Chinese Community Websites for Advanced Learners

A Deeper Look into Modern Chinese Culture

When your Chinese is good enough for you to dive into Chinese websites, a whole new world will open up to you. You will begin to understand how real Chinese people express themselves about matters that concern their daily lives including western cultures, (western) politics and 老外 (Lǎowài: foreigner). You can finally skip the textbook conversations with your Chinese teachers and other foreign classmates, and embrace how Chinese people use their language online — the lingoes, abbreviations of proper nouns, the curse words, etc. If you’re at that level here are a few online Chinese communities to get you started

For thirsty minds


知乎, is like the Chinese Quora.  

Like Quora, all questions are met with legitimate answers written by people from related fields. Some make jokes with a rather simple but smart answer, and those would sometimes end up trending on Chinese social media. In fact, a lot of foreigners have already become famous on Zhihu. 

They often maintain profound knowledge of Chinese culture and society, can make inside jokes in Chinese,  and are not afraid of proving their true identities by posting selfies. Their answers would get a lot more attention from other users, since Chinese people have a lot of respect for foreigners who can speak Chinese well, as you may have discovered already. The functionality of the website is almost exactly the same as Quora, but since it’s been designed for Chinese people, you might be able to learn a lot about Chinese culture and improve your language skills. 

Here’s one post that gathered many foreign Zhihu users. They are from Korea, Argentina, Malaysia, Poland, UK, US…they not only talked about their own experience with Zhihu, showed their love for the website, but also compared it with Quora:

在知乎上的外国人有哪些?感觉知乎怎么样?(Who are the foreign users on Zhihu? What do you feel about Zhihu?)

For Leisure


豆瓣, one great invention of our own! As the slogan goes, “和有趣的人做有趣的事”(do interesting things with interesting people), Douban gathers people that share the same interests in music, books, films, TV shows, hobbies and many more. You can hide your identity if you choose, and immerse yourself into this incredibly large community. Whether you’re a music lover, a movie nerd, or a book worm, you can write and share reviews, rate the art work, and collect them to put in a list that you create as you please - e.g. “movies to watch when you’re home alone on a Friday night” or “overrated romantic novels”, for others to browse and share. I’ve had a very pleasant experience in meeting with people on Douban and actually becoming good friends in real life, mainly because we share similar tastes … or similar hates! You could use this website even when your Chinese is not good enough to write an essay like they do on Zhihu.

Another great thing about Douban is “同城”(Same City). You can find activities in your city since all museums, bars, cafes, night clubs, music festivals, galleries, book stores have their own accounts and will update whenever there’s an event going on. For instance, if you have a favorite jazz bar in Shanghai, try to find them on Douban, you will find schedules for live performances, photos, events and information about the artists. 

Douban also has many convenient integration features. Douban Radio can play music according to your favorites. Douban Dongxi is like Douban's version of Pinterest. Douban Xiaozu is for anyone who wants to start their own forum. Douban Guangbo is a bit like Twitter…it seems that this website has too much on its plate, but it’s actually very user-friendly and you have all the freedom to use whichever sections you want or don’t want.

果壳, a combination of 知乎 Zhihu and Douban Group.

百度贴吧, is a part of Baidu. Baidu Tieba is a platform for people who share the same interests, especially for fans of celebrities…but it also has dark corners for people with strange fetishes and other unspeakable hobbies, which are hard to find on the web. Rumor has it that you could hire a “cleaner” under a specific section by using certain network argots. Due to the strict censorship of Chinese internet, a Baidu account has to be linked to your cellphone number, which may have a sim card registered under your true identity.

天涯社区, is one of the earliest Chinese online forums. It was built in 1999, and quickly became a national Chinese online community. It has a vast variety of topics and hundreds of millions of users. Compared with Zhihu or Douban, it’s more welcomed by the people who haven't acquired much professional knowledge or are simply more interested in topics like celebrity gossip, mother-in-law issues, dramatic stories of real people’s romantic relationships, ghost stories, etc. There are some famous (or infamous) internet incidents that began on Tianya which quickly spread all over the country and left their marks on history.

An Yi, Emily and Maria's classmate for four years, does social media management in the U.S. for GoEast and writes for their blog. She taught Chinese in American high schools for two years and is now settling down in Texas, looking forward to be a Chinese teacher at local schools again.