Where is the Cheapest Place to Study Chinese in China?

The cheapest places to study Chinese in China are Harbin, Chengdu, and Kunming, offering low-cost tuition and affordable living expenses.

Where is the Cheapest Place to Study Chinese in China

Cheapest Cities to Study Chinese

When you’re looking to study Chinese in China on a budget, the city you choose can make a significant impact on your overall expenses. Below are some cities where you can study Chinese affordably, considering factors like tuition, cost of living, and opportunities for language immersion.

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  • Cost of Tuition: Tuition fees in Harbin are often lower than in cities like Beijing or Shanghai. Schools like Harbin Institute of Technology offer affordable language programs.
  • Cost of Living: Life in Harbin is generally cheaper, especially when it comes to food, transportation, and entertainment.
  • Language Immersion: The Mandarin spoken in Harbin is known for having fewer accents, making it easier for students to understand and practice.


  • Cost of Tuition: Chengdu offers reasonable tuition rates at institutions like Sichuan University.
  • Cost of Living: Chengdu is notable for its affordable lifestyle, including cheaper dining options and efficient, budget-friendly public transportation.
  • Language Immersion: The city provides a rich cultural backdrop for language learning, and the friendly locals can offer additional practice opportunities.


  • Cost of Tuition: Schools such as Yunnan University in Kunming have relatively low tuition fees for Chinese language courses.
  • Cost of Living: Kunming is less commercialized than other Chinese cities, and it offers various local markets where fresh produce is often cheaper.
  • Language Immersion: While the city is multicultural and home to many local dialects, Mandarin is widely spoken, and residents are usually eager to help you practice.


Affordable Language Schools and Universities

Here is a list of affordable language schools and universities in China where you can study Chinese:

University / School Location Key Features
Beijing Language and Culture University Beijing Specializes in language courses, central location
Fudan University Shanghai Comprehensive courses, good reputation
Tianjin Foreign Studies University Tianjin Offers multiple language programs, cultural activities
Harbin Institute of Technology Harbin Known for its low tuition fees, strong in engineering
Sichuan University Chengdu Wide range of language courses, cultural immersion
Yunnan University Kunming Affordable tuition, diverse student body
Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai Offers a variety of language programs, highly reputable
Wuhan University Wuhan Cost-effective tuition fees, scenic campus
Zhejiang University Hangzhou Offers both short-term and long-term language courses
Xiamen University Xiamen Coastal location, wide variety of courses
Nanjing University Nanjing Historic university with strong language programs
Sun Yat-sen University Guangzhou Comprehensive Chinese language programs, modern facilities
Qingdao University Qingdao Offers cost-effective language courses, near the sea

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Studying abroad can be expensive, but luckily there are various scholarships and financial aid options that can help offset the cost. Here’s a detailed look at some scholarship programs that can aid you in your journey to study Chinese in China.

Chinese Government Scholarships

  • Coverage: These scholarships generally cover tuition fees, accommodation, and provide a monthly stipend ranging from 1,400 to 4,000 RMB depending on the program and level of study.
  • Eligibility: You usually need to be a non-Chinese citizen in good health and meet specific age and academic requirements. Requirements vary depending on the scholarship type.
  • How to Apply: You can apply through the China Scholarship Council website, usually from January to April. Make sure to gather all required documents and follow the instructions carefully.

Chinese Government Scholarships

Confucius Institute Scholarships

  • Coverage: This scholarship typically covers tuition and may include accommodation and a monthly stipend. The stipend can range from 1,500 to 2,500 RMB.
  • Eligibility: You need to have a basic proficiency in Chinese and a recommendation from a Confucius Institute.
  • How to Apply: Applications are usually through the Confucius Institute where you studied or are enrolled. Deadlines and application procedures can vary, so it’s best to consult your local institute.

Other Local Scholarships

  • Coverage: These are often more modest, offering partial tuition coverage or one-time awards ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 RMB.
  • Eligibility: Criteria can vary greatly, from academic performance to specific talents or skills. Some may require you to have already been admitted to a Chinese university.
  • How to Apply: Once admitted to a school, consult the international office for information on local scholarships. These are often advertised on the university website or via internal channels.

Language Exchange Programs

Language exchange programs can be a fantastic way to supplement your formal studies and get some real-world practice. Below are some of the most popular platforms where you can find language exchange partners to help you improve your Chinese skills.


