Hanyu Pinyin, or the Chinese phonetic system, will celebrate its
50th anniversary on Monday (Feb. 11). One billion Chinese have used
it to learn mandarin since the first edition of pinyin was issued
"Pinyin is useful. It helps us to learn Chinese characters.
Thanks to pinyin, we learnt how to read," 92-year-old Chen Douxiang
from Wanrong County, northern Shanxi Province, still remembered the
pinyin poem she learned 50 years ago.
The first edition of Pinyin was adopted at the Fifth Session of
the First National People's Congress on Feb. 11, 1958. It was then
introduced to primary schools, and used to improve the literacy
rate among adults. By the end of 1959, two-thirds of residents in
Wanrong County had learnt Mandarin using Pinyin.
"About one billion Chinese citizens have mastered pinyin, which
plays an important role in both Chinese language education and
international communication," said Wang Dengfeng, vice-chairman of
the National Language Committee and director of language department
of the Education Ministry.
The Chinese Braille, based on pinyin, has helped blind people to
learn Chinese language, knowledge and skills.
The Chinese government also helped 12 minority groups including
Zhuang, Buyi, and Hani to establish Latin forms of their languages,
based on the pinyin system.
The government used all kinds of measures to popularize pinyin
for schools, newspapers, and brand names, and standardize the usage
of pinyin on radios, TV and in advertisements.
The five mascots for Beijing 2008 Olympics, which were initially
called "Friendlies", have been renamed "Fuwa", a literal Chinese
pinyin translation. Many Chinese take the new name as more
acceptable and easy to understand.
China also published the Xinhua Dictionary and Modern Chinese
Dictionary, setting rules for using pinyin to spell people's names
and places. In 2001, the government issued the National Common
Language Law providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.
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 popularization of pinyin was amazing and
pinyin was used not only in education but also industry and
commerce. It used to be regarded only as a tool for learning
characters in primary schools, but now it serves as a communication
tool. It used to be the key to Chinese culture, but now it is a
bridge linking China to the whole world.
"As a cultural tool, Pinyin is easy to learn and use and meets
the needs of times, so it can spread all by itself," Zhou
The popularization of pinyin is a demonstration of the
development of China. Now more international students are learning
Mandarin and Chinese culture.
"Hanyu Pinyin not only belongs to China but also belongs to the
world. It is now everywhere in our daily lives," Wang said, "Pinyin
will continue playing an important role in the modernization of
(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2008)