Lower Yangtze Mandarin
Xiajiang Guanhua
RegionHuai and Yangzi Rivers (Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Jiangxi, Henan)
EthnicityJianghuai people
Subei people
Native speakers
ca. 70 million (2011)[1]
Written vernacular Chinese
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
ISO 639-6juai
  Western Hongchao
  Eastern Hongchao
  Tong-Tai / Tai–Ru

Lower Yangtze Mandarin (traditional Chinese: 下江官話; simplified Chinese: 下江官话; pinyin: Xiàjiāng Guānhuà) is one of the most divergent and least mutually-intelligible of the Mandarin languages, as it neighbours the Wu, Hui, and Gan groups of Sinitic languages. It is also known as Jiang–Huai Mandarin (traditional Chinese: 江淮官話; simplified Chinese: 江淮官话; pinyin: Jiānghuái Guānhuà), named after the Yangtze (Jiang) and Huai Rivers. Lower Yangtze is distinguished from most other Mandarin varieties by the retention of a final glottal stop in words that ended in a stop consonant in Middle Chinese.

During the Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty, the lingua franca of administration was based on Lower Yangtze Mandarin. In the 19th century the base shifted to the Beijing dialect.

Geographic distribution

Lower Yangtze Mandarin is spoken in central Anhui, eastern Hubei, most of Jiangsu north of the Yangtze, as well as the area around Nanjing.[2] The number of speakers was estimated in 1987 at 67 million.[1]


The Language Atlas of China divides Lower Yangtze Mandarin into three branches:[3]

Hongchao dialects
The largest and most widespread branch, mostly concentrated in Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, with smaller areas in Zhejiang province. The best-known variety is Nanjing dialect. Other cities in the area are Hefei in the west and Yangzhou, Zhenjiang and Yancheng in the east.
Tong-Tai / Tai–Ru
Mostly spoken in the eastern Jiangsu prefectures of Taizhou and Nantong (including Rugao).
Mostly spoken in the prefectures of Huanggang and Xiaogan in eastern Hubei province and the area around Jiujiang in northern Jiangxi, with an island in western Hubei around Zhushan, and another in Anhui around Anqing.

There are also small islands of Jianghuai Mandarin (Jūnjiāhuà 軍家話) throughout Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and Fujian provinces, brought to these areas during the Ming dynasty by soldiers from Jiangsu, Anhui and Henan during the reign of Hongwu Emperor.

The Huizhou dialects, spoken in southern Anhui, share different features with Wu, Gan and Lower Yangtze Mandarin, making them difficult to classify. Earlier scholars had assigned to them one or other of those groups or to a top-level group of their own.[4][5] The Atlas adopted the latter position, but it remains controversial.[6]

Relations to other groups

The relationship of the Lower Yangtze Mandarin varieties to other varieties of Chinese has been an ongoing subject of debate. One quantitative study from the late 20th century by linguist Chin-Chuan Cheng focused on vocabulary lists, yielding the result that Eastern dialects of Jianghuai cluster with the Xiang and Gan varieties, whilst Northern and Southern Mandarin, despite being supposedly "genetically" related, were not in the original 35-word list. In the 100-word list they did cluster, albeit with other varieties.[7]

Some Chinese linguists like Ting have claimed that Jianghuai is mostly Wu containing a superstratum of Mandarin;[8] for example, the frequency and usage of the postposition as a postverbal aspect marker in the Taixing dialect of Jianghuai Mandarin can be seen as intermediate between Standard Mandarin, which tends to omit postverbal prepositions, and the Wu varieties, which tend towards omission of preverbal prepositions.[9]

When vowels from Jianghuai Mandarin and Wu were compared to dialects from China's southeastern coast, it was concluded "that chain-type shifts in Chinese follow the same general rules as have been revealed by Labov for American and British English dialects."[10]

Dialogue from literature published in Yangzhou, such as the 18th-century novel Qingfengzha (simplified Chinese: 清风闸; traditional Chinese: 清風閘; pinyin: Qīng Fēng Zhá), contains evidence of a Jianghuai dialect being an expression of identity clearly differentiated from that of others: locals spoke the dialect, as opposed to sojourners, who spoke Huizhou dialect or Wu dialects. Large numbers of merchants from Huizhou lived in Yangzhou and effectively were responsible for keeping the town economically afloat.[11]

