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Alphabet romanization
Languages Mandarin Chinese
Creator Thomas Wade and Herbert Giles
Created19th century
Romanized from Chinese
Chinese 拼音
Wade–Giles Wei1 Chai2 Shih4
Hanyu Pinyin Wēi-Zhái Shì Pīnyīn
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 威妥瑪拼音
Simplified Chinese 威妥玛拼音
Wade–Giles Wei1 Tʽo3-ma3 Pʽin1-yin1
Hanyu Pinyin Wēi Tuǒmǎ Pīnyīn
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 拼音
Simplified Chinese 拼音
Wade–Giles Wei2 Shih4 Pʽin1-yin1
Hanyu Pinyin Wéi Shì Pīnyīn
National Intelligence Survey Gazetteer for Communist China (CIA, 1963) containing an alphabetical listing of Wade-Giles derived names for locations in Communist China as well as other names National Intelligence Survey Gazetteer for Communist China CIA-RDP01-00707R000100130002-2.pdf
National Intelligence Survey Gazetteer for Communist China (CIA, 1963) containing an alphabetical listing of Wade-Giles derived names for locations in Communist China as well as other names

Wade–Giles ( /ˌwdˈlz/ ) is a romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was given completed form with Herbert A. Giles's Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892.


Wade–Giles was the system of transcription in the English-speaking world for most of the 20th century. Wade–Giles is based on the Beijing dialect, whereas the Nanjing dialect-based romanization systems were in common use until the late 19th century. Both were used in postal romanizations (romanized place-names standardized for postal uses). In mainland China it has been mostly replaced by the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system, with exceptions for the romanized forms of some locations, persons and other proper nouns. The romanized name for some locations, persons and other proper nouns in Taiwan is based on the Wade–Giles derived romanized form, for example Kaohsiung, the Matsu Islands and Chiang Ching-kuo.


Thomas Francis Wade and officers in China, 1879. Da Ying Guo Qin Chai Wei Da Ren Yu Ge Ting Chai Ren Yuan .jpg
Thomas Francis Wade and officers in China, 1879.
Map of Changsha labeled as CH'ANG-SHA from the Wade-Giles (AMS, 1953) Txu-oclc-10552568-nh49-16-back.jpg
Map of Changsha labeled as CH’ANG-SHA from the Wade–Giles (AMS, 1953)

Wade–Giles was developed by Thomas Francis Wade, a scholar of Chinese and a British ambassador in China who was the first professor of Chinese at Cambridge University. Wade published in 1867 the first textbook on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin in English, Yü-yen Tzŭ-erh Chi (simplified Chinese :语言自迩集; traditional Chinese :語言自邇集), [1] which became the basis for the romanization system later known as Wade–Giles. The system, designed to transcribe Chinese terms for Chinese specialists, was further refined in 1892 by Herbert Allen Giles (in A Chinese-English Dictionary ), a British diplomat in China and his son, Lionel Giles,[ citation needed ] a curator at the British Museum. [2]

Taiwan used Wade–Giles for decades as the de facto standard, co-existing with several official romanizations in succession, namely, Gwoyeu Romatzyh (1928), Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (1986), and Tongyòng Pinyin (2000). With the election of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan in 2008, Taiwan officially switched to Hànyǔ Pīnyīn.[ citation needed ] However, many people in Taiwan, both native and overseas, use or transcribe their legal names in the Wade–Giles system, as well as the other aforementioned systems.

Initials and finals

The tables below show the Wade–Giles representation of each Chinese sound (in bold type), [3] together with the corresponding IPA phonetic symbol (in square brackets), and equivalent representations in Bopomofo and Hànyǔ Pīnyīn.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental/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 [pʰ]
ㄆ p
ㄊ t
ㄎ k
Affricate Unaspirated ts [ts]
ㄗ z
ch [ʈʂ]
ㄓ zh
ch [tɕ]
ㄐ j
Aspirated tsʻ [tsʰ]
ㄘ c
chʻ [ʈʂʰ]
ㄔ ch
chʻ [tɕʰ]
ㄑ q
Fricative f [f]
ㄈ f
s [s]
ㄙ s
sh [ʂ]
ㄕ sh
hs [ɕ]
ㄒ x
h [x]
ㄏ h
Liquid l [l]
ㄌ l
j [ɻ~ʐ]
ㄖ r

Instead of ts, tsʽ and s, Wade–Giles writes tz, tzʽ and ss before ŭ (see below).


