"Encyclopedia" written in bopomofo
Script type with diacritics for tones
Time period
DirectionLeft-to-right, right-to-left script Edit this on Wikidata
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Cantonese bopomofo, Taiwanese Phonetic Symbols, Suzhou Phonetic Symbols, Hmu Phonetic Symbols, Matsu Fuchounese bopomofo [zh]
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Bopo (285), ​Bopomofo
Unicode alias
 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.
Mandarin Phonetic Symbols
Traditional Chinese注音符號
Simplified Chinese注音符号

Bopomofo, also called zhuyin or zhuyin fuhao (注音符號; 'phonetic symbols'), is a transliteration system for Standard Chinese and other Sinitic languages. It is commonly used in Taiwan. It consists of 37 characters and five tone marks, which together can transcribe all possible sounds in Mandarin Chinese.

Bopomofo was first introduced in China during the 1910s by the Beiyang government, where it was used alongside Wade–Giles, a romanization system which used a modified Latin alphabet. Today, Bopomofo is more common in Taiwan than on the mainland, and is used as a secondary electronic input method for Taiwanese Mandarin, as well as in dictionaries and other non-official documents.


Bopomofo is the name used for the system by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Unicode. Analogous to how the word alphabet is derived from the names of the first two letters alpha and beta, the name bopomofo derives from the first four syllabographs in the system's conventional lexicographic order: , , , and .[citation needed]

In Taiwan the system is commonly known by its official name Zhuyin fuhao (注音符號; 'phonetic symbols'), or simply as zhuyin (注音; 'phonetic notation'). In official documents, it is occasionally called "Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I" (國語注音符號第一式), abbreviated as "MPS I" (注音一式),[1][2] to distinguish it from the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (MPS II) system published in 1984. Formerly, the system was named Guoyin zimu (國音字母; 'national language alphabet') and Zhuyin zimu (註音字母; 'phonetic alphabet').[1]



Main article: Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation § Phonetic symbols

The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Wu Zhihui from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Zhuyin Zimu,[1] which was based on Zhang Binglin's shorthand. It was used as the official phonetic script to annotate the sounds of the characters in accordance with the Old National Pronunciation.[3] A draft was released on 11 July 1913, by the Republic of China National Ministry of Education, but it was not officially proclaimed until 23 November 1928.[1] It was first named Guóyīn Zìmǔ 'national pronunciation alphabet', but in April 1930 was renamed Zhùyīn Fúhào 'phonetic symbols' to address fears that the alphabetic system might independently replace Chinese characters.[4]

Modern use

A guide on how to typeset Bopomofo alongside characters. (1936, Li Jinxi)
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Bopomofo is the predominant phonetic system in teaching, reading and writing in elementary school in Taiwan. In elementary school, particularly in the lower years, Chinese characters in textbooks are often annotated with Bopomofo as ruby characters as an aid to learning. Additionally, one children's newspaper in Taiwan, the Mandarin Daily News, annotates all articles with Bopomofo ruby characters.

It is also the most popular way for Taiwanese to enter Chinese characters into computers and smartphones and to look up characters in a dictionary.

In teaching Mandarin, Taiwan institutions and some overseas communities such as Filipino Chinese use Bopomofo.

Bopomofo is shown in a secondary position to Hanyu Pinyin in all editions of Xiandai Hanyu Cidian from the 1960 edition to the current 2016 edition (7th edition).

Bopomofo is also used to transcribe other Chinese dialects, most commonly Taiwanese Hokkien and Cantonese, however its use can be applied to practically any dialect in handwriting (because not all letters are encoded). Outside of Chinese, Bopomofo letters are also used in Hmu and Ge languages by a small number of Hmu Christians.[5]


Table of Bopomofo, with romanization given in Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Bopomofo in Regular, Handwritten Regular & Cursive formats

The Bopomofo characters were created by Zhang Binglin, taken mainly from "regularized" forms of ancient Chinese characters, the modern readings of which contain the sound that each letter represents. The consonants are listed in order of place of articulation, from the front of the mouth to the back, /b/, /p/, /m/, /f/, /d/, /t/, /n/, /l/ etc.

