Wade-Giles romanization is crap, mainly because it is not a good guide to how to actually pronounce chinese. Still, it makes sense to learn at least how to decode the stuff, as most old books written on china use it.

here are some of the main differences between wade-giles and pinyin 1) there are differences in the spelling of "initials" for example pinyin zh is the same as w-g ch 2) there are differences in some of the vowels- pinyin e is the same as w-g o, pinyin o is the the same as w-g u 3)tones in w-g are written after the end of the word as a number from one to 4 although in standard english use they are not used at all. 4) names in wade-giles are hyphenated.

What does this all mean? Here are some examples of the difference between pinyin and wade-giles(I am leaving out the tone marks because there is no way to write them on a computer): "China"- pinyin "Zhongguo", wade-giles "chungkuo" (note that if you pronounced the wade-giles version of the word for "China", nobody would know what you were talking about as the word for china ("zhongguo")does not have an english "ch" sound on the front of it.)

"Hebei Province"- Pinyin: hebei Wade-Giles: hopei

Zhang Xueyou(a name) Pinyin: Zhang Xueyou Wade-giles: Chang Hsue-you

Another interesting note is that back before pinyin was widely used, wade-giles was used to teach Chinese (mandarin), meaning that older "foreigners" who learned chinese when they were young often have messed-up pronunciation because they were taught using Wade-giles rather than pinyin.

Taiwan still uses Wade-giles for romanization, however if they are writing romanization for their own purposes then they use a system of letters derived from chinese called "bopomofo"- Pinyin is not normally used because it was devised by the mainland government.

Honestly wade-giles is horrible stuff and the sooner it is gone the better

also a lot of the chinese words that go into english have gone in as wade-giles and it is really painful to hear people going around talking about lao-tzu when the right way to say it is laozi

Here is an list of wade-giles romanization if the initial sounds for Mandarin, Wade-giles first and pinyin equivalents second:

  • p- b
  • p'- p
  • m- m
  • f- f
  • t- d
  • t'- t
  • n- n
  • l- l
  • k- g
  • k'- k
  • h- h
  • ch- j
  • ch'- q
  • hs- x
  • ch- zh
  • ch'- ch
  • s- s
  • chih- zhi
  • ch'ih- chi
  • shih- shi
  • tzu- zi
  • szu/ssu- si
  • erh- er
An addendum to eluyten and wukong888's remarks on the Wade-Giles romanization system for Chinese:

It looks confusing, but there are actually sound reasons why Sir Thomas Wade chose to write p and p' for what Pinyin writes as b and p. When Protestant missionaries were first exploring the sounds of Chinese, they were very conscious of phonetics and the sounds of Sanskrit, which had been (wrongly) promoted as a kind of "original pre-Babel language" at one time. They were well aware that medieval Chinese, as well as Shanghai dialect, had three classes of stop consonants: voiced, voiceless unaspirated, and voiceless aspirated. The sounds written p and p' by Wade are voiceless unaspirated, and voiceless aspirated. Beijing has no true voiced stop initials, even though the unaspirated p may sound that way to the phonetically untrained ear. But medieval Chinese does have real voiced stops and so does Shanghai. The letter b was reserved to write the true voiced stop. That is in accordance with the principles of phonetic transcription that persist even today in the IPA.

The same is true of t and t' (d is voiced), k and k' (g is voiced), ts and ts' (dz is voiced) and so forth.

Few people who use romanization today are aware of the diversity of Chinese or its phonetic history. So they mispronounce Wade-Giles, or anyway they prefer Pinyin, which is now widely used and which is tailored neatly to Beijing phonology. But Wade-Giles is phonetically more accurate, just as it is designed to be. But you have to know the rules.

Personally, I prefer Gwoyeu Romatzyh romanization, myself. I find the arbitrary use of zh, q, and x in Pinyin rather ugly, and I don't like the way i is used as a dummy vowel. But I use it anyway.

