The Chinese Wikipedia was established along with 12 other Wikipedias in May 2001. At the beginning, however, the Chinese Wikipedia did not support Chinese characters, and had no encyclopedic content.
In October 2002, the first Chinese-language page was written, the Main Page. A software update on 27 October 2002 allowed Chinese language input. The domain was set to be zh.wikipedia.org, with zh based on the ISO code for the Chinese language. On 17 November 2002, the user Mountain translated the Computer science article into zh:计算机科学, thus creating its first real encyclopedic article.
In order to accommodate the orthographic differences between simplified Chinese characters and traditional Chinese characters (or Orthodox Chinese), from 2002 to 2003, the Chinese Wikipedia community gradually decided to combine the two originally separate versions of the Chinese Wikipedia. The first running automatic conversion between the two orthographic representations started on 23 December 2004, with the MediaWiki 1.4 release. The needs from Hong Kong and Singapore were taken into account in the MediaWiki 1.4.2 release, which made the conversion table for zh-sg default to zh-cn, and zh-hk default to zh-tw.
In its early days, most articles on the Chinese Wikipedia were translated from the English version. The first five sysops, or administrators, were promoted on 14 June 2003.