Hanyu Pinyin
汉语拼音; 漢語拼音
Script type romanization
Time period
LanguagesStandard Chinese
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Literal meaningSpelled sounds
Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet
Simplified Chinese汉语拼音方案
Traditional Chinese漢語拼音方案
Literal meaningThe scheme of the spelled sounds of the Han language

Hanyu Pinyin, or simply pinyin, is the most common romanization system for Standard Chinese. In official documents, it is referred to as the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet. It is the official system used in China and Singapore, and by the United Nations. Its use has become common when transliterating Standard Chinese mostly regardless of region, though it is less ubiquitous in Taiwan. It is used to teach Standard Chinese, normally written with Chinese characters, to students already familiar with the Latin alphabet. The system makes use of diacritics to indicate the four tones found in Standard Chinese, though these are often omitted in various contexts, such as when spelling Chinese names in non-Chinese texts, or when writing non-Chinese words in Chinese-language texts. Pinyin is also used by various input methods on computers and to categorize entries in some Chinese dictionaries. The word Hànyǔ (汉语; 漢語) literally means 'Han language'—meaning, the Chinese language—while pīnyīn (拼音) literally means 'spelled sounds'.

Hanyu Pinyin was developed in the 1950s by a group led by Chinese linguists including Wang Li, Lu Zhiwei, Li Jinxi, Luo Changpei and Zhou Youguang, who based their work in part on earlier romanization systems. The system was originally promulgated at the Fifth Session of the First National People's Congress in 1958, and has seen several rounds of revisions since. The International Organization for Standardization propagated Hanyu Pinyin as ISO 7098 in 1982, and the United Nations began using it in 1986. Attempts to make Hanyu Pinyin the standard in Taiwan occurred in 2002 and 2009, and while the system has been official since the latter attempt, Taiwan largely has no standardized spelling system.[citation needed]

The pronunciations and spellings of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the language's segmental phonemic portion, rather than letter by letter. Initials are initial consonants, whereas finals are all possible combinations of medials (semivowels coming before the vowel), a nucleus vowel, and coda (final vowel or consonant).


On the facade of this kindergarten in Zhengzhou, Henan, both simplified characters and Hanyu Pinyin are used.
On this sign for Taichung Port railway station in Taiwan, text appears in traditional Han characters, English, Wade–Giles (Taichung), and Hanyu Pinyin.


Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary in China, wrote the first book that used the Latin alphabet to write Chinese, entitled Xizi Qiji (西字奇蹟; 'Miracle of Western Letters'), published in Beijing in 1605. Twenty years later, fellow Jesuit Nicolas Trigault published 西儒耳目資; Xīrú ěrmù zī; 'Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati') in Hangzhou. Neither book had any influence among the contemporary Chinese literati, and the romanizations they introduced primarily were useful for Westerners.

During the late Qing, the reformer Song Shu (1862–1910) proposed that China adopt a phonetic writing system. A student of the scholars Yu Yue and Zhang Taiyan, Song had observed the effect of the kana syllabaries and Western learning during his visits to Japan.[which?] While Song did not himself propose a transliteration system for Chinese, his discussion ultimately led to a proliferation of proposed schemes. The Wade–Giles system was produced by Thomas Wade in 1859, and further improved by Herbert Giles, presented in the 1892 Chinese–English Dictionary. It was popular and used in English-language publications outside China until 1979. In 1943, the US military tapped Yale University to develop another romanization system for Mandarin Chinese intended for pilots flying over China—much more than previous systems, the result appears very similar to modern Hanyu Pinyin.


Hanyu Pinyin was designed by a group of mostly Chinese linguists, including Wang Li, Lu Zhiwei, Li Jinxi, Luo Changpei, as well as Zhou Youguang who was an economist, as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. Zhou, often called "the father of pinyin", worked as a banker in New York when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the People's Republic was established. Initially, Mao Zedong considered the development of a new writing system for Chinese that only used the Latin alphabet, but during his first official visit to the Soviet Union in 1949, Joseph Stalin convinced him to maintain the existing system. Zhou became an economics professor in Shanghai, and when the Ministry of Education created a "Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language" in 1955, Premier Zhou Enlai assigned him the task of developing a new romanization system[dubious ], despite the fact that he was not a linguist by trade.

Hanyu Pinyin incorporated different aspects from existing systems, including Gwoyeu Romatzyh from 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz from 1931, and the diacritics from bopomofo. "I'm not the father of pinyin", Zhou said years later; "I'm the son of pinyin. It's [the result of] a long tradition from the later years of the Qing dynasty down to today. But we restudied the problem and revisited it and made it more perfect."

