Egyptian hieroglyphs 32 c. BCE

Hangul 1443 (probably influenced by Tibetan)

Thaana 18 c. CE (derived from Brahmi numerals)

Zhuyin fuhao (Chinese: 注音符號; pinyin: Zhùyīn fúhào), Zhuyin (Chinese: 注音), Bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols is the major Chinese transliteration system for Taiwanese Mandarin. It is also used to transcribe other Chinese languages, particularly other varieties of Standard Chinese and related Mandarin dialects, as well as Taiwanese Hokkien.

Zhuyin fuhao and Zhuyin are traditional terms, whereas Bopomofo is the colloquial term, also used by the ISO and Unicode. Consisting of 37 characters and four tone marks, it transcribes all possible sounds in Mandarin. Zhuyin was introduced in China by the Republican Government in the 1910s and used alongside the Wade-Giles system, which used a modified Latin alphabet. The Wade system was replaced by Hanyu Pinyin in 1958 by the Government of the People's Republic of China,[1] and at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1982.[2] Although Taiwan adopted Hanyu Pinyin as its official romanization system in 2009,[3] Bopomofo is still an official transliteration system there and remains widely used as an educational tool and for electronic input methods.


The informal name "Bopomofo" is derived from the first four syllables in the conventional ordering of available syllables in Mandarin Chinese. The four Bopomofo characters (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) that correspond to these syllables are usually placed first in a list of these characters. The same sequence is sometimes used by other speakers of Chinese to refer to other phonetic systems.[citation needed]

The original formal name of the system was Guóyīn Zìmǔ (traditional 國音字母, simplified 国音字母, lit. "Phonetic Alphabet of the National Language") and Zhùyīn Zìmǔ (traditional 註音字母, simplified 注音字母, lit. "Phonetic Alphabet" or "Annotated Phonetic Letters").[4] It was later renamed Zhùyīn Fúhào (traditional 注音符號, simplified 注音符号), meaning "phonetic symbols".

In official documents, Zhuyin is occasionally called "Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I" (國語注音符號第一式), abbreviated as "MPS I" (注音一式).

In English translations, the system is often also called either Chu-yin or the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols.[4][5] A romanized phonetic system was released in 1984 as Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (MPS II).


The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Wu Zhihui from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Zhuyin Zimu,[4] which was based on Zhang Binglin's shorthand. 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, 1928.[4] It was later renamed first Guoyin Zimu and then, in April 1930, Zhuyin Fuhao. The last renaming addressed fears that the alphabetic system might independently replace Chinese characters.[6]

Modern use in Taiwan

Direction sign for children in Taipei including bopomofo

Zhuyin remains the predominant phonetic system in teaching reading and writing in elementary school in Taiwan. It is also one of the most popular ways to enter Chinese characters into computers and smartphones and to look up characters in a dictionary.

In elementary school, particularly in the lower years, Chinese characters in textbooks are often annotated with Zhuyin as ruby characters as an aid to learning. Additionally, one children's newspaper in Taiwan, the Mandarin Daily News, annotates all articles with Zhuyin ruby characters.

In teaching Mandarin, Taiwan institutions and some overseas communities use Zhuyin as a learning tool.


Table showing Zhuyin in Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Bopomofo in Regular, Handwritten Regular & Cursive formats

The Zhuyin characters were created by Zhang Binglin, and taken mainly from "regularised" forms of ancient Chinese characters, the modern readings of which contain the sound that each letter represents. It is to be noted that the first consonants are articulated from the front of the mouth to the back, /b/, /p/, /m/, /f/, /d/, /t/, /n/, /l/ etc.

