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China Loves Chili Peppers

China Loves Chili Peppers

If you have traveled
to the Middle Kingdom or shared a meal with a Chinese family, you’ll know just how important chili peppers are in Chinese cuisine. Whether serving as a dish’s key ingredient or used as a seasoning for a bowl of white rice, spicy flavors are a fixture of the average Chinese palate. In fact, Mandarin even has many different words to describe different spicy flavors and the various sensations that they bring about. Check out our Chinese vocabulary list at the bottom of this page.

Images from Beautiful Guangxi

With all the hype surrounding chili peppers, one would think that these unassuming plants were indigenous to China. In actuality, chili peppers weren’t introduced to Asia until the fifteenth century, when they arrived from the Americas in seed form vis-à-vis trade ports or the silk road. Today, spicy food has become such an important part of local culture that many families grow their own pepper plants and mix up their own spicy sauces at home, to be found on the table at virtually every meal.

Images from Beautiful Guangxi

Two Videos to Change Your View of Chili Peppers

If you want to discover just how important chili peppers are to some Chinese people, be sure to check out this video of China’s “Chili man, ” the Henan-native who claims to eat several kilograms of chili peppers every day!

In the Middle Kingdom, it’s not uncommon to see chili-eating competitions, in which contestants compete to see who can pack the most heat. Watch this short video and let us know if you think you’d have what it takes to be crowned China’s “chili king” (or queen).

Are you ready to add some heat to your Mandarin skills? Check out these spicy-themed vocabulary words!

Vocabulary List:

1.辣椒là jiāohot peppers
2.酸辣suān làspicy and sour
3.麻辣má làspicy and numbing
4.微辣wēi làmildly spicy
5.胡椒hú jiāopepper
6.晒干shài gānto dry in the sun
7.凉快liáng kuàinice and cool
8.植物zhí wùplant
9.农村nóng cūncountryside
10.方法fāng fǎmethod

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YouTube’s Best Channels for Learning Chinese

YouTube’s Best Channels for Learning Chinese

When learning Chinese,
it’s important to mix-up your daily study routine. YouTube is a great way to stay sharp when you’re not studying in China, and we want to help you stay sharp. We’ve selected and organized a list of our top 8 YouTube channels for learning Chinese. You’ll be able to find a healthy ecosystem of Chinese learning resources within this list. From beginner to expert, this list has you covered. Happy studying!

Learn Chinese Now

Learn Chinese Now is a fabulous YouTube channel hosted by Ben Hedges, an ex-pat from England who speaks stellar Mandarin. After studying the language in college, Ben moved to Taiwan where he started his own show about news, art and society in China. These videos were so well received by local netizens that Ben decided to develop his own YouTube channel in order to spread the word about learning Mandarin. From grammar guides to cooking videos, Learn Chinese Now is an excellent source for all things related to Chinese language and culture. Also check out our list of 10 Useful Video from Learn Chinese Now.

CLI team member Dayong was fortunate to meet and interview Ben about his experiences learning Chinese.


For advanced Mandarin speakers or those interested in learning more about Chinese history and current events, check out the official YouTube channel for Ben Hedges’ original show, “A Foreigners View of China and Taiwan.” Unlike videos from Learn Chinese Now, you won’t find grammar or vocabulary lessons when watching “A Foreigners View.” What you will find, however, is a plethora of information regarding Chinese politics and society as told through the insightful lens of experienced foreigner-in-China, Mr. Ben Hedges.

YoYo Chinese

If you are looking to ease into Mandarin by starting with the basics, Yoyo Chinese is the perfect jumping-off point. In each video, teacher Yangyang Cheng delivers concise lessons that emphasize essential aspects of the Mandarin language-learning process, such as pinyin pronunciation, tone-pairs, and everyday phrases. Students who don’t have many opportunities chat in Chinese with native speakers should make sure to follow Yoyo Chinese’s series, “Real Chinese,” for candid interviews with locals as they go about their daily lives. You can also watch CLI’s Top 10 Videos from Yoyo Chinese.

Learn Chinese with Litao

Are you a novice student interested in building a strong and capable foundation in Mandarin? Head over to Learn Chinese with Litao where you can start from scratch under the thorough guidance of instructor Zheng Tao. Begin with the Chinese pronunciation series to get experience with Chinese pinyin, including initials, finals, and tones. Next, move on to the elementary Chinese HSK 1 and elementary Chinese HSK 2 series for practical grammar and vocabulary.

Fiona Tian – MandarinMadeEZ

Fiona Tian is a charming half-British, half-Taiwanese Chinese speaker who has a knack for creating fun, engaging lessons regarding Mandarin and Chinese culture. Her YouTube channel, Mandarin Made EZ, presents a diverse array of easy-to-follow tutorials on vocabulary, study techniques, and cultural customs. Make sure to check out Fiona’s survival Chinese guide and learn everything you need to know before your first trip to China.