An initial draft was authored in January 1956 by Ye Laishi, Lu Zhiwei and Zhou Youguang. A revised Pinyin scheme was proposed by Wang Li, Lu Zhiwei and Li Jinxi, and became the main focus of discussion among the group of Chinese linguists in June 1956, forming the basis of Pinyin standard later after incorporating a wide-range of feedback and further revisions. The first edition of Hanyu Pinyin was approved and officially adopted at the Fifth Session of the 1st National People's Congress on February 11, 1958. It was then introduced to primary schools as a way to teach Standard Chinese pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults.

During the height of the Cold War the use of pinyin system over the Yale romanization outside of China was regarded as a political statement or identification with the communist Chinese regime. Beginning in the early 1980s, Western publications addressing Mainland China began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems; this change followed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979. In 2001, the PRC Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin. The current specification of the orthographic rules is laid down in the National Standard GB/T 16159–2012.


Unlike European languages, clusters of letters —initials (声母; 聲母; shēngmǔ) and finals (韵母; 韻母; yùnmǔ)— and not consonant and vowel letters, form the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Every Mandarin syllable can be spelled with exactly one initial followed by one final, except for the special syllable er or when a trailing -r is considered part of a syllable (a phenomenon known as erhua). The latter case, though a common practice in some sub-dialects, is rarely used in official publications.

Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not always simple vowels, especially in compound finals (复韵母; 複韻母; fùyùnmǔ), i.e. when a "medial" is placed in front of the final. For example, the medials [i] and [u] are pronounced with such tight openings at the beginning of a final that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing) pronounce (, clothes, officially pronounced /í/) as /jí/ and wéi (; , to enclose, officially pronounced /uěi/) as /wěi/ or /wuěi/. Often these medials are treated as separate from the finals rather than as part of them; this convention is followed in the chart of finals below.


The conventional lexicographical order derived from bopomofo is:

b  p  m  f   d  t  n  l   g  k h   j  q  x   zh  ch  sh  r   z  c  s

In each cell below, the pinyin letters assigned to each initial are accompanied by their phonetic realizations in brackets, notated according to the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-palatal Velar
Plosive unaspirated b [p] d [t] g [k]
aspirated p [pʰ] t [tʰ] k [kʰ]
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Affricate unaspirated z [ts] zh [ʈʂ] j [tɕ]
aspirated c [tsʰ] ch [ʈʂʰ] q [tɕʰ]
Fricative f [f] s [s] sh [ʂ] x [ɕ] h [x]
Liquid l [l] r [ɻ]~[ʐ]
Semivowel y [j], [ɥ] and w [w]
Pinyin IPA Description
b [p] Unaspirated p, like in English spark.
p [] Strongly aspirated p, like in English pay.
m [m] Like the m in English may.
f [f] Like the f in English fair.
d [t] Unaspirated t, like in English stop.
t [] Strongly aspirated t, like in English take.
n [n] Like the n in English nay.
l [l] Like the l in English lay.
g [k] Unaspirated k, like in English skill.
k [] Strongly aspirated k, like in English kiss.
h [x], [h] Varies between the h in English hat, and the ch in Scottish English loch.
j [] Alveolo-palatal, unaspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the ch in English churchyard.
q [tɕʰ] Alveolo-palatal, aspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the ch in English punchy.
x [ɕ] Alveolo-palatal, unaspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the sh in English push.
zh [ʈʂ] Retroflex, unaspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the t in English nurture.
ch [ʈʂʰ] Retroflex, aspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the ch in English church.
sh [ʂ] Retroflex, unaspirated. No direct equivalent in English, but similar to the sh in shirt.
r [ɻ~ʐ] Retroflex. No direct equivalent in English, but varies between the r in English reduce and the s in English measure.
z [ts] Unaspirated. Like the zz in English pizza.
c [tsʰ] Aspirated. Like the ts in English cats.
s [s] Like the s in English say.
w [w] Like the w in English water.
y [j], [ɥ] Either like the y in English yes—or when followed by a u, see below.


Front Central Back
i ⟨i⟩ • y ⟨ü⟩
ɨ ⟨i⟩
u ⟨u⟩

ɤ ⟨e⟩ • o ⟨o⟩
ɚ ⟨er⟩

a ⟨a⟩

In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA, the second indicates pinyin for a standalone (no-initial) form, and the third indicates pinyin for a combination with an initial. Other than finals modified by an -r, which are omitted, the following is an exhaustive table of all possible finals.

