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Ba-Shu Chinese
Native toChina
RegionSichuan Basin
ExtinctExtinct during the Ming dynasty. Some features are preserved in Sichuanese Mandarin, especially Minjiang dialect.
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
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Ba-Shu Chinese (Chinese: 巴蜀語; pinyin: Bāshǔyǔ; Wade–Giles: Ba1 Shu33; Sichuanese Pinyin: Ba¹su²yu³; IPA: [pa˥su˨˩y˥˧]), or Old Sichuanese (or Old Szechwanese; Chinese: 蜀語), is an extinct Sinitic language formerly spoken in what is now Sichuan and Chongqing, China. This language is first attested in Fangyan during the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–8 CE) and represents one of the earliest splits from Old Chinese or Early Middle Chinese. It started to disappear during the late South Song dynasty period due to the Mongolian conquest which resulted in a massacre throughout the Sichuan Basin. At that time the language was supplanted by Southwestern Mandarin after settlement by people from other parts of China, mostly from present-day Hubei and Hunan.[1]

Phonological aspects of Ba-Shu Chinese are preserved in the Minjiang dialect of Sichuanese Mandarin and there is debate on whether it is a variant of Southwestern Mandarin or a modern-day descendant of Ba-Shu.[2][3]


Song dynasty

Though the Ba-shu language is extinct, some phonology features of rhymes are able to be found by researching the local literati and poets' use of rhymes in their works.[1]

Liu Xiaonan assumed that they write verses in Standard Chinese of the Song dynasty, but because their mother tongue was Ba-shu, they unconsciously wrote with a Ba-shu accent of the time, which was reflected in the rhymes.

Codas Merger

According to Liu's research, there is enough evidence to assume a significant number of codas mergers had taken place or were taking place in Ba-shu language during the Song dynasty.


Ba-shu language had some unique words probably identified as substrate from Old Shu language by scholars.

Word Recorded period Meaning Pronunciation in Middle Chinese (Zhengzhang) Literal pronunciation and meaning in Putonghua Note
late Northern and Southern dynasties to early Sui dynasty, around AD600 pellets *pɨkD bī 'to force; a common name for the female genitalia' Yán Zhītuī《颜氏家训·勉学篇》: 吾在益州,与数人同坐,初晴日晃,见地上小光,问左右:“此是何物?”有一蜀竖就视,答云:“是豆逼耳。”相顾愕然,不知所谓。命取将来,乃小豆也。穷访蜀士,呼粒为逼,时莫之解。吾云:“三苍、说文,此字白下为匕,皆训粒,通俗文音方力反。”众皆欢悟。When I was sitting with several people in Yìzhōu(益州, another name of Chéngdū), I saw a small light [point] on the ground when the sun was shining and asked them, "What is this?" A Shǔ (蜀) child looked at it and replied, "It is a 豆逼(dòu bī, lit. 'bean, to force')." They looked at each other in amazement, not knowing what he said. [We] ordered [him] to come and [found that] it was/were small bean(s). When I visited many literaties in Shǔ, [I enquire them for that why that child] called 粒 (lì, 'pellet') as 逼, but no one could understand. I cloud: "[According to] Sāncāng (三蒼) and Shuōwén (説文解字, Shuōwénjiězì), this hànzì is 匕 (bǐ, 'baggar') under 白 (bái, 'white'), [its meaning] generally interpreted as 粒, the common literal reading is 方力反(方力 *pʉɐ̄ŋ lɨkpɨk, see fánqiē)." The crowd was enlightened.
Eastern Han mother *tsiaB jiě 'elder sister' Xǔ Shèn《说文解字》:蜀人呼母曰Shǔ People call mother as 姐.
Tang monk *ʃiɪA shī 'master' Dù Fǔ《江畔独步寻花 ①(其五)》:蜀人呼僧为师,葬所为塔。Shǔ People call monk as 師 and call the place to bury as 塔.
bury place *tʰɑpD tǎ 'tower'
Northern Song sky *ɦʉiA weí 'to siege' Huáng Tíngjiān《与大主簿三十三书》:蜀人呼天为围。Shǔ People call sky as 圍.
葭萌 Han tea tree, also an ancient hydronymy and a name of county *kˠaA mˠɛŋA jiāméng Yáng Xióng《方言》

Notable speakers of Ba-shu language

Three Sū(s) (三蘇, sān sū)

See also


  1. ^ a b Liu, Xiaonan 刘晓南 (2014). 宋代四川语音研究 (in Chinese). Press of Peking University. ISBN 9787301201350.
  2. ^ Xiang, Xuechun 向学春 (2008). "Sìchuān fāngyán zhōng de gǔ Bā-Shǔ tǔzhùyǔ yánjiū" 四川方言中的古巴蜀土著语研究 [A Study on Ba-Shu Indigenous Language in Sichuan Dialect]. Chóngqìng Sānxiá Xuéyuàn xuébào 重庆三峡学院学报 (in Chinese). 2008 (5): 103–106.
  3. ^ Liu, Xiaonan 刘晓南 (2009). "Shì lùn Sòngdài Bā-Shǔ fāngyán yǔ xiàndài Sìchuān fāngyán de guānxì - Jiān tán wénxiàn kǎozhèng de yīgè zhòngyào gōngyòng: Zhuīxún shīluò de fāngyán" 试论宋代巴蜀方言与现代四川方言的关系——兼谈文献考证的一个重要功用: 追寻失落的方言 [On the Relation between the Bashu Dialect in Song Dynasty and the Modern Sichuan Dialect]. Yǔyán kēxué 语言科学 (in Chinese). 8 (6): 586–596.