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Tongyong Pinyin

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Tongyong Pinyin

Tongyong Pinyin (Chinese: 通用拼音; Hanyu Pinyin: Tōngyòng Pīnyīn; Tongyong Pinyin: Tongyòng Pinyin; literally: "Universal/General Usage Sound-combining") was the official Romanization of Mandarin Chinese in the Republic of China (ROC) (Taiwan) between 2002 and 2008. The system was unofficially used between 2000 and 2002, when a new romanization system for the Republic of China was being evaluated for adoption. The ROC's Ministry of Education approved the system in 2002[1][2] but its use was not mandatory. Since January 1, 2009, Tongyong Pinyin is no longer official, due to the Ministry of Education's approval of Hanyu Pinyin on September 16, 2008.[3][4]


  • History 1
  • Adoption and use 2
  • Taiwanese language variant 3
  • Features 4
    • Spelling 4.1
    • Punctuation 4.2
    • Shared features with Hanyu Pinyin 4.3
  • Arguments 5
    • Supporting Tongyong Pinyin 5.1
      • Intrinsic 5.1.1
      • Practical 5.1.2
    • Against Tongyong Pinyin 5.2
      • Intrinsic 5.2.1
      • Practicality Issues 5.2.2
  • Comparison between Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The impetus behind the invention of Tongyong Pinyin came from the need for a standardized romanization system in Taiwan. For decades the island had employed various systems, usually simplifications or adaptations of Wade–Giles. (Zhuyin fuhao, a standard phonetic system for language education in Taiwan's schools, does not employ the Latin alphabet.)

Tongyong Pinyin was introduced in 1998 by Yu Bor-chuan (余伯泉). The goal was to preserve the strengths of Hanyu Pinyin while eliminating some of the pronunciation difficulties Hanyu presents to international readers, such as the letters q and x. Yu's system has undergone some subsequent revision.

Discussion and adoption of Tongyong Pinyin, like many other initiatives in Taiwan, quickly acquired a partisan tone turning on issues of national identity, i.e. Chinese vs. Taiwanese identity.[5] Officials who identified most strongly with the nation itself, such as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and allied parties, saw no reason to adopt Hanyu Pinyin just because mainland China and the UN had. If Tongyong Pinyin more adequately met the nation's needs, the ROC had reason enough to adopt it.[6] Officials who identified more strongly with Chinese culture, such as the Kuomintang (KMT), saw no reason to introduce a new system unique to Taiwan if Hanyu Pinyin had already gained international acceptance. Each side accused the other of basing its preference on anti-China or pro-China sentiment rather than an objective discussion of community goals.[7]

In early October 2000 the Mandarin Commission of the Ministry of Education proposed to use Tongyong Pinyin as the national standard. Education Minister Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗) submitted a draft of the Taiwanese Romanization in late October to the Executive Yuan but the proposal was rejected. In November 2000 Minister Tzeng suggested the government adopt Hanyu Pinyin with some modifications for local dialects, but the proposal was rejected. On 10 July 2002 the ROC's Ministry of Education held a meeting for 27 members. Only 13 attended. Two left early, plus the chairman could not vote, so the bill for using Tongyong Pinyin was passed by ten votes.[1] In August 2002 the government adopted Tongyong Pinyin through an administrative order which local governments have the authority to override within their jurisdiction. In October 2007, with the DPP administration still in power, it was announced that the ROC would standardize the English transliterations of its Chinese Mandarin place names by the end of that year, after years of confusion stemming from multiple spellings, using the locally developed Tongyong Pinyin.[8]

During 2008, the Kuomintang won both the legislative and presidential elections. In September 2008, it was announced that Tongyong Pinyin would be replaced by Hanyu Pinyin as the ROC government standard at the end of the year. Since January 1, 2009, Hanyu Pinyin is the only official romanization system in the Republic of China.[3][4]

Adoption and use

Tongyong Pinyin was the official romanization system in Taiwan but its use was voluntary.[9] The romanization system one encounters in Taiwan varies according to which government authority administers the facility. Street signs in most areas employ Tongyong Pinyin, including the cities of Kaohsiung, Tainan, and surrounding counties. This contrast could be seen in the two entities that now make up the municipality of TaichungTaichung County used Tongyong, while Taichung City has used Hanyu pinyin since at least 2004. Taipei uses Hanyu Pinyin exclusively.[10] Taipei County (now New Taipei City) used Tongyong Pinyin, but in Taipei Metro stations, Tongyong Pinyin was given in parentheses after Hanyu Pinyin. Modified Wade–Giles spellings are still popularly used for many proper names, especially personal names and businesses.

