Zhuyin: Wikis


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Type Semi-syllabary (letters for onsets and rimes; diacritics for tones)
Spoken languages Chinese languages, Formosan languages
Created by Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation
Time period 1913 to the present, now used as ruby characters in Taiwan for Chinese, and as the principal script for Formosan
Parent systems
Sister systems Simplified Chinese, Kanji, Hanja, Chữ Nôm, Khitan script
ISO 15924 Bopo
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Chinese romanization
Mandarin for Standard Mandarin
    Hanyu Pinyin (ISO standard)
    Gwoyeu Romatzyh
        Spelling conventions
    Latinxua Sin Wenz
    Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II
    Chinese Postal Map Romanization
    Tongyong Pinyin
    Legge romanization
    Simplified Wade
    Comparison chart
Yue for Standard Cantonese
    Guangdong Romanization
    Hong Kong Government
    Sidney Lau
    S. L. Wong (phonetic symbols)
    S. L. Wong (romanisation)
    Standard Cantonese Pinyin
    Standard Romanization
    Long-short (romanization)
Min Nan
for Taiwanese, Amoy, and related
    Daighi tongiong pingim
    Modern Literal Taiwanese
    Phofsit Daibuun
for Hainanese
    Hainanhua Pinyin Fang'an
for Teochew
Min Dong for Fuzhou dialect
    Foochow Romanized
Hakka for Moiyan dialect
    Kejiahua Pinyin Fang'an
For Siyen dialect
See also:
   General Chinese (Chao Yuenren)
   Extended Bopomofo for Taiwanese
   Taiwanese kana
   Romanisation in Singapore
   Romanisation in the ROC

Zhuyin Fuhao, often abbreviated zhuyin, and colloquially Bopomofo[1] is a phonetic system for transcribing Chinese, especially Mandarin, for people learning to read, write or speak Mandarin. This semi-syllabary is currently in wide use in Taiwan (see Uses). Consisting of 37 letters and 4 tone marks, it is a comprehensive system that can transcribe all the possible sounds in Mandarin.

Although often thought of as an alphabet, zhuyin is not based on consonants and vowels but on syllable onsets and rimes, based on the Chinese rime tables but with diacritics rather than separate rimes for the tones. As in an alphabet, the consonants (onsets) are represented by distinct letters. These constitute 21 of bopomofo's 37. However, excluding the medial glide, each rime also has a distinct letter, which conflates vowels, diphthongs, and final consonants. For example, luan is written ㄌㄨㄢ (l-u-an), where the last letter ㄢ represents the entire final -an. These finals constitute the other 16 letters of bopomofo. (However, final -p, -t, -k, which are not found in Mandarin, are written as subscript letters after a final that represents only the vowel.)

In everyday speech, zhuyin may also be referred to as bopomo, both this name and bopomofo name comes from the first letters in the alphabet (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ). In official documents, it is occasionally called the "Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I" (國語注音符號第一式), abbreviated as the "MPS I" (注音一式); however, this official name is almost never used in English. Either chu-yin or the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols (without the numeral suffix) is preferred in official translations. [2] [3] The Roman numeral serves to distinguish it from its lesser known counterpart, the MPS II, a romanization system invented around the same period but now defunct (c.f. Romanization of Chinese in Taiwan).



The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Woo Tsin-hang from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Guóyīn Zìmǔ (國音字母 "National Pronunciation Letters") or Zhùyīn Zìmǔ (註音字母 or 注音字母 "Sound-annotating Letters")[2] which is based on Zhang Binglin's shorthands. For differences with the Zhang system, see Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation. A draft was released on July 11, 1913 by the Republic of China National Ministry of Education, but it was not officially proclaimed until November 23, 1928.[2] zhùyīn zìmǔ was renamed zhùyīn fúhào in April 1930. According to John DeFrancis in The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy:

The symbols were initially called Zhùyīn Zìmǔ ("Phonetic Alphabet"); later they were also called Guóyīn Zìmǔ ("National Phonetic Alphabet"). The fear that they might be considered an alphabetic system of writing independent of characters led in 1930 to their being renamed Zhùyīn Fúhào ("Phonetic Symbols").[4]

The use of zhuyin continued after 1949 in the Republic of China on Taiwan. In mainland China, bopomofo was superseded by the pinyin system promulgated by the People's Republic of China, although the pronunciation of words in standard dictionaries are sometimes given in both pinyin and bopomofo.

