Mainland Chinese Braille

(Mainland) Chinese Braille is a braille script used for Standard Mandarin in China.[1] Consonants and basic finals conform to international braille, but additional finals form a semi-syllabary, as in zhuyin (bopomofo). Each syllable is written with up to three Braille cells, representing the initial, final, and tone, respectively. In practice tone is generally omitted as it is in pinyin.

Chinese Braille
LanguagesStandard Mandarin
Parent systems
Night writing
Print basis
Pinyin, zhuyin
Mainland Chinese Braille
Traditional Chinese現行盲文
Simplified Chinese现行盲文
Literal meaningCurrent Braille

Braille charts

Traditional Chinese Braille is as follows:[2]


Chinese Braille initials generally follow the pinyin assignments of international braille. However, j, q, x are replaced with g, k, h, as the difference is predictable from the final. (This reflects the historical change of g, k, h (and also z, c, s) to j, q, x before i and ü.) The digraphs ch, sh, zh are assigned to (its pronunciation in Russian Braille), (a common pronunciation in international braille), and . R is assigned to , reflecting the old Wade-Giles transcription of j. ( is used for the final er, the pronunciation of the name of that letter in English Braille.)

Pinyin bpmfdtnlg/jk/qh/xzhchshrzcs



The finals approximate international values for several of the basic vowels ( e (o), yi, wo, wu, , you, ei), but then necessarily diverge. However, there are a few parallels with other braille alphabets: er and wai are pronounced like the names of those letters in English braille; ye, ya, and you are pronounced like those letters in Russian Braille. yuan, yue, yin, are similar to the old French pronunciations oin, ieu, in. For the most part, however, Chinese Braille finals do not obviously derive from previous conventions.

The pinyin final -i is only written where it corresponds to yi. Otherwise* (in ci zi si ri chi zhi shi) no final is written, a convention also found in zhuyin. The final -e is not written in de, a common grammatical particle written with several different characters in print.[3]

Pinyin BopomofoBraille

Pinyin BopomofoBraille
yi, -i*
ya, -ia ㄧㄚ
ye, -ie ㄧㄝ
yao, -iao ㄧㄞ
you, -iu ㄧㄡ
yan, -ian ㄧㄢ
yang, -iang ㄧㄤ
yin, -in ㄧㄣ
ying, -ing ㄧㄥ
Pinyin BopomofoBraille
wu, -u
wa, -ua ㄨㄚ
wo, -uo ㄨㄛ
wai, -uai ㄨㄞ
wei, -ui ㄨㄟ
wan, -uan ㄨㄢ
wen, -un ㄨㄣ
wang, -uang ㄨㄤ
weng, -ong ㄨㄥ
Pinyin BopomofoBraille
yu, -ü
yue, -üe ㄩㄝ
yuan, -üan ㄩㄢ
yun, -ün ㄩㄣ
yong, -iong ㄩㄥ


Tone is marked sparingly.

Zhuyin (none) ˊ ˇ ˋ ˙
Braille (none)


Chinese Braille punctuation approximates the form of international braille punctuation, but several spread the corresponding dots across two cells rather than one. For example, the period is , which is the same pattern as the international single-cell norm of .

Print,?!:;-·()[ ]"'
Chinese Braille
French equivalent


  • Spaces are added between words, rather than between syllables.
  • Tone is marked when needed. It comes after the final.
  • As in zhuyin, the finals of the syllables zi, ci, si, zhi, chi, shi, ri are not marked.

Two examples, the first with full tone marking, the second with tone for disambiguation only:

时间不早了! (時間不早了!)
Shíjiān zǎo le!
grassabovewhichfloweriswindblown awayby


Chinese Braille has the same low level of ambiguity that pinyin does. In practice, tone is omitted 95% of the time, which leads to a space saving of a third. Tone is also omitted in pinyin military telegraphy, and causes little confusion in context.

The initial pairs g/j, k/q, h/x are distinguished by the final: initials j, q, x are followed by the vowels i or ü, while the initials g, k, h are followed by other vowels. This reflects the historical derivation of j, q, x from g, k, h before i and ü,[4] and parallels the dual pronunciations of c and g in Spanish and Italian. In pinyin, the redundancy is resolved in the other direction, with the diaeresis omitted from ü after j, q, x. Thus braille is equivalent to pinyin ju:



The China Library for the Blind (Chinese: 中国盲文图书馆) in Beijing has several thousand volumes, mostly published by the China Braille Press (Chinese: 中国盲文出版社).[5] The National Taiwan Library has a Braille room with a postal mail service and some electronic documents.[6]

See also


  1. Pace Unesco (2013), a different alphabet is used in Taiwan, Taiwanese Braille.
  2. Vivian Aldridge, 2000 [2002] How is Chinese written in braille?
  3. UNESCO (2013) World Braille Usage, 3rd edition.
    ( is mistakenly said to be a contraction of di in the charts, but is confirmed as de in the sample.)
  4. They also derive from z, c, s before i or ü, and this is the identity reflected in Taiwanese braille.
  5. Fruchterman, Jim (2008-10-08). "Beneblog: Technology Meets Society: China Braille Press". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  6. "Delivery of Library Materials". Retrieved 2012-08-13.


  • Grotz, J. (Aug 1991). "The necessary reform of Chinese Braille writing". Rehabilitation (Stuttgart). 30 (3): 153–5. PMID 1947424.

Further reading

  • Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming. Work for the blind in China. Printed by Gilbert & Rivington, Limited, St. John's House, Clerkenwell, London E.C.: Gilbert & Rivington, Ld. p. 79. Retrieved April 23, 2012. [Original from Columbia University; digitized August 18, 2009]
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