The political impasse stalled Ministry of Education goals of replacing Zhuyin with pinyin to teach pronunciation in elementary school. Zhuyin is still widely used to teach Mandarin pronunciation to schoolchildren. Children's books published in Taiwan typically display Zhuyin characters next to Chinese characters in the text.

On September 17, 2008, the Ministry of Education announced that the government standard for romanization will be switched to Hanyu Pinyin nationwide, effective January 1, 2009.[3][4] Individuals will retain the choice of what spellings to use for their names. This effectively scraps Tongyong Pinyin as the ROC's standard.

Taiwanese language variant

The Tongyong Pinyin system also exists in a Taiwanese phonetic symbol version (臺語音標版), Daighi tongiong pingim, which lacks the letter f but adds the letter bh (for bhān-万). However, in 2006, the Ministry of Education rejected the use of Daighi tongiong pingim (臺語通用拼音) for the Taiwanese dialect in favor of the Taiwanese Romanization System (台羅版拼音).[11]



Notable features of Tongyong Pinyin are:

  • Tone 1 is unmarked.
  • Hanyu Pinyin's zh- becomes jh- (Wade–Giles uses ch-).
  • Hanyu Pinyin's x- and q- are completely unused in Tongyong Pinyin: they become s- and c- (Wade–Giles uses hs- and ch'-).
  • The Hanyu Pinyin -i (not represented in Zhuyin) known as the empty rhyme (空韻), are shown as -ih (partially like Wade–Giles), i.e., those in Hanyu Pinyin as zi (), ci (), si (), zhi (), chi (), shi (), and ri () all end in -ih in Tongyong Pinyin.
  • ü used in pinyin (written u after j, q and x) is replaced by yu.
  • -eng becomes ong after f- and w- (奉、瓮)
  • wen () becomes wun
  • -iong becomes yong, e.g. syong instead of pinyin xiong (). (Cf. -iang remains unchanged: siang).
  • Unlike Wade–Giles and Hanyu Pinyin, -iu and -ui [e.g., liu () and gui ()] contractions can be optionally written out in full as -iou and -uei. However, according to the Ministry of the Interior, in romanizations of names of places that is at township-level or below township-level, the letters must be written in full.


  • Tongyong syllables in the same word (except placenames) are to be separated by hyphens, like Wade–Giles. Except that, in the Ministry of the Interior's romanizations, placenames have no spaces between the syllables.
  • Tongyong uses tone marks like Zhuyin, and not like Hanyu, i.e., Tongyong has no mark for the first tone, but a dot for the neutral tone (which is optional on computers).
  • The optional syllable disambiguation mark is apostrophe (like Hanyu), e.g., ji'nan vs. jin'an. The mark may also, as in the Ministry of the Interior placenames, be a hyphen.

Shared features with Hanyu Pinyin

Ignoring tone, 80.53% of the Tongyong Pinyin syllables are spelled identically to those of Hanyu Pinyin; 19.47% are spelled differently. The difference widens when syllables are measured according to average frequency of use in everyday life, resulting in a 48.84% difference in spellings.[12]


The prevalence of Hanyu Pinyin as an established system weighs at least as heavily on the debate over Tongyong Pinyin as any feature of the system itself. Arguments presented in the ongoing debate include these.

