From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Traditional Chinese 韋氏拼音
Simplified Chinese 韦氏拼音
Alternative name
Traditional Chinese 威妥瑪拼音
Simplified Chinese 威妥玛拼音

Wade–Giles (/ˌwd ˈlz/), sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was given completed form with Herbert Giles's Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892.

Wade–Giles was the general system of transcription in the English-speaking world for most of the 20th century, used in several standard reference books and in all books about China published in western countries before 1979.[1] It replaced the Nanjing-based romanization systems that had been common until late in the 19th century. It has been entirely replaced by the pinyin system (developed by the Chinese government and approved during 1958)[2] in mainland China. Outside mainland China, it has mostly been replaced by pinyin but remains common in history books, particularly those before the late 20th century. Additionally, its usage can still be seen in the common English names of certain individuals and locations such as Chiang Ching-kuo.


Wade–Giles was developed by Thomas Francis Wade, a scholar of Chinese and a British ambassador in China who was the first professor of Chinese at Cambridge University. Wade published in 1867 the first textbook on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin in English, the Yü-yen tzu-erh chi (語言自邇集),[3] which became the basis for the Romanization system later known as Wade–Giles. The system, designed to transcribe Chinese terms for Chinese specialists, was further refined in 1912 by Herbert Allen Giles, a British diplomat in China and his son, Lionel Giles, a curator at the British Museum.[4]

Taiwan has used Wade–Giles for decades as the de facto standard, co-existing with several official but obscure romanizations in succession, namely, Gwoyeu Romatzyh (1928), Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (1986), and Tongyong pinyin (2000). With the election of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan in 2008, Taiwan officially switched to Hanyu pinyin. However, people in Taiwan, both native and overseas, use or transcribe their legal names in the Wade–Giles system.

Initials and finals

The tables below show the Wade–Giles representation of each Chinese sound (in bold type), together with the corresponding IPA phonetic symbol (in square brackets), and equivalent representations in zhuyin fuhao and hanyu pinyin.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental/Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-palatal Velar
Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless
Nasal m [m]
ㄇ m
n [n]
ㄋ n
Plosive Unaspirated p [p]
ㄅ b
t [t]
ㄉ d
k [k]
ㄍ g
Aspirated p' [pʰ]
ㄆ p
t' [tʰ]
ㄊ t
k' [kʰ]
ㄎ k
Affricate Unaspirated ts [ts]
ㄗ z
ch [ʈʂ]
ㄓ zh
ch [tɕ]
ㄐ j
Aspirated ts' [tsʰ]
ㄘ c
ch' [ʈʂʰ]
ㄔ ch
ch' [tɕʰ]
ㄑ q
Fricative f [f]
ㄈ f
s [s]
ㄙ s
sh [ʂ]
ㄕ sh
j [ʐ]/[r]
ㄖ r
hs [ɕ]
ㄒ x
h [x]
ㄏ h
Lateral l [l]
ㄌ l

For variant representations (ts, ts', ss, tz, tz', sz) used before the "empty rime", see the Empty rime section, below.


The following is based on the phonological system shown in the table under Standard Chinese phonology → Alternative analyses.

Nucleus a ə
Coda i u n ŋ i u n ŋ ɻ
Medial a [a]
ㄚ a
ai [æɪ̯]
ㄞ ai
ao [ɑʊ̯]
ㄠ ao
an [æn]
ㄢ an
ang [ɑŋ]
ㄤ ang
ê/o [ɤ]
ㄜ e
ei [eɪ̯]
ㄟ ei
ou [oʊ̯]
ㄡ ou
ên [ən]
ㄣ en
êng [ɤŋ]
ㄥ eng
êrh [ɐɚ̯]
ㄦ er
ih/û [ɨ]
U+312D.svg -i
i ia [i̯a]
ㄧㄚ ia
iao [i̯ɑʊ̯]
ㄧㄠ iao
ien [i̯ɛn]
ㄧㄢ ian
iang [i̯ɑŋ]
ㄧㄤ iang
ieh [i̯e]
ㄧㄝ ie
iu [i̯oʊ̯]
ㄧㄡ iu
in [in]
ㄧㄣ in
ing [i̯ɤŋ]
ㄧㄥ ing
i [i]
ㄧ i
u ua [u̯a]
ㄨㄚ ua
uai [u̯æɪ̯]
ㄨㄞ uai
uan [u̯æn]
ㄨㄢ uan
uang [u̯ɑŋ]
ㄨㄤ uang
o/uo [u̯o]
ㄨㄛ uo
ui [u̯eɪ̯]
ㄨㄟ ui
un [u̯ən]
ㄨㄣ un
ung [ʊŋ]
ㄨㄥ ong
u [u]
ㄨ u
y üan [y̯ɛn]
ㄩㄢ üan
üeh [y̯e]
ㄩㄝ üe
ün [yn]
ㄩㄣ ün
iung [i̯ʊŋ]
ㄩㄥ iong
ü [y]
ㄩ ü