The only syllable-final consonants in Standard Chinese are -n, -ng, and -r, the last of which is attached as a grammatical suffix. A Chinese syllable ending with any other consonant either is from a non-Mandarin language (a southern Chinese language such as Cantonese, reflecting final consonants in Old Chinese), or indicates the use of a non-pinyin romanization system, such as one that uses final consonants to indicate tones.

-⁠e/-⁠o/-⁠ê -⁠a -⁠ei -⁠ai -⁠ou -⁠ao -⁠en -⁠an -⁠eng -⁠ang er
Medial [ɨ]


Technically, i, u, ü without a following vowel are finals, not medials, and therefore take the tone marks, but they are more concisely displayed as above. In addition, ê [ɛ] (; ) and syllabic nasals m (, ), n (, ), ng (, 𠮾) are used as interjections or in neologisms; for example, the Pinyin scheme defines the names of several Pinyin letters using finals.

According to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, ng can be abbreviated with a shorthand of ŋ. However, this shorthand is rarely used due to difficulty of entering them on computers.

Pinyin IPA Form with zero initial Explanation
-i [ɹ̩~], [ɻ̩~ʐ̩] (N/A) -i is a buzzed continuation of the consonant following z-, c-, s-, zh-, ch-, sh- or r-.

(In all other cases, -i has the sound of bee; this is listed below.)

a [a] a like English father, but a bit more fronted
e [ɤ] e a back, unrounded vowel (similar to English duh, but not as open). Pronounced as a sequence [ɰɤ].
ai [ai̯] ai like English eye, but a bit lighter
ei [ei̯] ei as in hey
ao [au̯] ao approximately as in cow; the a is much more audible than the o
ou [ou̯] ou as in North American English so
an [an] an like British English ban, but more central
en [ən] en as in taken
ang [aŋ] ang as in German Angst.

(Starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in some dialects of American English)

eng [əŋ] eng like e in en above but with ng appended
ong [ʊŋ] (weng) starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing. Varies between [oŋ] and [uŋ] depending on the speaker.
er [aɚ̯] er Similar to the sound in bar in English. Can also be pronounced [ɚ] depending on the speaker.
Finals beginning with i- (y-)
i [i] yi like English bee
ia [ja] ya as i + a; like English yard
ie [je] ye as i + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter
iao [jau̯] yao as i + ao
iu [jou̯] you as i + ou
ian [jɛn] yan as i + an; like English yen. Varies between [jen] and [jan] depending on the speaker.
in [in] yin as i + n
iang [jaŋ] yang as i + ang
ing [iŋ] ying as i + ng
iong [jʊŋ] yong as i + ong. Varies between [joŋ] and [juŋ] depending on the speaker.
Finals beginning with u- (w-)
u [u] wu like English oo
ua [wa] wa as u + a
uo/o [wo] wo as u + o where the o (compare with the o interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter (spelled as o after b, p, m or f)
uai [wai̯] wai as u + ai, as in English why
ui [wei̯] wei as u + ei, as in English way
uan [wan] wan as u + an
un [wən] wen as u + en; as in English won
uang [waŋ] wang as u + ang
(ong) [wəŋ] weng as u + eng
Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)
ü [y] yu as in German über or French lune (pronounced as English ee with rounded lips; spelled as u after j, q or x)
üe [ɥe] yue as ü + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter (spelled as ue after j, q or x)
üan [ɥɛn] yuan as ü + an. Varies between [ɥen] and [ɥan] depending on the speaker (spelled as uan after j, q or x)
ün [yn] yun as ü + n (spelled as un after j, q or x)
ê [ɛ] ê as in bet
o [ɔ] o approximately as in British English office; the lips are much more rounded
io [jɔ] yo as i + o

The ü sound

An umlaut is added to u when it occurs after the initials l and n when necessary in order to represent the sound [y]. This is necessary in order to distinguish the front high rounded vowel in (e.g. ; ; 'donkey') from the back high rounded vowel in lu (e.g. ; ; 'oven'). Tonal markers are placed above the umlaut, as in .

However, the ü is not used in the other contexts where it could represent a front high rounded vowel, namely after the letters j, q, x, and y. For example, the sound of the word / (fish) is transcribed in pinyin simply as , not as . This practice is opposed to Wade–Giles, which always uses ü, and Tongyong Pinyin, which always uses yu. Whereas Wade–Giles needs the umlaut to distinguish between chü (pinyin ju) and chu (pinyin zhu), this ambiguity does not arise with pinyin, so the more convenient form ju is used instead of . Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/ and lu/, which are then distinguished by an umlaut.

