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Wade–Giles (/ˌwd ˈlz/), sometimes abbreviated Wade,[citation needed] is a Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was given completed form with Herbert A. Giles's Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892.

Traditional Chinese 韋氏拼音
Simplified Chinese 韦氏拼音
Alternative name
Traditional Chinese 威妥瑪拼音
Simplified Chinese 威妥玛拼音

Wade–Giles was the system of transcription in the English-speaking world for most of the 20th century, used in standard reference books and in English language books published before 1979. It replaced the Nanking dialect-based romanization systems that had been common until the late 19th century, such as the Postal Romanization (still used in some place-names). In mainland China it has been entirely replaced by the Hanyu Pinyin system approved in 1958. Outside mainland China, it has mostly been replaced by Pīnyīn, even though Taiwan implements a multitude of Romanization systems in daily life. Additionally, its usage can be seen in the common English names of certain individuals and locations such as Chiang Ching-kuo.



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 (traditional: 語言自邇集; simplified: 语言自迩集),[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 1912 by Herbert Allen Giles, a British diplomat in China and his son, Lionel Giles,[citation needed] a curator at the British Museum.[2]

Taiwan has used Wade–Giles for decades as the de facto standard, co-existing with several official but obscure Romanizations in succession, namely, Gwoyeu Romatzyh (1928), Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (1986), and Tongyong Pinyin (2000). With the election of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan in 2008, Taiwan officially switched to Hanyu Pinyin. 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.

Singapore has also made limited use of Wade–Giles romanization,[citation needed] such as in the romanization of the middle syllable of Lee Hsien Loong's name.

Initials and finalsEdit

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 Zhùyīn Fúhào (Bōpōmōfō) 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, tsʻ and s, Wade–Giles writes tz, tzʻ and ss before ŭ (see below).


/i/ /u/ /n/ /ŋ/ /ɻ/
Medial ih/ŭ
ㄜ e
ㄚ a
ㄟ ei
ㄞ ai
ㄡ ou
ㄠ ao
ㄣ en
ㄢ an
ㄨㄥ ong
ㄥ eng
ㄤ ang
ㄦ er
/j/ i
ㄧ i
ㄧㄝ ie
ㄧㄚ ia
ㄧㄡ iu
ㄧㄠ iao
ㄧㄣ in
ㄧㄢ ian
ㄩㄥ iong
ㄧㄥ ing
ㄧㄤ iang
/w/ u
ㄨ u
ㄛ/ㄨㄛ o/uo
ㄨㄚ ua
ㄨㄟ ui
ㄨㄞ uai
ㄨㄣ un
ㄨㄢ uan
ㄨㄤ uang
/ɥ/ ü
ㄩ ü
ㄩㄝ üe
ㄩㄣ ün
ㄩㄢ üan

Wade–Giles writes -uei after and k, otherwise -ui: kʻuei, kuei, hui, shui, chʻui.

It writes [-ɤ] as -o after , k and h, otherwise : kʻo, ko, ho, shê, chʻê. 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 , k, h and sh, otherwise -o: kʻuo, kuo, huo, shuo, chʻo.

For -ih and , see below.

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

Syllables that begin with a medialEdit

/i/ /u/ /n/ /ŋ/
Medial /j/ i/yi
ㄧ yi
ㄧㄝ ye
ㄧㄚ ya
ㄧㄞ yai
ㄧㄡ you
ㄧㄠ yao
ㄧㄣ yin
ㄧㄢ yan
ㄩㄥ yong
ㄧㄥ ying
ㄧㄤ yang
/w/ wu
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 featuresEdit

Consonants and initial symbolsEdit

A feature of the Wade–Giles system is the representation of the unaspirated-aspirated stop consonant pairs using left apostrophes: p, pʻ, t, tʻ, k, kʻ, ch, chʻ. The use of apostrophes 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 to indicate aspiration (this is similar to the superscript ʰ used in IPA since the revisions of the 1970s). The convention of an apostrophe 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 apostrophes, 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 the apostrophe, 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 apostrophes are kept, the system reveals a symmetry that leaves no overlap:

  • The non-retroflex ch (Pīnyīn j) and chʻ (Pīnyīn q) are always before either i or ü.
  • The retroflex ch (Pīnyīn zh) and chʻ (Pīnyīn ch) are always before a, ê, ih, o, or u.

