Mandarin Phonetic Symbols

百科全書 (encyclopedia) in Zhuyin Fuhao.
Semisyllabary (letters for onsets and rimes; diacritics for tones)
Creator Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation
Introduced by the Gov't of the ROC
Time period
1918 to 1958 in China;
1945 to the present in Taiwan
Parent systems
Child systems
Taiwanese Phonetic Symbols, Suzhou Phonetic Symbols, Hmu Phonetic Symbols
Sister systems
Simplified Chinese, Kanji, Hanja, Chữ Nôm, Khitan script
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Bopo, 285
Unicode alias
Mandarin Phonetic Symbol
Traditional Chinese 注音符號
Simplified Chinese 注音符号

Zhuyin fuhao, Zhuyin or Bopomofo (pinyin: bōpōmōfō, Mandarin IPA: [pu̯ópʰu̯ómu̯ófu̯ó]) is a system of phonetic notation for the transcription of spoken Chinese, particularly the Mandarin dialect. The first two are traditional terms, whereas Bopomofo is the colloquial term, also used by the ISO and Unicode. Consisting of 37 characters and four tone marks, it transcribes all possible sounds in Mandarin. Zhuyin was introduced in China by the Republican Government in the 1910s and used alongside the Wade-Giles system, which used a modified Latin alphabet. The Wade system was replaced by Hanyu Pinyin in 1958 by the Government of the People's Republic of China,[1] and at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1982.[2] Although Taiwan officially abandoned Wade-Giles in 2009, Bopomofo is still the official phonetic notation system of the country and remains widely used as an educational tool and electronic input method in Taiwan.


The informal name "Bopomofo" is derived from the first four syllables in the conventional ordering of available syllables in Mandarin Chinese. The four Bopomofo characters (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) that correspond to these syllables are usually placed first in a list of these characters. The same sequence is sometimes used by other speakers of Chinese to refer to other phonetic systems.

The original formal name of the system was Guóyīn Zìmǔ (traditional 國音字母, simplified 国音字母, lit. "Phonetic Alphabet of the National Language") and Zhùyīn Zìmǔ (traditional 註音字母, simplified 注音字母, lit. "Phonetic Alphabet" or "Annotated Phonetic Letters").[3] It was later renamed Zhùyīn Fúhào (traditional 注音符號, simplified 注音符号), meaning "phonetic symbols".

In official documents, Zhuyin is occasionally called "Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I" (國語注音符號第一式), abbreviated as "MPS I" (注音一式).

In English translations, the system is often also called either Chu-yin or the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols.[3][4] A romanized phonetic system was released in 1984 as Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (MPS II).


The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Wu Zhihui from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Zhuyin Zimu,[3] which was based on Zhang Binglin's shorthand. 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.[3] It was later renamed first Guoyin Zimu and then, in April 1930, Zhuyin Fuhao. The last renaming addressed fears that the alphabetic system might independently replace Chinese characters.[5]

Modern use

Direction sign for children in Taipei including bopomofo

Zhuyin remains the predominant phonetic system in teaching reading and writing in elementary school in Taiwan. It is also one of the most popular ways to enter Chinese characters into computers and to look up characters in a dictionary in Taiwan.

In elementary school, particularly in the lower years, Chinese characters in textbooks are often annotated with Zhuyin as ruby characters as an aid to learning. Additionally, one children's newspaper in Taiwan, the Mandarin Daily News annotates all articles with Zhuyin ruby characters.

In teaching Mandarin, Taiwan institutions and some overseas communities still use Zhuyin as a learning tool.


Table showing Zhuyin in Gwoyeu Romatzyh

The Zhuyin characters were created by Zhang Binglin, and taken mainly from "regularised" forms of ancient Chinese characters, the modern readings of which contain the sound that each letter represents. It is to be noted that the first consonants are articulated from the front of the mouth to the back, /b/, /p/, /m/, /f/, /d/, /t/, /n/, /l/ etc.

