Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 2.2, January 2003


The United Nations conference approved the Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet (Pinyin) in 1977 (III/8) for the romanization of Chinese geographical names.

The system is used in China and in international cartographic products almost universally.

Chinese uses a logographic script whereby each character represents a word or syllable. The relationship between the characters and their pronunciation is complex and therefore the phonetic notation of a Chinese syllable cannot be unambiguously converted to its written form.


The approved readings of Chinese characters can be obtained from modern authoritative dictionaries, such as Xinhua Zidian.

Other systems of romanization

The Modified Wade-Giles transcription (1892) was previously one of the most well-known systems of rendering Chinese syllables, especially in English-language texts. The syllables of the Wade-Giles (WG) system may be transformed into Pinyin syllables as given in the table below (Adapted from Klaus Kaden, Die wichtigsten Transkriptionssysteme für die chinesische Sprache. VEB Verlag Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1975, S. 145.) but bearing in mind that often it is not correct to change Wade-Giles into Pinyin without reference to current Chinese character sources.

Syllable beginnings:
ch = zh, jA
ch’ = ch, qA
hs = x
j = r
k = g
k’ = k
p = b
p’ = p
ss = s
sz = s
t = d
t’ = t
ts = z
ts’ = c
tz = z
tz’ = c
Syllable endings:
ê = e
eh = e
en = an
ên = en
êng = eng
êrh = er
i = i, yiB
ieh = ie
ien = ian
ih = i
iung = iong
o = oC, uoD, eE
u = u, ouF
ŭ = i
ü = u, üF
üan = uan
üeh = ue, üeF
uei = ui
ün = un
ung = ong

A Before i (except the ending -ih) and ü.
B Word-initially.
C After p, p’, m, f, w, y.
D After t, t’, n, l, ch, ch’, j, ts, ts’, s.
E After k, k’, h and syllable-initially.
F After n, l.

The Pinyin alphabet has also been adapted to the romanization of names from three minority languages in China: Mongolian, Tibetan and Uighur.