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Pinyin (Simplified / Traditional Chinese:拼音), or more formally Hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音 / 漢語拼音), is currently the most commonly used romanization system for Standard Mandarin. Hanyu (汉语 / 漢語) means the Chinese language, and pinyin (拼音) means "phonetics", or more literally, "spelling sound" or "spelled sound". The system is now used in mainland China (and Hong Kong, Macau, and parts of Taiwan) to teach Mandarin Chinese to schoolchildren and internationally to teach Mandarin as a second language. It is also often used to spell Chinese names in foreign publications and can be used to enter Chinese characters (hanzi) on computers and cellphones.

The romanization system was developed by a government committee in the People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC), and approved by the Chinese government on February 11, 1958. The International Organization for Standardization adopted pinyin as the international standard in 1982, and since then it has been adopted by many other organizations. This romanization system also became the national standard in Republic of Chinamarker (ROC, commonly known as Taiwan) on January 1, 2009.


In 1954, the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China (PRC) created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language. This committee developed Hanyu pinyin based upon several preexisting systems: (Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin). The main force behind pinyin was Zhou Youguang. Zhou was working in a New York bank when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after establishmnent of the PRC in 1949. He became an economics professor in Shanghai and was assigned to help the development of a new romanization system.

A first draft was published on February 12, 1956. The first edition of Hanyu pinyin was approved and 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 Mandarin pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults. In 2001, the Chinese Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.


Pinyin superseded older romanization systems such as Wade-Giles (1859; modified 1892) and Chinese Postal Map Romanization, and replaced zhuyin as the method of Chinese phonetic instruction in mainland China. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for modern Chinese in 1982 (ISO 7098:1982, superseded by ISO 7098:1991); the United Nations followed suit in 1986. It has also been accepted by the government of Singapore, the United States' Library of Congressmarker, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.

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 a useful tool for entering Chinese language text into computers.

Chinese families who speak Mandarin as a mother tongue use pinyin to help children associate characters with spoken words which they already know. Chinese families 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 the Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain the grammar and spoken Mandarin together with hanzi.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) 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. An unfortunate effect of this is the ambiguity that results about which Chinese characters are being represented.


In some regions, text on road signs appears both in Hanzi and in Pinyin
The correspondence between Roman letter and sound in the system is sometimes idiosyncratic, though not necessarily more so than the way the Roman alphabet is employed in other languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to that of English, but not to that of French. Z and c also have that distinction; however, they are pronounced as [ts], as in German and Italian, which do not have that distinction. From s, z, c come the digraphs sh, zh, ch by analogy with English sh, ch. Although this introduces the novel combination zh, it is internally consistent in how the two series are related, and reminds the trained reader that many Chinese pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c. In the x, j, q series, the Pinyin use of x is similar to its use in Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Basque and Maltese; and the Pinyin q is akin to its value in Albanian, both Pinyin and Albanian pronunciations may sound similar to the ch to the untrained ear. Pinyin vowels are pronounced in a similar way to vowels in Romance languages. More information on the pronunciation of all pinyin letters in terms of English approximations is given further below.

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

Initials and finals

Unlike in European languages, initials ( ) and finals ( )—and not consonants and vowels—are the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Nearly each Chinese syllable can be spelled with exactly one initial followed by one final, except in the special syllable er and when a trailing -r is considered part of a syllable (see below). 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 simple vowels, especially in compound finals ( ), i.e., when one "final" is placed in front of another one. For example, [i] and [u] are pronounced with such tight openings that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing or on stage) pronounce ( , clothes, officially pronounced ) as , wéi ( , to enclose, officially as ) as or . The concepts of consonant and vowel are not incorporated in pinyin or its predecessors; there is no list of consonants or vowels.


In each cell below, the first line indicates the , the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Labio-

Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-

Palatal Velar






Lateral approximant









Approximant       1
2  or 3
1 may phonetically be (a voiced retroflex fricative). This pronunciation varies among different speakers, and is not two different phonemes.

2 the letters "w" and "y" are not included in the table of initials in the official pinyin system. They are an orthographic convention for the medials "i", "u" and "ü" when no initial is present. When "i", "u" or "ü" are finals and no initial is present, they are spelled "yi", "wu", and "yu", respectively.

3 "y" is pronounced before "u".

Conventional order (excluding w and y), derived from the zhuyin system, 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 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.1

The only syllable-final consonants in standard Mandarin are -n and -ng, and -r, which is attached as a grammatical suffix. Chinese syllables ending with any other consonant is either from a non-Mandarin language (southern Chinese languages such as Cantonese, or minority languages of China), or it indicates the use of a non-pinyin Romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).

Final Medial
Nucleus Coda Ø










-üan 2






-uo/-o 3

-üe 2








-ün 2










1 (而, 二, etc.) is written er. For other finals formed by the suffix -r, pinyin does not use special orthography; one simply appends -r to the final that it is added to, without regard for any sound changes that may take place along the way. For information on sound changes related to final -r, please see Standard Mandarin.

2 "ü" is written as "u" after j, q, x, or y.

3 "uo" is written as "o" after b, p, m, or f.

4 It is pronounced when it follows an initial, and pinyin reflects this difference.

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 (欸, 誒) and syllabic nasals m (呒, 呣), n (嗯, 唔), ng (嗯,

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