Talk:Transcription into Chinese characters

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Coverage on different spoken variants[edit]

Thanks K.C. for creating the article. There should be some coverage on transliteration based on different spoken variants, and provide some examples which the non-Mandarin transliteration prevails, or those a major discrepancy exist. :-) — Instantnood 19:49, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

good suggestions... but to do that is beyond my power+_+--K.C. Tang 11:33, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

self transliterations[edit]

i thought cocacola made up their own transliteration like ford and everyone else...even mcdonald? 1698 2006 February 24 07:55 Zulu


i dont see anything halarious there 1698 2006 February 24 07:55 Zulu

it has been changed.--K.C. Tang 00:13, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
there was a misunderstanding, i was hoping someone actually knew a funny transliteration, but i guess i'll just add a new section if i ever find one. 1698 2006 February 27 04:57 Zulu

tibet here[edit]

is there really any reason to copy part of the tibet article here? is tibet somehow extra special compared to the rest of the world? 1698 2006 February 24 07:55 Zulu

I agree. I'd like to delete that.--K.C. Tang 08:10, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
that section is to be deleted, if more users find that irrevlerant.--K.C. Tang 00:15, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
It's an interesting case study though. — Instantnood 20:44, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
how? its just a word really; the section is more of an etymology than about transliteration. I dont think the word zang is very contravertial. --1698 2006 February 25 21:15 Zulu
That's about the etymology of how it's transliterated. — Instantnood 21:43, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
um...difficult to decide. maybe it's relevant, but i still feel that the part should stay in the Tibet article.--K.C. Tang 02:05, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
It could be trimmed. Moving it to the Tibet article would probably be creating contentiousness. — Instantnood 08:53, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
don't understand what u mean...... as the section already exists in the Tibet article.--K.C. Tang 23:16, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
yea the whole point is that its repeating. i have a new idea, tibet could be in a new section for contravertial and ambiguous contations. but it would have to be just like the other entries, at most a line or two, w/ a link 1698 2006 February 27 04:57 Zulu
second--K.C. Tang 01:44, 28 February 2006 (UTC)


I read somewhere that "inspiration" was transliterated as 烟士披利纯 (yan shi pi li chun, something like "opium addicts say illogical things"?). I wonder if it's still used. DHN 23:55, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

this kind of transliterations mushroomed during the period of time (some time like 1880-1920) when Western ideas flooded into China. these expressions were, as can be expected, only fads. :) --K.C. Tang 00:13, 4 March 2006 (UTC)

Transliteration or transcription?[edit]

Is this article about transcription instead? It's not easy to map the Chinese names back into their original spellings. — Instantnood 21:28, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

probably not... but then i'm no expert in these matters... anyway this article needs some cleanup... the phenomenon in HK is rather complicated (particularly after the handover in 1997), i'd like to write about that when i've time...--K.C. Tang 00:00, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
It's gonna be a difficult task. :-) — Instantnood 01:15, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
i've written a short article for that, see zh:香港譯名標準--K.C. Tang 01:26, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Negative or unusual connotations?[edit]

I think this is rather POV. As of 26th June, 2006, part of the text bearing the heading is:

Transliterations with negative or unusual connotations

   * India was called 身毒 (lit. "body poison") in ancient China, transliterated from Sindhu.
   * Bhutan is 不丹, 不 being the negative particle in Chinese meaning "no", "not"
   * Africa is rendered 非洲 (lit. 'Not Continent'), from the full transliteration 阿非利加洲.
   * Mozambique as 莫三鼻給 (莫三鼻给), with 莫给 meaning "do not give", and 三鼻 meaning "three noses". Note that today the country is more often transliterated as 莫桑比克.
   * Russia is known as 俄國 (lit. "suddenly country").

The old name for India, Sindhu is merely a transliteration by pronunciation. It doesn't imply anything negative. IMO, the ancient name for Japan is even worse.

Bhutan and Africa are also far-fetched examples. They are so called also in the same way as India.