Professor Richard VanNess Simmons has claimed that the Hangzhou dialect, rather than being Wu as it was classified by Yuen Ren Chao, is a Mandarin dialect closely related to Jianghuai Mandarin. Simmons claimed that, had Chao compared the Hangzhou dialect to the Common Wu syllabary that Chao developed, as well as to Jianghuai Mandarin, he would have found more similarities to Jianghuai than to Wu.[12]


A characteristic feature of Lower Yangtze Mandarin is the treatment of Middle Chinese syllable-final stops. Middle Chinese syllables with vocalic or nasal codas had a three-way tonal contrast. Syllables with stop codas (-p, -t and -k) had no phonemic tonal contrast, but were traditionally treated as comprising a fourth category, called the entering tone. In modern Mandarin varieties, the former three-way contrast has been reorganized as four tones that are generally consistent across the group, though the pitch values of the tones vary considerably.[13] In most varieties, including the Beijing dialect on which Standard Chinese is based, the final stops have disappeared, and these syllables have been divided between the tones in different ways in different subgroups.[14] In Lower Yangtze Mandarin, however, the stop codas have merged as a glottal stop, but these syllables remain separate from the four tonal categories shared with other Mandarin varieties.[15] A similar development is also found in the adjacent Wu dialect group, and in the Jin group, which many linguists include within Mandarin.[16][17]

In Lower Yangtze varieties, the initial /n-/ has merged with /l-/. These initials have also merged in Southwestern Mandarin, but as /n-/; most other Mandarin varieties distinguish these initials.[18] The Middle Chinese retroflex initials have merged with affricate initials in non-Mandarin varieties, and also in Southwestern Mandarin and most Lower Yangtze varieties. However, the Nanjing dialect retains the distinction, like northern Mandarin varieties.[19] Most Lower Yangtze varieties retain a /ʐ-/ initial, but in central Jiangsu (including Yangzhou) it has merged with /l-/.[19] The Tai–Ru varieties of eastern-central Jiangsu retain a distinct /ŋ-/ initial, but this has merged with the zero initial in other Mandarin varieties.[19]

It has been claimed that the Jianghuai varieties of Mandarin around Nanjing are an exception to the normal occurrence of the three medials [i], [y] and [u] in Mandarin, along with eastern Shanxi and some Southwestern Mandarin dialects.[20]

Literary and colloquial readings

The existence of literary and colloquial readings is a notable feature of Lower Yangtze Mandarin.

Example Colloquial reading Literary reading Meaning Standard Mandarin pronunciation
tɕia tɕiɪ oblique ɕiɛ
tiɪʔ tsəʔ pick tʂai
kʰɪ tɕʰy go tɕʰy
ka tɕy cut tɕy
xa ɕia down ɕia
xoŋ xən across xəŋ
æ̃ iɪ̃ strict ian [jɛn]
kʰuɛ kua hang kua
sən tən crouch tuən
kaŋ xoŋ rainbow xoŋ


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The original dialect of Nanjing was the Wu dialect in the Eastern Jin dynasty. After the Wu Hu uprising, the Jin Emperor and many northern Chinese fled south. The new capital of Eastern Jin was created at Jiankang, now Nanjing. The Nanjing dialect started to transform into Jianghuai Mandarin from Wu. Further events, such as Hou Jing's rebellions during the Liang dynasty and the Sui dynasty invasion of the Chen dynasty resulted in Jiankang's destruction. During the Ming dynasty, Ming Taizu relocated southerners from below Yangzi and made Nanjing the capital. During the Taiping Rebellion, Taiping rebels seized Nanjing and made it the capital of the Taiping Kingdom. The fighting resulted in the loss of the population of Nanjing. Those events all played in role in forming today's Nanjing dialect.[21]

Immigrants from Northern China during the middle of the Song dynasty moved south, bringing a speech type from which Northern Wu and Jianghuai reading patterns both derive from. The northern immigrants almost totally replaced from the original inhabitants on the Yangtze's northern bank.[22] Jiang-huai, like other dialects of Chinese, has two forms for pronouncing words, the Bai (common, vulgar), and the Wen (literary). The Bai forms appear to preserve more ancient forms of speech dating from before the mass migration in the Song dynasty, which brought in the Wen pronunciations.[23]