Origin of zhuyin symbols
Zhuyin Origin IPA Pinyin WG Example
From , the ancient form and current top portion of bāo p b p 八 (ㄅㄚ, bā)
From , the combining form of p 杷 (ㄆㄚˊ, pá)
From , the archaic character and current radical m m m 馬 (ㄇㄚˇ, mǎ)
From fāng f f f 法 (ㄈㄚˇ, fǎ)
From 𠚣, archaic form of dāo. Compare the bamboo form Dao1 knife bamboo graph.png. t d t 地 (ㄉㄧˋ, dì)
From 𠫓 , upside-down form of (Shuowen Seal Radical 528.svg and Shuowen Seal Radical 525.svg in seal script)[7] t 提 (ㄊㄧˊ, tí)
From Nai3 chu silk form.png/𠄎, ancient form of nǎi n n n 你 (ㄋㄧˇ, nǐ)
From 𠠲, archaic form of l l l 利 (ㄌㄧˋ, lì)
From the obsolete character guì/kuài "river" k g k 告 (ㄍㄠˋ, gào)
From the archaic character kǎo k 考 (ㄎㄠˇ, kǎo)
From the archaic character and current radical hǎn x h h 好 (ㄏㄠˇ, hǎo)
From the archaic character jiū j ch 叫 (ㄐㄧㄠˋ, jiào)
From the archaic character 𡿨 quǎn, graphic root of the character chuān (modern ) tɕʰ q chʻ 巧 (ㄑㄧㄠˇ, qiǎo)
From , an ancient form of xià. ɕ x hs 小 (ㄒㄧㄠˇ, xiǎo)
From Zhi1 seal.png/, archaic form of zhī. ʈʂ zhi, zh- ch 知 (ㄓ, zhī), 主 (ㄓㄨˇ, zhǔ)
From the character and radical chì ʈʂʰ chi, ch- chʻ 吃 (ㄔ, chī), 出 (ㄔㄨ, chū)
From 𡰣, an ancient form of shī ʂ shi, sh- sh 是 (ㄕˋ, shì) , 束 (ㄕㄨˋ, shù)
Modified from the seal script form of ɻ~ʐ ri, r- j 日 (ㄖˋ, rì), 入 (ㄖㄨˋ, rù)
From the archaic character and current radical jié, dialectically zié ([tsjě]; tsieh² in Wade–Giles) ts zi, z- ts 字 (ㄗˋ, zì), 在 (ㄗㄞˋ, zài)
From 𠀁, archaic form of , dialectically ciī ([tsʰí]; tsʻi¹ in Wade–Giles). Compare semi-cursive form Qi1 seven semicursive.png and seal-script Qi1 seven seal.png. tsʰ ci, c- tsʻ 詞 (ㄘˊ, cí), 才 (ㄘㄞˊ, cái)
From the archaic character , which was later replaced by its compound . s si, s- s 四 (ㄙˋ, sì), 塞 (ㄙㄞ, sāi)
Rhymes and medials
Zhuyin Origin IPA Pinyin WG Example
From a a a 大 (ㄉㄚˋ, dà)
From the obsolete character 𠀀 , inhalation, the reverse of kǎo, which is preserved as a phonetic in the compound .[8] o o o 多 (ㄉㄨㄛ, duō)
Derived from its allophone in Standard Chinese, o ɤ e o/ê 得 (ㄉㄜˊ, dé)
From . Compare the Warring States bamboo form Ye3 also chu3jian3 warring state of chu3 small.png e ê eh 爹 (ㄉㄧㄝ, diē)
From 𠀅 hài, archaic form of . ai ai ai 晒 (ㄕㄞˋ, shài)
From , an obsolete character meaning "to move". ei ei ei 誰 (ㄕㄟˊ, shéi)
From yāo au ao ao 少 (ㄕㄠˇ, shǎo)
From yòu ou ou ou 收 (ㄕㄡ, shōu)
From the archaic character 𢎘 hàn "to bloom", preserved as a phonetic in the compound fàn an an an 山 (ㄕㄢ, shān)
From 𠃉, archaic variant of or [9] ( is yǐn according to other sources[10]) ən en ên 申 (ㄕㄣ, shēn)
From wāng ang ang 上 (ㄕㄤˋ, shàng)
From 𠃋, archaic form of gōng[11] əŋ eng êng 生 (ㄕㄥ, shēng)
From , the bottom portion of ér used as a cursive and simplified form er êrh 而 (ㄦˊ, ér)
From i yi, -i i 以 (ㄧˇ, yǐ), 逆 (ㄋㄧˋ, nì)
From , ancient form of . Compare the transitory form 𠄡. u wu, -u u/w 努 (ㄋㄨˇ, nǔ), 吳 (ㄨˊ, wú)
From the ancient character , which remains as a radical y yu, -ü ü/yü 雨 (ㄩˇ, yǔ), 女 (ㄋㄩˇ, nǚ)

From the character . It represents the minimal vowel of , , , , , , , though it is not used after them in transcription.[12] ɻ̩~ʐ̩, ɹ̩~ -i ih/ŭ 資 (ㄗ, zī); 知 (ㄓ, zhī); 死 (ㄙˇ, sǐ)


Stroke order

Zhuyin is written in the same stroke order rule as Chinese characters. Note that ㄖ is written with three strokes, unlike the character from which it is derived (日, Hanyu Pinyin: rì), which has four strokes.

Tonal marks

As shown in the following table, tone marks for the second, third, and fourth tones are shared between bopomofo and pinyin. In bopomofo, the lack of a marker is used to indicate the first tone while a dot above indicates the fifth tone (also known as the neutral tone). In pinyin, a macron indicates the first tone and the lack of a marker indicates the fifth tone.

Tone Bopomofo Pinyin
Tone Marker Unicode Name Tone Marker Unicode Name
1 (None) (Not Applicable) ◌̄ Combining Macron
2 ˊ Modifier Letter Acute Accent ◌́ Combining Acute Accent
3 ˇ Caron ◌̌ Combining Caron
4 ˋ Modifier Letter Grave Accent ◌̀ Combining Grave Accent
5 ˙ Dot Above (None) (Not Applicable)

Unlike Hanyu Pinyin, Zhuyin aligns well with the hanzi characters in books whose texts are printed vertically, making Zhuyin better suited for annotating the pronunciation of vertically oriented Chinese text.

