Foochow Romanized

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Foochow Romanized
Hók-ciŭ-uâ Lò̤-mā-cê, Bàng-uâ-cê
A sample of Foochow Romanized text
Bible in Foochow Romanized (Exodus), published by British and Foreign Bible Society in 1908
Script type (modified)
CreatorMoses Clark White, Robert Samuel Maclay, Caleb Cook Baldwin, Robert Stewart
Time period
late 19th century - ?
LanguagesFuzhou dialect of the Eastern Min language
Related scripts
Child systems
Hinghwa Romanized, Kienning Colloquial Romanized
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Foochow Romanized, also known as Bàng-uâ-cê (BUC for short; 平話字) or Hók-ciŭ-uâ Lò̤-mā-cê (Chinese: 福州話羅馬字), is a Latin alphabet for the Fuzhou dialect of Eastern Min adopted in the middle of the 19th century by Western missionaries. It had varied at different times, and became standardized in the 1890s. Foochow Romanized was mainly used inside of Church circles, and was taught in some Mission Schools in Fuzhou.[1] But unlike its counterpart Pe̍h-ōe-jī for Hokkien, even in its prime days Foochow Romanized was by no means universally understood by Christians.[2]


An English-Chinese Dictionary of the Foochow Dialect, 2nd Edition, published in 1905
Dictionary of the Foochow dialect, 3rd Edition, published in 1929
Hand-written note in Foochow Romanized, ca. 1910. It reads: "...You are our dwelling place. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. And we are thankful, because Jesus died for us, resurrected, and enabled us to live in the life full of abundance. He helps us conform to the image of the Lord, and be patient and serve Him with all our heart. He teaches us to willingly forgive people..."

After Fuzhou became one of the five Chinese treaty ports opened by the Treaty of Nanjing at the end of First Opium War (from 1839 to 1842), many Western missionaries arrived in the city. Faced with widespread illiteracy, they developed Latin alphabets for Fuzhou dialect.

The first attempt in romanizing Fuzhou dialect was made by the American Methodist M. C. White, who borrowed a system of orthography known as the System of Sir William Jones. In this system, 14 initials were designed exactly according to their voicing and aspiration. ⟨p⟩, ⟨t⟩, ⟨k⟩ and ⟨ch⟩ stand for [p], [t], [k] and [ts]; while the Greek spiritus lenis ⟨᾿⟩ were affixed to the above initials to represent their aspirated counterparts. Besides the default five vowels of Latin alphabet, four diacritic-marked letters ⟨è⟩, ⟨ë⟩, ⟨ò⟩ and ⟨ü⟩ were also introduced, representing [ɛ], [ø], [ɔ], and [y], respectively. This system is described at length in White's linguistic work The Chinese Language Spoken at Fuh Chau.

Subsequent missionaries, including Robert S. Maclay from American Methodist Episcopal Mission, R. W. Stewart from the Church of England and Charles Hartwell from the American Board Mission, further modified White's System in several ways. The most significant change was made for the plosive consonants, where the spiritus lenis ⟨᾿⟩ of the aspirated initials was removed and the letters ⟨b⟩, ⟨d⟩ and ⟨g⟩ substituted for [p] [t] and [k]. In the aspect of vowels, ⟨è⟩, ⟨ë⟩, ⟨ò⟩ and ⟨ü⟩ were replaced by ⟨a̤⟩, ⟨e̤⟩, ⟨o̤⟩ and ⟨ṳ⟩. Since the diacritical marks were all shifted to underneath the vowels, this left room above the vowels which was occupied by the newly introduced tonal marks. Thus Foochow Romanized avoids the potentially awkward diacritic stacking seen for instance in the Vietnamese script, where tone and vowel quality marks both sit above the vowel.


The sample characters are taken from the Qi Lin Bayin, a renowned phonology book about the Fuzhou dialect written in the Qing Dynasty. The pronunciations are recorded in standard IPA symbols.


BUC Sample character Pronunciation
b /p/
p /pʰ/
m /m/
d /t/
t /tʰ/
n /n/
l /l/
g /k/
k /kʰ/
ng /ŋ/
h /h/
c /ts/
ch /tsʰ/
s /s/
None Null Initial


Finals without codas[edit]

BUC Sample character Traditional pronunciation Modern pronunciation
a /a/ /a/
ia /ia/ /ia/
ua /ua/ /ua/
西 /ɛ/ /e/ or /a/
ie /ie/ /ie/
/ɔ/ /o/ or /ɔ/
io /io/ /yo/
uo /uo/ /uo/
e̤ / ae̤ /ø/ or /aø/ /ø/ or /ɔ/
au /au/ /au/
eu / aiu /eu/ or /aiu/ /eu/ or /au/
ieu /ieu/ /iu/
iu / eu /iu/ or /eu/ /iu/
oi / o̤i /oi/ or /ɔi/ /øy/ or /ɔy/
ai /ai/ /ai/
uai /uai/ /uai/
uoi /uoi/ /ui/
ui / oi /ui/ or /oi/ /ui/
i / e /i/ or /ei/ /i/ or /ɛi/
u / o /u/ or /ou/ /u/ or /ɔu/
ṳ / e̤ṳ /y/ or /øy/ /y/ or /œy/

Finals with coda [ʔ][edit]

BUC Traditional pronunciation Modern pronunciation
ah /aʔ/ /aʔ/
iah /iaʔ/ /iaʔ/
uah /uaʔ/ /uaʔ/
a̤h /ɛʔ/ /eʔ/
ieh /ieʔ/ /ieʔ/
o̤h /ɔʔ/ /oʔ/ or /ɔʔ/
ioh /ioʔ/ /yoʔ/
uoh /uoʔ/ /uoʔ/
e̤h /øʔ/ /øʔ/