System features

Consonants and initial symbols

A feature of the Wade–Giles system is the representation of the unaspirated-aspirated stop consonant pairs using apostrophes: p, p', t, t', k, k', ch, ch'. The use of apostrophes preserves b, d, g, and j for the romanization of Chinese varieties containing voiced consonants, such as Shanghainese (which has a full set of voiced consonants) and Min Nan (Hō-ló-oē) whose century-old Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ, often called Missionary Romanization) is similar to Wade–Giles. POJ, Legge romanization, Simplified Wade, and EFEO Chinese transcription use the letter ⟨h⟩ instead of an apostrophe to indicate aspiration (this is similar to the superscript ʰ used in IPA). The convention of the apostrophe or ⟨h⟩ to denote aspiration is also found in romanizations of other Asian languages, such as McCune–Reischauer for Korean and ISO 11940 for Thai.

People unfamiliar with Wade–Giles often ignore the apostrophes, sometimes omitting them when copying texts, unaware that they represent vital information. Hanyu Pinyin addresses this issue by employing the Latin letters customarily used for voiced stops, unneeded in Mandarin, to represent the unaspirated stops: b, p, d, t, g, k, j, q, zh, ch.

Partly because of the popular omission of the apostrophe, the four sounds represented in Hanyu pinyin by j, q, zh, and ch all become ch in many literature and personal names. However, were the diacritics to be kept, the system reveals a symmetry that leaves no overlap:

  • The non-retroflex ch (Pinyin j) and ch' (pinyin q) are always before either i or ü.
  • The retroflex ch (Pinyin zh) and ch' (pinyin ch) are always before a, e, ih, o, or u.

Vowels and final symbols

Empty rime

Wade–Giles shows precisions not found in other major Romanizations in regard to the rendering of the two types of empty rimes (simplified Chinese: 空韵; traditional Chinese: 空韻; pinyin: kōngyùn):

  • -u (formerly û) after the sibilants written in this position as tz (ts), tz' (ts') and sz (ss) (pinyin z, c and s).
  • -ih after the retroflex ch, ch', sh, and j (pinyin zh, ch, sh, and r).

These empty rimes are all written as -i in Hanyu pinyin (hence distinguishable only by context from true i as in li), and as -ih in Tongyong pinyin. Zhuyin (Bopomofo) does not require the representation of any empty rime.

IPA ʈʂ͡ɨ ʈʂʰ͡ɨ ʂ͡ɨ ʐ͡ɨ ʦ͡ɯ ʦʰ͡ɯ s͡ɯ
Wade–Giles new chih ch'ih shih jih tzu tz'u szu
old tsû ts'û ssû
Pinyin zhi chi shi ri zi ci si

Vowel o

Final o in Wade–Giles has two pronunciations in modern Mandarin: [u̯ɔ] and [ɤ]. What is pronounced today as a close-mid back unrounded vowel is written usually as ê as in pinyin, but sometimes as o, depending on historical pronunciation (at the time Wade–Giles was developed). Notably, after velar initials k-, k'- and h- (and a historical ng-, which has been dropped by the time Wade–Giles was developed), o is used for characters like "哥" (Wade–Giles ko, pinyin ge), though ê also exists after velars, like in "刻" (Wade–Giles k'ê, pinyin ke). Ê is used in other environments. By modern Mandarin, -o after velars (and what used to be ng-) have shifted to -ê, thus they are written as ge, ke, he and e in pinyin.

What is pronounced today as -uo is virtually always written as -o in Wade–Giles, except for characters like "說" (pronounced shuo even back at the time Wade–Giles was developed) and the three syllables of kuo, k'uo, and huo (as in 過, 霍, etc.), which contrasted with ko, k'o, and ho that correspond to pinyin ge, ke, and he. This is because characters like 羅, 多, etc. (Wade–Giles: lo, to; pinyin: luo, duo) did not originally carry the medial -u-. By modern Mandarin, the phonemic distinction between -o and -uo has been lost (except in interjections when used alone), and the medial -u- is added in front of -o, creating the modern -uo.

IPA pu̯ɔ pʰu̯ɔ mu̯ɔ fu̯ɔ tu̯ɔ tʰu̯ɔ nu̯ɔ lu̯ɔ kʰɤ ʈʂu̯ɔ ʈʂʰu̯ɔ ʐu̯ɔ ʦu̯ɔ ʦʰu̯ɔ su̯ɔ
Wade–Giles po p'o mo fo to t'o no lo ko k'o ho cho ch'o jo tso ts'o so
Bopomofo ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ
Pinyin bo po mo fo duo tuo nuo luo ge ke he zhuo chuo ruo zuo cuo suo


Tones are indicated in Wade–Giles using superscript numbers (1–4) placed after the syllable; the neutral tone is denoted either by the super-script number '5' or '0' or, sometimes, by the absence of tone number. This contrasts with the use of diacritics to represent the tones in pinyin. For example, the pinyin qiàn (fourth tone) has the Wade–Giles equivalent ch'ien4. The tone numbers are generally omitted except in textbooks.


