The Standard Transliteration (南北通译, Nam Paek Thung Yik) is the official system for rendering Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. It was published by the Haen Lim Institute (翰林院, Haen Lim Yuan), the national academy in charge of the official academic works of the imperial Chinese government.

Throughout Chinese history, multiple dialects existed and there was no one common speech. The Linguistic Standards Act designated the Mandarin Chinese of the capital in Pekin (北京, Pak Kiang) as the official speech in the Chinese Plain and established the literary standard for written communications. However, this act was not enforced throughout China and many regions still used their local dialects. By the 1970s, political power in Pekin began to be overshadowed by the rise of coastal cities as the central government began to invest in maritime infrastructure as paryt of its post-war economic policy. Shanghai, traditionally wealthy, was joined by British Hong Kong and Taipei, just regained from the Republic of China. China had also just annexed Korea, not long ago at the end of the Korean War. There arose a need for a transliteration system to take into consideration the multiple dialects in common use throughout China. Using the Middle Chinese rime tables, from which the Chinese dialect continuum descended, a simplified standard was used that could be translated into each of the major dialects.

Features Edit

Prominent features of the system are:

  • It uses only three diacritics: flat ( bieng), rising (上 dzǎng) and departing (去 khyù). The entering tone (入 njop) is demarcated with a final plosive consonant: <k>, <t>, <p> and is unmarked.
    • In all Chinese dialects, the four tones of Middle Chinese evolved regularly into the multitude of tones today, ranging from four (Pekin Chinese) to nine (Cantonese). The tone markings, in conjunction with initials, could be used to predict the tone in the descendant language.
  • Consonants are distinguished for voicing. Voiced consonants had merged with unvoiced consonants in all dialects except Shanghainese.
  • A syllable is not read as is, but must be translated. For example, the word 字 dzì is never /d͡zi/, but:
    • Pekin Chinese: /t͡sz̩⁵¹/ zi4
    • Cantonese: /t͡si²²/ zi6
    • Taiwanese: /li³³// , literary reading ji
    • Shanghainese: /zz̩²³/ zr4

Transcription table Edit

The following table takes into account the literary readings used in formal speech. Colloquial pronunciations are largely unpredictable but are noted if otherwise.

Consonants Edit

Group Class Traditional name Pekin Chinese Cantonese Taiwanese Shanghainese
重唇音'''Tiùng jun im


H pang /p/
H phang /ph/
M běng /p/, /ph/ /b̻/
L myeng /m/ /m/, /b/ colloquially /m/
轻唇音'''Khieng jun im


H foi /f/ /h/, /p/ colloquially /f/
H fhu /f/ /h/, /ph/ colloquially /f/
M vùng /f/ /h/, /ph/ colloquially /v/
L mvoi /w/ /m/ /b/ /m/, /v/
舌头音'''Zyet dou im


H tuan /t/
H thou /th/
L deng /t/, /th/ /d̻/
M nei /n/
齿头音'''Chǐ dou im


H tseng
H tsheng
M dzung
M zia
正齿音Chèng chi im H chàu
H 穿 chhuan
M juang
M zyan /s/
L njit
牙音'''Ngae im


H kèn
H khei
M gyun
L ngi /j/, /w/ /ŋ/,/j/ /g/
喉音'''Hou im
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.