Jianghuai Mandarin was possibly the native tone of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang and many of his military and civil officials.[24]

In the early Ming period, Wu speakers moved into the eastern Tong-Tai-speaking region, and Gan-speakers from Jiangxi moved into the western Huang–Xiao region, influencing the respective Jianghuai dialects.[25]

In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jianghuai-speakers moved into Hui dialect areas.[26]

The Portuguese Chinese Dictionary (PCD), written by missionaries during the Ming dynasty, categorized several Jianghuai dialects with rounded finals. The eastern and southeastern variants of Jianghuai contain the rounded finals. The Nanjing dialect, on the other hand, is in another group.[27]

Matteo Ricci's Dicionário Português-Chinês documented Ming dynasty Mandarin. A number of words appeared to be derived from Jianghuai Mandarin dialect, such as "pear, jujube, shirt, ax, hoe, joyful, to speak, to bargain, to know, to urinate, to build a house, busy, and not yet."[28]

The "Guanhua koiné" of the early Ming era was based on Jianghuai Guanhua (Jianghuai Mandarin). Western missionaries and Korean Hangul writings of the Ming Guanhua and Nanjing dialect showed differences that pointed to the Guanhua being a koiné and mixture of various dialects, strongly based on Jianghuai.[29]

Some linguists have studied the influence that Nanjing Jianghuai Mandarin had on Ming dynasty guanhua/Mandarin.[30] Although the early Ming dynasty Mandarin/Guanhua was a koine based on the Nanjing dialect, it was not entirely identical, with some non-Jianghuai characteristics being found in it. Francisco Varo advised that to learn Chinese, one must acquire it from "Not just any Chinese, but only those who have the natural gift of speaking the Mandarin language well, such as those natives of the Province of Nan king, and of other provinces where the Mandarin tongue is spoken well."[31]

Jianghuai Mandarin shares some characteristics with Ming dynasty Southern Mandarin.[32]

Jianghuai Mandarin, along with Northern Mandarin, formed the standard for Baihua before and during the Qing dynasty until its replacement by Standard Mandarin. Baihua was used by writers all over China, regardless of the dialect spoken. Chinese writers who spoke other dialects had to use the grammar and the vocabulary of Jianghuai and Northern Mandarin for the majority of Chinese to understand their writing. By contrast, Chinese who did not speak southern dialects would not be able to understand southern dialects in writing.[33]

Peking opera got its start in parts of Anhui and Hubei that spoke the dialect.

Jianghuai Mandarin is currently overtaking Wu as the language variety of multiple counties in Jiangsu. An example is Zaicheng Town, in Lishui County. Both Jianghuai and Wu were spoken in several towns in Lishui, with Wu being spoken by more people in more towns than Jianghuai. Wu is called "old Zaicheng Speech", and Jianghuai dialect is called "new Zaicheng speech", with Wu being driven rapidly to extinction. Only the elderly speak it to relatives. The Jianghuai dialect was present there for about a century even though all the surrounding areas around the town are Wu-speaking. Jianghuai was always confined to the town itself until the 1960s, but it is now overtaking Wu.[34]