Wade–Giles uses hyphens to separate all syllables within a word (whereas pinyin separates syllables only in ambiguous cases, using apostrophes, as in Xi'an).

If a syllable is not the first in a word, its first letter is not capitalized, even if it is part of a proper noun. The use of apostrophes, hyphens, and capitalization is frequently not observed in place names and personal names. For example, the majority of overseas Taiwanese write their given names like "Tai Lun" or "Tai-Lun", whereas the Wade–Giles is actually "Tai-lun". (See also Chinese name.)

For the apostrophes used in Wade–Giles to denote aspirated consonants, Giles's original dictionary used left apostrophes (‘) consistently. This orientation was followed in Sinological works until the 1950s or 60s, when it started to be gradually replaced by right apostrophes (’) in academic literature. Online publications almost invariably use the plain apostrophe ('). Apostrophes are not included in Taiwanese passports, and are absent in overseas Chinese names.

Comparison with other systems


  • Wade–Giles chose the French-like j to represent a Northerner's[clarification needed] pronunciation of what is represented as r in Pinyin.
  • Ü always has a trema (diaeresis) above, while pinyin only employs it in the cases of , , nüe and lüe, while leaving it out in -ue, ju-, qu-, xu-, -uan and yu- as a simplification because u cannot otherwise appear in those positions. Because (as in 玉 "jade") must have a diaeresis in Wade, the diaeresis-less yu in Wade–Giles is freed up for what corresponds to you (有) in Pinyin.
  • The pinyin vowel cluster ong is ung in Wade–Giles. (Compare Kung Fu to Gong Fu as an example.)
  • After a consonant, both the Wade–Giles and Pinyin vowel cluster uei is written ui. Furthermore, both Romanizations use iu and un instead of the complete syllables: iou and uen.
  • Single i is never preceded by y, as in pinyin. The only exception is in placenames, which are hyphenless, so without a y, syllable ambiguity could arise.
  • The isolated syllable eh is written as ê, like in pinyin. (Schwa is occasionally written as ê as well.) But unlike Pinyin, which uses -e if there is a consonant preceding the sound, Wade–Giles uses -eh. (See circumflex)
  • In addition to being the schwa, ê also represents the pinyin er as êrh.


Vowels a, e, o, i
IPA a ɔ ɛ ɤ æɪ ɑʊ æn ən ɑŋ ɤŋ ɐɚ i ie ioʊ iɛn in iɤŋ
Pinyin a o ê e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er yi ye you yan yin ying
Tongyong Pinyin a o e e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er yi ye you yan yin ying
Wade–Giles a o eh o/ê ai ei ao ou an ên ang êng êrh i yeh yu yen yin ying
Zhuyin ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ
Vowels u, y
IPA u uo ueɪ uən uɤŋ ʊŋ y ye yɛn yn iʊŋ
Pinyin wu wo/o wei wen weng ong yu yue yuan yun yong
Tongyong Pinyin wu wo/o wei wun wong ong yu yue yuan yun yong
Wade–Giles wu wo/o wei wên wêng ung yüeh yüan yün yung
Zhuyin ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ ㄩㄥ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fɤŋ tioʊ tueɪ 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 p' m fêng tiu tui tun t'ê kêrh k'o 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 ch'in hsüan chê chih ch'ê ch'ih shê shih jih tsê tso tzu ts'ê tz'u szu
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,
ma0, or
Zhuyin ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ •ㄇㄚ
example (traditional/simplified) 媽/妈 麻/麻 馬/马 罵/骂 嗎/吗

Note: In Hanyu pinyin the so-called fifth accent (neutral accent) is written leaving the syllable with no diacritic mark at all. In Tongyong Pinyin a ring is written over the vowel instead.

See also


  1. Krieger, Larry S.; Kenneth Neill; Dr. Edward Reynolds (1997). "ch. 4". World History; Perspectives on the Past. Illinois: D.C. Heath and Company. p. 82. ISBN 0-669-40533-7. This book uses the traditional system for writing Chinese names, sometimes called the Wade–Giles system. This system is used in many standard reference books and in all books on China published in Western countries before 1979.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 中文数据库检索技术研究的一项新内容
  3. Kaske, Elisabeth (2008). The Politics of Language in Chinese Education: 1895 - 1919. BRILL. p. 68. ISBN 90-04-16367-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Chinese Language Transliteration Systems – Wade–Giles". UCLA film and television archive. Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Web archive)

External links