Crazy Fresh Chinese

Upgrading your Chinese from 还可以(hái kěyǐ/ so-so) to 厉害 ( lìhài/awesome) has never been easier, thanks to Baijie, an American ex-pat with flawless Mandarin skills who established the YouTube channel Crazy Fresh Chinese. Offering hundreds of original mini-lessons, this channel is perfect for when you need a quick study fix or are reviewing on-the-go. Follow the quirky, fun-loving Baijie to stay up to date on the hottest slang and authentic phrases that you won’t find in your textbook. Dig in to our Top 10 Slang Mandarin Phrase from Crazy Fresh Chinese.


Fiona Tian and her Chinese-speaking team are back with ChinesePodTV, the YouTube channel component of the ground-breaking Mandarin language podcast, ChinesePod. This prominent channel features thousands of self-contained, situational lessons so that viewers can pick and choose the subjects relevant to them. Learn everything from simplified grammar points to survival tips for riding the Chinese subway when you study Mandarin with Fiona and her international crew. Watch CLI’s Top 5 Videos from ChinesePod.

Lost In Translation

Differing slightly from the other channels on our list is Lost in Translation, a fascinating YouTube platform that explores the role of Chinese culture in the western world. Most videos from this channel take a humorous approach in narrating the experiences of Chinese exchange students who attend college abroad. LIT also includes sketches that focus on ABC (American-born-Chinese) individuals as they navigate the (hilariously tricky) intersection of Chinese heritage and western upbringing.

Study Mandarin in China with CLI. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more learning resources and the occasional discount on Immersion Program tuition.

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Chinese Traditional Shadow Plays

Chinese Traditional Shadow Plays

Have you heard of Chinese shadow plays,
an art considered by many to be the world’s first ever form of puppetry? Traditionally constructed out of natural materials like animal skins and mineral pigments, these marionette-like figurines are painted in order to symbolize archetypal characters from Chinese legends. Placed against translucent cloth screens, puppets are then manipulated by skilled masters to create the illusion of movement which is usually accompanied by song and dance. Through their performances, shadow plays work to pass on historical stories, social morals and cultural myths from generation to generation.

The roots of shadow puppetry in China can be traced back to the early Han Dynasty, where the practice served as a form of entertainment reserved only for nobility. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, shadow puppetry began spreading to the working class where it was embraced as a people’s folk art. In the dynasties that followed, shadow puppetry became a celebratory custom for farming and laboring families, with thousands of specialized troupes traveling and performing across the nation.

During the communist revolution in the mid-twentieth century, shadow puppetry was temporarily banned in provinces where officials viewed it as a negative reminder of feudal tradition. Despite suffering a decline in popularity into the present, shadow puppetry nonetheless remains a significant and fascinating symbol of Chinese cultural history.

Study the following vocabulary words and show off your knowledge of traditional shadow plays to the next Chinese speaker you come across!

Vocabulary List:

1.皮影戏pí yǐng xìshadow play
2.传说chuán shuōlegend
4.木偶mù ǒupuppet
5.影子yǐng zishadow
6.画师huà shīartist
7.脚本jiǎo běnscript
8.歌曲gē qūsongs
9.音乐yīn yuèmusic
10.文化wén huàculture
11.服装fú zhuāngcostume
12.表演biǎo yǎnperformance

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Why study abroad in Guilin?

Why study abroad in Guilin?

As if spending a semester abroad
in China wasn’t reason enough, we felt compelled to list 12 reasons (out of countless) why you should study abroad in Guilin. We’ve also included some photos from our Instagram account and we suggest you watch a video called Guilin is Beautiful (between 10 and 11) before returning here to apply to study abroad. 😉

View from a Guilin Mountaintop, Image by @muradosmann

Guilin offers a unique combination of urban and rural lifestyle
Since the economic reform of the 1980’s, towns and cities across China have experienced rapid urbanization, leading to the erasure of traditional farming communities in many areas. As a small city situated within a protected environmental zone, Guilin has been fortunate to maintain it’s countryside charm, untouched scenery and laidback pace of life. At the same time, the city’s status an international tourist destination means that Guilin is home to a
cosmopolitan city center packed with hip cafes, international restaurants, and other modern comforts. This unique combination of urban and rural communities means that on any given day it’s possible to travel from the city’s bustling downtown district to serene natural landscapes within fifteen minutes.

Guilin is an ideal language-learning environment
As is the case in many rural areas of China, Guilin’s education system has improved tremendously over the past several decades, leading to a dramatic rise in English proficiency among younger generations. Nonetheless, the fact remains that most people in Guilin only speak their native tongue. For foreign students, this means that the opportunities to practice Chinese in real-life situations are boundless. Furthermore, while Guilin is home to its own local speech called 桂林话(guìlín huà),the differences between this dialect and standard Mandarin, or 普通话(pǔtōng huà), are minimal compared to dialects spoken in other areas.