Taiwan's Education Ministry has attempted for many years to phase out the use of zhuyin in favor of a system based on Latin characters (such as Hanyu Pinyin, which will be the only legal standard starting in 2009). However, this transition has been extremely slow due to the difficulty in teaching elementary school teachers a new Latin-based system.

Modern uses


Input method

Bopomofo can be used as an input method for Chinese characters. It is one of the few input methods that can be found on most modern personal computers without the user having to download or install any additional software. It is also one of the few input methods that can be used for inputting Chinese characters on certain cell phones.

another example of a bopomofo keypad for Taiwan
A typical keyboard layout for bopomofo on computers

On-screen translations

On-screen Chinese translation software can be used in several ways. For students learning Chinese, zhuyin is one way for them to learn how to pronounce Mandarin.

Compared to pinyin, zhuyin's more compact alphabet makes it easier for some students—without remembering special pronunciation rules. Since the bopomofo characters are similar, and sometimes identical to, Chinese characters, students learning bopomofo are also making incremental steps to learn reading and writing Chinese.

Typical on-screen software translation tool from Chinese to bopomofo

Origin of the letters

The zhuyin letters were created by Zhang Binglin, and mainly taken from ancient or cursive Chinese characters, or parts of such characters, the modern readings of which contain the sound that each letter represents.

Origin of zhuyin symbols
Zhuyin Origin
b From 勹, the top portion 包 bāo
p From 攵, the combining form of 攴
m From 冂, the archaic form of the radical 冖
f From 匚 fāng
d From the archaic form of 刀 dāo. Compare the bamboo form Dao1 knife bamboo graph.png.
t From the upside-down 子 seen at the top of 充
n From Nai3 chu silk form.png/𠄎, ancient form of 乃 nǎi
l Calligraphic form of 力
g From the obsolete character 巜 guì/kuài" 'river'
k From 丂 kǎo
h From 厂 hàn
j From the archaic character 丩 jiū
q From the archaic character ㄑ quǎn, graphic root of the character 巛 chuān (modern 川)
x From 丅, a seal form of 下 xià.
zh From Zhi1 seal.png/㞢, archaic form of 之 zhī.
ch From the radical 彳 chì
sh From the character 尸 shī
r A semi-cursive form of 日
z From the radical 卩 jié, dialectically zié
c Variant of 七 qī, dialectically ciī. Compare semi-cursive form Qi1 seven semicursive.png and seal-script Qi1 seven seal.png.
s From the old character 厶 sī, which was later replaced by its compound 私 sī.
i, y From 一
u, w From 㐅, ancient form of 五 wǔ.
ü, yu, iu From the ancient character 凵 qū, which remains as a radical
a From 丫
o From the obsolete character 𠀀 hē, inhalation, the reverse of 丂 kǎo, which is preserved as a phonetic in the compound 可 kě.[5]
e Derived from its allophone in Standard Mandarin, ㄛ o
e, eh From 也 yě. Compare the Warring States bamboo form Ye3 also chu3jian3 warring state of chu3 small.png
ai From 𠀅 hài, bronze form of 亥.
ei From 乁 yí, an obsolete character meaning 移 "to move".
ao From 幺 yāo
ou From 又 yòu
an From the obsolete character ㄢ hàn "to bloom", preserved as a phonetic in the compound 犯 fàn
en From 乚 yǐn
ang From 尢 wāng
eng From 厶, an obsolete form of 厷 gōng
er From 儿, the bottom portion of 兒 ér used as a cursive form
ih (U+312D.svg, and inverted ㄓ) Perhaps 市, in addition to ㄓ. It is the minimal vowel of ㄓ, ㄔ, ㄕ, ㄖ, ㄗ, ㄘ, ㄙ that is spelled "ih" in Tongyong Pinyin and Wade-Giles and "i" in pinyin.

The zhuyin characters are represented in typographic fonts as if drawn with an ink brush (as in Regular Script). They are encoded in Unicode in the bopomofo block, in the range U+3105..U+312D.

Stroke order

Note that ㄖ is written with three strokes, unlike the character from which it is derived (日, Hanyu Pinyin: rì), which has four strokes.


These phonetic symbols sometimes appear as ruby characters printed next to the Chinese characters in young children's books, and in editions of classical texts (which frequently use characters that are uncommon in modern writing). In advertisements, these phonetic symbols are sometimes used to write certain particles (e.g., ㄉ instead of 的); other than this, one seldom sees these letters used in mass media adult publications except as a pronunciation guide (or index system) in dictionary entries. Bopomofo letters are also mapped to the ordinary Latin character keyboard (1 = bo, q = po, a = mo, and so forth) used in one method for inputting Chinese text when using a computer.

