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Wade–Giles (/ˌwd ˈlz/; simplified Chinese: 韦氏拼音; traditional Chinese: 韋氏拼音 or simplified Chinese: 威妥玛拼音; traditional Chinese: 威妥瑪拼音), sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a romanization system for the Mandarin Chinese language. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade during the mid-19th century, and was given completed form with Herbert Giles's ChineseEnglish Dictionary of 1892.

Wade–Giles was a common 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 in mainland China. Outside mainland China, it has mostly been replaced by the pinyin system (developed by the Chinese government and approved during 1958),[2] but remains common in history books, particularly those before late 20th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 or Taipei.


Wade–Giles was developed by Thomas Francis Wade, a British ambassador in China and Chinese scholar who was the first professor of Chinese at Cambridge University. Wade published the first Chinese textbook in English in 1867. The system was refined in 1912 by Herbert Allen Giles, a British diplomat in China and his son, Lionel Giles, a curator at the British Museum.[3]

The Wade–Giles system was designed to transcribe Chinese terms, for Chinese specialists.

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 Nationalist government in 2008, Taiwan has officially switched to Hanyu pinyin. However, many signs and maps in Taiwan are still in Wade–Giles, and many overseas Taiwanese write their names in the Wade–Giles system.

Wade–Giles spellings and pinyin spellings for Taiwanese place names and words long accepted in English usage are still used interchangeably in English-language texts.

Initials and Finals


Bilabial Labiodental 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]
ㄖ r
hs [ɕ]
ㄒ x
h [x]
ㄏ h
Lateral l [l]
ㄌ l


Nucleus a ə
Coda i u n ŋ i u n ŋ ɻ
Medial a [ɑ]
ㄚ a
ai [aɪ̯]
ㄞ ai
ao [ɑʊ̯]
ㄠ ao
an [ɑn]
ㄢ an
ang [ɑŋ]
ㄤ ang
ê/o [ɯ̯ʌ]
ㄜ e
ei [eɪ̯]
ㄟ ei
ou [ɤʊ̯]
ㄡ ou
ên [ən]
ㄣ en
êng [əŋ]
ㄥ eng
êrh [ɑɻ]
ㄦ er
ih/û [ɨ]
ㄭ -i
i ia [i̯ɑ]
ㄧㄚ ia
iao [i̯ɑʊ̯]
ㄧㄠ iao
ien [i̯ɛn]
ㄧㄢ ian
iang [i̯ɑŋ]
ㄧㄤ iang
ieh [i̯ɛ]
ㄧㄝ ie
iu [i̯ɤʊ̯]
ㄧㄡ iu
in [in]
ㄧㄣ in
ing [iŋ]
ㄧㄥ ing
i [i]
ㄧ i
u ua [u̯ɑ]
ㄨㄚ ua
uai [u̯ɑɪ̯]
ㄨㄞ uai
uan [u̯ɑn]
ㄨㄢ uan
uang [u̯ɑŋ]
ㄨㄤ uang
o/uo [u̯ɔ]
ㄨㄛ uo
ui [u̯eɪ̯]
ㄨㄟ ui
un [u̯ən]
ㄨㄣ un
ung [ʊŋ]
ㄨㄥ ong
u [u]
ㄨ u
y üan [y̯ɛn]
ㄩㄢ üan
üeh [y̯œ]
ㄩㄝ üe
ün [y]
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 languages 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, even so far as leaving them out 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 sibilant tz, tz', and 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 all written as -ih in Tongyong Pinyin. Zhuyin, as a non-romanization, does not require the representation of any empty rime.

IPA ʈʂ͡ɨ ʈʂʰ͡ɨ ʂ͡ɨ ʐ͡ɨ ʦ͡ɯ ʦʰ͡ɯ s͡ɯ
Wade–Giles new chih ch'in 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 [u̯ɔ] and [ɤ]. What is pronounced as a close-mid back unrounded vowel is written usually as -e as in pinyin, but sometimes as -o. This vowel in an isolate syllable is written as o or ê. When placed in a syllable, it is e; except when preceded by k, k', and h, when it is o.

What is actually pronounced as -uo is virtually always written as -o in Wade–Giles, except shuo and the three syllables of kuo, k'uo, and huo, which already have the counterparts of ko, k'o, and ho that represent pinyin ge, ke, and he.

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


In addition to the apostrophes used for distinguishing the multiple sounds of a single Latin symbol, Wade–Giles uses hyphens to separate all syllables within a word, whereas pinyin only uses apostrophes to separate ambiguous syllables. Originally in his dictionary, Giles used left apostrophes (‘) consistently. Such orientation was followed in Sinological works until the 1950s or 60s, when it started to be gradually replaced by right apostrophes (’) in academic literature. On-line publications almost invariably use the plain apostrophe ('). Apostrophes are completely ignored in Taiwanese passports, hence their absence in overseas Chinese names.

If the syllable is not the first in a word, its first letter is not capitalized, even if it is 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 Chinese of Taiwanese origin write their given names like "Tai Lun" or "Tai-Lun", whereas the Wade–Giles actually writes "Tai-lun". The capitalization issue arises partly because ROC passports indiscriminately capitalize all letters of the holder's names (beside the photograph). It is also due to the misunderstanding that the second syllable is a middle name. (See also Chinese name)

Wade–Giles uses superscript numbers to indicate tone, and Pinyin uses diacritics. The tone marks are ignored except in textbooks.

Comparison with other systems


  • Wade–Giles chose the French-like j to represent a Northerner's 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.


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.


Chinese Postal Map Romanization is based on Wade–Giles, but incorporating a number of exceptions that override the systematic rules.

See also


External links

  • Chinese Romanization Converter – Convert between Hanyu Pinyin, Wade–Giles, Gwoyeu Romatzyh and other known or (un-)common Romanization systems.
  • Wade-Giles → Zhuyin → Pinyin → Word list
  • A conversion table of Chinese provinces and cities from Wade-Giles to Pinyin
  • Pinyin4j: Java library supporting Chinese to Wade-Giles – Support Simplified and Traditional Chinese; Support most popular Pinyin systems, including Hanyu Pinyin, Tongyong Pinyin, Wade–Giles, MPS2, Yale and Gwoyeu Romatzyh; Support multiple pronunciations of a single character; Support customized output, such as ü or tone marks.
  • Pronunciation Guide – From Chuang Tzu's Genius of the Absurd
  • , Chinese phrasebook by Herbert Giles with romanization
  • Chinese Phonetic Conversion Tool – Converts between Wade–Giles and other formats
  • Wade-Giles Annotation – Wade–Giles pronunciation and English definitions for Chinese text snippets or web pages.
  • 國語拼音對照表
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