  • Features: This mobile app allows you to chat with native speakers of your target language. You can text, voice message, or even video call your language exchange partners.
  • Benefits: The app includes translation and correction features, making it easy to communicate even if you’re a beginner.
  • How to Use: After downloading HelloTalk, you can set up a profile indicating the language you’re learning and your proficiency level. You’ll be matched with users who are learning your native language and are native speakers of the language you’re studying.


  • Features: Similar to HelloTalk, Tandem allows for text, voice, and video communication. However, it also offers a tutor feature where you can pay for lessons from certified tutors.
  • Benefits: The tutor feature sets Tandem apart, offering a more structured learning option alongside casual exchange.
  • How to Use: Download the app, create your profile, and start connecting with language learners around the world. You can filter potential partners by their learning language, native language, or location.

WeChat Language Exchange Groups

  • Features: WeChat is a widely used social media app in China. While not a dedicated language exchange platform, various language exchange groups exist within the app.
  • Benefits: WeChat allows for more organic, real-world language practice because you can find a wide range of individuals, not just those interested in language exchange.
  • How to Use: After setting up a WeChat account, you can search for language exchange groups or ask for recommendations from friends or online forums. Once in a group, you can start individual chats with members interested in a language exchange.

WeChat Language Exchange Groups

Food and Transportation on a Budget

Living abroad to study Chinese can quickly become expensive, but there are ways to manage your living expenses while in China. Here’s a guide to eating and moving around on a budget.

Eating Local

  • Cost: Street food and local eateries can be incredibly cheap, ranging from 10 to 30 RMB per meal.
  • Options: Look for local spots like baozi stalls, noodle shops, and small family-run restaurants.
  • Benefits: Not only are these options budget-friendly, but they offer a more authentic Chinese dining experience.

Public Transportation vs Biking

  • Public Transportation Cost: A one-way metro ticket can range from 2 to 7 RMB depending on the city and distance traveled. Bus fares are usually cheaper, around 1 to 3 RMB.
  • Biking Cost: Bike-sharing programs like Mobike are available in many Chinese cities. These cost around 1 to 2 RMB for a 30-minute ride.
  • What to Choose: Public transportation is convenient but can add up if you use it frequently. Biking is a great alternative for short distances and provides more flexibility.

Free and Low-Cost Learning Resources

Studying Chinese doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are plenty of resources available to help you learn without breaking the bank.

Online Courses
  • Cost: Many online courses are available for free or at a low cost of around $10 to $50.
  • Options: Websites like Coursera or edX offer Chinese language courses from beginner to advanced levels.
  • Benefits: You can learn at your own pace and fit your studies around your schedule.
Mobile Apps
  • Cost: Most language learning apps offer free versions with in-app purchases ranging from $5 to $30 for premium features.
  • Options: Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and HelloTalk are among the most popular.
  • Benefits: These apps are great for learning on the go and offer a range of interactive activities.
Language Meetups
  • Cost: Usually free, though some may charge a small fee of around 20 to 50 RMB for organized events.
  • Options: Look for local language exchange meetups in your area or at universities.
  • Benefits: Meetups offer real-world practice and the opportunity to make friends with native speakers.

How much does it generally cost to study Chinese in Harbin?

Tuition fees in Harbin can be as low as 7,000 RMB per semester, and living expenses can range from 1,500 to 3,000 RMB per month.

What are the benefits of studying in Chengdu?

Chengdu offers a rich cultural experience along with affordable tuition fees around 8,000 RMB per semester and cheaper local cuisine.

Is biking an efficient way to get around Kunming?

Yes, biking is highly efficient in Kunming. Bike-sharing programs usually charge 1 to 2 RMB for a 30-minute ride.

What is the average age of students in these language programs?

The average age varies, but most students are between 18 and 35 years old.

How valuable are the Chinese Government Scholarships?

They can cover tuition, accommodation, and provide a monthly stipend ranging from 1,400 to 4,000 RMB, making them highly valuable for students.

What is the duration of most language courses?

Most language courses last one semester (about 4 months), but you can also find short-term courses of 1 to 3 months.

What are the pros and cons of using language learning apps?

Pros: Flexibility, interactive activities, and usually free basic versions. Cons: Limited depth in language instruction.

How fast can I become fluent in Chinese by using free and low-cost resources?

Fluency varies by individual effort, but using free and low-cost resources you could reach conversational level in 6 to 12 months.

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