Origin of bopomofo symbols
Bopomofo Origin[6] IPA Pinyin WG Example
From , the ancient form and current top portion of  bāo, "to wrap up; package" p b p  bāo
From , a variant form of  , "to knock lightly". p  
From , the archaic character and current "cover" radical  . m m m  
From the "right open box" radical  fāng. f f f  fěi
From 𠚣, archaic form of  dāo, "blade". Compare the Shuowen seal . t d t  
From 𠫓 , an upside-down form of   and an ancient form of   ( and in seal script)[7][8] t  
From /𠄎, ancient form of  nǎi, "to be" (a copula in Classical Chinese). n n n  
From 𠠲, archaic form of  , "power". l l l  
From the obsolete character  guì/kuài, "ditch". k g k  gào
From the archaic character, now "breath" or "sigh" component  kǎo. k  kǎo
From the archaic character and current radical  hǎn. x h h  hǎo
From the archaic character  jiū. j ch  jiào
From the archaic character 𡿨 quǎn, graphic root of the character chuān, "river" (modern ). tɕʰ q chʻ  qiǎo
From , an ancient form of  xià, "under". ɕ x hs  xiǎo
From /𡳿, archaic form of  zhī, a genitive marker in Classical Chinese. ʈʂ zhi, zh- ch  zhī
From the character and radical  chì ʈʂʰ chi, ch- chʻ  chī
From 𡰣, an ancient form of  shī ʂ shi, sh- sh shì
Modified from the seal script form of  , "day" or "sun". ɻ~ʐ ri, r- j  
From the archaic character and current radical  jié, dialectically zié ([tsjě]; tsieh² in Wade–Giles) ts zi, z- ts  
From 𠀁, archaic form of  , dialectically ciī ([tsʰí]; tsʻi¹ in Wade–Giles). Compare semi-cursive form and seal-script . tsʰ ci, c- tsʻ  
From the archaic character  , which was later replaced by its compound  . s si, s- s  
Rhymes and medials
Bopomofo Origin IPA Pinyin WG Example
From   a a a  
From the obsolete character 𠀀 , inhalation, the reverse of  kǎo, which is preserved as a phonetic in the compound  .[9] o o o  duō
Derived from its allophone in Standard Chinese,  o ɤ e o/ê  
From  , "also". Compare the Warring States bamboo form e -ie/ê eh  diē
From 𠀅 hài, archaic form of . ai ai ai  shài
From  , an obsolete character meaning  , "to move". ei ei ei  shéi
From  yāo au ao ao  shǎo
From  yòu ou ou ou  shōu
From the archaic character 𢎘 hàn "to bloom", preserved as a phonetic in the compound  fàn an an an  shān
From 𠃉, archaic variant of   or  [10] ( is  yǐn according to other sources[11]) ən en ên  shēn
From  wāng ang ang  shàng
From 𠃋, archaic form of  gōng[12] əŋ eng êng  shēng
From , the bottom portion of  ér used as a cursive and simplified form er êrh  ér
From  , "one" i y, yi, -i i  

From , ancient form of  , "five". Compare the transitory form 𠄡. u w, wu, -u u/w  
From the ancient character  , which remains as a radical y yu, -ü ü/yü  

From the character . It represents the fricative vowel of ,though it is not used after them in transcription.[13] ɻ̩~ʐ̩, ɹ̩~ -i ih/ŭ  


Stroke order

Bopomofo is written in the same stroke order rule as Chinese characters. is written with three strokes, unlike the character from which it is derived (Chinese: ; pinyin: ), which has four strokes.

can be written as a vertical line () or a horizontal line (); both are accepted forms. Traditionally, it should be written as a horizontal line in vertical writing, and a vertical line in horizontal writing. The People's Republic of China almost exclusively uses horizontal writing, so the vertical form (in the rare occasion that Bopomofo is used) has become the standard form there. Language education in the Republic of China generally uses vertical writing, so most people learn it as a horizontal line, and use a horizontal form even in horizontal writing. In 2008, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education decided that the primary form should always be the horizontal form, but that the vertical form is accepted alternative.[14] Unicode 8.0.0 published an errata in 2014 that updates the representative glyph to be the horizontal form.[15] Computer fonts may only display one form or the other, or may be able to display both if the font is aware of changes needed for vertical writing.

Bopomofo is occasionally unofficially handwritten as syllable blocks, similar to Hangul, however this is not considered an accepted form by the People's Republic of China nor the Republic of China, and is unsupported by Unicode.

