SACU
Chinese Language

Romanisation of the Chinese Language

Zhong wen

There are two main systems in use for romanising Chinese - the process of writing down spoken chinese in an alphabetic form.

Some Western sinologists still prefer the older Wade-Giles system, whereas the pinyin system is used in China itself. You are likely to come across both systems in your reading, although pinyin is displacing Wade-Giles. The aim of this page is to help you convert from one system to another easily and to give guidance on the pronunciation. You should also be aware that a few place names (such as Peking and Canton) do not conform to either system!

See Also :

Learning Chinese

Firstly, let's compare the spelling of the Wade Giles and pinyin systems.

Initials Finals
PinyinWade-Giles PinyinWade-Giles
bp -e-eh
cts' or tz' -i-i or -u
chch' -ian-ien
dt -ong-un
gk -ou-u
jch -ue -ueh
kk' -ui-uei
pp' -uo-o
qch'
sss or sz
tt'
xhs
zts or tz
zhch
Examples
ZhouChou QinCh'in
Mao ZedongMao Tse-tung Deng XiaopingTeng Hsiao-ping

[Note that the first part of a Chinese personal name is usually the surname: hence Jiang Zemin is Mr Jiang, not Mr Zemin. The pinyin system does not employ hyphen between syllables.]

It is particularly useful to know the different romanisation for the names of people and places. Those I've listed below are all helpful for the national curriculum history units on China. A =B means B is the pinyin form of A e.g. T'ang =Tang Brackets [ ] indicate the approximate English phonetic pronunciation.

A H Loyang =Luoyang
Anhwei =Anhui Han {shorter 'a'} Luoyang [lore-yang]
Anhui [an-hway] Hangchow =Hangzhou M
B Hangzhou [hang-joe] Mao Tse-tung =Mao Zedong
Beijing [bay-jing] Hebei [her-bay] N
C Henan [her-nan] Nanking =Nanjing
Canton =Guangzhou Honan =Henan P
Chang Heng =Zhang Heng Hopei =Hebei Peking =Beijing
Chang Jiang [chang-jee-ang] (Yangzi River) Hsia =Xia Q
Chekiang =Zhejiang Hsienyang =Xianyang qi [chee]
ch'i =qi Hsiungnu =Xiongnu Qin [chin]
Ch'in =Qin Hubei [hoo-bay] Qing [ching]
Chin =Jin Hunan [hoo-nan] S
Ch'ing =Qing Huang He [hwahng-her] Shaanxi [shan-see]
Chongqing [chong-ching] J Shansi =Shanxi
Chou Enlai =Zhou Enlai Jiang Jieshi [jee-ahng-jyeh-sher] Shantung =Shandong
Chu Teh =Zhu De Jiangsu [jee-ahng-soo] Shensi =Shaanxi
Chuang Tzu =Zhuang Zi Jiangxi [jee-ahng-see] Sian =Xi'an
Chungking =Chongqing K Sinkiang =Xinjiang
D Kaifeng [kie-fung] Sui [Sway]
Dao [dow] K'aifeng =Kaifeng Sung =Song
Deng Xiaoping [dung-syow-ping] Kansu =Gansu Szechuan =Sichuan
Du Fu [doo-foo] Kiangsi =Jiangxi T
Dunhuang [dwun-hwahng] Kin =Jin Tang [tahng]
F Kuomintang (Guomindang) (KMT) T'ang =Tang
Fujian [foo-dyenj Kwangsi =Guangxi Taiping [tie-ping]
G Kwangtung =Guangdong Tao =Dao
Gansu [gan-soo] Kweichow =Guizhou Tianjin [tyen-gin]
Guangdong [gwahng-dong] L Tientsin =Tianjin
Guangxi [gwahng-see] Lao Tzu =Lao Zi Tu Fu =Du Fu
Guangzhou [gwahng-joe] Lao zi [lao-zer] Tunhuang =Dunhuang
Guomindang [gwo-min-dung] Li Bai [lee-bye] X
Guizhou [gway-joe] Li Po =Li Bai Xi'an [see-an]
Xinjiang [sin-jee-ang]
Y
Yangtse Kiang =Chang Jiang, Yangzi Jiang
Yenan =Yan'an
Z
Zhang Heng [jang hung]
Zhejiang [jer-jee-ang]
Zhu De [joo-der]

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2001 , reprinted from SACU's magazine China Now 146, Page 20, 1993

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