Adrian van Amstel (1953) holds a Masters degree in Physics from the University of Amsterdam and worked for more than twelve years in the Netherlands as database analyst and programmer. Since 1991 he has been living in China, and is presently working as an English teacher at the Guangdong University of Finance and Economics in Guangzhou.
This is what he says about the reasons for going to China and why he came up with the idea for this dictionary:
“One of the reasons for going to China was my interest in Chinese culture and language. While studying Chinese in the early 1990s, I found that the usual arrangement of characters in standard dictionaries do not help a foreign student of the language with remembering and spotting differences between characters that look similar. When I found T.K. Ann’s “Cracking the Chinese Puzzle”, I realized that another arrangement would be possible, and began work on an alternative system, which took about three months to complete. With this handwritten first version of the Chinese Character Dictionary – in fact a notebook – I went to Taiwan in 1994. During my stay on the island I became interested in the period of Dutch colonization of the island in the 17th century, and was soon fascinated by the historical accounts and physical remains in the form of the ruins of the fortress Zeelandia. Gradually I began to make plans to write an account of this almost forgotten period in the history of the Dutch East India Company.
In 2000 I decided to take a course in English language teaching to adults (CELTA), in order to be able to support myself and at the same be able to live in China and have time to work on the character dictionary and on the book about the Dutch East India Company and Taiwan. Since 2010 I am working at the Guangdong University of Finance and Economy. Mostly I have worked as English teacher, but sometimes I was asked to teach other subjects, like newspaper reading or culture of western countries, intercultural communication, et cetera. As a teacher in China you have a fair amount of spare time, especially during the winter and summer holidays. That was always the best time for me to work on these two projects, usually in the Netherlands, but also a lot in Hong Kong.
Finally, in 2011 the book about Taiwan was published in Dutch under the title “Barbaren, Rebellen and Mandarijnen” (Barbarians, rebels and mandarins), and in the summer of 2016 the Chinese Character Dictionary and the Simplified Chinese Character Dictionary were published.”