The example of Mozambique is actually a corrupt term. Mo4 San1 Bi2 Gei3 simply doesn't sound similar to the English pronunciation of the country's name.

Russia is perhaps the most unreasonable example. In fact, adding the character 國 somehow reflects the popularity of the country. For the US, we have 美國 "The American country". For Germany, we have 德國, "The Deutsche Country". We don't have, for example, a similar name for Ukraine, which is less politically and internationally important than the two countries. We can only say "the Russian country" is not a good transliteration, in the sense that the Russian term for Russia, Rossiya, should not be in the form of "E2 Guo2", which doesn't even bear an approximate sound like the "L" sound in Mandarin Chinese.--Fitzwilliam 14:53, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

its not really if they are important, just that it was furthur back in time, when people couldnt comprehend that a state should have such a long name, as every state ever know had one word names. Now, exporting and importing business is growing, we cant afford to ignore the feelings of other people, so official names are more... official. So why dont we add GUO to longer names? because when its that long, there no mistaking what it means, and generally, if a word can be dropped from a phrase (and even when it really can't), it will be.
I dunno where the name for russia comes from, but its one of the oldest names for a foreign nation... probably just what became most popular among the general population. The way i always say it, è guo, is like, starving, but i really dont mean to insult anyone. And its just like China, is that the thing you eat out of or what?
The full name of Russia in Chinese is 俄罗斯 É Luó Sī. Without knowing the word's history, I can say that the phonetics of it reflect, on one hand, the Chinese tendency to hear rolled r's as l's, and on the other hand the tendency of neighboring peoples to interpret the especially heavily rolled Russian r as an r preceded by a vowel. Rossiya, or perhaps the older form Rus', has been rendered in Uzbek as O'ris and in Mongolian as Oros, for example. --Ferronier (talk) 13:09, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
It does seem fair to say like Fitzwilliam that the abbreviation of 俄罗斯 to 俄国 indicates "popularity," in the sense of being frequently discussed. The East Asian countries nearly all have longstanding two-syllable Chinese names, and the most powerful Western countries have acquired two-syllable abbreviations as well (see 蒙古,日本,朝鲜,韩国,泰国,越南,英国,法国,美国,德国.) --Ferronier (talk) 13:09, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
I see how mozanbiq is farfetched, but why budan or africa? what do you mean by POV? because you never heard it used? because its insulting? i think its supposed to be historic, and it really shouldnt matter if its still insulting, theres alot of hate in the world and the only way to fight it is to embrace it and spread it :p --1698 18:49, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
I think the keyword is "connotation". It doesn't matter whether the names were really meant to be "insulting" when they were first coined.--K.C. Tang 00:06, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
Agree with KC Tang. But this section could be better formulated to make that clear - instead of saying "means" perhaps it should be made clear that these are "literal" meanings or connotations.
To give an equivalent example, the English names for people of Poland -- "Poles" or "Polish", are words that happen to have other meanings in ordinay usage. But you wouldn't say "and the people of Poland are called Poles, which means long sticks". You might say, "the people of Poland are called Poles, which happens to be the same as the word that means long sticks".
Also, the entry for Bhutan = 不丹 makes no sense. 不丹 "means" "No pills". How is that a negative connotation? --Sumple (Talk) 02:50, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
That's true, Sumple. I just don't see the point of stating that Bhutan = 不丹 is negative, for example. Perhaps shall we change the heading a bit? --Fitzwilliam 04:33, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
Be bold!--K.C. Tang 10:47, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
So remove Bhutan? --1698 03:04, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
just correct anything that you know is wrong. btw, 不丹 can't mean "no pills" - what follows 不 has to be either a verb or an adjective, never a noun. 不丹 has negative connotations simply because 不 is a negative particle, it's probably my POV, who knows. In any case, be bold.--K.C. Tang 06:47, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
It's a transliteration! it shouldn't even have "meaning". Bhutan means "no pills" as much as (or as little as) "Deguo" means "ethical country". --Sumple (Talk) 00:55, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I removed negative from the heading. The old heading is misleading because it simply puts separate meaning of each character (like the one for Bhutan) to make it apparent that Chinese transliteration, especially the old names, contains some sort of negative connotations. Many of such names are actually obsolete (even true for Firenze, a "positive" one).--Fitzwilliam 04:04, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Well, the Firenze one isn't obsolete. It's often used in a poetic context, and many people prefer it over the translation from Florence, especially in Taiwan... --Sumple (Talk) 05:30, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Please check first before writing it. The sound /nu/ is transliterated as 努(hardworking) in putonghua according to the dictionary 世界人名翻譯大辭典. 奴(slave) is used in Hong Kong cantonese transliteration only. -- 14:35, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Any proof? /nu:/ is applicable for both 努 and 奴. You may prove that dictionary does not mention "Slave", but I do find Mandarin transliteration contains 奴.--Fitzwilliam 15:31, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
It seems that you don't know how foreign names are transliterated. All present transliterations of names are made strictly in accordance with the 55 transliteration tables from various languages to putonghua 漢譯音表. Check it carefully. One can recover the transliteration of most names in the dictionary and many place names with the tables. The tables start on page 3646. -- 16:26, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
About 奴 and 努: forgive me, it's certainly my bad, you're right User137, thanks for pointing that out ... 奴 can be seen in some names, such as 火奴魯魯 (Honolulu), but it's probably a Cantonese transliteration. On the other hand, we may venture to say that the official guide is aware of the negative connotation of 奴, as it chooses the more-stroke 努 over the less-stroke 奴 for /nu:/.--K.C. Tang 01:44, 5 July 2006 (UTC)