Many fonts or output methods do not support an umlaut for ü or cannot place tone marks on top of ü. Likewise, using ü in input methods is difficult because it is not present as a simple key on many keyboard layouts. For these reasons v is sometimes used instead by convention. For example, it is common for cellphones to use v instead of ü. Additionally, some stores in China use v instead of ü in the transliteration of their names. The drawback is that there are no tone marks for the letter v.

This also presents a problem in transcribing names for use on passports, affecting people with names that consist of the sound or , particularly people with the surname (), a fairly common surname, particularly compared to the surnames (), (), () and (). Previously, the practice varied among different passport issuing offices, with some transcribing as "LV" and "NV" while others used "LU" and "NU". On 10 July 2012, the Ministry of Public Security standardized the practice to use "LYU" and "NYU" in passports.

Although nüe written as nue, and lüe written as lue are not ambiguous, nue or lue are not correct according to the rules; nüe and lüe should be used instead. However, some Chinese input methods support both nve/lve (typing v for ü) and nue/lue.


Relative pitch changes of the four tones

The pinyin system also uses diacritics to mark the four tones of Mandarin (or it could be five tones when considering the neutral tone). In the pinyin system, four main tones of Mandarin are shown by diacritics: ā, á, ǎ, and à. And there is no symbol or diacritic for the neutral tone, a. The diacritic is placed over the letter that represents the syllable nucleus, unless that letter is missing. Tones are used in Hanyu Pinyin symbols, and they do not appear in Chinese characters.

Tones are written on the finals of Chinese pinyin. If the tone mark is written over an i, then macron would be used to replace it, as in .

  1. The first tone (flat or high-level tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel:
    ā ē ê̄ ī ō ū ǖ Ā Ē Ê̄ Ī Ō Ū Ǖ
  2. The second tone (rising or high-rising tone) is denoted by an acute accent (ˊ):
    á é ế í ó ú ǘ Á É Ế Í Ó Ú Ǘ
  3. The third tone (falling-rising or low tone) is marked by a caron/háček (ˇ):
    ǎ ě ê̌ ǐ ǒ ǔ ǚ Ǎ Ě Ê̌ Ǐ Ǒ Ǔ Ǚ
  4. The fourth tone (falling or high-falling tone) is represented by a grave accent (ˋ):
    à è ề ì ò ù ǜ À È Ề Ì Ò Ù Ǜ
  5. The fifth tone (neutral tone) is represented by a normal vowel without any accent mark:
    a e ê i o u ü A E Ê I O U Ü
In dictionaries, neutral tone may be indicated by a dot preceding the syllable; for example, ·ma. When a neutral tone syllable has an alternative pronunciation in another tone, a combination of tone marks may be used: zhī·dào (知道) may be pronounced either zhīdào or zhīdao.

Tone numbers

Before the advent of computers, many typewriter fonts did not contain vowels with macron or caron diacritics. Tones were thus represented by placing a tone number at the end of individual syllables. For example, tóng is written tong2. The number used for each tone is as the order listed above, except the neutral tone either lacks a number, or is given the number 0 or 5.

Tone Diacritic Number Example IPA
First macron◌̄ ) 1 ma1 ma˥
Second acute accent◌́ ) 2 ma2 ma˧˥
Third caron◌̌ ) 3 ma3 ma˨˩˦
Fourth grave accent◌̀ ) 4 ma4 ma˥˩
Neutral none
or middle dot before syllable ( · )


Placement and omission

Briefly, the tone mark should always be placed by the order—a, o, e, i, u, ü, with the only exception being iu, where the tone mark is placed on the u instead. Pinyin tone marks appear primarily above the nucleus of the syllable, for example as in kuài, where k is the initial, u the medial, a the nucleus, and i the coda. The exception is syllabic nasals like /m/, where the nucleus of the syllable is a consonant, the diacritic will be carried by a written dummy vowel.

When the nucleus is /ə/ (written e or o), and there is both a medial and a coda, the nucleus may be dropped from writing. In this case, when the coda is a consonant n or ng, the only vowel left is the medial i, u, or ü, and so this takes the diacritic. However, when the coda is a vowel, it is the coda rather than the medial which takes the diacritic in the absence of a written nucleus. This occurs with syllables ending in -ui (from wei: wèi-uì) and in -iu (from you: yòu-iù). That is, in the absence of a written nucleus the finals have priority for receiving the tone marker, as long as they are vowels: if not, the medial takes the diacritic.

