Tongyong Pinyin

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Tongyong Pinyin (Chinese: 通用拼音; Hanyu Pinyin: Tōngyòng Pīnyīn; Tongyong Pinyin: Tongyòng Pinyin; literally: "general-use spelling of sounds") was the official romanization of Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan between 2002 and 2008. The system was unofficially used between 2000 and 2002, when a new romanization system for Taiwan was being evaluated for adoption. Taiwan's Ministry of Education approved the system in 2002,[1][2] but its use was optional. Since January 1, 2009, Tongyong Pinyin has no longer been official because of the Ministry of Education's approval of Hanyu Pinyin on September 16, 2008.[3][4]


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, a standard phonetic system for language education in Taiwan's schools, does not use the Latin alphabet.)

Tongyong Pinyin was introduced in 1998 by Yu Bor-chuan [zh] to preserve the strengths of Hanyu Pinyin while eliminating some of the pronunciation difficulties Hanyu presents to international readers, such as difficulties with the letters q and x. Yu's system was subsequently revised.

Discussion and adoption of Tongyong Pinyin, like many other initiatives in Taiwan, quickly acquired a partisan tone turning on issues of national identity: Chinese vs. Taiwanese identity.[5] Officials who identified most strongly with the nation itself, such as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its 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, they saw this as ample justification for Taiwan 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 submitted a draft of the Taiwanese romanization in late October to the Executive Yuan, but the proposal was rejected. In November 2000, Tzeng unsuccessfully suggested that the government adopt Hanyu Pinyin with some modifications for local dialects. On 10 July 2002, Taiwan's Ministry of Education held a meeting for 27 members. Only 13 attended. Two left early, and since the chairman could not vote, so the bill for using Tongyong Pinyin was passed with 10 votes.[1]

In August 2002 the government adopted Tongyong Pinyin by an administrative order that local governments had the authority to override within their jurisdiction. In October 2007, with the DPP administration still in power, it was announced that Taiwan would standardize the English transliterations of its Chinese Mandarin place names by the end of the year, after years of confusion from multiple spellings, by using the locally developed Tongyong Pinyin.[8]

In 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 Taiwan's standard, at the end of the year. Since January 1, 2009, Hanyu Pinyin has been the only official romanization system in Taiwan.[3][4]

Adoption and use

Signs using Tongyong Pinyin (Jhaishan, Jhushan and so on) in Kinmen in 2012. Note that 金 is misspelled as jing (instead of the correct jin) in one of the signs

Tongyong Pinyin was the official romanization system in Taiwan, but its use was voluntary.[9] The romanization system that one encounters in Taiwan varies according to the government authority that administers the facility. Street signs in most areas use Tongyong Pinyin[citation needed], including the cities of Kaohsiung, Tainan, and surrounding counties. A contrast could be seen in the two entities that now make up the municipality of TaichungTaichung County used Tongyong Pinyin while Taichung City has used Hanyu Pinyin since at least 2004. Taipei uses only Hanyu Pinyin (save for the name of the city itself and Tamsui, which would be Dànshǔi in Hanyu Pinyin).[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 prevented Ministry of Education from being able to replace Zhuyin in teaching 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 would be switched to Hanyu Pinyin nationwide, effective January 1, 2009.[3][4] Individuals can still choose the spellings for their names, and many still choose do to spell their names in Tongyong Pinyin or in Wade-Giles today. Nonetheless, Tongyong Pinyin was effectively scrapped as Taiwan's standard.

Today, districts of Kaohsiung are named by Tongyong. Districts of Tainan are mostly named by Tongyong with exceptions such as Xinying.

Taiwanese language variant

The Tongyong Pinyin system also exists in a Taiwanese Hokkien phonetic symbol version, Daighi tongiong pingim, which lacks f but adds bh. However, in 2006, the Ministry of Education rejected the use of Daighi tongiong pingim for the Taiwanese dialect and preferred the Taiwanese Romanization System.[11]



Some notable features of Tongyong Pinyin are these:

  • The first tone is unmarked.
  • Hanyu Pinyin's zh- becomes jh- (Wade–Giles uses ch-).
  • Hanyu Pinyin's x- and q- are not used in Tongyong Pinyin and 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 (somewhat like Wade–Giles): those in Hanyu Pinyin as zi (), ci (), si (), zhi (), chi (), shi (), and ri () all end in -ih in Tongyong Pinyin.
  • ü used in Hanyu 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: syong instead of pinyin xiong () (cf. -iang remains unchanged: siang).
  • Unlike in Wade–Giles and Hanyu Pinyin, -iu and -ui (liu [] and gui []), contractions can be 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, but in the Ministry of the Interior's romanizations, placenames have no spaces between the syllables.
  • Tongyong uses tone marks like Zhuyin, not like Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin has no mark for the first tone but a dot for the neutral tone (optional on computers).
  • The optional syllable disambiguation mark is apostrophe (like Hanyu Pinyin): 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

If tone is ignored, 19.47% of Tongyong Pinyin syllables are spelled differently to those of Hanyu Pinyin. The difference widens when syllables are measured according to average frequency of use in everyday life to 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 require the same amount of familiarization as Hanyu Pinyin.[citation needed]
  • Those 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" are more accurate to reflect the sounds of 風 and 翁, as pronounced in the Standard Mandarin in Taiwan, as compared with "feng" and "weng".