Tonal marks

As shown in the following table, tone marks for the second, third, and fourth tones are shared between bopomofo and pinyin. In bopomofo, the mark for first tone is usually omitted but can be included,[16][17] while a dot above indicates the fifth tone (also known as the neutral tone). In pinyin, a macron (overbar) indicates the first tone, and the lack of a marker usually indicates the fifth (light) tone.

Tone Bopomofo Pinyin
Tone Marker Unicode Name Tone Marker Unicode Name
1 ˉ Modifier Letter Macron
(usually omitted)[16][17]
◌̄ Combining Macron
2 ˊ Modifier Letter Acute Accent ◌́ Combining Acute Accent
3 ˇ Caron ◌̌ Combining Caron
4 ˋ Modifier Letter Grave Accent ◌̀ Combining Grave Accent
5 ˙ Dot Above[18] · Middle Dot
(usually omitted)[19]

Unlike Hanyu Pinyin, Bopomofo aligns well with the Chinese characters in books whose texts are printed vertically, making Bopomofo better suited for annotating the pronunciation of vertically oriented Chinese text.

When used in conjunction with Chinese characters, Bopomofo is typically placed to the right of the Chinese character vertically in both vertical print[20][21] and horizontal print[22] or to the top of the Chinese character in a horizontal print (see Ruby characters).


Below is an example for the word "bottle" (pinyin: píngzi):


ㄆㄧㄥˊ ˙ㄗ

Erhua transcription

Words rhotacized as a result of erhua are spelled with attached to the syllable (like 歌兒ㄍㄜㄦ gēr). In case the syllable uses other tones than the 1st tone, the tone mark is attached to the penultimate letter standing for syllable nucleus, but not to (e.g. 哪兒ㄋㄚˇㄦ nǎr; 點兒ㄉㄧㄢˇㄦ yīdiǎnr; ㄏㄠˇ玩兒ㄨㄢˊㄦ hǎowánr).[23]



Bopomofo and pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations; hence there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two systems:

IPA and pinyin counterparts of Bopomofo finals
Medial [ɨ]
() 1


-o 3













ㄨㄛ 3
-uo 3
[u̯ɤŋ], [ʊŋ]
-ong 4

-üe 2
-üan 2
-ün 2

1 Not written.

2 ⟨ü⟩ is written as ⟨u⟩ after ⟨j⟩, ⟨q⟩, ⟨x⟩, or ⟨y⟩.

3 ㄨㄛ/⟨-uo⟩ is written as /⟨-o⟩ after /⟨b-⟩, /⟨p-⟩, /⟨m-⟩, /⟨f-⟩.

4 ⟨weng⟩ is pronounced [ʊŋ] (written as ⟨-ong⟩) when it follows an initial.


Vowels a, e, o
IPA a ɔ ɛ ɤ ai ei au ou an ən əŋ ʊŋ
Pinyin a o ê e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng ong er
Tongyong Pinyin
Wade–Giles eh ê/o ên êng ung êrh
Bopomofo ㄨㄥ
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i je jou jɛn in jʊŋ u wo wei wən wəŋ y ɥe ɥɛn yn
Pinyin yi ye you yan yin ying yong wu wo/o wei wen weng yu yue yuan yun
Tongyong Pinyin wun wong
Wade–Giles i/yi yeh yu yen yung wên wêng yüeh yüan yün
Bopomofo ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ ㄩㄥ ㄨㄛ/ㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tjou twei twən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɹ kʰɤ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui dun te ge ke he
Tongyong Pinyin fong diou duei nyu lyu
Wade–Giles p fêng tiu tui tun tʻê ko kʻo ho
Bopomofo ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄉㄨㄣ ㄊㄜ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜ ㄎㄜ ㄏㄜ
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛn tɕjʊŋ tɕʰin ɕɥɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tswo tsɨ tsʰɤ tsʰɨ
Pinyin jian jiong qin xuan zhe zhi che chi she shi re ri ze zuo zi ce ci se si
Tongyong Pinyin jyong cin syuan jhe jhih chih shih rih zih cih sih
Wade–Giles chien chiung chʻin shüan chê chih chʻê chʻih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ tsʻê tzʻŭ ssŭ
Bopomofo ㄐㄧㄢ ㄐㄩㄥ ㄑㄧㄣ ㄒㄩㄢ ㄓㄜ ㄔㄜ ㄕㄜ ㄖㄜ ㄗㄜ ㄗㄨㄛ ㄘㄜ ㄙㄜ
IPA ma˥˥ ma˧˥ ma˨˩˦ ma˥˩ ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade–Giles ma1 ma2 ma3 ma4 ma
Bopomofo ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ˙ㄇㄚ
example (Chinese characters)

Use outside Standard Mandarin

Bopomofo symbols for non-Mandarin Chinese varieties are added to Unicode in the Bopomofo Extended block.

