Hanyu pinyin system turns 50
Mon, Feb 11, 2008
The Straits Times
BEIJING - HANYU pinyin, or the Chinese phonetic system, is 50 years old today.

One billion Chinese in China have used it to learn Mandarin since the first edition of pinyin was issued in 1958.

Pinyin is the most common Standard Mandarin romanisation system in use.

'Thanks to pinyin, we learnt how to read,' said 92-year-old Chen Douxiang from Wanrong County in northern Shanxi province, who still remembers the pinyin poem she learnt 50 years ago.

The first edition of pinyin was adopted at the Fifth Session of the First National People's Congress - or parliament - on Feb 11, 1958. It was then introduced to primary schools, and used to improve the literacy rate among adults.

'About one billion Chinese citizens have mastered pinyin, which plays an important role in both Chinese-language education and international communication,' said vice-chairman Wang Dengfeng of the National Language Committee. He is also director of the language department of the Education Ministry.

The Chinese government has standardised the usage of pinyin on radio and television and in advertisements.

In 2001, it issued the National Common Language Law providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.

Professor Zhou Youguang, a 102-year-old linguist, has worked on the research and application of pinyin for almost half a century.

He said the speed of the popularisation of pinyin was amazing and pinyin served as a bridge linking China to the whole world.

The pinyin system has been accepted by the Singapore Government, the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.

It has also become a useful tool for entering Chinese-language text on computers.


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