MoeKai Bopomofo U+312D.svg -i
ㄜ e
ㄚ a
ㄟ ei
ㄞ ai
ㄡ ou
ㄠ ao
ㄣ en
ㄢ an
ㄨㄥ ong
ㄥ eng
ㄤ ang
ㄦ er
ㄧ i
ㄧㄝ ie
ㄧㄚ ia
ㄧㄡ iu
ㄧㄠ iao
ㄧㄣ in
ㄧㄢ ian
ㄩㄥ iong
ㄧㄥ ing
ㄧㄤ iang
ㄨ u
ㄛ/ㄨㄛ o/uo
ㄨㄚ ua
ㄨㄟ ui
ㄨㄞ uai
ㄨㄣ un
ㄨㄢ uan
ㄨㄤ uang
ㄩ ü
ㄩㄝ üe
ㄩㄣ ün
ㄩㄢ üan

Wade–Giles writes -uei after kʽ and k, otherwise -ui: kʽuei, kuei, hui, shui, chʽui.

It writes [-ɤ] as -o after kʽ, k and h, otherwise as : kʽo, ko, ho, shê, chʽê. When [ɤ] forms a syllable on its own, it is written ê or o depending on the character.

Wade–Giles writes [-wo] as -uo after kʽ, k, h and sh, otherwise as -o: kʽuo, kuo, huo, shuo, chʽo.

For -ih and , see below.

Giles's A Chinese-English Dictionary also includes the syllables chio, chʽio, hsio, yo, which are now pronounced like chüeh, chʽüeh, hsüeh, yüeh.

Syllables that begin with a medial

ㄧ yi
ㄧㄝ ye
ㄧㄚ ya
ㄧㄞ yai
ㄧㄡ you
ㄧㄠ yao
ㄧㄣ yin
ㄧㄢ yan
ㄩㄥ yong
ㄧㄥ ying
ㄧㄤ yang
ㄨ wu
ㄨㄛ wo
ㄨㄚ wa
ㄨㄟ wei
ㄨㄞ wai
ㄨㄣ wen
ㄨㄢ wan
ㄨㄥ weng
ㄨㄤ wang
ㄩ yu
ㄩㄝ yue
ㄩㄣ yun
ㄩㄢ yuan

Wade–Giles writes the syllable [i] as i or yi depending on the character.

System features

Consonants and initial symbols

A feature of the Wade–Giles system is the representation of the unaspirated-aspirated stop consonant pairs using a character resembling an apostrophe. Thomas Wade and others have used the spiritus asper (ʽ), borrowed from the polytonic orthography of the Ancient Greek language. Herbert Giles and others have used a left (opening) curved single quotation mark (‘) for the same purpose. A third group used a plain apostrophe ('). The backtick, and visually similar characters are sometimes seen in various electronic documents using the system.

Examples using the spiritus asper: p, pʽ, t, tʽ, k, kʽ, ch, chʽ. The use of this character preserves b, d, g, and j for the romanization of Chinese varieties 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-like character to indicate aspiration. (This is similar to the obsolete IPA convention before the revisions of the 1970s). The convention of an apostrophe-like character 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 spiritus asper, sometimes omitting them when copying texts, unaware that they represent vital information. Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 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 apostrophe-like characters, the four sounds represented in Hànyǔ Pīnyīn by j, q, zh, and ch often all become ch, including in many proper names. However, if the apostrophe-like characters are kept, the system reveals a symmetry that leaves no overlap:

Vowels and final symbols

Syllabic consonants

Like Yale and Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II, Wade–Giles renders the two types of syllabic consonant (simplified Chinese :空韵; traditional Chinese :空韻; Wade–Giles: kʽung1-yün4; Hànyǔ Pīnyīn: kōngyùn) differently:

  • is used after the sibilants written in this position (and this position only) as tz, tzʽ and ss (Pīnyīn z, c and s).
  • -ih is used after the retroflex ch, chʽ, sh, and j (Pīnyīn zh, ch, sh, and r).

