Dede CMS, the Most Popular CMS in China


Earlier this month, I gave a presentation about the importance of making open source more international.

At one point I claimed that “no country needs open source more than China”.

Well, it turns out that a Chinese guy was in the audience and he was keen to talk.

He explained that most big, western open source projects are unknown in China. It turns out that the most popular open source CMS in China is entirely home-grown. Its name is Dede CMS, which translates as “chasing a dream”.

Out of curiosity, I decided to take Dede CMS for a test drive. What I found has interesting implications for people interested in internationalization, usability, interfaces and of course, China.

About Dede

The first really interesting thing about Dede was that there is literally no information about this CMS in English. Despite being so popular, I couldn’t find anyone else who’d heard of Dede CMS, let alone used it. None of the web stats sites such as BuiltWith or W3Techs track the number of sites using Dede. It’s almost as if China is running a separate internet from us. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first English-language article ever written on Dede.

From the Chinese guy at the conference, I knew that Dede is open source and is developed by a company called DesDev Inc.

From the official website at I learned that Dede runs on PHP and MySQL. I could also see that the latest version is 5.7, which was released in September.

Downloading and Installing Dede

I should note that this point that I know absolutely no Chinese, so please forgive any bad translations.

The Dede website is at

There’s a huge download button on the right-hand side of the site.


I downloaded Dede and got a set of files that look similar to most common CMSs. Everything in the file structure is in English.


The installation process also wasn’t that hard to navigate. It was very similar to a manual WordPress / Joomla / Drupal install. There were about 5 steps. Mostly I clicked the large green button and towards the end I entered my basic site information and the database details.


The process was actually fairly smooth and within 10 minutes I had Dede installed.

It looked like slightly old-fashioned CMS / portal site. It reminded me a little of Mambo.


There wasn’t much content on the initial installation but there was a poll feature in the bottom-right corner. I translated it with Google Translate:



I was able to access the administration area of the site by adding /dede/ to the URL.

Here’s what the admin panel looks like. Oddly, all the admin screens are loaded using iframes.


The main administration links were down the left-hand side of the screen. Here’s the best that Google Translate could do for the links:

  1. 核心 Core
  2. 模块 Module
  3. 生成 Generate
  4. 采集 Collection
  5. 会员 Members
  6. 模板 Template
  7. 系统 System

It seems as if the main features are in #1, the “Core” area. Here are the (badly-translated) links in the “Core” area:

  1. 常用操作 Common Actions
  2. 内容管理 Content Management
  3. 附件管理 Attachment Management
  4. 频道模型 Channel Management
  5. 批量维护 Maintenance
  6. 系统帮助 Help

I clicked on the 普通文章 link under Area #2. That seemed to take me to the content creation screen.

Creating Content

Here’s the content creation area in Dede.


Here are first choices you see when creating content:

  1. 文章标题: Title
  2. 自定义属性: Type of post (Headline, Recommended etc)
  3. TAG标签: Tag
  4. 缩 略 图: Thumbnail
  5. 文章来源: Author or Source
  6. 文章主栏目: Category

There’s then a normal WYSIWYG content creation area:


To be honest, I did get stumped at this point. No matter what I did, the following pop-up kept appearing.

The message was “Please select the file’s main class!” but I couldn’t figure out what that meant and how to work around it.


Other areas of the site

The Dede admin area has many, many screens so I’ll just show you some samples.

They have a media upload area in 附件管理 > 上传新文件.


There’s a media library in 附件管理 > 附件数据管理:



Beyond the admin area, I was also interested in the design of Dede. I went into the /templets/ folder and found that the templates were built entirely of HTML files.


Here’s a sample of the code:


There’s quite a lot of hard-coding in here. Both styles and Chinese characters and written directly into the template.

There is also a separate folder for CSS files.

What did I learn from doing this?

Of course, it was educational to learn what’s popular in other countries

  • The boot was on the other foot. I imagine how many people have been in a similar situation: lacking a good grasp of English and struggling to download and use WordPress/Joomla/Drupal. Now I can directly understand their frustration. I’d certainly recommend this an exercise for people interested in internationalization.
  • Icons matter. The one thing that would have really helped me in using Dede was icons. Even if there were just some very generic icons for key links, it would have helped me navigate the interface. As it is, I couldn’t guess at the purpose of anything and had to resort to translating everything,
  • China needs *better* open source. Dede just isn’t very good. It reminded me of Mambo (the pre-2006 predecessor to Joomla). There is an opportunity for larger open source projects to make inroads in China with better offerings.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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Enes Ertugrul
Enes Ertugrul
10 years ago

China needs Joomla! 🙂

Thanks for sharing this interesting experience.

10 years ago
Reply to  Enes Ertugrul

Yes, judging by Dede, there’s definitely room for some modern platforms.
How an open source and non-Chinese project could actually make that happen is probably a topic for someone who knows much more about China than me.

Dan Knauss
Dan Knauss
10 years ago
Reply to  steve

That is really fascinating. Why do you think they aren’t they using WordPress, Joomla and Drupal? The Chinese firewall doesn’t block any of them.

10 years ago
Reply to  Dan Knauss

Hi Dan. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m far, far from expert on China.
If i had to guess, it may be because China has it’s own version of much of the internet. They have their own social sites, blogging platforms, apps, Twitter-style sites and more.

Restaurants in Mangalore
Restaurants in Mangalore
10 years ago

Very informative and useful. Keep posting.

10 years ago

I guess there is no English translation? 🙂

10 years ago
Reply to  Davor B.

No, I couldn’t find any translations.
Given that there was a lot Chinese text hard-coded into the files, it would also take some effort to re-write Dede to allow translations.

Dan Knauss
Dan Knauss
10 years ago
Reply to  steve

I found a number of references to exploits and Dede users getting hacked. If only out of frustration with stuff like that, I predict that at some point younger Chinese people will start getting involved with the big international open source projects, maybe after forking them and realizing direct cooperation is better. I think it would really indicate a positive cultural shift for all concerned and tackle some issues we have with all our governments’ ideas about freedom.

10 years ago
Reply to  Dan Knauss

Yes, I’ll be blunt and say that Dede is crap. It’s 2005-era software.

10 years ago
Reply to  steve

Related to this topic in general: [url=]…[/url]

10 years ago

Hi,I am Chinese. Happy you have a view about CMS of my country. Yes, DedeCMS is most popular in China. I used it for a short time. It’s very complicate and not flexible. Everything is

special and it can’t use in common way. Even though I can read Chinese, I still can’t get deeply knowledge in DedeCMS.
But if you just use in Dede default conditions. It could be the most easy way to build a big CMS.

Now, I use Drupal. It’s very complicate but I can go father with it than DedeCMS.

Forgive my poor English.

10 years ago
Reply to  JamesYin

Hi elantion. No problem. Thanks for your comment!
It’s great to hear that more people in China are using platforms like Drupal.

Kate Rakitina
Kate Rakitina
9 years ago
Reply to  JamesYin

Hello, James. Can I ask your advice on CMS systems that are used in China? Would be great if you give me your opinion on this topic. Thank you!

taniya sam
taniya sam
4 years ago

Great ! I learned alot…. Bravo! I even created few sites using Jomla. 

3 years ago

China needs Joomla! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this interesting experience.

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