  • Tongyong Pinyin is business-friendly because of the ease it offers in pronunciation. Visitors to Taiwan can thus 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 vs. 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 Pinyin is rarely encountered outside the Taipei area anyway and has never been in common use. Tongyong Pinyin is intended to supplant the many variants of Wade–Giles that 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 Pinyin. One can use any system to render characters while one types or formats 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 lack training in Mandarin but 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 that, if possible, one should enable a confident first-time pronunciation of Mandarin words by outsiders.

Against Tongyong Pinyin


  • Hanyu Pinyin romanization includes fewer phonological rules in its systematization than Tongyong Pinyin even if more phonemes are required, such as how Tongyong Pinyin treats 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 and men but wun) and i vs. y (ciang but cyong, ㄤ, ㄑ) because of 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). Such inconsistencies are more numerous than those found in Hanyu Pinyin.


  • The standard romanization system of Mainland China, the International Organization for Standardization, and the United Nations is Hanyu Pinyin. Thus, it is the system taught in educational systems outside Taiwan. Outsiders learning Mandarin will have to learn Hanyu Pinyin anyway. Whatever the merits of the new system, it is unlikely to displace Hanyu Pinyin at this level.
  • Any new system of romanization, regardless of its merits, makes romanization choices harder rather than simpler. New spellings are introduced for and even compete with the different spellings (such as Wade–Giles) that already exist. For example, "Qing Dynasty" (Hanyu Pinyin) and "Ch'ing Dynasty" (Wade–Giles) can now also be spelled as "Cing Dynasty" (Tongyong Pinyin). "Zhou Dynasty" (Hanyu Pinyin), or "Chou Dynasty" (Wade–Giles), can now also be spelled as "Jhou Dynasty" (Tongyong Pinyin).
  • The use of Tongyong Pinyin or Hanyu Pinyin in Taiwan appears tied too heavily to the fortunes of specific political parties.[16] Given the situation, it is usually considered best to default to the most widely used system.
  • Tongyong Pinyin is currently more useful for visitors and tourists unfamiliar with Mandarin than it is for residents who have to learn Mandarin. Because Tongyong Pinyin 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 in Mainland China, where citizens are taught Hanyu Pinyin in schools, Tongyong Pinyin is not taught in the general Taiwanese educational curriculum. As a result, few citizens of Taiwan ever use it.

Comparison between Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin

The differences between Hanyu Pinyin 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 (shi, si)
  • Yu and yong are written so 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), but weng/wong contracts to ong after another consonant in both systems
  • Wen becomes wun
  • Neutral tone is written but not first tone
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 e e
Wade–Giles eh ê/o ên êng ung êrh
Bopomofo ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i je jou jɛn in jʊŋ u wo wei wən wəŋ y ɥe ɥɛn yn
Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wen weng yu yue yuan yun
Tongyong Pinyin wun wong
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yung wên wêng yüeh yüan yün
Bopomofo ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ ㄩㄥ ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tjou twei twən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɚ kʰɤ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui dun te ger ke he
Tongyong Pinyin fong diou duei nyu lyu
Wade–Giles p fêng tiu tui tun tʻê kor kʻo ho
Bopomofo ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄉㄨㄣ ㄊㄜ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜㄦ ㄎㄜ ㄏㄜ
example 歌兒
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛn tɕjʊŋ tɕʰin ɕɥɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tswo 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 jyong cin syuan jhe jhih chih shih rih zih cih sih
Wade–Giles chien chiung chʻin hsüan chê chih chʻê chʻih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ tsʻê tzʻŭ ssŭ
Bopomofo 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
Bopomofo ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ˙ㄇㄚ
example (Chinese characters)

See also


  1. ^ a b "Tongyong Pinyin the new system for romanization". Taipei Times. 11 July 2002. p. 3.
  2. ^ "Taiwan Authority Concerned Passes Tongyong Pinyin Scheme". People's Daily Online. 12 July 2002.
  3. ^ a b c Shih Hsiu-Chuan (18 Sep 2008). "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. p. 2.
  4. ^ a b c "Gov't to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 18 September 2008. Archived from the original on 19 September 2008.
  5. ^ Hsu Wen-lian (19 Jul 2002). "Rush to Tongyong Pinyin reckless". Taipei Times. p. 8.
  6. ^ Lin Mei-chun (17 July 2002). "Minister to play down Tongyong controversy". Taipei Times. p. 3.
  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. ^ Ko Shu-ling (5 Oct 2002). "Tide of Romanization could shift". Taipei Times. p. 2.
  10. ^ Huang, Sandy (3 Aug 2002). "Ma remains Tongyong Pinyin holdout". Taipei Times. p. 2.
  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, as current reference is to a letter to a newspaper by a non-expert. To refute such a statement it might be argued that it is an Anglocentrism because the value of Hanyu Pinyin x, for instance, would not be surprising for Portuguese speakers and users of Portuguese-influenced alphabets such as Vietnamese.)
  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. ^ M. Swofford. "comparing hanyu pinyin with tongyong pinyin". Retrieved 17 April 2015.

External links

Preceded by
Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II
Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Succeeded by
Hanyu Pinyin
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