  1. ^ a b Yan (2006), p. 64.
  2. ^ Norman (1988), p. 191.
  3. ^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 67.
  4. ^ Yan (2006), pp. 222–223.
  5. ^ Kurpaska (2010), pp. 43–44, 48.
  6. ^ Kurpaska (2010), pp. 69, 75–76.
  7. ^ Hamed, Mahé Ben (22 May 2005). "Neighbour-nets portray the Chinese dialect continuum and the linguistic legacy of China's demic history". Proc Biol Sci. 272 (1567): 1015–1022. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.3015. PMC 1599877. PMID 16024359. There is much conflict between and within Mandarin and Wu, which do not cluster for the 35 and 100 wordlists (figure 2). For the 35 wordlist, the Eastern Jianghuai Mandarin dialects (Yingshan, Wuhan) cluster with their geographical neighbours Xiang and Gan, but do not cluster with their putative genetic northern and southern Mandarin relatives.
  8. ^ Sun-Ah Jun (2005). Sun-Ah Jun (ed.). Prosodic typology: the phonology of intonation and phrasing, Volume 1 (illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-19-924963-3. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  9. ^ Dan Xu (2008). Dan Xu (ed.). Space in languages of China: cross-linguistic, synchronic and diachronic perspectives (illustrated ed.). Springer. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-4020-8320-4. Retrieved 14 September 2023. Examples of such markers include 阿[a/ia/ua/ka/0a] (at, to; perfective and durative marker) in the Taixing dialect, Jianghuai Mandarin (cf. Li R. 1957),倒[ tno] (at, to; durative marker)
  10. ^ École des hautes études en sciences sociales, École pratique des hautes études (France). Section des sciences économiques et sociales (1985). Revue bibliographique de sinologie, Volume 3. Editions de l'Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. p. 180. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Diachronic evidence from Wu dialects and Jiang-Huai Mandarin dialects on the one hand and from Southeast China coastal area dialects on the other hand (all dialect material drawn from other authors) show that chain-type shifts in Chinese follow the same general rules as have been revealed by Labov for American and British English dialects, such as: 1. peripheral vowels rise: 2. non-peripheral vowels usually fall: 3. back vowels move to
  11. ^ Lucie B. Olivová; Vibeke Børdahl; Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (2009). Lucie B. Olivová; Vibeke Børdahl (eds.). Lifestyle and entertainment in Yangzhou (illustrated ed.). NIAS Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-87-7694-035-5. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Some grammatical features of Yangzhou dialect are shared with Jianghuai Mandarin . Others may be of more limited usage but are used in Dingyuan County (the setting of Qingfengzha), which belongs to the same subgroup of Jianghuai
  12. ^ David Prager Branner (2006). David Prager Branner (ed.). The Chinese rime tables: linguistic philosophy and historical-comparative phonology. Vol. 271 of Amsterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic science: Current issues in linguistic theory (illustrated ed.). John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 206. ISBN 978-90-272-4785-8. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Had Chao developed a syllabary for the Jiang-Huai Mandarin dialects with a diagnostic power and representativeness comparable to that of his Wu Syllabary, and had he placed Hangzhou in that context, he most surely would have discovered
  13. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 194–195.
  14. ^ Yan (2006), p. 61.
  15. ^ Ting (1991), p. 190.
  16. ^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 74.
  17. ^ Yan (2006), p. 236.
  18. ^ Ting (1991), p. 193.
  19. ^ a b c Ting (1991), p. 192.
  20. ^ Norman (1988), p. 193.
  21. ^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 161.
  22. ^ Coblin (2002), p. 536.
  23. ^ Coblin (2002), p. 534.
  24. ^ Ming studies, Issue 56. Ming studies. 2007. p. 107. Retrieved 23 September 2011. The first Ming emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang t^tcSj!, and a large number of his civil and military officials hailed from the Yangtze watershed and spoke dialects of the southern Mandarin or Jiang-Huai type, to which the dialect of Nanjing[1]
  25. ^ Coblin (2002), p. 541.
  26. ^ Hilary Chappell (2004). Hilary Chappell (ed.). Chinese Grammar: Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives (illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-19-927213-6. Retrieved 23 September 2011. According to Hirata, however, Hui is composed of many layers: its dialects are spoken in an area originally occupied by the Yue i* tribe, suggestive of a possible substrate, later to be overlaid by migrations from Northern China in the Medieval Nanbeichao period and the Tang and Song dynasties. This was followed by the Jiang-Huai Mandarin dialects of the migrants who arrived during the Ming and Qing periods, and more recently by Wu dialects in particular, acquired by peripatetic Hui merchants who have represented an active
