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What are these characters?


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Hi all,

I have a question about a childrens book I found in the local library. They have a good collection of Chinese books there and I often browse at random just to test myself and see what I can recognise with my fairly basic level of Mandarin. Today I found a book which seemed to have some sort of pronunciation markers against the characters ( like furigana in Japanese) but I haven't seen this before in other Chinese books. I've scanned a page below - I'm just curious about what these are.

Link to scan of page

Most look like radicals, but others are almost like Hangul (but aren't..), so I was just wondering how these work.


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Never seen anything like that before, but you might want to rename the topic to better attract the attention of someone who might know. The topic name "What are these?" isn't much better than naming it "Question".

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Ah, I knew something like this existed but I hadn't encountered them yet. Some links about this I found while reading up:



(Yea, I know I'm a wikipedia dork.)

Looks like there's an HTML spec for ruby characters but browsers don't support fancy special formatting for them yet.

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It is called Pinyin Project, which was made in 1950s by the government of China. But soon it was taken place by the romanized Pinyin, so rare Chinese knows it now.

As you can see, it also has two forms for each phoneme: capital form and short form.

If you are interested in it, here's a website for your further information:


The following is just part of it:

A a B b C c D d E e F f G g

ㄚ ㄅㄝ ㄘㄝ ㄉㄝ ㄜ ㄝㄈ ㄍㄝ


H h I i J j K k L l M m N n

ㄏㄚ ㄧ ㄐㄧㄝ ㄎㄝ ㄝㄌ ㄝㄇ ㄋㄝ


O o P p Q q R r S s T t

ㄛ ㄆㄝ ㄑㄧㄡ ㄚㄦ ㄝㄙ ㄊㄝ


U u V v W w X x Y y Z z

ㄨ 万ㄝ ㄨㄚ ㄒㄧ ㄧㄚ ㄗㄝ

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Thanks everyone! I just checked and the book was indeed published in Taiwan.

Out of interest: are these useful/productive for foreigners learning to read Chinese, or do most just use pin yin? (or does it just come down to whether you're studying in Taiwan or Mainland China?)

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Well, I'm learning even with traditional characters and my textbook still uses pinyin. This is actually the first I've seen of bopomofo (though I haven't been studying long.)

I thought I read somewhere that Taiwan or HK had switched to pinyin so there might be ruby text books with pinyin and traditional characters. (shrug)

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are these useful/productive for foreigners learning to read Chinese, or do most just use pin yin?
Most just use pinyin, even in Taiwan most foreigners studying Chinese do so with pinyin. Bopomofo can come in handy if you are studying in Taiwan, or otherwise have some connection with Taiwan, but if not you can do without it.
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It is called Pinyin Project, which was made in 1950s by the government of China.
I'm sorry, but I don't believe that this is an accurate statement. The system is widely called Zhuyin fuhao (and has been called this since the 30's), and it dates back to the early 1900's. From Wikipedia:
The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Woo Tsin-hang from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Guoyin zimu (國音字母 "National Pronunciation Letters") or Zhuyin zimu (註音字母 or 注音字母 "Sound-annotating Letters") which is based on Zhang Binglin's shorthands. (For differences with the Zhang system, see Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation#Phonetic symbols.) A draft was released on July 11, 1913 by the Republic of China National Ministry of Education, but it was not officially proclaimed until November 23, 1918. Zhuyin zimu was renamed to Zhuyin fuhao in April 1930. The use of Zhuyin Fuhao has continued after 1949 on Taiwan and its outlying islands under Taiwan administration. In mainland China, Zhuyin Fuhao was superseded by the pinyin system promulgated by the People's Republic of China, although the pronunciation of words in standard dictionaries are given in both pinyin and Zhuyin.
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Re: whether learning zhuyin fuhao is useful in learning Mandarin

If you already know pinyin, I can't really see a point, unless you're going to be reading children's books published in Taiwan.

On the other hand, I find that zhuyin is slightly more effective as a phonetic system for the following reason: pinyin uses Roman alphabet characters, and these Roman characters generally denote particular sets of pronounciation sounds in what ever Roman-ized language you happen to speak as a non-native Chinese. This association often leads to a misapprehension of Mandarin pronounciation. You avoid this problem with zhuyin, because the fuhao in zhuyin look nothing at all like the alphabet.


親 qin ㄑㄧㄣ

傷 shang ㄕㄤ

The first example, it's confusing what the 'q' is if you're an English speaker, and in the second example, the sound of 'ang' is also confusing. If you memorize the sounds associated with the zhuyin fuhao, though, you would have a better chance of coming up with the correct sounds. You should be able to find more of these types of examples.

That being said... I find typing Chinese in zhuyin a lot harder, as I can touch type in English.

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