An algorithm to find the correct vowel letter (when there is more than one) is as follows:

  1. If there is an a or an e, it will take the tone mark
  2. If there is an ou, then the o takes the tone mark
  3. Otherwise, the second vowel takes the tone mark

Worded differently,

  1. If there is an a, e, or o, it will take the tone mark; in the case of ao, the mark goes on the a
  2. Otherwise, the vowels are -iu or -ui, in which case the second vowel takes the tone mark

The above can be summarized as the following table. The vowel letter taking the tone mark is indicated by the fourth-tone mark.

Placement of the tone mark in Pinyin
-a -e -i -o -u
a- ài ào
e- èi
i- ià, iào
o- òu
u- uà, uài
ü- (üà) üè

Tone colors

In addition to numbers and diacritics, color has been suggested as a means to carry tone information, mostly as a visual aid for learning. There are a number of different color schemes in use, with that by Dummitt[who?] being one of the first.

Tone color schemes
Scheme Tone 1 Tone 2 Tone 3 Tone 4 Neutral tone
Dummitt red orange green blue none/black
MDBG red orange green blue black
Unimelb blue green purple red grey
Hanping blue green orange red grey
Pleco red green blue purple grey
Thomas green blue red black grey
  1. ^ Based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin.
  2. ^ a b Y and w are equivalent to the semivowel medials i, u, and ü (see below). They are spelled differently when there is no initial consonant in order to mark a new syllable: fanguan is fan-guan, while fangwan is fang-wan (and equivalent to *fang-uan). With this convention, an apostrophe only needs to be used to mark an initial a, e, or o: Xi'an (two syllables: [ɕ]) vs. xian (one syllable: [ɕi̯ɛn]). In addition, y and w are added to fully vocalic i, u, and ü when these occur without an initial consonant, so that they are written yi, wu, and yu. Some Mandarin speakers do pronounce a [j] or [w] sound at the beginning of such words—that is, yi [i] or [ji], wu [u] or [wu], yu [y] or [ɥy],—so this is an intuitive convention. See below for a few finals which are abbreviated after a consonant plus w/u or y/i medial: wen → C+un, wei → C+ui, weng → C+ong, and you → Q+iu.
  3. ^ a b These colors are only approximate. The precise color values used by Dummitt, the MDBG Chinese Online Dictionary, Hanping, and Pleco are taken from Laowai's blog Tone Colors and What Pleco Did with Them.

Tone sandhi

Tone sandhi is not ordinarily reflected in pinyin spelling.

Spacing, capitalization, and punctuation

Standard Chinese has many polysyllabic words. Like in other writing systems using the Latin alphabet, spacing in pinyin is usually based on word boundaries. However, there are often ambiguities in partitioning a word. The Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography were put into effect in 1988 by the National Educational and National Language commissions. These rules became a GB recommendation in 1996, and were last updated in 2012.

Comparison with other orthographies

Pinyin superseded older romanization systems such as Wade–Giles and postal romanization, and replaced bopomofo as the method of Chinese phonetic instruction in mainland China. The ISO adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for modern Chinese in 1982 (ISO 7098:1982, superseded by ISO 7098:2015). The United Nations followed suit in 1986. It has also been accepted by the government of Singapore, the United States's Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.[failed verification] Pinyin is now used by foreign students learning Chinese as a second language, as well as Bopomofo.

Pinyin assigns some Latin letters sound values which are quite different from those of most languages. This has drawn some criticism as it may lead to confusion when uninformed speakers apply either native or English assumed pronunciations to words. However, this problem is not limited only to pinyin, since many languages that use the Latin alphabet natively also assign different values to the same letters. A recent study on Chinese writing and literacy concluded, "By and large, pinyin represents the Chinese sounds better than the Wade–Giles system, and does so with fewer extra marks."

As Pinyin is a phonetic writing system for modern Standard Chinese, it is not designed to replace Chinese characters for writing Literary Chinese, the standard written language prior to the early 1900s. In particular, Chinese characters retain semantic cues that help distinguish differently pronounced words in the ancient classical language that are now homophones in Mandarin. Thus, Chinese characters remain indispensable for recording and transmitting the corpus of Chinese writing from the past.

Pinyin is also not designed to transcribe Chinese language varieties other than Standard Chinese, which is based on the phonological system of Beijing Mandarin. Other romanization schemes have been devised to transcribe those other Chinese varieties, such as Jyutping for Cantonese and Pe̍h-ōe-jī for Hokkien.