Bopomofo remains the main phonetic system used for teaching reading and writing in elementary school on Taiwan. Grade one textbooks of all subjects (including Mandarin) are entirely in bopomofo. After that year, Chinese character texts are given in annotated form (as a phonetic guide next to hanzi. Around grade four, presence of bopomofo annotation is greatly reduced, remaining only in the new character section. Schoolchildren learn the letters so that they can decode pronunciations given in a Chinese dictionary, and also so that they can find how to write words for which they know only the sounds.

Pinyin, on the other hand, is multipurpose. Besides being a pronunciation notation, pinyin is used widely in publications in mainland China. Some books from mainland China are published purely in pinyin with not even a single Chinese character. Those books are targeted to minority tribal groups or Westerners who know spoken Mandarin but have not yet learned written Chinese characters. There are also many books, which have both hanzi and pinyin (as a phonetic guide). Pinyin is the sole standard in mainland China for romanising Chinese (mainly Mandarin-speaking) geographical and personal names, the pinyin-based romanisation of most Chinese names has become standard in English as well.

Bopomofo is also used to write some of the aboriginal languages of Taiwan, such as Atayal [2], Seediq [3], Paiwan [4], or Tao [5]. For these it is a primary writing system, not an ancillary system as it is for Chinese.

For non-native speakers of Mandarin Chinese, bopomofo can be useful as a learning tool. Because it does not use romanization, confusion over "Latin alphabet" sounds and "Chinese" sounds is not an issue. As well bopomofo's formation of initials and finals to form syllables is more straightforward than pinyin's. However, for one not familiar with bopomofo, it can be more difficult to first understand the proper pronunciations. With its own keyboard layout, it is also less easily used to enter Chinese by people using a standard Latin-based keyboard.

It is also the basis for Chinese Braille.


The boxes represent the outermost extent of the bopomofo and hanzi.
Tone bopomofo Pinyin
1 none ¯
2 ˊ ´
3 ˇ ˇ
4 ˋ ˋ
short ˙ none

Bopomofo letters are written like Chinese characters, including the general order of strokes and positioning. They are always placed to the right of the Chinese characters, whether the characters are arranged vertically or horizontally. Technically, these are Ruby characters. Very rarely do they appear on top of Chinese characters when written horizontally as furigana would be written above kanji in a Japanese text. Because a syllable block contains usually two or three bopomofo letters (which themselves fit in a square format) stacked on top of each other, the blocks are rectangular.

Here is an example with the word "bottle".

ㄆㄧㄥˊ ㄗ˙

The tone marks were taken up by Hanyu Pinyin, except that the first tone has no tone marker and the neutral tone is denoted with a dot, while Hanyu Pinyin has a first-tone mark and generally omits the dot. (Tongyong Pinyin on Taiwan uses identical tone marks to bopomofo.) The neutral-tone dot is the only mark to be placed on top of the vertical bopomofo syllable block; the remaining three are in a vertical strip to the right of the character.

Tone mark symbols used in Bopomofo: <ˊ> 2nd tone, <ˇ> 3rd tone, <ˋ> 4th tone, <˙> 5th or neutral tone.

The tone marks are sometimes given in Regular Script style, matching the associated Chinese characters, and have the same basic shape as do those of the pinyin tone symbols. However, they vary in detail. The thickened end of bopomofo's second (rising) tone is always at the lower left, whereas the second tone mark in the pinyin system is a straight line of uniform width. The third tone mark displays the greatest variation.


Bopomofo's tone symbolization was used in the ROC-sponsored romanizations created by the Mandarin Promotion Council. The tone symbols in that system were identical with the bopomofo tone symbols, except that they were not in Regular Style calligraphy, but in a Western font face and so resemble the tone symbols used in pinyin.

Most bopomofo letters are written in the same stroke order as Chinese characters. However, because they are an alphabet, some are written faster. For example, both zh (ㄓ) and r (ㄖ) are written in three strokes. (ㄓ-bw.png ; ㄖ-bw.png)

Bopomofo vs. tongyong pinyin & Hanyu pinyin

Bopomofo and pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations, hence there is a mostly 1-to-1 mapping between the two systems. In the table below, the 'bopomofo' and 'pinyin' columns show equivalency.

【】represents the form used in combination with other letters.

A comparison between pinyin and bopomofo for Standard Mandarin can also be done by comparing the transcription of various syllables at Comparison of Chinese Phonetic Systems.