I wonder if there is a valid rationale behind giving pronunciations only in Mandarin, because a significant number of transliterations are obviously not Mandarin-based, and giving only Mandarin pronunciations makes the transliteratons more arbitrary than they really are.

The following are pulled from the examples given in the current article:

  • Asia as 亞細亞: giving only the Mandarin leaves readers wondering why “ya“ has been used for an /a/ sound
  • Mozambique as 莫三鼻給 mò sān bí gěi: obviously Cantonese-based
  • Aberdeen as 鴨巴甸 (yā bā diàn): also obviously Cantonese-based

I also wonder why a translation of “World Wide Web” has been included in the examples. That one is not a transliteration.—Gniw (Wing) 07:36, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

using the official pinyin because we can't be sure which dialect the transliterations are based, it can be Cantonese, but it can also be other Southern dialects. Of course you can make things clearer in the article accordingly. As to WWW, it's half transliteration, you can make things clearer accordingly, or simply remove it of course. Indeed the whole "sample" sect has snowballed into a mess, perhaps we should simply remove the whole sect to avoid controversies. Cheers.--K.C. Tang 11:59, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
The use of 亞 can sometimes be quite ambiguous (or perhaps just some sort of convention). In Cantonese, 亞 is roughly /nga/(surely not /a/); in Teochew, /a/; in Mandarin, /ja/. The guide provided by Xinhua Agency doesn't use 阿 especially as the last transliteration character. It can be quite confusing to see that Armenia is 亞美尼亞, but not 阿美尼亞.--Fitzwilliam 08:29, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
so you hear ppl pronouncing 亞 as nga in Cantonese? it's a kind of compensational nasalisation, I guess, just like some ppl reading 愛 as ngoi. I'm no expert, I don't know. Cheers.--K.C. Tang 11:59, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
I just think Xinhua has certain rules on the use of the two. But things like Armenia are again examples that developed by customs. On the other hand, Algeria doesn't start with 亞, but 阿. I guess a Xinhua-style name for Armenia may be 阿爾梅尼亞. By the way, it seems that only the PRC (Xinhua) has systematic transliteration schemes. ROC diplomatic service also has some, but not as comprehensive. Don't know how to put that down. :)--Fitzwilliam 04:51, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
I've modified some pts to address your concerns, you can take a look. Cheers.--K.C. Tang 10:25, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I've read that. It's quite interesting to trace the transliteration conventions. Would it be possible to list out standard characters that make for 對音 transliteration? The choice of characters are different among, namely, English, German, French, Romance, Russian, SE Asian languages, etc. But I haven't got a clue on categorizing so many names.--Fitzwilliam 11:09, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I don't exactly know what you mean. Anyway, I've beefed up the History sect, and provide a link to the tran. tables in the zh wiki. You can take a look. Could you help clean up the Sample sect (consistence of format etc) when you've got time? Since you seem interested in this topic. Cheers.--K.C. Tang 11:44, 10 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree with KC's original point. A lot of these translations would make sense in any of the southern dialects, and could've come from the port of Canton as much as the port of Shanghai. In the absence of some citable material on the point, stick to pinyin. --Sumple (Talk) 09:56, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Good article[edit]

