When it comes to searching in English, there’s no doubt that Google is king and Baidu sucks. But if you’re looking for something in Chinese, especially when it’s related to the Chinese language and China living tips, Baidu has got you covered.
By default, Baidu is set up to allow you to search web pages (wǎngyè 网页). For example, if you don’t know the meaning for the slang “何弃疗“, you can type in “何弃疗是什么意思” (what does 何弃疗 mean?):
Once you enter the web page search, Baidu will give you the explanation automatically, explained in simple, colloquial Chinese.
But there are little tabs above the search bar will allow you to search for other things, too. Just to the left of Web pages is News (xīnwén 新闻), and on the right are Discussion Board (tiēbā 贴吧), Baidu Knows (zhīdào 知道)，Music (yīnyuè 音乐), Images (túpiàn 图片), Videos (shìpín 视频), Maps (dìtú 地图), Docs (wénkù 文库) respectively.
Most of these are self-explanatory. News, obviously, allows you to search only news articles, Images allows you to search for pictures, and so on. But there are a few things Baidu can do that are worth pointing out.
Baidu Knows (百度知道), for example, is Baidu’s answer to Yahoo! Answers. It’s an open forum where any user can pose a question, then others will answer it, and it’s a fantastic resource for Chinese learners. Especially at higher levels, you may come across words, names, or phrases that you’re not familiar with. Try copying and pasting them into Baidu, and seaching Baidu Knows to see if anyone else has asked about them. Especially with quotations from classical Chinese texts, searching for “X是什么意思?” (X shì shénme yìsi, What does X mean?) can save hours of frustrating research and lead you to a quick and simple explanation that’s written in modern language. And if that doesn’t work, try searching the Discussion Boards (贴吧) to see how people are using the word or phrase in context.
If you’re a multimedia person, Baidu’s Music (音乐) and Videos (视频) searches may be more useful to you. The MP3 search is light on foreign music, but most Chinese artists are there. The video search will give you access to millions of videos, from Chinese news clips to tons and tons of foreign TV shows and movies. Often, searching for a film’s English name will be enough for you to find a great streaming video, but if you want to be really thorough, search for the English, use those search results to determine what the film’s Chinese name is, and then search again for that. Often you’ll get more results.
One tool that’s indispensable for students of Chinese culture is Baidu’s Encyclopedia (bǎidù bǎikē 百度百科), baike.baidu.com. Baike is basically a Chinese version of Wikipedia, but if you can read Chinese, it tends to be much more thorough than Wikipedia if the topic of the entry is something related to China.
If you read basic Chinese and want some China living tips, besides the helpful Baidu Knows, Baidu Experience (bǎidù jīngyàn 百度经验), jingyan.baidu.com, also provides excellent solutions. For example, if you search for “how to buy train tickets online” (怎样在网上买火车票) or “how to eat a crab” (怎样吃螃蟹), you will get a detailed guide with every step illustrated with photos or screenshots.
Those are the Baidu basics; now you’re ready to search like a pro in Chinese.
Image courtesy of o9z.net.
*Updated on September 26, 2014 by Ginger Huang (黄原竟)