The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tongyong Pinyin

Tongyong Pinyin (通用拼音, literally "Universal/General Usage Sound-combining") is the current official romanization of the Chinese language adopted by the national government (although not all local governments) of the Republic of China (on Taiwan) since late 2000, announced by the Mandarin Promotion Council of the Ministry of Education. Like all previous ROC official romanizations, it is based on the official Chinese dialect of Mandarin. Around 80 percent of the Tongyong Pinyin syllables are spelled identically to those of Mainland China's Hanyu Pinyin.



Tongyong Pinyin is the successor of MPS II. Created by Yu Bor-chuan (余伯泉, Yu Boquan) in 1998, Tongyong Pinyin has been modified several times since.



Notable features of Tongyong Pinyin are:

  • Hanyu zh becomes jh (Wade-Giles uses ch).
  • Hanyu x and q become s and c (Wade-Giles uses hs and ch'). This does not result in confusion, because s and c never go with front vowel rhymes while x and q always do.
    • x and q are completely unused in Mandarin Tongyong Pinyin as a result
  • The Hanyu i not represented in Zhuyin -- the empty rime (空韻) -- are shown as ih (partially like Wade-Giles), i.e, those in Hanyu as zi (資), ci (慈), si (思), zhi (知), chi (吃), shi (詩), and ri (日) all end in -ih in Tongyong.
  • eng becomes ong after b-, p-, m-, f-, w- (蹦、碰、孟、奉、瓮)
  • wen (溫) becomes wun
  • iong becomes yong, e.g. syong instead of pinyin xiong (兇)
  • (umlaut u, as in 玉) is abandoned, and yu is used in all situations, including when the two dots are dropped under Hanyu Pinyin rules.
  • Unlike Wade-Giles and Hanyu, iu and ui (e.g., liu (六) and gui (鬼)) 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.
  • Although the original scheme did not specify capitalization of the first letter of every syllable, Taipei has done so with almost every street sign in the city, resulting in a CamelCase-like effect. For example, Beitou is written as BeiTou. The CamelCase practice started with Hanyu Pinyu very unofficially with the raise of the Internet, and had rarely made out into the printed world until now.


  • Tongyong syllables in the same word (except placenames) are to be separated by hyphens, like Wade-Giles. Except that, in 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 disambiguity 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 hyphen.

Adaption and Criticism

Some have argued that Tongyong Pinyin is ridiculous in assigning the letters 'c' and 's' more than one phonetic inital. Furthermore, every single Mandarin syllable can be expressed in equal or fewer keystrokes in Hanyu Pinyin. The largest difficulty lies in the fact that Hanyu Pinyin is already not only the standard of the PRC, but also the internationally accepted ISO standard for the romanization of Mandarin Chinese. Thus, for those who have studied Mandarin anywhere outside Taiwan or accustomed to doing business in China, Hanyu Pinyin is indespensible. However, supporters argue that Tongyong Pinyin avoids the j, q, and x characters that often leave those who have not studied Mandarin clueless on the appropriate pronunciation. Many supporters of Hanyu Pinyin rebut that it only takes a few minutes to learn the pronunciations of j, q and x.

Even though 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 it was rejected.

The adoption of Tongyong Pinyin has also resulted in political controversy. Much of the controversy centered on issues of national identity with proponents of Chinese reunification favoring the hanyu pinyin system which is used on the Mainland and proponents of Taiwan independence favoring the use of tongyong pinyin, and declaring it the "Natural Pinyin" (自然拼音).

In October 2002, the ROC government adopted Tongyong Pinyin but through an administrative order which local governments can override. Localities with governments controlled by the Kuomintang, most notably Taipei City, have overridden the order and are using hanyu pinyin for local signs in accordance with the wishes of various groups representing foreign businesses. This creates the odd situation in which adjacent signs have different pinyin based on which government controls them.

In part because of the lack of agreement of which pinyin to use, the goal of the Ministry of Education to replace bopomofo with pinyin to teach pronunciation in elementary school remains stalled as of 2003.

Tongyong Pinyin also has a Taiwanese phonetic symbol version (台語音標版) that uses v (for 万) but not f.

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:04:58
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13