Origin of zhuyin symbols
From , the ancient form and current top portion of bāo pbp八 (ㄅㄚ, bā)
From , the combining form of pp'杷 (ㄆㄚˊ, pá)
From , the archaic character and current radical mmm馬 (ㄇㄚˇ, mǎ)
From fāng fff法 (ㄈㄚˇ, fǎ)
From 𠚣, archaic form of dāo. Compare the bamboo form . tdt地 (ㄉㄧˋ, dì)
From 𠫓 tū, upside-down form of ( and in seal script)[6] tt'提 (ㄊㄧˊ, tí)
From /𠄎, ancient form of nǎi nnn你 (ㄋㄧˇ, nǐ)
From 𠠲, archaic form of lll利 (ㄌㄧˋ, lì)
From the obsolete character guì/kuài "river" kgk告 (ㄍㄠˋ, gào)
From the archaic character kǎo kk'考 (ㄎㄠˇ, kǎo)
From the archaic character and current radical hǎn xhh好 (ㄏㄠˇ, hǎo)
From the archaic character jiū ʨjch叫 (ㄐㄧㄠˋ, jiào)
From the archaic character 𡿨 quǎn, graphic root of the character chuān (modern ) ʨʰqch'巧 (ㄑㄧㄠˇ, qiǎo)
From , an ancient form of xià. ɕxhs小 (ㄒㄧㄠˇ, xiǎo)
From /, archaic form of zhī. ʈʂzhch主 (ㄓㄨˇ, zhǔ)
From the character and radical chì ʈʂʰchch'出 (ㄔㄨ, chū)
From the character shī ʂshsh束 (ㄕㄨˋ, shù)
Modified from the seal script form of ɻrj入 (ㄖㄨˋ, rù)
From the archaic character and current radical jié, dialectically zié tszts在 (ㄗㄞˋ, zài)
From 𠀁, archaic form of , dialectically . Compare semi-cursive form and seal-script . tsʰcts'才 (ㄘㄞˊ, cái)
From the archaic character sī, which was later replaced by its compound sī. sss塞 (ㄙㄞ, sāi)
Rhymes & Medials
From aaa大 (ㄉㄚˋ, dà)
From the obsolete character 𠀀 hē, inhalation, the reverse of kǎo, which is preserved as a phonetic in the compound kě.[7] ooo多 (ㄉㄨㄛ, duō)
Derived from its allophone in Standard Chinese, o ɤeo/ê得 (ㄉㄜˊ, dé)
From yě. Compare the Warring States bamboo form eêeh爹 (ㄉㄧㄝ, diē)
From 𠀅 hài, archaic form of . æiaiai晒 (ㄕㄞˋ, shài)
From yí, an obsolete character meaning "to move". eieiei誰 (ㄕㄟˊ, shéi)
From yāo ɑuaoao少 (ㄕㄠˇ, shǎo)
From yòu ououou收 (ㄕㄡ, shōu)
From the archaic character 𢎘 hàn "to bloom", preserved as a phonetic in the compound fàn ænanan山 (ㄕㄢ, shān)
From 𠃉, archaic variant of or [8] ( is yǐn according to other sources[9]) ənenên申 (ㄕㄣ, shēn)
From wāng ɑŋangang上 (ㄕㄤˋ, shàng)
From 𠃋, archaic form of gōng[10] əŋengêng生 (ㄕㄥ, shēng)
From , the bottom portion of ér used as a cursive and simplified form ɐɚerêrh而 (ㄦˊ, ér)
From ii/yi逆 (ㄋㄧˋ, nì)
From , ancient form of wǔ. Compare the transitory form 𠄡. uu/wu/w努 (ㄋㄨˇ, nǔ)
From the ancient character qū, which remains as a radical yü/yuü/yü女 (ㄋㄩˇ, nǚ)

From the character . It represents the minimal vowel of , , , , , , , though it is not used after them in transcription.[11] ɻ̩ / ɹ̩-iih/û資 (ㄗ, zī); 知 (ㄓ, zhī); 死 (ㄙˇ, sǐ)


Stroke order

Zhuyin is written in the same stroke order rule as Chinese characters. Note that ㄖ is written with three strokes, unlike the character from which it is derived (日, Hanyu Pinyin: rì), which has four strokes.