Supporting Tongyong Pinyin


  • Tongyong spelling, it is argued, yields more accurate pronunciation from non-Chinese speakers than does Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong does not use the letters q and x, for example, in ways that confuse non-Chinese speakers who lack training in the system .[13] However, this argument is contradicted by internal inconsistencies in Tongyong Pinyin (for example, in the use of the letter "c" in Tongyong Pinyin to represent the sound tɕʰ, represented by "q" in Hanyu Pinyin). Such a pronunciation would necessitate the same amount of familiarization as Hanyu Pinyin.
  • Persons familiar with Hanyu Pinyin will encounter nothing radically different when using Tongyong Pinyin.
  • Tongyong eliminates the need for diacritics for the umlauted-u sound.
  • The spellings "fong" and "wong" more accurately reflect the sounds of 風 and 翁 as pronounced in Standard Mandarin in Taiwan, as compared with "feng" and "weng".


  • Tongyong is business-friendly because of the ease it offers in pronunciation. Internationals in Taiwan may more easily describe and find place names, personal names, businesses and locales.
  • Tongyong Pinyin requires no more special accommodation in international correspondence than the difference in Chinese characters (Simplified, Traditional) already requires.
  • Tongyong strikes a balance between the need for internationalization and Taiwan's local needs.[14]
  • Tongyong Pinyin would not supplant Hanyu Pinyin in Taiwan, as Hanyu is rarely encountered outside the Taipei area anyway and has never been in common use. Tongyong is intended to supplant the many variants of Wade–Giles which remain the dominant form of romanization encountered in Taiwan. No one questions the superiority of Tongyong Pinyin to Wade–Giles and the benefit to be gained from the change.
  • Tongyong does not force its exclusive use on those who have already studied Hanyu. One can use any system one wishes in rendering characters while typing or formatting documents in Mandarin. Computers and electronic devices in Taiwan already offer Hanyu Pinyin and MPS keyboards as options. Transitions between romanized forms are also easily achieved if needed.
  • Romanization is most useful to individuals who, lacking training in Mandarin, encounter names and terms in press reports and literature. Students of Mandarin gain literacy in Chinese characters and drop romanization systems of any kind. It therefore makes sense, if one can preserve other goals, to make a priority of enabling confident first-time pronunciation of Mandarin words by the untrained.

Against Tongyong Pinyin


  • Hanyu Pinyin romanization includes fewer phonological rules in its systematization than Tongyong Pinyin, albeit at the expense of requiring more phonemes. This may be seen in the Tongyong Pinyin treatment of the letters c and s:[15]
    /c/ is pronounced [tɕ] before "i", and [tsʰ] otherwise
    /s/ is pronounced [ɕ] before "i", and [s] otherwise
  • Internal inconsistencies exist within Tongyong Pinyin, such as the use of different letters to represent the same sound: e vs. u (ben, pen, fen & men but wun) and i vs. y (ciang but cyong, ㄤ, ㄑ) due to the correspondence with the equivalent Zhuyin spellings; or the use of the same letter to represent different sounds (s, c and z each representing both a dental and a palatal sibilant).
  • Every Mandarin syllable can be expressed in equal or fewer keystrokes in Hanyu Pinyin compared with Tongyong Pinyin.[16]

Practicality Issues

  • The standard romanization system of the ISO and UN is Hanyu Pinyin. For this reason it is the system taught in educational systems outside of Taiwan. Internationals learning Mandarin thus have to learn Hanyu Pinyin anyway. Whatever the merits of a new system, it is unlikely to displace Hanyu Pinyin at this level.
  • Any new system of romanization, regardless of its merits, makes romanization choices more complex rather than more simple. New spellings are introduced where established spellings already exist and even compete. "Qing Dynasty" (Hanyu) and "Ch'ing Dynasty" (Wade–Giles) can now also be spelled as "Cing Dynasty" (Tongyong). "Zhou Dynasty" (Hanyu) or "Chou Dynasty" (Wade–Giles) can now also be spelled as "Jhou Dynasty" (Tongyong).
  • The use of Tongyong or Hanyu in Taiwan appears tied too heavily to the fortunes of specific political parties.[17] Given the situation, it is usually considered best to default to the more widely used system.
  • Hanyu Pinyin is more business-friendly because businesses already use it.
  • Tongyong Pinyin is currently more useful to visitors and tourists who are unfamiliar with Mandarin than to residents who have to learn Mandarin. Because Tongyong has not been adopted for language learning in Taiwan's schools, most natives of Taiwan continue to use other romanization methods (usually modified Wade–Giles systems). Expatriates and immigrants who study Chinese generally have to learn Hanyu Pinyin.
  • Unlike the People's Republic of China, where citizens are taught Hanyu Pinyin in schools, Tongyong romanization is not taught in the general educational curriculum. As a result, few citizens of Taiwan ever use it. Given the fact that overseas learners of Mandarin are not taught Tongyong Pinyin either, there are few people in the world who use it in any practical sense. In other words, the system should not be promoted if neither locals nor foreigners use it.

