About the author

Me and the library (2016, own photo)

Adrian van Amstel (1953) holds a Master’s degree in Physics from the University of Amsterdam and worked for more than twelve years in the Netherlands as a database analyst and programmer. From 1991 until 2018 he lived in China. The first years he spent learning the language. His resources for studying would allow him about 3 years to try to get a basic understanding of the language. However, during the third year, he encountered a serious problem.

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 the language. While studying Chinese in the early 1990s, I found that the usual arrangement of characters in standard dictionaries does not help a foreign student of the language remember and spot differences between characters that look similar. In fact, during my third year, I began to doubt whether my plan: to be able to attain a level of the language at which I would be able to communicate at a basic level with Chinese people within three years, was realistic. It was clear that I had to find another way to study characters. However, no matter how many libraries and bookshops I visited, all dictionaries I took up and browsed had the same radical-based method for looking up characters. Finally, 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 in its basic version. With this handwritten first version of the Chinese Character Dictionary – in fact a notebook – I went to Taiwan in 1994. I found that the notebook dictionary worked quite well, but that numerous things about it needed to be improved. During my two-month stay in the country, I travelled from North to South and from East to West and crossed the mountain range in the centre of the island of Taiwan several times. I also 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), to be able to support myself and at the same time be able to live in China and have time to upgrade the character dictionary and begin work on the book about the Dutch East India Company and Taiwan. From 2003 until 2018 I lived and worked as an English teacher at different universities in Guangzhou, in the south of China. In 2018 I received news from the administration of the Guangdong University of Finance and Economy, where I had been working since 2010, that they could not renew my contract, as I had reached the age limit (65). Since then I have been travelling through different countries in SE Asia, living on a pension from Dutch pension funds, while continuing to improve the dictionary and regularly uploading updates”.

Overview of publications:

2011: Publication of the book about Taiwan and the DEIC in Dutch under the title “Barbaren, Rebellen and Mandarijnen” (Barbarians, rebels and mandarins).

2016: Publication of the Chinese Character Dictionary (CCD) as paperback.

2017: Publication of the Simplified CCD as paperback.

2018: Publication of the e-book edition of the CCD.

2019: Publication of the e-book edition of the Simplified CCD.

2022: Republication of “Barbaren” under the title “Handel of Oorlog?: de VOC in conflict met China, leidend tot de geboorte van het moderne Taiwan”.

2022: Publication of the English translation of “Handel of Oorlog” under the title: “Trade or War?”: the Dutch East India Company in conflict with China, leading to the birth of modern Taiwan. This is a paperback edition.

2023: Publication of “Trade or War?” as e-book.

All publications mentioned above are self-published, and produced by Kindle Direct Publishing.