Having been educated entirely with Beijing-sanctioned materials, as opposed to those prepared by Pekingese running dog capitalists, I am of the firm opinion that the Wade-Giles system of romanizing Chinese is the spawn of Satan. Wade-Giles is...
  • confusing, since most all syllables look the same (chun, ch'un, chün, ch'ün, chung, ch'ung...)
  • verbose, with syllables like ch'üeh instead of the pinyin que
  • brittle, with apostrophes and diaereses up the wazoo; drop one and you just changed the reading
  • unpopular, since mainland China's one billion people long since abandoned it and pretty much the sole holdout is Taiwan (and old literature in English)
E2's leading Sinologists agree with me in this regard, and it is thus strongly recommended that node titles in particular use pinyin, not Wade-Giles; this helps avoid having the same thing being noded over and over under different names. The primary exception here is people and things Taiwanese, since by and large the renegade island still sticks to Wade-Giles, mostly out of principle.

To help you all discard your evil ways and convert to the heterodox faith of Chairman Mao, here is the complete official Wade-Giles / pinyin conversion table as sanctioned (and used) by the Library of Congress. Just search/scroll down to your favorite Wade-Giles syllable for the pinyin equivalent!


WG      pinyin
a       a
ai      ai
an      an
ang     ang
ao      ao
cha     zha
ch'a    cha
chai    zhai
ch'ai   chai
chan    zhan
ch'an   chan
chang   zhang
ch'ang  chang
chao    zhao
ch'ao   chao
che     zhe
ch'e    che
chen    zhen
ch'en   chen
cheng   zheng
ch'eng  cheng
chi     ji
ch'i    qi
chia    jia
ch'ia   qia
chiang  jiang
ch'iang qiang
chiao   jiao
ch'iao  qiao
chieh   jie
ch'ieh  qie
chien   jian
ch'ien  qian
chih    zhi
ch'ih   chi
chin    jin
ch'in   qin
ching   jing
ch'ing  qing
chiu    jiu
ch'iu   qiu
chiung  jiong
ch'iung qiong
cho     zhuo
ch'o    chuo
chou    zhou
ch'ou   chou
chu     zhu
ch'u    chu
chü     ju
ch'ü    qu
chua    zhua
chuai   zhuai
ch'uai  chuai
chuan   zhuan
ch'uan  chuan
chüan   juan
ch'üan  quan
chuang  zhuang
ch'uang chuang
chüeh   jue
ch'üeh  que
chui    zhui
ch'ui   chui
chun    zhun
ch'un   chun
chün    jun
ch'ün   qun
chung   zhong
ch'ung  chong
en      en
erh     er
fa      fa
fan     fan
fang    fang
fei     fei
fen     fen
feng    feng
fo      fo
fou     fou
fu      fu
ha      ha
hai     hai
han     han
hang    hang
hao     hao
hei     hei
hen     hen
heng    heng
ho      he
hou     hou
hsi     xi
hsia    xia
hsiang  xiang
hsiao   xiao
hsieh   xie
hsien   xian
hsin    xin
hsing   xing
hsiu    xiu
hsiung  xiong
hsü     xu
hsüan   xuan
hsüeh   xue
hsün    xun
hu      hu
hua     hua
huai    huai
huan    huan
huang   huang
hui     hui
hun     hun
hung    hong
huo     huo
i       yi
jan     ran
jang    rang
jao     rao
je      re
jen     ren
jeng    reng
jih     ri
jo      ruo
jou     rou
ju      ru
juan    ruan
jui     rui
jun     run
jung    rong
ka      ga
k'a     ka
kai     gai
k'ai    kai
kan     gan
k'an    kan
kang    gang
k'ang   kang
kao     gao
k'ao    kao
ken     gen
k'en    ken
keng    geng
k'eng   keng
ko      ge
k'o     ke
kou     gou