Finals with codas [-ŋ] and [-k][edit]

BUC Sample character Traditional pronunciation Modern pronunciation
ang /aŋ/ /aŋ/
iang /iaŋ/ /iaŋ/
uang /uaŋ/ /uaŋ/
ieng /ieŋ/ /ieŋ/
iong /ioŋ/ /yoŋ/
uong /uoŋ/ /uoŋ/
ing / eng /iŋ/ or /eiŋ/ /iŋ/ or /ɛiŋ/
ung / ong /uŋ/ or /ouŋ/ /uŋ/ or /ɔuŋ/
ṳng / e̤ṳng /yŋ/ or /øyŋ/ /yŋ/ or /œyŋ/
eng / aing /eiŋ/ or /aiŋ/ /eiŋ/ or /aiŋ/
ong / aung /ouŋ/ or /auŋ/ /ouŋ/ or /ɔuŋ/
e̤ng / ae̤ng /øŋ/ or /aøŋ/ /øyŋ/ or /ɔyŋ/


Name Tone numeral BUC symbol Example
Shàngpíng (上平, BUC: Siông-bìng) 55 ◌̆ Gŭng
Shǎngshēng (上聲, BUC: Siōng-siăng) 33 ◌̄ Gūng
Shàngqù (上去, BUC: Siông-ké̤ṳ) 213 ◌́ Góng
Shàngrù (上入, BUC: Siông-ĭk) 24 ◌́ Gók
Xiàpíng (下平, BUC: Hâ-bìng) 53 ◌̀ Gùng
Xiàqù (下去, BUC: Hâ-ké̤ṳ) 242 ◌̂ Gông
Xiàrù (下入, BUC: Hâ-ĭk) 5 ◌̆ Gŭk

Note that Foochow Romanized uses the breve, not the caron (ˇ), to indicate Yīnpíng and Yángrù tones of Fuzhou dialect.

Sample text[edit]

Foochow Romanized Chinese characters (traditional) English Translation Audio File
Báe̤k-hŭng gâe̤ng Nĭk-tàu 《北風共日頭》 The North Wind and the Sun About this soundlisten
Ô sŏ̤h huòi, Báe̤k-hŭng gâe̤ng Nĭk-tàu duŏh hī dó̤i căng, káng diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi. 有蜀回,北風共日頭著許塊爭,看底儂本事大。 Once upon a time, the North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was stronger. About this soundlisten
Căng lì căng kó̤ mò̤ suŏ iàng. 爭來爭去無輸贏。 They disputed on and on without reaching a conclusion. About this soundlisten
Ciā sèng-hâiu, duô lā̤ ô sŏ̤h ciéh nè̤ng giàng lā̤, sĭng lā̤ sê̤ṳng duŏh sŏ̤h iông gâu-gâu gì duâi-ĭ. 者辰候,墿𡅏有蜀隻儂行𡅏,身𡅏頌著蜀件厚厚其大衣。 Just at that moment, there was a man walking along the road, wearing a very heavy coat. About this soundlisten
Ĭ lâng ciéh gōng hō̤, diê-nè̤ng ô buōng-sê̤ṳ sĕng gáe̤ cī ciéh nè̤ng gâe̤ng duâi-ĭ táung lâi gó̤, cêu sáung diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi. 伊兩隻講好,底儂有本事先告玆隻儂共大衣褪唻去,就算底儂本事大。 The two agreed that who first succeeded in making this man take his coat off should be considered stronger. About this soundlisten
Dăng nĭ, Báe̤k-hŭng cêu sāi lĭk sī-miâng dék chuŏi, bók-guó ĭ muōng chuŏi dék lê-hâi, cī ciéh lā̤ giàng-duô gì nè̤ng cêu ciŏng hī iông duâi-ĭ muōng bău muōng gīng gó̤. 仱呢,北風就使力死命的吹,不過伊罔吹的利害,玆隻𡅏行墿其儂就將許件大衣罔包罔緊去。 Then, the North Wind exerted all his strength to blow, but the harder he blew, the tighter that walking man wrapped his coat. About this soundlisten
Gáu muōi-hâiu, Báe̤k-hŭng mò̤ bâing-huák, cêu cūng-kuāng láe̤k gó̤. 遘尾後,北風無辦法,就總款〇去。 At last, the North Wind was at his wits' end, so he gave up. About this soundlisten
Guó nék-òng, Nĭk-tàu chók lì. 過仂暅,日頭出來。 After a while, the Sun came out. About this soundlisten
Iĕk-pĕ̤-pĕ̤ sāi sāi lĭk sŏ̤h puŏh, hī ciéh lā̤ giàng-duô gì nè̤ng ché̤ṳk-káik cêu ciŏng hī iông duâi-ĭ táung lŏ̤h lì. 熱〇〇使使力蜀曝,許隻𡅏行墿其儂〇刻就將許件大衣褪落來。 He shined out forcibly with a sweltering heat, and immediately that walking man took off his coat. About this soundlisten
Cī-hâ Báe̤k-hŭng cêu nâ diông sìng-nêng, lâng gá nè̤ng diē-sié, gó sê Nĭk-tàu gì buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi. 玆下北風就僅長承認,兩個儂底勢,故是日頭其本事大。 And so the North Wind had no choice but to confess that the Sun was stronger of the two. About this soundlisten




External links[edit]