The History of Pinyin
- May 07, 2020
- Leonie McKeon
The first Westerners to develop a system to pronounce Chinese characters using the Roman alphabet were Thomas Wade and Herbert A. Giles. They published a Chinese-English Dictionary in 1892. In the 1950’s the Wade-Giles system was entirely replaced in mainland China by the Pinyin system.
Just like the Wade-Giles System, the Pinyin System is a phonetic system used to pronounce Chinese characters using the English Alphabet. For example, 上海 are the Chinese characters for the name of the city Shanghai. Shanghai is the Pinyin for those characters.
Not only is the Pinyin System used in China, it is widely used across the Greater China Region. However, you will still see evidence of the Wade-Giles Romanisation in significant Chinese words. The naming of Beijing as Peking is an example of this. Beijing is in Pinyin. Peking is in Wade-Giles. The word Tao (which means “way”, “path” or “route”) is another example of the use of Wade-Giles, whereas Dao is in Pinyin.