Taiwanese Hokkien

Main article: Taiwanese Phonetic Symbols

In Taiwan, Bopomofo is used to teach Taiwanese Hokkien, and is also used to transcribe it phonetically in contexts such as on storefront signs, karaoke lyrics, and film subtitles.

Three letters no longer used for Mandarin are carried over from the 1913 standard:

Bopomofo IPA GR Pinyin
v v v
ŋ ng ng
ɲ gn gn

23 more letters were added specifically for Taiwanese Hokkien:

Bopomofo IPA TL Derivation
b b with voicing circle
g g with voicing circle
d͡ʑ ji with voicing circle
d͡z j with voicing circle
ɨ ir and combined (?)
ɔ oo from
e e from
ã ann with nasal curl
ɔ̃ onn with nasal curl
enn with nasal curl
/ ĩ inn with nasal curl
ũ unn with nasal curl
ãĩ ainn with nasal curl
ãũ aunn with nasal curl
am am and combined
ɔm om and combined
ɔŋ ong
m with syllabic stroke
ŋ̍ ng with syllabic stroke
-p̚ -p small
-t̚ -t small
/ -k̚ -k small (and variant small )
-ʔ -h small

Two tone marks were added for the additional tones: ˪, ˫


Main article: Cantonese Bopomofo

The following letters are used in Cantonese.[24]

Bopomofo IPA Jyutping
kʷʰ kw
ɵ eo
ɐ a

If a syllable ends with a consonant other than -an or -aan, the consonant's letter is added, then followed by a final middle dot.

-ㄞ is used for [aːi] (aai) (e.g. , ㄅㄞ baai6, "to be defeated").

-ㄣ is used for [ɐn] (an) (e.g. , ㄍㄣ gan1, "to follow"), and -ㄢ is used for [aːn] (aan) (e.g. , ㄍㄢ gaan1, "within"). Other vowels that end with -n use -ㄋ· for the final . (e.g. , ㄍㄧㄋ· gin3, "to see").

-ㄡ is used for [ɐu] (au). (e.g. , ㄫㄡ, ngau4, "cow") To transcribe [ou] (ou), it is written as ㄛㄨ (e.g. , ㄌㄛㄨ lou6, "path").

is used for both initial ng- (as in , ㄫㄡ, ngau4) and final -ng (as in , ㄧㄛㄫ·, jung6 "to use").

is used for [t͡s] (z) (e.g. , ㄐㄩ zyu2, "to cook") and is used for [t͡sʰ] (c) (e.g. 全, ㄑㄩㄋ· cyun4, "whole").

During the time when Bopomofo was proposed for Cantonese, tones were not marked.

Computer uses

Input method

An example of a Bopomofo keypad for Taiwan
A typical keyboard layout for Bopomofo on computers

Bopomofo can be used as an input method for Chinese characters. It is one of the few input methods that can be found on most modern personal computers without having to download or install any additional software. It is also one of the few input methods that can be used for inputting Chinese characters on certain cell phones.[citation needed]. On the QWERTY keyboard, the symbols are ordered column-wise top-down (e.g. 1+Q+A+Z)


Main articles: Bopomofo (Unicode block) and Bopomofo Extended (Unicode block)

Bopomofo was added to the Unicode Standard in October 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Bopomofo is U+3100–U+312F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Additional characters were added in September 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

The Unicode block for these additional characters, called Bopomofo Extended, is U+31A0–U+31BF:

Bopomofo Extended[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1

Unicode 3.0 also added the characters U+02EA ˪ MODIFIER LETTER YIN DEPARTING TONE MARK and U+02EB ˫ MODIFIER LETTER YANG DEPARTING TONE MARK, in the Spacing Modifier Letters block. These two characters are now (since Unicode 6.0) classified as Bopomofo characters.[25]