Vowels and final symbolsEdit

Syllabic consonantsEdit

Wade–Giles shows precisions not found in other major Romanizations in regard to the rendering of the two types of syllabic consonant (simplified Chinese: 空韵; traditional Chinese: 空韻; pinyin: kōngyùn):

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

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

IPA ʈ͡ʂɻ̩ ʈ͡ʂʰɻ̩ ʂɻ̩ ɻɻ̩ t͡sɹ̩ t͡sʰɹ̩ sɹ̩
Wade–Giles chih chʻih shih jih tzŭ tzʻŭ ssŭ
Pīnyīn zhi chi shi ri zi ci si

Vowel oEdit

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, 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 kʻo4[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, kʻuo, and huo (as in 過, 霍, etc.), which contrast with ko, kʻo, 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]. By 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 pwo pʰwo mwo fwo two tʰwo nwo lwo kʰɤ ʈʂwo ʈʂʰwo ʐwo ʦwo ʦʰwo swo ɤ wo
Wade–Giles po pʻo mo fo to tʻo no lo ko kʻo ho cho chʻo jo tso tsʻo so o/ê wo
Zhùyīn ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ ㄨㄛ
Pīnyīn bo po mo fo duo tuo nuo luo ge ke he zhuo chuo ruo zuo cuo suo e wo

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 chʻien4.


Wade–Giles uses hyphens to separate all syllables within a word (whereas Pīnyīn separates syllables only in specially defined cases, using hyphens or right apostrophes 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 apostrophes, hyphens, and capitalization is frequently not observed in place names and personal names. For example, the majority of overseas Taiwanese write their given names like "Tai Lun" or "Tai-Lun", whereas the Wade–Giles is actually "Tai-lun". (See also Chinese name.)

Comparison with other systemsEdit


  • Wade–Giles chose the French-like j (implying a sound like IPA's [ʒ]) to represent a Northern Mandarin pronunciation of what is represented as r in Pīnyīn.
  • Ü always has an umlaut above, while Pīnyīn only employs it in the cases of , , nüe and lüe, while leaving it out after j, q, x and y as a simplification because u cannot otherwise appear after those letters. Because (as in 玉 "jade") must have an umlaut in Wade–Giles, the umlaut-less yu in Wade–Giles is freed up for what corresponds to you (有) in Pinyin.
  • The Pīnyīn cluster -ong is -ung in Wade–Giles. (Compare kung1-fu to gōngfu as an example.)
  • After a consonant, both Wade–Giles and Pīnyīn use -iu and -un instead of the complete syllables: -iou and -uên/-uen.


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 a o e e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng ong er
Wade–Giles a o eh ê/o ai ei ao ou an ên ang 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 yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wun wong yu yue yuan yun
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yin ying yung wu wo/o wei 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 b p m fong diou duei dun te nyu lyu ger ke he
Wade–Giles p m 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 jian jyong cin syuan jhe jhih che chih she shih re rih ze zuo zih ce cih se 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

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.

Intuitiveness issuesEdit

Due to the system's use of an apostrophe to distinguish aspirated and unaspirated consonants, such as in pʻa and pa respectively, rather than using separate letters like in Pīnyīn and many other Romanizations, such as in pa and ba respectively, many people have omitted the apostrophe in transcribing Chinese words and names, assuming that it was an optional diacritic.


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]

  • It uses the right apostrophe: , , , chʼ, tsʼ, tzʼŭ; while Wade–Giles uses the left apostrophe, similar to the aspiration diacritic used in the International Phonetic Alphabet before the revisions of the 1970s: , , , chʻ, tsʻ, tzʻŭ.
  • It consistently uses i for the syllable [i], while Wade–Giles uses i or yi depending on the character.
  • It uses o for the syllable [ɤ], while Wade–Giles uses ê or o depending on the character.
  • It offers the choice between ssŭ and szŭ, while Wade–Giles requires ssŭ.
  • It does not use the spellings chio, chʻio, hsio, yo, replacing them with chüeh, chʻüeh, hsüeh, yüeh in accordance with their modern pronunciations.
  • It uses an underscored 3 to denote a second tone which comes from an original third tone, but only if the following syllable has the neutral tone and the tone sandhi is therefore not predictable: hsiao3•chieh.
  • It denotes the neutral tone by placing a dot (if the neutral tone is compulsory) or a circle (if the neutral tone is optional) before the syllable. The dot or circle replaces the hyphen.

See alsoEdit


  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 2007-01-28. Retrieved 2007-08-04.  (Web archive)
  3. ^ A Chinese-English Dictionary.
  4. ^ A Chinese-English Dictionary, p. 761.
  5. ^ Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary.

External linksEdit