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Chinese Pinyin

1. Chinese Phonetic Alphabet

Chinese Pinyin uses Roman alphabetical letters as its written form but having different pronunciation, and is the Latin spelling of Chinese or the transliteration system, rather than the Chinese orthography or writing system of Chinese, and does not mean that pinyin is a phonetic system.

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

Note: According to a national standard, Vv is used only to spell foreign languages, languages of national minorities and dialects, but practically, it is used as a written form of letter ü.

2. Composition of Chinese Pinyin

A Chinese syllable usually consists of three elements: an initial consonant, a simple or compound vowel, and a tone.

Chinese Pinyin composition

The initial consonant refers to the consonant which appears in the initial position of a Chinese syllable, and the simple or compound vowel comes after it. Some syllables can stand alone without initial consonants.

There are totally 21 initial consonants and 36 simple or compound vowels which include 7 simple vowels and 29 compounds.

Initial Consonants

By clicking on each consonant sound is available.

Simple and Compound Vowels

By clicking on each vowel sound is available.

Each vowel in row i, when no an initial consonant, is written as: yi ya ye yao you yan yin yang ying yong.

Each vowel in row u, when no an initial consonant, is written as: wu wa wo wai wei wan wen wang weng.

Each vowel in row ü, when no an initial consonant, is written as: yu yue yuan yun, committing the two dots of ü.

When each vowel in row ü combines with the consonant j, q or x, it is written as: ju qu xu, committing the two dots of ü; when with the consonant n or l, it still is: nü, or lü.

When vowel iou, uei or uen combines with a consonant, each is written as: iu,ui, or un, committing the middle letter. e.g. niu, gui, lun.

3. Tones

Different from English, Chinese is a tonal language. Base on tone pitch, the basic tone in standard Chinese could be classified into four tones: the first tone, second tone, third tone and fourth tone.

Chinese pinyin pitch illustration

Click to listen a sample Chinese pinyin ma.

For the first tone, the tone pitch starts from a relative high pitch 4 and keeps at this level until it finishes.

The second tone initially starts at 3 and then gradually rises to 5.

The third tone starts from 2 and drops down to 1 then rise up to 4.

The fourth tone starts at 5 and drops down to 1.

The tone marks for the four tones are:

Chinese pinyin tone marks

A Chinese syllable is marked above a vowel by one of marks.

For example:

4. Separation Mark ( ' )

A separation Mark " ' " is used when a zero initial consonant syllable beginning with a, o or e following a syllable causes a spelling confusion. For example:

Xi'an, if without this separation mark, it also could be Xian.

In my opinion, the separation mark is only needed when Chinese syllables without a tone. It is easy for a Chinese person to separate syllables with tone.

In this site, each Chinese word or Chinese phrase has a responding form written in English (Pinyin without tone), a Chinese pinyin (with tone) and sounds. And we always show Chinese pinyin, with or without tone, separately, which is easy for a foreigner to learn Chinese word or phrase.