Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese listening practice with 锵锵三人行

Editor’s note: This show remains one of the best I know for fairly advanced listening practice, but it was discontinued in late 2017. It’s still fairly easy to find episodes on YouTube or other video sharing services, but official links no longer work. 竇文濤 has a new show, though, called 圆桌拍, which is also easy to find.

Understanding Chinese media and finding suitable programs for learning can be frustrating, even for advanced learners. Not only do you have to navigate websites with massive amounts of text, you also need to find your way through different channels, programs and hosts.

I wanted to find a program which allowed me to listen to tons of Chinese, preferably about interesting topics and in an easily accessible format. I found 锵锵三人行, which provides me with everything I want and more.

What’s 锵锵三人行?

锵锵三人行 is a talk show hosted by 竇文濤 and, as the name implies, he and two guests talk about different current events. The topics vary hugely between programs, depending on the guests and what’s going on in the world, both inside and outside China.

The program has none of the annoying sound effects and maintains a fairly serious atmosphere even though laughter is also common. It’s an excellent program both to learn Chinese and understand China. It’s also available free online, with transcripts (link to the official website).

To get the transcript, visit the full version of the site (not mobile) and open any episode (you have to click and open the episode in the list, not just play it). The transcripts are at the bottom.

The show is broadcast five times a week and has been running for a very long time.

Here’s a list of reasons why you should watch more 锵锵三人行:

  • The discussions are interesting – This is important. I have watched many programs in Chinese, but they have mostly failed to catch my attention. 锵锵三人行 is different. The guests aren’t always interesting, but the host (竇文濤) is a master at creating interesting discussions even from seemingly boring topics. He also has a strong personality himself and is far from being just a passive mediator.
  • Only talk, no nonsense – I don’t want another program with lots of video, music, pictures or people doing things on stage, I just want something interesting to listen to in Chinese. 锵锵三人行 provides this. The program features only spoken language and is therefore perfect to rip and listen to on your phone. There is also an app where you can listen to audio-only versions of the program. Pictures and video are sometimes used, but very rarely and almost never crucial for understanding.
  • An unlimited number of episodes – 锵锵三人行 has been going daily for over fifteen years and there’s still a daily episode, Monday to Friday. This means that, for all practical purposes, you will never run out of listening material. Of course, it will be harder to find old episodes, but the most recent ones plus five new ones every week should keep even the most maniacal learner satisfied.
  • Lots of different guests – One reason I like this show is that the guests come from all over China and beyond. This means that you get to hear native speakers from different provinces, of different ages and with different socio-economic background. This is essential if you want to really improve your listening ability! Read more about why here. Occasionally, there are also foreigners on the show.
  • Lots of different topics – Because of the diversity of guests, there’s also a diversity of topics and/or different ways of looking at these topics. The host and his guests are usually interesting enough to be able to talk about anything and still make it interesting. The topics cover almost everything imaginable, but are usually at least indirectly related to current events.
  • All episodes have official transcripts – This is a paradise for language learners. Obviously, you can’t dive into a program like 锵锵三人行 as a beginner and hope to gain much, but the threshold is still lowered by the fact that you can read what people say either before, during or after the show. You find the transcripts by clicking the list of episodes on the right.
  • sanren-2Teaches you what you need to know about modern China – Many of the guests are famous people that you should probably know a little bit about. They seldom focus directly on the guests, but rather discuss that episode’s topic in a relaxed manner. Still, watching/listening to 锵锵三人行 will give you a good grasp of what’s going on in China.
  • The episodes are just about the right length (20 minutes) – This is short enough to be able to watch an episode without actively scheduling it, such as when you eat breakfast, do the laundry or whatever. However, it’s not short enough to make it feel superficial. Just right, in other words.
  • The host is awesome – This deserves a separate bullet point. I think 竇文濤 does an excellent job. Not only does he moderate the discussion and keep it (more or less) on track, he also adds a lot himself. He’s not the kind of host who is afraid to express his own opinions or gainsay his guests. Also, his pronunciation is excellent and his voice is very pleasant to listen to. A good role model in more ways than one!