Very interesting article. Good job. Badagnani 06:39, 11 July 2007 (UTC)


Under "Samples," "blog" (boke; literally "abundant guest") might be added, as this was a term adopted over the next most popular alternative. Badagnani 06:42, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

You can add that, of course. Be bold! Cheers.--K.C. Tang 03:46, 24 August 2007 (UTC)

Usually English[edit]

Have you noticed that foreign non-English names (excluding East-Asia) more commonly are transliterated using English names, not the original names? There is a small number of exceptions. --Atitarev (talk) 13:22, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

I can point out easily two that had come from native names: 德意志 from Deutschland, 希臘 from "Hellás". In the case of Greece, it is clear the transliteration had came through Cantonese. --Kvasir (talk) 19:05, 27 August 2008 (UTC)
Yes, that's right. I had these two when I mentioned exceptions. Also, 西班牙 does not sound like Spain but more like España.
I can also think of 格鲁吉亚 / 格魯吉亞 Gélǔjíyà - Georgia, which is neither English or Georgian, it's from Russian Грузия (Gruziya), not from the Georgian: საქართველო Sakartvelo)--Atitarev (talk) 19:50, 27 August 2008 (UTC)

Topic suggestion[edit]

Here are three topics that I think could be included in this article:

  1. There are words that were previously translated phonetically, but later replaced by locally coined words. "Telephone" is one example, I believe the phonetic translation was something like "德六丰" (don't remember the exact character).
  2. syllabic differences: For example, Rumsfeld (2 syllables in English) is translated into 拉姆斯菲尔德 (6 syllables in the mainland translation)
  3. Difference in the phonetic translation between different regions (mainland/TW/HK). --Voidvector (talk) 03:16, 25 January 2009 (UTC)
Good idea. I started No. 3, it's still raw. --Anatoli (talk) 00:03, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

Names of the world's peoples (dictionary)[edit]

Names of the world's peoples: a comprehensive dictionary of names in Roman-Chinese

This is impressive! 世界人民翻译大辞典, mentioned here Transliteration_into_Chinese_characters#Official_Guide

700,000 foreign names in 55 languages, 2 volumes. Anatoli (talk) 23:19, 12 February 2009 (UTC)



I've moved this to "transcription..." since there does not exist a systemic way to convert texts into Chinese characters (which would be called 转写). However, the article still contains many examples in which non-pure transcription is used, which certainly needs to be cleaned up to avoid confusion. I would suggest separating this article into two in the future, corresponding to 音译 (transcription) and 意译 ("free translation"; according to meaning) respectively, or a single article named Translation into Chinese language or Translation of neologisms into Chinese, in which these two main translation methods are discussed, as well as examples that use a combination of the two. --Givesaved (talk) 14:56, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

It may not be systematic, but I imagine there are tendencies. Is there a resource out there somewhere listing these tendencies? Mats (talk) 15:17, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

connotations section[edit]

I couldn't help but notice this section:

"Philippines is transliterated as 菲律賓 (菲律宾, fēi lǜ bīn), but this has the negative connotation of 菲 signifying "poor", 律 signifying "law", and 賓/宾 having the meaning of "guest", thus giving a reading of "unruly guest". A replacement digraph of 呂宋 (吕宋, lǚ sòng) "Luzon" has been suggested, following the example of Japan (日本)."

