The Pin Yin and Wade-Giles Methods

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The official language in China is Mandarin, a language which represents words and phrases through the use of pictograms. These pictograms are thousands and are very different from the western alphabet, which makes it very hard to be learnt and understood by those who speak other languages.

In order for western language speakers to be able to learn, pronounce and understand the Chinese language, they must have a way to transcribe it to the Roman alphabet or Romanizate it. Different people have created several methods for translating Chinese words to the western alphabet, with different results. The most followed of these methods are the Wade-Giles and the Pin Yin ones.

The Wade-Giles method was very popular during the 19th century and was followed as an official transliteration method. This Romanization system was created by Sir Francis Wade and Herbert Allen Giles, and became very popular for a long time, but it had some weak points which made it loose popularity while time passed.

The Chinese transcription system known as Pin Yin was adopted by the Chinese Government as the official transliteration system in 1958. Since then, it has been the followed system which is even taught in schools instead the pictograms due to the way it facilitates learning the language.

Since 1979, Pin Yin has also been adopted by the International Standards Organization as the official standard for the transliteration of Chinese. Since then, many Chinese terms which we used to name following the Wade-Giles method have a different pronunciation which explains why some things are named differently sometimes.

The differences between the Pin Yin and the Wade-Giles methods are the roots of why some feng shui experts say, for example, Pa Kua while others say Ba Gua. The same happens with Chi and Qi, which is one same thing but called differently depending on the transcription method they are based on. This happens with many Chinese terms and expressions, even with the name of the capital of China, since it is called Peking following the Wade-Giles method while it is called Beijing when using Pin Yin.