These finals are both written as -ih in Tongyòng Pinyin, as -i in Hànyǔ Pīnyīn (hence distinguishable only by the initial from [i] as in li), and as -y in Gwoyeu Romatzyh and Simplified Wade. They are typically omitted in Zhùyīn (Bōpōmōfō).

IPA ʈ͡ʂɻ̩ʈ͡ʂʰɻ̩ʂɻ̩ɻɻ̩t͡sɹ̩t͡sʰɹ̩sɹ̩
Yale jrchrshrrdztszsz
MPS II jrchrshrrtztszsz
Tongyòng Pinyin jhihchihshihrihzihcihsih
Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zhichishirizicisi
Gwoyeu Romatzyh jychyshyrytzytsysy
Simplified Wade chychhyshyrytsytshysy

Vowel o

Final o in Wade–Giles has two pronunciations in modern Mandarin: [wo] and [ɤ].

What is pronounced today as a close-mid back unrounded vowel [ɤ] is written usually as ê, but sometimes as o, depending on historical pronunciation (at the time Wade–Giles was developed). Specifically, after velar initials k, kʽ and h (and a historical ng, which had been dropped by the time Wade–Giles was developed), o is used; for example, "哥" is ko1 (Pīnyīn ) and "刻" is kʽo4 [4] (Pīnyīn ). By modern Mandarin, o after velars (and what used to be ng) have shifted to [ɤ], thus they are written as ge, ke, he and e in Pīnyīn. When [ɤ] forms a syllable on its own, Wade–Giles writes ê or o depending on the character. In all other circumstances, it writes ê.

What is pronounced today as [wo] is usually written as o in Wade–Giles, except for wo, shuo (e.g. "說" shuo1) and the three syllables of kuo, kʽuo, and huo (as in 過, 霍, etc.), which contrast with ko, kʽo, and ho that correspond to Pīnyīn ge, ke, and he. This is because characters like 羅, 多, etc. (Wade–Giles: lo2, to1; Pīnyīn: luó, duō) did not originally carry the medial [w]. In modern Mandarin, the phonemic distinction between o and -uo/wo has been lost (except in interjections when used alone), and the medial [w] is added in front of -o, creating the modern [wo].

IPA pwopʰwomwofwotwotʰwonwolwokʰɤʈ͡ʂwoʈ͡ʂʰwoʐwot͡swot͡sʰwoswoɤwo
Zhùyīn ㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛㄨㄛ
Pīnyīn bopomofoduotuonuoluogekehezhuochuoruozuocuosuoewo

Note that Zhùyīn and Pīnyīn write [wo] as ㄛ -o after ㄅ b, ㄆ p, ㄇ m and ㄈ f, and as ㄨㄛ -uo after all other initials.


Tones are indicated in Wade–Giles using superscript numbers (1–4) placed after the syllable. This contrasts with the use of diacritics to represent the tones in Pīnyīn. For example, the Pīnyīn qiàn (fourth tone) has the Wade–Giles equivalent chʽien4.

ToneSample text

(s; t; lit)

Hanyu PinyinWade–Giles
1. high; ; 'mom'ma1
2. rising; 'hemp' [lower-alpha 1] ma2
3. low (dipping); ; 'digit, code'ma3
4. falling; ; 'scold'ma4
5. neutral [lower-alpha 2] ; ; (interrogative)mama

  1. Simplified and traditional characters are the same
  2. See neutral tone for more.


Wade–Giles uses hyphens to separate all syllables within a word (whereas Pīnyīn separates syllables only in specially defined cases, using hyphens or closing (right) single quotation marks as appropriate).

If a syllable is not the first in a word, its first letter is not capitalized, even if it is part of a proper noun. The use of apostrophe-like characters, hyphens, and capitalization is frequently not observed in place names and personal names. For example, the majority of overseas Taiwanese people write their given names like "Tai Lun" or "Tai-Lun", whereas the Wade–Giles is actually "Tai-lun". (See also Chinese names.)