Well, I've frowned this one just recently, on the basis of the "菲" character. (The other 2 hanzi are correct in their definition) According to Wiktionary, 菲 has 3 meanings:

  1. fragrant, luxuriant
  2. the Philippines
  3. phenanthrene - a tricyclic aromatic hydrocarbon obtained from coal tar; used in the manufacture of dyes, pharmaceuticals and explosives; it is isomeric with anthracene I can't really get why "菲" had been confused with "poor". "非" maybe, but I searched "poor", but it turned up with completely different hanzi. So I don't see the point why this had been an issue (and it isn't...) And we shouldn't forget that the Philippines has had cordial relations with the Chinese dating back to pre-Spanish conquest; the Chinese noted the pre-conquest Filipinos' honesty regarding mercantile trade, and so were treated much better that the Japanese, who if memory served me right, were only allowed to trade with the Chinese once in about 10 years. Also, the Yongle Emperor received Paduka Batara from Sulu during the 1400's, and was treated accordingly, even after the Sultan died. Heran et Sang'gres (talk) 03:50, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

-- I agree with Heran et Sang&#39. According to Chinese dictionary, 菲 has two pronunciation, i.e. fēi and fěi. fěi does really mean "poor, unwealthy". But Chinese do not use fěi for the Philippines. Instead, Chinese uses fēi, which means "fragrance of flowers and grasses". Thus, saying Philippines means "unruly guest" is inappropriate. Could someone change this ASAP. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:40, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

I agree. 菲 is commonly used to transcribe the sound "Phi" as in "Philip"; the Duke of Edinburgh is known as 菲利普亲王 in Chinese. For native Chinese words, the character 菲 is rarely seen; its meaning of "poor, unwealthy" is not that apparent. Many characters do not have a clear standalone meaning, and should not be interpreted one by one. Instead, a character is interpreted in conjunction of other characters based on context. I have removed the Philippines entry from the page. --Joshua Say "hi" to me!What I've done? 15:49, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

San Francisco - Regional differences[edit]

Can anyone explain why San Francisco is in the Regional differences section? San Francisco is not usually a transcription into Chinese - generally is a translation into Old Gold Mountain. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:18, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

Possibly to imply that some regions use the transcriptions 三藩市 (or 圣·弗郎西斯科) while others use the Chinese term 旧金山? Locoluis (talk) 02:38, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
圣弗郎西斯科 (no dot is used after the syllable san) is the transcription for the actual person. The Chinese name for the city is 旧金山 in mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau and Taiwan (of course the last two written in traditional Chinese characters). 三藩市 is only used in Hong Kong as proven by the Chinese Wikipedia page for San Francisco. I think it takes too much credit. -- (talk) 15:51, 30 November 2014 (UTC)


The Secret of the Chinese Method of Transcribing Foreign Sounds

The Secret of the Chinese Method of Transcribing Foreign Sounds (Continued) G. Schlegel T'oung Pao Second Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1900), pp. 93-124+188 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: Page Count: 33

Rajmaan (talk) 22:06, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

Chinese Wikipedia / other media orgs' policy?[edit]

What is's policy for transliterating foreign names? What about other Chinese media organizations (e.g. something equivalent to the AP Stylebook or Reuters Style Guide)? —Sai ¿? 14:06, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

Contradition / unclear[edit]

In the section "Exceptions: Translating names" it says "The characters now employed in standardized transcription are often deliberately meaningless, so that their phonetic use is apparent."

However, the characters shown in the earlier transcription table, said to be used for "Names of the World's Peoples", do not seem to be "meaningless" at all, judging from the definitions given when you click on them. (talk) 03:07, 16 May 2016 (UTC)