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Zhuyin (注音 zhu4 yin1), or Chu-yin in Wade-Giles, literally means "annotated sounds" in Mandarin. It is also known as Bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) for the first four syllables in the Mandarin phonetic symbols. It is the National phonetic system for the Chinese languages, especially Mandarin, used mainly in Taiwan. The system uses 37 special symbols to represent the Mandarin sounds (21 consonants and 16 vowels).

Zhuyin's Mainlander equivalent is pinyin.

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Developed by a national committee led by Woo Tsin-hang in the early 1910s, it was officially released on July 11, 1913 by the Taiwanese National Ministry of Education.

The Education Ministry on Taiwan has attempted for many years to phase out the use of Zhuyin in favor of a system based on Roman characters (see section "Zhuyin II" below). However, this transition has been extremely slow due to the difficulty in teaching elementary school teachers a new Roman based system.


These ruby characters are printed next to the Chinese characters in young children's books. One seldom sees these symbols used in adult publications except as pronunciation guide in dictionary entries. Bopomofo is also used as an input method for Chinese text in computer.

Unlike pinyin, the sole purpose for zhuyin in elementary education is to teach proper Mandarin pronunciation to children. School children learn the symbols so that they can look up pronunciation in a Chinese dictionary properly. Pinyin, on the other hand, is dual-purpose. Other than a pronunciation notation, pinyin is used widely in publications in mainland China. Some books from mainland China are published purely in pinyin with no trace of a single Chinese character. Those books are targetted to minority tribal groups or Westerners who know verbal Mandarin but have difficulty recognizing written Chinese characters.

Zhuyin II

There is another version of zhuyin, Romanized and called the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II or the Secondary Standard of the National Language Zhuyin Symbols (國語注音符號第二式). It is used only in some governmental publications, but not for the English names of Taiwan's official placenames. It has never gained the same status as Wade-Giles in Taiwan; and overseas, it is virtually unused and heard of.

A tentative version of Zhuyin II was released on May 10, 1984 by the Ministry of Education. After two years of feedback from the general publics, the official version was established on January 28, 1986.

Features of Zhuyin II include:

  1. like primary zhuyin, there are four diacritics to represent the tones (see section "Tone" on pinyin).
  2. uses r for both:
    • ㄖ (pinyin r), and
    • what is written in pinyin as i after zh, ch, sh, r. (Although this use of r always has a tonal diacritic on it.)
  3. uses z for both:
    • ㄗ (pinyin z), and
    • what is written in pinyin as i after z, c, s. (Although this use of z always has a tonal diacritic on it.)

An example of Zhuyin II: "國語注音符號第二式" is written as gu-yǔ j-yīn f-hu d-r shr̀. Compare with pinyin, which writes it as guyǔ zhyīn fho dr sh.

Space are generally used in place of hyphens, except in names, which always use hyphen in between the syllables of the given names.

To distinguish from the Romanized zhuyin, the original zhuyin is called officially as the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I (國語注音符號第一式).


Zhuyin symbols are written like Chinese characters, including the general order of strokes and positioning. It is always to the right of the Chinese characters, whether the characters are vertical or horizontal. Very rarely do they appear on top of Chinese characters when written horizontally.

Zhuyin vs. Pinyin

Zhuyin and Pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations, hence a 1-to-1 mapping between the two systems. Zhuyin is used in Taiwan with bopomofo symbols. Pinyin is used in Mainland China with roman symbols.

Bopomofo/zhuyin (the 'zhuyin' and 'pinyin' columns shows equivalency)

zhuyinpinyin zhuyinpinyin zhuyinpinyin zhuyinpinyin
G K  H    
J  Q  X    
Zh Ch Sh R
Z  C  S    
A  O  E  Ê
Ai Ei Ao  Ou
An  En  Ang Eng
Er  I  U  Ü

Dialect (non-Mandarin) letters (not many web browsers can display these glyphs, follow the external links below to see these symbols.)

CharName CharName CharName
V  Ng Gn

Extended Bopomofo for Min-nan and Hakka

CharName CharName CharName CharName
Bu  Oo  Im  Ong
Zi  Onn Ngg  Innn
Ji  Ir  Ainn  Final P
Gu  Ann Aunn  Final T
Ee  Inn Am  Final K
Enn Unn Om  Final H

See also:

External links

  • Unicode reference glyphs for bopomofo (http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U3100.pdf) & extended bopomofo (http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U31A0.pdf)
  • Mandarin Dictionary (http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/) and syllabary (http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/syllabary/) (need Chinese font for Big5 encoding)

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