Comparison charts

Vowels a, e, o
IPA a ɔ ɛ ɤ ai ei au ou an ən əŋ ʊŋ
Pinyin a o ê e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng ong er
Tongyong Pinyin
Wade–Giles eh ê/o ên êng ung êrh
Bopomofo ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i je jou jɛn in jʊŋ u wo wei wən wəŋ y ɥe ɥɛn yn
Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wen weng yu yue yuan yun
Tongyong Pinyin wun wong
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yung wên wêng yüeh yüan yün
Bopomofo ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ ㄩㄥ ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tjou twei twən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɹ kʰɤ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui dun te ge ke he
Tongyong Pinyin fong diou duei nyu lyu
Wade–Giles p fêng tiu tui tun tʻê ko kʻo ho
Bopomofo ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄉㄨㄣ ㄊㄜ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜ ㄎㄜ ㄏㄜ
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛn tɕjʊŋ tɕʰin ɕɥɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tswo tsɨ tsʰɤ tsʰɨ
Pinyin jian jiong qin xuan zhe zhi che chi she shi re ri ze zuo zi ce ci se si
Tongyong Pinyin jyong cin syuan jhe jhih chih shih rih zih cih sih
Wade–Giles chien chiung chʻin shüan chê chih chʻê chʻih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ tsʻê tzʻŭ ssŭ
Bopomofo ㄐㄧㄢ ㄐㄩㄥ ㄑㄧㄣ ㄒㄩㄢ ㄓㄜ ㄔㄜ ㄕㄜ ㄖㄜ ㄗㄜ ㄗㄨㄛ ㄘㄜ ㄙㄜ
IPA ma˥˥ ma˧˥ ma˨˩˦ ma˥˩ ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade–Giles ma1 ma2 ma3 ma4 ma
Bopomofo ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ˙ㄇㄚ
example (Chinese characters)

Typography and encoding

Based on the "Chinese Romanization" section of ISO 7098:2015, pinyin tone marks should use the symbols from Combining Diacritical Marks, as opposed by the use of Spacing Modifier Letters in Bopomofo. Lowercase letters with tone marks are included in GB/T 2312 and their uppercase counterparts are included in JIS X 0212; thus Unicode includes all the common accented characters from pinyin. Other punctuation mark and symbols in Chinese are to use the equivalent symbol in English noted in to GB/T 15834.

Due to GB/T 16159 The Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography, all accented letters are required to have both uppercase and lowercase characters as per their normal counterparts.

Letter First tone Second tone Third tone Fourth tone
Combining Diacritical Marks ̄ (U+0304) ́ (U+0301) ̌ (U+030C) ̀ (U+0300)
Common letters
Uppercase A Ā (U+0100) Á (U+00C1) Ǎ (U+01CD) À (U+00C0)
E Ē (U+0112) É (U+00C9) Ě (U+011A) È (U+00C8)
I Ī (U+012A) Í (U+00CD) Ǐ (U+01CF) Ì (U+00CC)
O Ō (U+014C) Ó (U+00D3) Ǒ (U+01D1) Ò (U+00D2)
U Ū (U+016A) Ú (U+00DA) Ǔ (U+01D3) Ù (U+00D9)
Ü (U+00DC) Ǖ (U+01D5) Ǘ (U+01D7) Ǚ (U+01D9) Ǜ (U+01DB)
Lowercase a ā (U+0101) á (U+00E1) ǎ (U+01CE) à (U+00E0)
e ē (U+0113) é (U+00E9) ě (U+011B) è (U+00E8)
i ī (U+012B) í (U+00ED) ǐ (U+01D0) ì (U+00EC)
o ō (U+014D) ó (U+00F3) ǒ (U+01D2) ò (U+00F2)
u ū (U+016B) ú (U+00FA) ǔ (U+01D4) ù (U+00F9)
ü (U+00FC) ǖ (U+01D6) ǘ (U+01D8) ǚ (U+01DA) ǜ (U+01DC)
Rare letters
Uppercase Ê (U+00CA) Ê̄ (U+00CA U+0304) Ế (U+1EBE) Ê̌ (U+00CA U+030C) Ề (U+1EC0)
M M̄ (U+004D U+0304) Ḿ (U+1E3E) M̌ (U+004D U+030C) M̀ (U+004D U+0300)
N N̄ (U+004E U+0304) Ń (U+0143) Ň (U+0147) Ǹ (U+01F8)
Lowercase ê (U+00EA) ê̄ (U+00EA U+0304) ế (U+1EBF) ê̌ (U+00EA U+030C) ề (U+1EC1)
m m̄ (U+006D U+0304) ḿ (U+1E3F) m̌ (U+006D U+030C) m̀ (U+006D U+0300)
n n̄ (U+006E U+0304) ń (U+0144) ň (U+0148) ǹ (U+01F9)
1.^ Yellow cells indicate that there are no single Unicode character for that letter; the character shown here uses Combining Diacritical Mark characters to display the letter.
2.^ Grey cells indicate that Xiandai Hanyu Cidian does not include pinyin with that specific letter.
Microsoft Pinyin IME
When using pinyin IME, choosing ḿ/ǹ outputs PUA U+E7C7 and U+E7C8.

