Qi Lin Bayin

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A scanned page from Qī Lín Bāyīn

Qī Lín Bāyīn (戚林八音, Foochow Romanized: Chék Lìng Báik-ĭng), sometimes translated as Book of Eight Sounds or Book of Eight Tones in English, is a Chinese rime book of approximately ten thousand characters based on the earlier form of the Fuzhou dialect. First compiled in the 17th century, it is the pioneering work of all written sources for Min languages, and is widely quoted in modern academic research in Chinese phonology.

Qī Lín Bāyīn is in fact a combination of two dictionaries (戚參將八音字義便覽, The Eight Sounds of General Qi and a Convenient Prospectus of Word Meaning) and Lín (太史林碧山先生珠玉同聲, The Homonyms of Pearl and Jade by the Honorable Lin Bishan). The compilation date of the former antecedes that of the latter.


The two surnames and Lín appearing on the title stand for Qi Jiguang (戚繼光) and Lin Bishan (林碧山), which might mislead people into thinking that they were the authors of this book. Since the famous military general Qi Jiguang was a native of Shandong Province and no records show he had mastered Fuzhou dialect within the short period of his stay in Fuzhou, the likelihood of his being one of the authors have been ruled out without doubt. In recent years, the authenticity of Lin Bishan being the other author has also been put into dispute. So far, the true authorship of Qī Lín Bāyīn still remains unknown.[1]

Tones, initials, and rimes[edit]


The tonal categories of Fuzhou dialect have remained stable since the time of Qī Lín Bāyīn. In the book title, Bāyīn (lit. eight sounds) denotes eight tones, whose names are: (1) 上平, (2) 上上, (3) 上去, (4) 上入, (5) 下平, (6) 下上, (7) 下去, and (8) 下入. But the sixth tone 下上 is actually identical with the second one 上上 and therefore exists in theory only. In other words, Fuzhou dialect has seven rather than eight tones, and the term Bāyīn is something of a misnomer.

However, due to the lack of phonetic descriptions of the seven tones, the deduction of the tonal values of that time is considered beyond possibility.


In Qī Lín Bāyīn, the fifteen initials are organized into a five-character shī (the last five characters "打掌與君知" are simply used to make up the four lines as a whole), as follows:

柳邊求氣低, [l], [p], [k], [kʰ], [t]
波他曾日時, [pʰ], [tʰ], [ts], [n], [s]
鶯蒙語出非, null initial, [m], [ŋ], [tsʰ], [h]

In spite of the perceptible confluence of [n] and [l] in modern Fuzhou dialect, the initial structure nowadays is by and large the same as it was in the time of Qī Lín Bāyīn.


Likewise, a is built up in Qī Lín Bāyīn by all thirty-three rimes in the then Fuzhou dialect (three characters, "金", "梅" and "遮", are redundant), as follows:

春花香, [uŋ/uk], [ua/uaʔ], [ioŋ/iok]
秋山開, [iu], [aŋ/ak], [ai]
嘉賓歡歌須金杯. [a/aʔ], [iŋ/ik], [uaŋ/uak], [o/oʔ], [y], redundant, [uoi]
孤燈光輝燒銀缸. [u/uʔ], [ɛŋ/ɛk], [uoŋ/uok], [ui], [ieu], [yŋ/yk], [oŋ/ok])
之東郊, [i], [øʔ/øk], [au]
過西橋. [uo/uoʔ], [ɛ/ɛʔ], [io/ioʔ]
雞聲催初天, [ie], [iaŋ/iak], [øy], [œ/œʔ], [ieŋ/ieʔ]
奇梅歪遮溝. [ia/iaʔ], redundant, [uai], redundant, [ɛu]

The past couple of centuries witnessed three major changes in Fuzhou dialect. The first is the phenomenon of close/open rimes, by which the 上去, 上入 and 下去 characters shift its rime to its open form under certain circumstances; the second is the merger of [iu] and [ieu], as well as [ui] and [uoi]; and the last is the confusion of the codas [-k] and [-ʔ].

Role in early studies of Fuzhou dialect[edit]

For centuries, Qī Lín Bāyīn had been utilized by local people as an authoritative reference book of the Foochow pronunciation. Furthermore, it also greatly assisted the earliest Western missionaries in Fuzhou in learning and studying the native language.

M. C. White, a Methodist from the United States, is the first missionary that attempted to romanize Qī Lín Bāyīn, as he specifically pointed out in his work: "... the system of initials and finals used in the 'Book of Eight Tones,' ... would form a complete alphabet for the Fuh Chau dialect. They have been so used by missionaries for writing colloquial phrases, in their private study of the language. Three of the gospels have been written out in this manner by Chinese teachers in the employment of missionaries."[2] M.C. White made a careful analysis of all phonemes and romanized them by using the System of Sir William Jones.[3] The scheme consists of fourteen consonants (null initial excluded) and nine vowels:

  1. Consonants
    ch, ch', h, k, k', l, m, n, ng, p, p', s, t, t'
  2. Vowels
    a, e, è, ë, i, o, ò, u, ü

William Jones Phonetic Alphabet had varied over time, and became standardized as Foochow Romanized (Bàng-uâ-cê) several decades later.


  1. ^ 2000, Lin Hansheng (林寒生), The Comparison of Fuzhou Dialect Reflected in Qi Lin Bayin and Mindu Bieji, Xiamen University
  2. ^ 1856, M.C. White. "The Chinese language spoken at Fuh Chau."
  3. ^ This phonemic orthography is named after the English philologist Sir William Jones.

See also[edit]