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Zhuyin fuhao / Bopomofo (注音符號/ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)

Zhuyin fuhao is a phonetic script used in dictionaries, children's books, text books for people learning Chinese and in some newspapers and magazines to show the pronunciation of the characters. It is also used to show the Taiwanese pronunciation of characters and to write Taiwanese words for which no characters exist.

It was created in China between 1912 and 1913 by the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation (讀音統一會), but was abandoned in favour of Hanyu Pinyin after 1949, and has been used in Taiwan since then.

Initially is was called 注音字母 (zhùyīn zìmŭ - "sound anotating letters") or 國音字母 (gúoyīn zìmŭ - "national phonetic letters") and it was first proposed as the national standard for transcribing Mandarin Chinese at a government-sponsored conference in 1913 and officially adopted as such in 1928. It was renamed 注音符號 (zhùyīn fúhào - "phonetic symbols") in 1930, and is popularly known as ㄅㄆㄇㄈ (bopomofo) after the names of the first 4 symbols.

The Zhuyin symbols were developed from Chinese characters and use parts of characters that have the relevant pronunciation in Mandarin. For example, ㄅ(b) comes from 勹, part of 包 (bāo). Many of the Zhuyin symbols are modelled on obsolete or cursive characters.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: semi-syllabary with symbols for initials (onsets) and finals (rimes), and diacritics for tones.
  • Direction of writing: from right to left in vertical columns alongside the characters, or from left to right in horizontal lines above the characters. The tone diacritics are placed to the right of each syllable in vertical texts, and above the zhuyin symbols in horizontal texts. In some horizontal texts the zhuyin symbols are written on the right of the characters.
  • Used to transcribe the pronunciation of Mandarin, Taiwanese and some of the Aboriginal languages of Taiwan, and also as a way to type Chinese on computers and mobile phones.
  • Number of symbols: 37 (21 initials & 16 finals), plus 4 tone diacritics

Zhuyin fuhao / Bopomofo

Zhuyin fuhao / Bopomofo

This order of the symbols is used in dictionaries and indices.

Download this chart in Word or PDF format

Sample texts

Vertical
Sample text in Chinese with zhuyin

Horizontal
Sample text in Chinese with zhuyin

Transliteration (Hànyŭ Pīnyīn)

Rénrén shēng ér zìyóu, zài zūnyán hé quánlì shàng yīlù píngděng. Tāmen fùyǒu lǐxìng hé liángxīn, bìng yīng yǐ xiōngdì guānxì de jīngshén hùxiāng duìdài.

Listen to a recording of this text

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Recommended books

Books about Chinese characters and calligraphy
Mandarin, Shanghainese, Hokkien, Taiwanese and Cantonese language learning materials

Links

Information about Zhuyin fuhao / Bopomofo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bopomofo
http://www.pinyin.info/romanization/bopomofo/
http://www.mandarinbook.net/bopomofo/

Bopomofo stroke order
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Stroke_Order_Project/Bopomofo

Chinese Text Annotation - adds inline Pinyin or Zhuyin annotations above words, or adds pop-up annotations with English definition of the word to Chinese texts
http://mandarinspot.com/annotate

Chinese Romanization Converter - converts between pinyin, zhuyin and others transcriptions systems
http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/

Pinyin-Zhuyin converter
http://www.inxsoft.net/mandarin-resource/converter.php

Chinese-English dictionary with pinyin and zhuyin
http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/

Information about other phonetic transcription systems for Mandarin Chinese

Information about the Chinese script

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