Equivalence bopomofo-pinyin, by phonetic similarities.
Bopomofo vs. Pinyin
Bopomofo Hanyu Pinyin Tongyong Pinyin[6] Wade-Giles Example(Bopomofo, Pinyin)
b b p 八 (ㄅㄚ, bā)
p p p' 杷 (ㄆㄚˊ, pá)
m m m 馬 (ㄇㄚˇ, mǎ)
f f f 法 (ㄈㄚˇ, fǎ)
d d t 地 (ㄉㄧˋ, dì)
t t t' 提 (ㄊㄧˊ, tí)
n n n 你 (ㄋㄧˇ, nǐ)
l l l 利 (ㄌㄧˋ, lì)
g g k 告 (ㄍㄠˋ, gào)
k k k' 考 (ㄎㄠˇ, kǎo)
h h h 好 (ㄏㄠˇ, hǎo)
j j ch 叫 (ㄐㄧㄠˋ, jiào)
q c ch' 巧 (ㄑㄧㄠˇ, qiǎo)
x s hs 小 (ㄒㄧㄠˇ, xiǎo)
zhi 【zh】 jhih 【jh】 chih 【ch】 主 (ㄓㄨˇ, zhǔ)
chi 【ch】 chih 【ch】 ch'ih 【ch'】 出 (ㄔㄨ, chū)
shi 【sh】 shih 【sh】 shih 【sh】 束 (ㄕㄨˋ, shù)
ri 【r】 rih 【r】 jih 【j】 入 (ㄖㄨˋ, rù)
zi 【z】 zih 【z】 tzû 【ts】 在 (ㄗㄞˋ, zài)
ci 【c】 cih 【c】 tz'û 【ts'】 才 (ㄘㄞˊ, cái)
si 【s】 sih 【s】 ssû 【s】 塞 (ㄙㄞ, sāi)
Bopomofo Hanyu Pinyin Tongyong Pinyin Wade-Giles Example(Bopomofo, Hanyu)
a a a 大 (ㄉㄚˋ, dà)
o o o 多 (ㄉㄨㄛ, duō)
e e e 得 (ㄉㄜˊ, dé)
ê e eh 爹 (ㄉㄧㄝ, diē)
ai ai ai 晒 (ㄕㄞˋ, shài)
ei ei ei 誰 (ㄕㄟˊ, shéi)
ao ao ao 少 (ㄕㄠˇ, shǎo)
ou ou ou 收 (ㄕㄡ, shōu)
an an an 山 (ㄕㄢ, shān)
en en en 申 (ㄕㄣ, shēn)
ang ang ang 上 (ㄕㄤˋ, shàng)
eng eng eng 生 (ㄕㄥ, shēng)
er er erh 而 (ㄦˊ, ér)
yi 【i】 yi 【i】 yi 【i】 逆 (ㄋㄧˋ, nì)
yin 【in】 yin 【in】 yin 【in】 音 (ㄧㄣ, yīn)
ying 【ing】 ying 【ing】 ying 【ing】 英 (ㄧㄥ, yīng)
wu 【u】 wu 【u】 wu 【u】 努 (ㄋㄨˇ, nǔ)
wen 【un】 wun 【un】 wen 【un】 文 (ㄨㄣˊ, wén)
weng 【ong】 wong 【ong】 ng 【ung】 翁 (ㄨㄥ, wēng)
yu 【u, ü】 yu 【u, yu】 yü 【ü】 女 (ㄋㄩˇ, nǚ)
yun 【un】 yun 【un, yun】 yün 【ün】 韻 (ㄩㄣˋ, yūn)
yong 【iong】 yong yung 【iung】 永 (ㄩㄥˇ, yǒng)