On the Li River, Image by @muradosmann

Guilin is home to a remarkably diverse community
The fourth largest city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin is a heartland for exploring ethnic minority, or 少数民族 (shǎoshù mínzú), culture in China. While most of the population belongs to the Han majority, 90% of the Zhuang Minority, 70% of the Yao Minority, plus large groups of Dong and Miao, also reside in Guangxi. The unique customs of these groups have been preserved into the present and are accessible to travelers interested in exploring the Middle Kingdom’s multifarious traditions.

Guilin’s location is ideal for international travel
Guilin is perfectly situated in sunny south-central China, making for swift and affordable international travel options. Budget flights to Bangkok, Thailand or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as over-night trains to Hanoi, Vietnam are available directly from Guilin city. Additionally, travelers can hop aboard the fast train to Shenzhen, walk across the border to Hongkong, and find themselves in one of the most unique cultural melting pots on the planet for only 30 USD. While in Hongkong, Shenzhen or the neighboring megacity of Guangzhou, it’s easy to catch a flight to anywhere in the world.

Guilin is a very affordable city
The cost of living in Guilin is quite low compared to that of many western countries and larger cities within China. At the time of publishing this article, 1 US Dollar is equal to 6.64 Chinese Yuan. Take a taxi-ride across town for 2 to 3 USD, fill up on a hearty bowl of specialty rice noodles for less than a buck, or treat yourself to a professional massage for only 50 RMB. Such affordable prices at establishments across the board in Guilin will ensure that you’re able to save money and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle during your adventure abroad.

Sun and Moon Pagodas, Image by Peter Stewart

Guilin’s cuisine is fresh & local
As mentioned in reason #1 on our list, Guilin’s close proximity to so many farming communities has major advantages for urban residents, one of which is access to delicious, fresh food. Every morning starting around dawn, merchants from the surrounding countryside travel into the city to peddle produce, herbs and poultry at local wet markets. These ingredients are then purchased by chefs and served up in restaurant kitchens that very same day, creating a sustainable farm-to-table system. Traditional villages located around Guilin are also home to a multitude of organic farms open for guests to pick their own fruits and vegetables.

Guilin Rice Noodles, Image by @studycli

The endless list of beautiful scenic spots
One of China’s most coveted tourist destinations since the 1960’s, Guilin has an array of sprawling urban parks, impressive landmarks and scenic spots tucked around every bend. Spend your afternoon relaxing amidst the Osmanthus trees and wild (but friendly) monkeys of Seven Star Park, hike Tunnel Hill Mountain for an impeccable sunset view, and much, much more.

Take incredible weekend trips
Only have a few days between Chinese classes to go exploring? Luckily, Guilin is located within a mecca of fantastic getaway spots. Take an express bus to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces for a weekend of hiking between ancient villages and brilliant terraced mountains, or float down the Li River and arrive in the trendy back-packer haven of Yangshuo. Alternatively, a few hours on the fast train will deliver you directly to Hongkong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou or any one of the modern metropolitan cities located near Guilin. No matter what you decide to do this weekend, be inspired knowing that there are endless options for where to go next.

“I often sent pictures of the hills of Guilin which I painted to friends back home, but few believed what they saw.”

– Fan Chengda (Chinese Song Dynasty scholar)

Guilin is an excellent place to develop your career
In recent years, many international companies have opened branches in Guilin, now revered as one of Asia’s most renowned tourist destinations. While the city continues to develop in harmony with the rest of the nation’s rapid globalization, more and more business opportunities are becoming available here, particularly for those individuals with both English and Mandarin proficiency.

Guilin’s scenery is the best under heaven 桂林山水甲天下
Perhaps the most essential reason why our co-founders chose Guilin as CLI’s home-base is the area’s distinctive natural environment. The result of centuries submerged underwater when skeletons of marine animals that gradually formed jagged limestone rocks, striking karst peaks can now be found sprouting up throughout the entire city. Between mountain skylines and tropical rivers, Guilin’s scenery is truly dream-like. See more of Guilin’s environment in this video made by CLI.

十一 Guilin is home to a diverse international community
Guilin’s dazzling nature and relaxed pace of life attract foreign ex-pats, friendly exchange students and interesting families from around the world who come searching for a new home in the land of passion fruits and fragrant Osmanthus trees. Become part of a dynamic international community and meet interesting, like-minded individuals from around the world when you study abroad here.

十二 Guilin lends itself to a healthy lifestyle
Guilin is a haven for athletes, outdoorsy folks, and anyone else interested in cultivating a healthy lifestyle. Students can take advantage of shared public bicycles or the walkable distance between most neighborhoods in the city. Rock climbing is another celebrated pastime on the Li River, all thanks to the abundance of limestone karst peaks and bouldering spots that stretch throughout the region.

Now that you’ve read through our top reasons to study abroad in Guilin, visit our website to start your journey. See you in Guilin!


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