The purpose of this page is to inform library users about the basics of Chinese romanization in the library system and facilitate searching the Yale library catalog (Orbis) as well as databases such as Eureka and WorldCat. This page is adapted from the ALA-LC Romanization Table for Chinese, a 19-page document. For people who desire more in-depth knowledge of Chinese romanization, please refer to the ALA-LC Romanization Table and the Library of Congress pinyin Conversion Project.
The pinyin system has replaced the Wade-Giles system as the standard in the U.S. libraries for creating Latin script readings for Chinese characters. This means, as a general rule, library users must search in pinyin to find Chinese-language materials, regardless of publishing locations. For people who are more familiar with Wade-Giles than pinyin, the Pinyin to Wade-Giles to Zhuyin Conversion Table may be helpful. But there are some exceptions to this general rule. The place names in Taiwan used as subject or as headings for government or geographical entities mostly remain in Wade-Giles, although they are in pinyin when appearing in title, imprint, and other areas of the record. For example, 台中市 as a subject heading is "T'ai-chung shih", but "Taizhong Shi" in the title of a Chinese-language book. In terms of personal names, those Chinese names in Wade-Giles that have been well established are not converted to pinyin, such as 蒋经国 Chiang Ching-kuo and 李登辉 Lee Teng-hui.
B. Separating syllables
In general, separate the romanization of each Chinese character with a space, such as 李白 Li Bai and 明清小说 Ming Qing xiao shuo. See the following table for more examples.
|Terms of address||林老师 Lin lao shi|
|Titles including royal titles||秦始皇 Qin shi huang
慈禧太后 Cixi tai hou
|Non-specific geographic names||西北 xi bei|
C. Joining syllables
There are a number of occasions when two or more syllables are connected together without hyphens or spaces.
(1). Join together multi-character surnames and given names, such as 孙中山 Sun Zhongshan and 司马相如 Sima Xiangru. See the following table for more examples.
|Forenames, given names, and courtesy names||无名氏 Wumingshi
|Married women||蒋宋美玲 Jiang Song Meiling|
|Fictional characters (Treat their names as the names of real people)||贾宝玉 Jia Baoyu|
|Names of persons of religious vocation (Separate a term of address from a family name or forename)||惠能 Huineng
释吉藏 shi Jizang
玄奘法师 Xuanzang fa shi
|Personal names as part of corporate names, conference names, or geographical names (Treat them the same as other personal names)||中山大学 Zhongshan da xue
周恩来学术讨论会 Zhou Enlai xue shu tao lun hui
张自忠路 Zhang Zizhong lu
(2). Join together the syllables of multi-character geographical names, such as 中国 Zhongguo, 湖北省 Hubei sheng, and 西藏自治区 Xizang zizhiqu. See the following table for more examples.
|Names of countries||中华人民共和国 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
中华民国 Zhonghua Minguo
|Generic terms for geographical features or jurisdictions are separated from the names of the features or jurisdictions||海南岛 Hainan Dao
太平洋 Taiping Yang
吴县 Wu Xian
安徽省 Anhui Sheng
|Historical or non-Chinese jurisdictions are romanized in the same way as contemporary Chinese jurisdictions:||锦州府 Jinzhou Fu
加州 Jia Zhou
|Multi-syllable terms for constructions of geographical extent are connected||长江大桥 Chang Jiang Daqiao
三门峡水库 Sanmenxia Shuiku
京杭运河 Jing Hang Yunhe
|Names of continents and regions||亚洲 Ya Zhou
东北 Dongbei (when referring to the particular area formerly known as Manchuria; but "dong bei" when referring to direction or position)
(3). Join together transliterations of two or more characters comprising the names of racial, linguistic, or ethnic groups. See the following examples:
基督徒 Jidu tu
毛南族 Maonan zu
美国人 Meiguo ren
客家话 Kejia hua
If these names are part of geographical names, follow the rules for geographical names, such as 德宏傣族景颇族自治州 Dehong Daizu Jingpozu Zizhizhou.
(4). Add an apostrophe before a joined vowel to avoid ambiguity, such as 西安 Xi'an. But the apostrophe will make no difference in searching.
Separates the syllables of non-numerical dates, except for reign periods that are also the names of emperors. See the following examples:
光绪己丑 Guangxu ji chou
民国七十九年 Minguo qi shi jiu nian
E. Capitalization and Punctuation
Capitalization and punctuation will not affect searches, so they are skipped here.
F. Searching Tips
At Yale, the library staff have strived to ensure the accuracy and consistency of library records. But it is possible that some errors exist as a result of the conversion from Wade-Giles to pinyin. The library staff are making every effort to clean up the errors but it will take some time. In the meantime, we encourage users to try different ways while searching Orbis. These include:
(1) Search in both pinyin and Wade-Giles.
As mentioned above, pinyin is the standard in the library system now but some place names and personal names remain in Wade-Giles. Therefore, it is always a good idea to search in Wade-Giles when you think pinyin should be used, and vice versa. The Wade-Giles to pinyin Conversion Table should be helpful in either situation.
(2) Search both separated forms and joined forms.
Under current rules, there are some situations when separating syllables is correct and other situations when joining syllables is correct. It is possible that a small number of records are not converted correctly; therefore, we suggest users search both separated and connected forms.
(3) Be aware of the problem with the character "的". Its Wade-Giles transcription is "ti" and it was converted to "di" automatically. But the standard form in pinyin is "de". As a result, you may need to search both "de" and "di" when you are looking for materials containing "的".