k'ou    kou
ku      gu
k'u     ku
kua     gua
k'ua    kua
kuai    guai
k'uai   kuai
kuan    guan
k'uan   kuan
kuang   guang
k'uang  kuang
kuei    gui
k'uei   kui
kun     gun
k'un    kun
kung    gong
k'ung   kong
kuo     guo
k'uo    kuo
la      la
lai     lai
lan     lan
lang    lang
lao     lao
le      le
lei     lei
leng    leng
li      li
liang   liang
liao    liao
lieh    lie
lien    lian
lin     lin
ling    ling
liu     liu
lo      luo
lou     lou
lu      lu
lü      lü
luan    luan
lüan    luan
lüeh    lue
lun     lun
lung    long
ma      ma
mai     mai
man     man
mang    mang
mao     mao
mei     mei
men     men
meng    meng
mi      mi
miao    miao
mieh    mie
mien    mian
min     min
ming    ming
miu     miu
mo      mo
mou     mou
mu      mu
na      na
nai     nai
nan     nan
nang    nang
nao     nao
nei     nei
nen     nen
neng    neng
ni      ni
niang   niang
niao    niao
nieh    nie
nien    nian
nin     nin
ning    ning
niu     niu
no      nuo
nou     nou
nu      nu
nü      nü
nuan    nuan
nüeh    nue
nung    nong
o       e
ou      ou
pa      ba
p'a     pa
pai     bai
p'ai    pai
pan     ban
p'an    pan
pang    bang
p'ang   pang
pao     bao
p'ao    pao
pei     bei
p'ei    pei
pen     ben
p'en    pen
peng    beng
p'eng   peng
pi      bi
p'i     pi
piao    biao
p'iao   piao
pieh    bie
p'ieh   pie
pien    bian
p'ien   pian
pin     bin
p'in    pin
ping    bing
p'ing   ping
po      bo
p'o     po
p'ou    pou
pu      bu
p'u     pu
sa      sa
sai     sai
san     san
sang    sang
sao     sao
se      se
sen     sen
seng    seng
sha     sha
shai    shai
shan    shan
shang   shang
shao    shao
she     she
shen    shen
sheng   sheng
shih    shi
shou    shou
shu     shu
shua    shua
shuai   shuai
shuan   shuan
shuang  shuang
shui    shui
shun    shun
shuo    shuo
so      suo
sou     sou
ssu     si
su      su
suan    suan
sui     sui
sun     sun
sung    song
ta      da
t'a     ta
tai     dai
t'ai    tai
tan     dan
t'an    tan
tang    dang
t'ang   tang
tao     dao
t'ao    tao
te      de
t'e     te
teng    deng
t'eng   teng
ti      di
t'i     ti
tiao    diao
t'iao   tiao
tieh    die
t'ieh   tie
tien    dian
t'ien   tian
ting    ding
t'ing   ting
tiu     diu
to      duo
t'o     tuo
tou     dou
t'ou    tou
tu      du
t'u     tu
tuan    duan
t'uan   tuan
tui     dui
t'ui    tui
tun     dun
t'un    tun
tung    dong
t'ung   tong
tsa     za
ts'a    ca
tsai    zai
ts'ai   cai
tsan    zan
ts'an   can
tsang   zang
ts'ang  cang
tsao    zao
ts'ao   cao
tse     ze
ts'e    ce
tsei    zei
tsen    zen
ts'en   cen
tseng   zeng
ts'eng  ceng
tso     zuo
ts'o    cuo
tsou    zou
ts'ou   cou
tsu     zu
ts'u    cu
tsuan   zuan
ts'uan  cuan
tsui    zui
ts'ui   cui
tsun    zun
ts'un   cun
tsung   zong
ts'ung  cong
tzu     zi
tz'u    ci
wa      wa
wai     wai
wan     wan
wang    wang
wei     wei
wen     wen
weng    weng
wo      wo
wu      wu
ya      ya
yai     yai
yang    yang
yao     yao
yeh     ye
yen     yan
yin     yin
ying    ying
yo      yo
yu      you
yü      yu
yüan    yuan
yüeh    yue
yün     yun
yung    yong
Table in the public domain courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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