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Wade-Giles, sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a Romanization (phonetic notation and transliteration) system for the Mandarin Chinese dialect of the Chinese language. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade in the mid-19th century, and reached settled form with Herbert Giles's Chinese-English dictionary of 1912. It was the main system of transliteration in the English-speaking world for most of the 20th century.

Table of contents
1 History
2 One symbol-multiple sounds
3 One sound-multiple sounds
4 Precision with empty rime
5 Partial interchangeability of uo and e with o
6 Punctuation
7 Other differences with Pinyin
8 Influences
9 See also
10 External links


The Wade-Giles system was designed to transliterate Chinese terms for Chinese specialists. This origin has lead to a general sense that the system is non-intuitive for non-specialists and not useful for teaching Chinese pronunciation.

The Republic of China 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), MPS II (1986), and Tongyong Pinyin (2000). Taiwanese placenames in international uses have still been virtually all in Wade-Giles. Many Taiwanese Americans and Taiwanese Canadians also have their Chinese names written in Wade-Giles, while consistently ignoring some punctuation.

The Hanyu Pinyin system is more widely used and is the official system of the People's Republic of China. However, international references to Taiwanese people and places are still in Wade-Giles mostly.

One symbol-multiple sounds

A common complaint about the Wade-Giles system is the representation of the unaspirated-aspirated stop consonant pairs using apostrophes: p, p', t, t', k, k'. Westerners unfamiliar with the system often ignore the apostrophes, even so far as leaving them out when copying texts, unaware that they represented vital information. The Pinyin system addresses this problem by employing the Latin letters customarily used for voiced stops, unneeded in Mandarin, to represent the unaspirated stops: b, p, d, t, g, k.

Partly because the popular omission of the apostrophe, the four Pinyin sounds of j, q, zh, and ch all become ch in many literature and personal names. However, were the diacritics to be kept, the system reveals a symmetry that leaves no overlap:

One sound-multiple sounds

In addition to several sounds presented using the same letter(s), sometimes, one single sound is represented using several different sets of letters. There exists two versions of Wade-Giles Romanizations for each of the Pinyin syllables zi, ci, and si.

Precision with empty rime

On the other hand, Wade-Giles shows precisions unfound in other major Romanizations in regards to the rendering of the two types of empty rimes (空韻):
These empty rimes are all written as -i in Hanyu Pinyin (hence undistinguishable from true i as in li), and all written as -ih in Tongyong Pinyin. Zhuyin, as a non-Romanization, does not require the represention of any empty rime.

Partial interchangeability of uo and e with o

What is pronounced with a schwa is written usually as -e, but sometimes as -o. The schwa as an isolate syllable is written as o or . When placed in a syllable, it is e; except when preceded by k, k', and h, when it is o.

What is actually pronounced as -uo is virtually always written as -o in Wade-Giles, except shuo and the three syllables of kuo, k'uo, and huo, which already have the counterparts of ko, k'o, and ho that represent syllables with schwa.


In addition to the apostrophes used for distinguishing the multiple sounds of a single Latin symbol, Wade-Giles uses hyphens to separate all syllables within a word, whereas Pinyin only use apostrophe to separate ambiguous syllables.

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

Wade-Giles uses superscript numbers to indicate tone, and official Pinyin uses diacritics. The tone marks are ignored except in textbooks.

Other differences with Pinyin


Postal System Pinyin is based on Wade-Giles, but incorporating a number of exceptions that override the systematic rules.

See also

External links