Comparison with other systems



Vowels a, e, o
IPA aɔɛɤaieiauouanənəŋʊŋ
Pinyin aoêeaieiaoouanenangengonger
Tongyong Pinyin ee
Wade–Giles ehê/oênêngungêrh
Bopomofo ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA ijejoujɛninjʊŋuwoweiwənwəŋyɥeɥɛnyn
Pinyin yiyeyouyanyinyingyongwuwo/oweiwenwengyuyueyuanyun
Tongyong Pinyin wunwong
Wade–Giles i/yiyehyuyenyungwênwêngyüehyüanyün
Bopomofo ㄧㄝㄧㄡㄧㄢㄧㄣㄧㄥㄩㄥㄨㄛ/ㄛㄨㄟㄨㄣㄨㄥㄩㄝㄩㄢㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA pmfəŋtjoutweitwəntʰɤnylykɤɚkʰɤ
Pinyin bpmfengdiuduiduntegerkehe
Tongyong Pinyin fongdioudueinyulyu
Wade–Giles ppʻfêngtiutuituntʻêkorkʻoho
Bopomofo ㄈㄥㄉㄧㄡㄉㄨㄟㄉㄨㄣㄊㄜㄋㄩㄌㄩㄍㄜㄦㄎㄜㄏㄜ
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛntɕjʊŋtɕʰinɕɥɛnʈʂɤʈʂɨʈʂʰɤʈʂʰɨʂɤʂɨɻɤɻɨtsɤtswotsɨtsʰɤtsʰɨ
Pinyin jianjiongqinxuanzhezhichechisheshirerizezuozicecisesi
Tongyong Pinyin jyongcinsyuanjhejhihchihshihrihzihcihsih
Wade–Giles chienchiungchʻinhsüanchêchihchʻêchʻihshêshihjihtsêtsotzŭtsʻêtzʻŭssŭ
Bopomofo ㄐㄧㄢㄐㄩㄥㄑㄧㄣㄒㄩㄢㄓㄜㄔㄜㄕㄜㄖㄜㄗㄜㄗㄨㄛㄘㄜㄙㄜ
IPA ma˥˥ma˧˥ma˨˩˦ma˥˩ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade–Giles ma1ma2ma3ma4ma
Bopomofo ㄇㄚㄇㄚˊㄇㄚˇㄇㄚˋ˙ㄇㄚ
example (Chinese characters)妈/媽马/馬骂/罵吗/嗎

Note: In Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, the so-called neutral tone is written leaving the syllable with no diacritic mark at all. In Tongyòng Pinyin, a ring is written over the vowel.


There are several adaptations of Wade–Giles.


The Romanization system used in the 1943 edition of Mathews' Chinese–English Dictionary differs from Wade–Giles in the following ways: [5]


Examples of Wade-Giles derived English language terminology:

See also

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The Yale romanization of Mandarin is a system for transcribing the sounds of Standard Chinese, based on Mandarin Chinese varieties spoken in and around Beijing. It was devised in 1943 by the Yale sinologist George Kennedy for a course teaching Chinese to American soldiers, and popularized by continued development of that course at Yale. The system approximated Chinese sounds using English spelling conventions in order to accelerate acquisition of pronunciation by English speakers.


  1. Kaske, Elisabeth (2008). The Politics of Language in Chinese Education: 1895 - 1919. BRILL. p. 68. ISBN   90-04-16367-0.
  2. "Chinese Language Transliteration Systems – Wade–Giles". UCLA film and television archive. Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2007. (Web archive)
  3. A Chinese-English Dictionary .
  4. A Chinese-English Dictionary , p. 761.
  5. Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary .


Giles, Herbert A. A Chinese-English Dictionary. 2-vol. & 3-vol. versions both. London: Shanghai: Bernard Quaritch; Kelly and Walsh, 1892. Rev. & enlarged 2nd ed. in 3 vols. (Vol. I: front-matter & a-hsü, Vol. II: hsü-shao, and Vol. III: shao-yün), Shanghai: Hong Kong: Singapore: Yokohama: London: Kelly & Walsh, Limited; Bernard Quaritch, 1912. Rpt. of the 2nd ed. but in 2 vols. and bound as 1, New York: Paragon Book Reprint Corp., 1964.

Further reading