  27. ^ Ming studies, Issue 56. Ming studies. 2007. p. 110. Retrieved 23 September 2011. group, to which Nanjingese belongs. Rounded finals, on the other hand, are found in the eastern and southeastern Jiang-Huai dialects. The PCD language patterns with dialects of this type here. Let us now consider one more set of
  28. ^ Michele Ruggieri; Matteo Ricci; John W. Witek (2001). John W. Witek (ed.). Dicionário Português-Chinês. Vol. 3 of Documenta (Instituto Português do Oriente) Volume 3 of Documenta (Biblioteca Nacional Macau). Biblioteca Nacional Portugal. p. 208. ISBN 978-972-565-298-5. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Words for pear, jujube, shirt, ax, hoe, jorful, to speak, to bargain, to know, to urinate, to build a house, busy, and not yet are those typical of the Chiang-Huai or Southern dialects, not the Northern Mandarin dialect.
  29. ^ Ming studies, Issue 56. Ming studies. 2007. p. 108. Retrieved 23 September 2011. missionary transcriptions and of fifteenth century Korean Guanhua transcriptions in the Hangul alphabet, the two syllable types are clearly distinguished. Guanhua and Nanjingese were clearly different here. Thus, we may suspect that the early Ming Guanhua koine was in reality a linguistic amalgam of some sort, though it certainly had deep roots in the Jiang -Huai dialects. In 1421 the Ming political and administrative capital was moved from[2]
  30. ^ 何大安 (2002). 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. 南北是非 : 漢語方言的差異與變化. Vol. 7 of 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. Zhong yang yan jiu yuan di san jie guo ji han xue hui yi lun wen ji. Yu yan zu. 中央硏究院語言學硏究所. p. 27. ISBN 978-957-671-936-3. Retrieved 23 September 2011. to consider how it may have been influenced by possible relationships and interactions with the Jiang-Huai dialects of the Nanking area. This, in our view , should be done by first undertaking historical studies of these dialects (the University of California)
  31. ^ 何大安 (2002). 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. 南北是非 : 漢語方言的差異與變化. Vol. 7 of 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. Zhong yang yan jiu yuan di san jie guo ji han xue hui yi lun wen ji. Yu yan zu. 中央硏究院語言學硏究所. p. 27. ISBN 978-957-671-936-3. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Reading system definitely possesses features which are not typical of the Jiang-Huai group as a whole (Coblin Ms. 1,3)/ Careful reading of early descriptions tends to confirm this conclusion. For example, Varo's association of his Mandarin phonology with Nankingese was not absolute and unequivocal. We should recall his counsel that Guanhua be learned from "natives of the Province of Nan king, and of other provinces where the Mandarin tongue is spoken well" [emphasis added]. We find a similar view in Morrison's accounts. On the one hand he says in his dictionary (1815:xviii), "The pronunciation in this work, is rather what the Chinese call the Nanking dialect, than the Peking. (the University of California)
  32. ^ 中央硏究院. 第2屆國際漢學會議論文集編輯委員會, 中央硏究院 (1989). 中央硏究院第2屆國際漢學會議論文集: 中華民國七十五年十二月廿九日至卅一日, Volume 2, Part 1. 中央硏究院. p. 223. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Therefore, we might interpret the RES ts, ts', s as reflecting a phonological feature of the Southern Mandarin dialect of the Ming dynasty. This feature is also found among the modern Jiang-Huai dialects such as YC. It might also be a reflection of the dialect features of MH and AM.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link) (the University of California)
  33. ^ Ping Chen (1999). Modern Chinese: history and sociolinguistics (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-521-64572-0. Retrieved 23 September 2011. This is true not only of writers from the Jiang-Huai and Northern Mandarin areas, but also of writers from the other dialect... Speakers of dialects other than Jiang- Huai or Northern Mandarin had to conform to the grammatical and
  34. ^ Journal of Asian Pacific communication, Volume 16, Issues 1-2. Multilingual Matters. 2006. p. 336. Retrieved 23 September 2011. In Chinese dialectology, Lishui County is divided by the boundary between Jiang-Huai dialect and Wu dialect. In administrative distribution, eleven towns of the county lie in the Wu Dialect area and five in the Jiang-Huai Dialect area. The former includes 72.2% of the county's population; the latter 17.8% (Guo, 1995). The county seat is Zaicheng Town, also called Yongyang Town. The language varieties spoken in areas surrounding the town all belong to Wu dialect. Two varieties are spoken in the town, "the old Zaicheng Speech" and "the new Zaicheng Speech". The former is a variety of Wu Dialect, and the latter a Jiang-Huai Mandarin Dialect. The old dialect is disappearing. Its speakers, a minority of elders, use the variety only among family members. According to some interviewees over sixty years old, the new dialect has been spoken in the town area for about one hundred years. Before the 1960s, the new dialect was used only inside the town, which served as the county seat, therefore, it is called "Town Speech" or "Lishui Speech". (the University of Michigan)

Works cited

Further reading