Give it a try!

Obviously, you need decent listening ability before you approach 锵锵三人行. It’s much harder than listening to your teacher or textbook recordings, this is real Chinese, made by native speakers for native speakers. However, if you’ve reached a level where you want to listen to a lot of interesting Chinese, look no more, because 锵锵三人行 has everything you want!

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  1. Gareth says:

    The shows also seem to be available on YouTube, unfortunately without subtitles.

  2. Mike says:

    Hi – This is very interested but I cannot find the transcripts. Can you tell me how to get at them please?


    1. Olle Linge says:


      Added this to the article: To get the transcript, visit the full version of the site (not mobile) and open any episode. The transcripts are at the bottom.



      1. milu says:

        Why can’t I find the transcripts anywhere? 🙁 There are only the comments at the bottom. I’ve watched this show for a long time on youtube and always wished for subtitles.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          Have you tried following the steps I mentioned? They’re there, I just checked. Open the episode (not just play it, click the episode title in the list), scroll down.

          1. Mike says:

            Thanks for your help but I do not see the transcripts. I agree with milu. There is something odd here. What browser are you using?

            1. Olle Linge says:

              So, for instance, if you go here and scroll down, you see no transcripts? Works in Chrome, Firefox and Safari. I doubt it’s a browser issue. Are you 100% sure that you are actually opening one of the episodes as instructed, not just playing an episode on the front page?

              1. Mike says:

                Well very interesting! When I click on the link you have in your reply, I get the videos with transcripts!! Thank you very much.
                However, I was visiting what I thought was in the official site http://v.ifeng.com/news/society/201512/016a3eab-f753-47a7-9c6b-8e423915842a.shtml
                where no amount of clicking seemed to find the transcripts. I believe that I originally got this link (or similar) from clicking on the link to the official site in the main body of your text.
                Now however, if I click that link again today I get a different result and get the transcripts…. Something has changed. It seems that others have had a similar problem. Thanks again

              2. Mike says:

                Horrors! Something has again gone wrong. Now when I click on the link in your reply, I get the latest episode and its transcript, but the list of episodes on the right has now disappeared. This is crazy

                1. Olle Linge says:

                  Well, yes, I linked to one specific episode. I haven’t changed the link in the article since publication, so you must have gotten it from somewhere else. If you use the link in the article you should be able to select episode (again, by clicking in the list on the right, which will open a page similar to the one I linked to).

                  1. Mike says:

                    Yes, you must be right. I must have got the link from somewhere else then – I am pretty sure it said it was the official site. I have in fact just discovered another page which actually just lists the episodes with titles and dates – very useful:
                    Thanks for your prompt help – all is well now!

  3. Harrison says:

    Hi there! It looks like the list on the right of the link is much more limited than actual number of episodes. If I click on any link below (with the date stamp), I end up only with comments and no transcript (e.g. http://v.ifeng.com/news/society/201602/0118ea60-248f-4d43-acbd-2528b8653bb1.shtml). Is there any way to get to the transcripts for all episodes?

    1. Pinar Altay says:

      Yeah, i also have the same problem. Can you help us Olle Linge?

  4. Jon says:

    Great article, and great site in general. Thank you for all your hard work!
    I’m curious about how to get audio downloads of the episodes; could you help with that at all?
    Thanks in advance,

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I don’t think you can download them officially, but there are many tools to download video and/or audio from streamed media. Search and you shall find.

  5. Kai says:

    It seems like the official web page as well the program has recently been taken off-line, although I can’t find an official statement about this. All I found was some speculation (e.g. here https://tieba.baidu.com/p/5201301400) that it has to do with censorship.

    I wonder if there is an official statement about the end of the program somewhere?

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