Tranliterating Chinese into English

There are two commonly used sytems for transliterating Chinese words into the Roman script used for English. The Wade-Giles system, once prevalent, is in many cases now replaced by the pinyin system. In his Chinese Religion Laurence Thompson uses Wade-Giles, but Patricia Ebrey uses Pinyin in The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Pinyin transliteration is usually easier to sound out accurately based on the common understanding of English pronunciation. However, there are some exceptions. For example, in the pinyin system “Q” is pronounced “ch”; “X” is pronounced “sh”; and “~ong” at the end of a word is pronounced “~ung.”

Here are some commonly encountered names and terms with their alternative transliterations:

Wade-Giles

Tao-Te Ching

jen

Chou

chun-tzu

I Ching

Chin

Ssu-Ma Chien

Shi'an

Pinyin

Dao De Jing

ren

Zhou

zhunzi

Yi Jing

Qin

Sima Qian

Xi'an

English

Book of Lao-tzu (Laozi)

humaneness (?)

A Dynasty: 1050-481 BCE

The "superior man," the ideal of Confucianism

The Book of Changes

The first Dynasty from which China takes its name

Author of the Shi-Chi (Shiji) or Historical Records (1st Century BCE)

Capital of the Tang Dynasty, 618-907 CE



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brennie@westminster.edu