GBK has mapped two characters 'ḿ' and 'ǹ' to Private Use Areas in Unicode as U+E7C7 () and U+E7C8 () respectively, thus some Simplified Chinese fonts (e.g. SimSun) that adheres to GBK include both characters in the Private Use Areas, and some input methods (e.g. Sogou Pinyin) also outputs the Private Use Areas code point instead of the original character. As the superset GB 18030 changed the mappings of 'ḿ' and 'ǹ', this has caused an issue where the input methods and font files use different encoding standards, and thus the input and output of both characters are mixed up.

Shorthand pinyin letters
Uppercase Lowercase Note Example
Ĉ (U+0108) ĉ (U+0109) Abbreviation of ch 长/長 can be spelled as ĉáŋ
Ŝ (U+015C) ŝ (U+015D) Abbreviation of sh 伤/傷 can be spelled as ŝāŋ
Ẑ (U+1E90) ẑ (U+1E91) Abbreviation of zh 张/張 can be spelled as Ẑāŋ
Ŋ (U+014A) ŋ (U+014B) Abbreviation of ng 让/讓 can be spelled as ràŋ, 嗯 can be spelled as ŋ̀

Other symbols that are used in pinyin text are as follows:

Pinyin symbols
Symbol in Chinese Symbol in pinyin Usage Example
。(U+3002) . (U+002E) Marks end of sentence. 你好。 Nǐ hǎo.
,(U+FF0C)/、 (U+3001) , (U+002C) Marks connecting sentence. 你,好吗? Nǐ, hǎo ma?
—— (U+2014 U+2014) — (U+2014) Indicates breaking of meaning mid-sentence. 枢纽部分——中央大厅 shūniǔ bùfèn — zhōngyāng dàtīng
…… (U+2026 U+2026) … (U+2026) Used for omitting a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage. 我…… Wǒ…
· (U+00B7) Marks for the neutral tone, can be placed before the neutral-tone syllable. 吗 ·ma
- (U+002D) Hyphenation between abbreviated compounds. 公关 gōng-guān
' (U+0027) Indicates separate syllables. 西安 Xī'ān (compared to 先 xiān)


A slogan written on a school wall featuring pinyin annotations without tonal marks

The spelling of Chinese geographical or personal names in pinyin has become the most common way to transcribe them in English. Pinyin has also become the dominant method for entering Chinese text into computers in mainland China, in contrast to Taiwan, where bopomofo is most commonly used.

Families outside of Taiwan who speak Mandarin as a mother tongue use pinyin to help children associate characters with spoken words which they already know. Chinese families outside of Taiwan who speak some other language as their mother tongue use the system to teach children Mandarin pronunciation when they learn vocabulary in elementary school.

Since 1958, pinyin has been actively used in adult education as well, making it easier for formerly illiterate people to continue with self-study after a short period of pinyin literacy instruction.

Pinyin has become a tool for many foreigners to learn Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain both the grammar and spoken Mandarin coupled with Chinese characters. Books containing both Chinese characters and pinyin are often used by foreign learners of Chinese. Pinyin's role in teaching pronunciation to foreigners and children is similar in some respects to furigana-based books (with hiragana letters written above or next to kanji, directly analogous to zhuyin) in Japanese or fully vocalised texts in Arabic ("vocalised Arabic").

The tone-marking diacritics are commonly omitted in popular news stories and even in scholarly works, as well as in the traditional Mainland Chinese Braille system, which is similar to pinyin, but meant for blind readers. This results in some degree of ambiguity as to which words are being represented.

Computer input systems

Simple computer systems, sometimes only able to use simple character systems for text, such as the 7-bit ASCII standard—essentially the 26 Latin letters, 10 digits, and punctuation marks—long provided a convincing argument for using unaccented pinyin instead of diacritical pinyin or Chinese characters. Today, however, most computer systems are able to display characters from Chinese and many other writing systems as well, and have them entered with a Latin keyboard using an input method editor. Alternatively, some touchscreen devices allow users to input characters graphically by writing with a stylus, with concurrent online handwriting recognition.