Another comparison table

Vowels a, e, o, i
IPA ɑ ɔ ɤ ɛ ɑʊ ɤʊ an ən ɑŋ ɤŋ ɑɻ ʊŋ i iɤʊ iɛn ɪn ɪŋ
Pinyin a o e e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er ong yi ye you yan yin ying
Tongyong Pinyin a o e e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er ong yi ye you yan yin ying
Wade-Giles a o o/ê eh ai ei ao ou an ên ang êng êrh ung i yeh yu yen yin ying
Zhuyin ㄨㄥ ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ
Vowels u, y
IPA u ueɪ uaɪ uan uən uʊn uɤŋ uʊŋ y yɛn yn iʊŋ
Pinyin wu wo wei wai wan wen weng yu yue yuan yun yong
Tongyong Pinyin wu wo wei wai wan wun wong yu yue yuan yun yong
Wade-Giles wu wo wei wai wan wên wêng yüeh yüan yün yung
Zhuyin ㄨㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄞ ㄨㄢ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ ㄩㄥ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ fʊŋ tiou tuei ny ly kəɻ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui t ger k he
Tongyong Pinyin b p m fong diou duei t nyu lyu ger k he
Wade-Giles p p' m fêng tiu tui t' kêrh k' ho
Zhuyin ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜㄦ ㄏㄜ
example 歌儿
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕiɛn tɕyʊŋ tɕʰɪn ɕyɛn ʈʂə ʈʂɚ ʈʂʰə ʈʂʰɚ ʂə ʂɚ ʐə ʐɚ tsə tsuɔ tsɨ tsʰə tsʰɨ
Pinyin jian jiong qin xuan zhe zhi che chi she shi re ri ze zuo zi ce ci se si
Tongyong Pinyin jian jyong cin syuan jhe jhih che chih she shih re rih ze zuo zih ce cih se sih
Wade-Giles chien chiung ch'in hsüan chê chih ch'ê ch'ih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ ts'ê tz'ŭ szŭ
Zhuyin 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 ma0
Zhuyin ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ㄇㄚ・
example (traditional/simplfied) 媽/妈 麻/麻 馬/马 罵/骂 嗎/吗
Table showing Bopomofo in Gwoyeu Romatzyh.

Other languages

Zhuyin is used to write several varieties of Chinese, as well as some Formosan languages.

Three letters formerly used in non-standard dialects of Mandarin are now also used to write other Chinese languages. (Some bopomofo fonts do not contain these letters; see External links for PDF pictures.)

Char Pinyin

In addition, diacritics were used to create new letters for Min-nan and Hakka.

Extended bopomofo
Char Pinyin   Char Pinyin   Char Pinyin   Char Pinyin
ㆠ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A0.svg bb*   ㆦ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A6.svg oo [ɔ]   ㆬ(Extended Bopomofo U+31AC.svg syllabic m   ㆲ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B2.svg ong
ㆡ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A1.svg zz*   ㆧ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A7.svg onn [õ]   ㆭ(Extended Bopomofo U+31AD.svg syllabic ng   ㆳ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B3.svg innn
ㆢ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A2.svg jj*   ㆨ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A8.svg ir [ɨ]   ㆮ(Extended Bopomofo U+31AE.svg ainn [aĩ]   ㆴ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B4.svg Final p
ㆣ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A3.svg gg*   ㆩ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A9.svg ann [ã]   ㆯ(Extended Bopomofo U+31AF.svg aunn [aũ]   ㆵ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B5.svg Final t
ㆤ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A4.svg ee [e]   ㆪ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A8.svg inn [ĩ]   ㆰ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B0.svg am   ㆶ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B6.svg Final k
ㆥ(Extended Bopomofo U+31A5.svg enn [ẽ]   ㆫ(Extended Bopomofo U+31AB.svg unn [ũ]   ㆱ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B1.svg om   ㆷ(Extended Bopomofo U+31B7.svg Final h [ʔ]
Char Tone Value Unicode
˪ (└) Chao number "11", depicts 低平"low, level tone" (陰去聲 "upper departing") in Taiwanese Minnan U+02EA
˫ (├) Chao number "33", depicts 低平"mid, level tone" (陽去聲 "lower departing") in Taiwanese Minnan U+02EB

See also


  1. ^ In Chinese, "bo", "po", "mo" and "fo" are the first four of the conventional ordering of available syllables. As a result, the four syllables together have been used to indicate various phonetic systems. For Chinese speakers who were first introduced to the Zhuyin system, "bopomofo" means zhuyin fuhao. For those who first encountered a different system, such as hanyu pinyin, "bopomofo" usually means that system first encountered.
  2. ^ a b c The Republic of China government, Government Information Office. "Taiwan Yearbook 2006: The People & Languages". http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/5-gp/yearbook/02PeopleandLanguage.htm. "Also available at [1]"  
  3. ^ Taiwan Headlines. "Taiwan Headlines:". The Republic of China government. http://www.taiwanheadlines.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=85286&ctNode=10.  
  4. ^ John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. p. 242.
  5. ^ "Unihan data for U+ 20000". http://www.unicode.org/cgi-bin/GetUnihanData.pl?codepoint=20000.  
  6. ^ Tongyong Pinyin is being phased out of use.

External links


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