Zhuyin, when used in conjunction with Chinese characters, are typically placed to the right of the Chinese character vertically or to the top of the Chinese character in a horizontal print (see Ruby character).

Below is an example for the word "bottle" (pinyin: píngzi):

ㄆㄧㄥˊ ㄗ˙



Zhuyin and pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations, hence there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two systems:

IPA and pinyin counterparts of Zhuyin finals
Medial [ɨ]
(ㄭ) 1















[u̯əŋ], [ʊŋ]
-ong 4

-üe 2
-üan 2
-ün 2

1 Not written. 2 ü is written as u after j, q, x, or y. 4 weng is pronounced [oŋ] (written as ong) when it follows an initial.


Vowels a, e, o
IPA a ɔ ɛ ɤ ai ei au ou an ən əŋ ʊŋ
Pinyin a o ê e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng ong er
Tongyong Pinyin e e
Wade–Giles eh ê/o ên êng ung êrh
Zhuyin ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i je jou jɛn in jʊŋ u wo wei wən wəŋ y ɥe ɥɛn yn
Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wen weng yu yue yuan yun
Tongyong Pinyin wun wong
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yung wên wêng yüeh yüan yün
Zhuyin ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ ㄩㄥ ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tjou twei twən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɚ kʰɤ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui dun te ger ke he
Tongyong Pinyin fong diou duei nyu lyu
Wade–Giles p fêng tiu tui tun tʻê kor kʻo ho
Zhuyin ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄉㄨㄣ ㄊㄜ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜㄦ ㄎㄜ ㄏㄜ
example 歌儿
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛn tɕjʊŋ tɕʰin ɕɥɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tswo tsɨ tsʰɤ tsʰɨ
Pinyin jian jiong qin xuan zhe zhi che chi she shi re ri ze zuo zi ce ci se si
Tongyong Pinyin jyong cin syuan jhe jhih chih shih rih zih cih sih
Wade–Giles chien chiung chʻin hsüan chê chih chʻê chʻih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ tsʻê tzʻŭ ssŭ
Zhuyin ㄐㄧㄢ ㄐㄩㄥ ㄑㄧㄣ ㄒㄩㄢ ㄓㄜ ㄔㄜ ㄕㄜ ㄖㄜ ㄗㄜ ㄗㄨㄛ ㄘㄜ ㄙㄜ
IPA ma˥˥ ma˧˥ ma˨˩˦ ma˥˩ ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade–Giles ma1 ma2 ma3 ma4 ma
Zhuyin ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ˙ㄇㄚ
example (traditional/simplified) 媽/妈 麻/麻 馬/马 罵/骂 嗎/吗

Non-Standard Mandarin dialects

Three letters formerly used in non-standard dialects of Mandarin are now also used to write other Chinese varieties. Some Zhuyin fonts do not contain these letters; see External links for PDF pictures.

In Taiwan, Bopomofo is used to teach Taiwanese Hokkien, and is also used to transcribe it phonetically in contexts such as on storefront signs, karaoke lyrics, and film subtitles.

Zhuyin IPA GR Pinyin
v v v
ŋ ng ng
ɲ gn ny

Computer uses

Input method

An example of a Zhuyin keypad for Taiwan

Zhuyin can be used as an input method for Chinese characters. It is one of the few input methods that can be found on most modern personal computers without the user having to download or install any additional software. It is also one of the few input methods that can be used for inputting Chinese characters on certain cell phones.[citation needed]

A typical keyboard layout for Zhuyin on computers


Zhuyin was added to the Unicode Standard in October 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Zhuyin, called Bopomofo, is U+3100–U+312F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Additional characters were added in September 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

The Unicode block for these additional characters, called Bopomofo Extended, is U+31A0–U+31BF:

Bopomofo Extended[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Unicode 3.0 also added the characters U+02EA and U+02EB, in the Spacing Modifier Letters block. These two characters are now (since Unicode 6.0) classified as Bopomofo characters.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  2. ^ "ISO 7098:1982 – Documentation – Romanization of Chinese". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  3. ^ Shih Hsiu-Chuan (18 Sep 2008). "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. p. 2. 
  4. ^ a b c d The Republic of China government, Government Information Office. "Taiwan Yearbook 2006: The People & Languages". Archived from the original on 2007-05-09.  Also available at
  5. ^ Taiwan Headlines. "Taiwan Headlines: Society News: New Taiwanese dictionary unveiled". Government Information Office, Taiwan(ROC). 
  6. ^ John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. p. 242.
  7. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠫓.
  8. ^ "Unihan data for U+20000". 
  9. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃉.
  10. ^ "Unihan data for U+4E5A". 
  11. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃋.
  12. ^ Michael Everson, H. W. Ho, Andrew West, "Proposal to encode one Bopomofo character in the UCS", SC2 WG2 N3179.
  13. ^ "Scripts-6.0.0.txt". Unicode Consortium. 

External links