Pinyin with accents can be entered with the use of special keyboard layouts or various other utilities.

Sorting techniques

Chinese text can be sorted by its pinyin representation, which is often useful for looking up words whose pronunciations are known, but not whose character forms are not known. Chinese characters and words can be sorted for convenient lookup by their Pinyin expressions alphabetically, according to their inherited order originating with the ancient Phoenicians. Identical syllables are then further sorted by tone number, ascending, with neutral tones placed last.

Words of multiple characters can be sorted in two different ways, either per character, as is used in the Xiandai Hanyu Cidian, or by the whole word's string, which is only then sorted by tone. This method is used in the ABC Chinese–English Dictionary.

By region


Taiwan used Tongyong Pinyin, a domestic modification of Hanyu Pinyin, as its official romanization system between October 2002 and January 2009. Thereafter, it instead to instead promote the use of Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin ("common phonetic"), a romanization system developed in Taiwan, was designed to romanize languages and dialects spoken on the island in addition to Mandarin Chinese. The Kuomintang (KMT) party resisted its adoption, preferring the system by then used in mainland China and internationally. Romanization preferences quickly became associated with issues of national identity. Preferences split along party lines: the KMT and its affiliated parties in the pan-blue coalition supported the use of Hanyu Pinyin while the Democratic Progressive Party and its affiliated parties in the pan-green coalition favored the use of Tongyong Pinyin.

Today, many street signs in Taiwan use Tongyong Pinyin or derived romanizations, but some, especially in northern Taiwan, display Hanyu Pinyin-derived romanizations. It is not unusual to see spellings on street signs and buildings derived from the older Wade–Giles, MPS2 and other systems. Attempts to make Hanyu Pinyin standard in Taiwan have had uneven success, with most place and proper names remaining unaffected, including all major cities. Personal names on Taiwanese passports honor the choices of Taiwanese citizens, who can choose Wade-Giles, Hakka, Hoklo, Tongyong, aboriginal, or pinyin. Official pinyin use is controversial, as when pinyin use for a metro line in 2017 provoked protests, despite government responses that "The romanization used on road signs and at transportation stations is intended for foreigners... Every foreigner learning Mandarin learns Hanyu pinyin, because it is the international standard...The decision has nothing to do with the nation's self-determination or any ideologies, because the key point is to ensure that foreigners can read signs."


Singapore implemented Hanyu Pinyin as the official romanization system for Mandarin in the public sector starting in the 1980s, in conjunction with the Speak Mandarin Campaign. Hanyu Pinyin is also used as the romanization system to teach Mandarin Chinese at schools. While the process of Pinyinisation has been mostly successful in government communication, placenames, and businesses established in the 1980s and onward, it continues to be unpopular in some areas, most notably for personal names and vocabulary borrowed from other varieties of Chinese already established in the local vernacular. In these situations, romanization continues to be based on the Chinese language variety it originated from, especially the three largest Chinese varieties traditionally spoken in Singapore (Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese).

Special names

In accordance to the Regulation of Phonetic Transcription in Hanyu Pinyin Letters of Place Names in Minority Nationality Languages (少数民族语地名汉语拼音字母音译转写法; 少數民族語地名漢語拼音字母音譯寫法) promulgated in 1976, place names in non-Han languages like Mongolian, Uyghur, and Tibetan are also officially transcribed using pinyin in a system adopted by the State Administration of Surveying and Mapping and Geographical Names Committee known as SASM/GNC romanization. The pinyin letters (26 Roman letters, plus ü and ê) are used to approximate the non-Han language in question as closely as possible. This results in spellings that are different from both the customary spelling of the place name, and the pinyin spelling of the name in Chinese:

Customary Official pinyin Chinese character name Pinyin for Chinese name
Shigatse Xigazê 日喀則 日喀则 Rìkāzé
Urumchi Ürümqi 烏魯木齊 乌鲁木齐 Wūlǔmùqí
Lhasa Lhasa 拉薩 拉萨 Lāsà
Hohhot Hohhot 呼和浩特 呼和浩特 Hūhéhàotè
Golmud Golmud 格爾木 格尔木 Gé'ěrmù
Qiqihar Qiqihar 齊齊哈爾 齐齐哈尔 Qíqíhā'ěr

Tongyong Pinyin was developed in Taiwan for use in rendering not only Mandarin Chinese, but other languages and dialects spoken on the island such as Taiwanese, Hakka, and aboriginal languages.

See also

This page was last updated at 2024-02-22 13:47 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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