Tonal marks


The tone marks used in Zhuyin for the second, third, and fourth tones are the same as the ones used in Hanyu Pinyin. In Zhuyin, no marker is used for the first tone and a dot denotes the neutral tone, whereas in Pinyin, a dash (¯) represents the first tone and no marker is used for the neutral tone.

Unlike Hanyu Pinyin, Zhuyin aligns well with the hanzi characters in books whose texts are printed vertically, making Zhuyin better suited for annotating the pronunciation of vertically oriented Chinese text.

Zhuyin, when used in conjunction with Chinese characters, are typically placed to the right of the Chinese character vertically or to the top of the Chinese character in a horizontal print (see Ruby character).

Below is an example for the word "bottle" (pinyin: píngzi):




Zhuyin and pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations, hence there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two systems:

IPA and pinyin counterparts of Zhuyin finals
Medial [ɨ]
(ㄭ) 1


-o 3












ㄨㄛ 3
-uo 3
[u̯əŋ], [ʊŋ]
-ong 4

-üe 2
-üan 2
-ün 2

1 Not written.
2 ü is written as u after j, q, x, or y.
3 ㄨㄛ/-uo are written as ㄛ/-o after b, p, m, or f.
4 weng is pronounced [ʊŋ] (written as ong) when it follows an initial.


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 a o e e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng ong er
Wade–Giles a o eh ê/o ai ei ao ou an ên ang êng ung êrh
Zhuyin ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i ie iou iɛn in iʊŋ u uo uei uən uəŋ y ye yɛn yn
Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wen weng yu yue yuan yun
Tongyong Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wun wong yu yue yuan yun
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yin ying yung wu wo/o wei wên wêng yüeh yüan yün
Zhuyin ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ ㄩㄥ ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tiou tuei tuən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɚ kʰɤ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui dun te ger ke he
Tongyong Pinyin b p m fong diou duei dun te nyu lyu ger ke he
Wade–Giles p pʻ m fêng tiu tui tun tʻê kor kʻo ho
Zhuyin ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄉㄨㄣ ㄊㄜ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜㄦ ㄎㄜ ㄏㄜ
example 歌儿
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕiɛn tɕiʊŋ tɕʰin ɕyɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tsuo 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 jian jyong cin syuan jhe jhih che chih she shih re rih ze zuo zih ce cih se sih
Wade–Giles chien chiung chʻin hsüan chê chih chʻê chʻih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ tsʻê tzʻŭ ssŭ
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 ma
Zhuyin ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ˙ㄇㄚ
example (traditional/simplified) 媽/妈 麻/麻 馬/马 罵/骂 嗎/吗

Non-Standard Mandarin dialects

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

In Taiwan, Bopomofo is used to teach Taiwanese Hokkien, and is also used to transcribe it phonetically in contexts such as on storefront signs, karaoke lyrics, and film subtitles.


Computer uses

Input method

An example of a Zhuyin keypad for Taiwan

Zhuyin 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.

A typical keyboard layout for Zhuyin on computers


Zhuyin was added to the Unicode Standard in October 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Zhuyin, called Bopomofo, is U+3100U+312F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 9.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Additional characters were added in September 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

The Unicode block for these additional characters, called Bopomofo Extended, is U+31A0U+31BF:

Bopomofo Extended[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 9.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
  2. "ISO 7098:1982 – Documentation – Romanization of Chinese". Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  3. 1 2 3 4 The Republic of China government, Government Information Office. "Taiwan Yearbook 2006: The People & Languages". Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. |Also available at
  4. Taiwan Headlines. "Taiwan Headlines: Society News: New Taiwanese dictionary unveiled". Government Information Office, Taiwan(ROC).
  5. John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. p. 242.
  6. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠫓.
  7. "Unihan data for U+20000".
  8. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃉.
  9. "Unihan data for U+4E5A".
  10. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃋.
  11. Michael Everson, H. W. Ho, Andrew West, "Proposal to encode one Bopomofo character in the UCS", SC2 WG2 N3179.

External links

Look up bopomofo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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