Comparison between Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin

The differences between Hanyu and Tongyong pinyin are relatively straightforward:

  • The palatalized consonants are written j, c, s rather than j, q, x
  • The retroflex consonants are jh, ch, sh rather than zh, ch, sh
  • The "buzzing" vowels are written ih (shih, sih) rather than i
  • Yu and yong are written this way even after a consonant (nyu, jyong), rather than as ü, u, or iong
  • You and wei are written iou and uei after a consonant (diou, duei), rather than contracted to iu and ui
  • Eng is written labialized ong after the labial consonants f, w (fong, wong), though weng/wong contracts to ong after another consonant in both systems
  • Wen becomes wun
  • First tone is not written, but neutral tone is
Vowels a, e, o, i
ɑ ɔ ɛ ɤ ɑʊ an ən ɑŋ ɤŋ ɑɻ i ie ioʊ iæn 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
u uo ueɪ uən uɤŋ ʊŋ y yæn 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
p m fəŋ tioʊ tueɪ tuən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɻ 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
tɕiæn tɕiʊŋ tɕʰin ɕyæn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ʐɤ ʐɨ 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
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

See also


  1. ^ a b "Tongyong Pinyin the new system for romanization". Taipei Times. 11 July 2002. 
  2. ^ "Taiwan Authority Concerned Passes Tongyong Pinyin Scheme". People's Daily Online. 12 July 2002. 
  3. ^ a b c "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. 18 September 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c "Gov't to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 18 September 2008. 
  5. ^ "Rush to Tongyong Pinyin reckless". Taipei Times. 19 July 2002. 
  6. ^ "Minister to play down Tongyong controversy". Taipei Times. 17 July 2002. 
  7. ^ "Hanyu, Tongyong: survival of the fittest?". The China Post. 2 January 2007. 
  8. ^ "Taiwan to standardize English spellings of place names". International Herald Tribune. 27 October 2007. 
  9. ^ "Tide of Romanization could shift". Taipei Times. 5 October 2002. 
  10. ^ "Ma remains Tongyong Pinyin holdout". Taipei Times. 3 August 2002. 
  11. ^ Swofford, Mark (2 October 2006). "MOE approves Taiwanese romanization; Tongyongists protest". Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  12. ^ Tsai, Chih-Hao (1 July 2004). "Similarities Between Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin: Comparisons at the Syllable and Word Levels". Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  13. ^ Hong, Charles (15 November 2004). "Promote Tongyong Pinyin". Retrieved 2008-09-20.  (this argument needs a credible reference. The current reference is to a letter to a newspaper by a non-expert)
  14. ^ Hwang Hsuan-fan; Chiang Wen-yu; Lo Seo-gim; Cheng Liang-wei (9 January 2000). "Romanization must strike a balance". Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  15. ^ Chih-Hao Tsai. "Similarities Between Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin". Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Swofford, Mark. "Is Tongyong Pinyin easier to type than Hanyu Pinyin?". Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  17. ^ M. Swofford. "comparing hanyu pinyin with tongyong pinyin". Retrieved 17 April 2015. 

External links

  • Linguistic analysis
  • Hanyu-Tongyong comparison chart
  • Formal documents (in Traditional Chinese): from Academia Sinica
  • Toponomastic Rules (in Traditional Chinese): from Wikisource
  • Chinese Phonetic Conversion Tool - Converts between Tongyong Pinyin, Hanyu Pinyin, Zhuyin and other formats
  • Tongyong Pinyin Annotation Adds Tongyong Pinyin and English pop-ups to Chinese text.
Preceded by
Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II
Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Succeeded by
Hanyu Pinyin
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