Throughout the ages, several systems of describing the sounds of Chinese characters have been designed. Different systems have been created in different countries and with different alphabets. When the sounds of the Chinese language are described with the Latin/Roman alphabet, it is referred to as "romanisation".
The first romanisation systems for Mandarin Chinese were created in 1605 by Matteo Ricci and in 1625 by Nicolas Trigault. The most wellknow systems for transliteration in the modern age are Pinyin, Wade-Giles, Yale and Zhuyin (popularly called "Bopomofo").
In the following examples, you can see one and the same phrase in different forms of transcription. Pinyin: Wade-Giles: Chinese characters with Zhuyin: Zhuyin by itself: Hanzi:
In this glossary, you can search Chinese syllables and sounds according to Pinyin or Wade-Giles romanisation, and be able to see how the same sounds would be transcribed with other systems. You will also find simple explanations of some basic consepts of Chinese phonetics.
Further reading: aspiration, Bopomofo, Chinese consonants, hanzi, Pinyin, tones, tone-sandhi, Wade-Giles, Zhuyin
The English language contains many common quotes, sayings, aphorisms and other idiomatic expressions of different sorts. In the Chinese language such expressions are most commonly referred to as "chengyu", i.e. "ready phrases".
The chengyu can be divided into sub-groups such as true chengyu, proverbs, aphorisms and "after-the-pause expressions". Sometimes common expressions and freer quotes are included among chengyu, but rarely mere metaphors, slogans or modern slang. True chengyu usually consist of four characters that can be seen as titles of centuries old classical stories, hearsays or historical recordings. In this glossary I've include expressions of most of the mentioned categories of chengyu.
Chinese idioms often appear to be written with a special type of compressed grammar, and may therefore be difficult to interpret. However, it's one thing to learn to understand these expressions in Chinese text, but a completely different thing to learn to actively use them in your own phrases. If you don't have the knowledge of a large number of Chinese idioms (and preferably the stories behind them!), it can be difficult to spontaneously find suitable expressions for different occasions. My intention with this glossary is to help solving this problem for students of Chinese - or at least to open a door for those who want to become more fluent in Chinese.
About this glossary: About the author: zhong1 wen2 cheng2 yu3 ci2 dian3 A Glossary of Idiomatic Expressions in Chinese
With this glossary, I've made it possible to search idiomatic expressions in Chinese simply by specifying a subject, keyword or feeling in English, single Chinese characters or entire idioms in Chinese.
Try entering words like "selfish", "free", "waste", "fool" or "help", to see what idioms are listed. You can also search by Chinese syllables/characters according to Mandarin Pinyin-transliteration such as "chu1", "yang2", "hu3", "xiao3" or "da4". The soft "y"-sound is transcribed with "yu" (e.g. "nyu3" and "lyu2" that are not to be mixed up with "nu3" and "lu2").
Babylon Pro version 4.0 will not show more than twenty matches per search -- older versions of Babylon will not show more than eight matches. In older versions of the software, you will also have to enter a blank space before the first letter of the syllables "mi1", "mi2", "mi3", "mi4", "dong1", "dong2", "dong3" and "dong4".
The Chinese characters are written in simplified Chinese (GB-coded) and pronunciation is specified according to Mandarin Pinyin. There are no explanations of the histories or stories behind each expression, since that would call for a lot more work, and the result wouldn't bee as easy to scan through as it is now.