Tonal marks for bopomofo
Spacing Modifier Letters
Tone Tone Marker Unicode Note
1 Yin Ping (Level) ˉ U+02C9 Usually omitted
2 Yang Ping (Level) ˊ U+02CA
3 Shang (Rising) ˇ U+02C7
4 Qu (Departing) ˋ U+02CB
4a Yin Qu (Departing) ˪ U+02EA For Minnan and Hakka languages
4b Yang Qu (Departing) ˫ U+02EB For Minnan and Hakka languages
5 Qing (Neutral) ˙ U+02D9

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Taiwan Yearbook 2006: The People & Languages". Government Information Office, Taiwan. Archived from the original on 9 May 2007.
  2. ^ "Taiwan Headlines: Society News: New Taiwanese dictionary unveiled". Government Information Office, Taiwan. Archived from the original on 31 October 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007.
  3. ^ Dong, Hongyuan (2014). A History of the Chinese Language. Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-415-66039-6.
  4. ^ John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. p. 242.
  5. ^ The Unicode Standard / the Unicode Consortium (PDF) (14.0 ed.). Mountain View, CA: Unicode. 2021. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-936213-29-0.
  6. ^ 國音學 (in Chinese (Taiwan)) (8th ed.). Taiwan: 國立臺灣師範大學. 國音敎材編輯委員會. 2008. pp. 27–30.
  7. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠫓.
  8. ^ KangXi: page 164, character 1 Archived 2 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Unihan data for U+20000". Archived from the original on 6 September 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  10. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃉.
  11. ^ "Unihan data for U+4E5A". Archived from the original on 17 August 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃋.
  13. ^ Michael Everson, H. W. Ho, Andrew West, "Proposal to encode one Bopomofo character in the UCS Archived 2021-01-26 at the Wayback Machine", SC2 WG2 N3179.
  14. ^ "Unicode document L2/14-189" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 June 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  15. ^ Unicode Consortium, "Errata Fixed in Unicode 8.0.0 Archived 2020-11-01 at the Wayback Machine"
  16. ^ a b Department of Lifelong Education, Ministry of Education 教育部終身教育司, ed. (January 2017). 國語注音手冊 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Ministry of Education; Digital version: Wanderer Digital Publishing Inc. 汪達數位出版股份有限公司. pp. 2, 7. ISBN 978-986-051-481-0. 韻符「ㄭ」,陰平調號「¯」,注音時省略不標{...}陰平 以一短橫代表高平之聲調,注音時可省略不標。標注在字音最後一個符號右上角。
  17. ^ a b Department of Lifelong Education, Ministry of Education 教育部終身教育司, ed. (January 2017). The Manual of the Phonetic Symbols of Mandarin Chinese (in English and Chinese (Taiwan)). Ministry of Education; Digital version: Wanderer Digital Publishing Inc. 汪達數位出版股份有限公司. pp. 2, 7. ISBN 978-986-051-869-6. the rhyme symbol, "ㄭ", and the mark of Yin-ping tone, "¯", could be left out on Bopomofo notes.{...}This high and level tone is noted as a short dash mark and could be left out in Bopomofo note. If it is noted, it should be put on the upper right corner of the last Bopomofo note.
  18. ^ "A study of neutral-tone syllables in Taiwan Mandarin" (PDF). p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  19. ^ The middle dot may optionally precede light-tone syllables only in reference books (辞书), see section 7.3 Archived 17 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine of the PRC national standard GB/T 16159-2012 Basic rules of the Chinese phonetic alphabet orthography.
  20. ^ "Bopomofo Extended Name". 12 December 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2022. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  21. ^ "Zhuyin and Hanzi location". 22 December 2009. Archived from the original on 8 April 2023. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  22. ^ "Bopomofo on Taiwanese street – with English – Nov 2016 2". 3 August 2016. Archived from the original on 13 January 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  23. ^ "The Zhuyin Alphabet 注音字母 Transcription System (Bo-po-mo-fo) (". Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  24. ^ Yang, Ben; Chan, Eiso. "Proposal to encode Cantonese Bopomofo Characters" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 January 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Scripts-6.0.0.txt". Unicode Consortium. Archived from the original on 4 July 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.