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Find Chinese materials with Pinyin romanization

Last Updated: 12-Nov-2012

The purpose of this guide is to inform library users with the basics of Chinese romanization in the library system and facilitate their search for Chinese records in SearchWorks and Socrates, as well as databases such as Worldcat.

Subject Librarians

Chinese studies librarian
(650) 388-8295


A. Which romanization system to use

The Pinyin system has replaced the Wade-Giles system as the standard in libraries in North America for creating romanized readings for Chinese characters. The means, in general, library users must search in Pinyin to find Chinese language materials, regardless of publishing locations.

There are two exceptions:

1. Place names. Place names in Taiwan used as suject or as headings for government or geographical entities remain in Wade-Giles, although they are in Pinyin when appearing in title, imprint, and other fields of the records. For example, 台中市 as subject heading is "T ' ai-chung shih", but "Taizhong shi" in the title of a Chinese-language book; 高雄 as subject heading is "Kao-hsiung", but "Gaoxiong" in the title.

2. Personel names. Those Chinese names in Wade-Giles that have been well established are not converted to Pinyin, such as 蒋经国 Chiang Cing-kuo and 李登辉 Lee Teng-hui.

B. How to enter search terms in Pinyin to search Chinese materials

In general, enter the romanization of each Chinese charater with a space, such as 明清小说比较研究 ming qing xiao shuo bi jiao yan jiu.

However, there are certain situations where you need to join syllables.

1. Join syllables for multi-character surnames and given names. Also join syllables for given names, Buddhist names, courtesy names, etc.,

刘少奇 liu shaoqi

欧阳修 ouyang xiu

司马相如 sima siangru

尼克松 nikesen

梧岗主人 wugangzhuren

孔子 kongzi

2. Join syllables for multi-character geographic names. Do not join the generic terms for geographical features or jurisdictions.

中华人民共和国 zhonghua renmin gongheguo

新疆维吾尔自治区 xinjiang weiwuer zizhiqu

台湾省立博物馆 taiwan sheng li bo wu guan

义县 yi xian

海南岛 hainan dao

太平洋 taiping yang

3. For names of countries, join syllables according to the practice followed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

中华人民共和国 zhonghua renmin gongheguo

中华民国 zhonghua minguo

朝鲜民主主义主义人民共和国 chaoxian minzhu zhuyi renmin gongheguo

4. Join syllables for names of racial, linguistic, or ethnic groups.

基督徒 jidu tu

毛南族 maonan zu

美国人 meiguo ren

The ALA-LC Romanization Table for Chinese contains details on when to join or separate syllables when you enter Pinyin to search for Chinese materials. You may need to familiar yourself with it in order to do effective and efficient search.