Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In many books about Confucius' Analects, 大學 is transliterated as Ta-Hio.

Why is this? 大學 is dàxué in Pinyin, da hsüeh in Wade-Giles, da sywe in Yale, and daai hok in Cantonese, so where does this transliteration come from?

share|improve this question
Legge transcription? – user58955 Oct 7 '13 at 17:51
Based on the transcription alone, my guess is that it's from a northern dialect (due to the absence of the final -k in 學). The initial h- in 學 indicates that it's either from a time before the palatalization of Mandarin initial consonants (roughly 200-400 years ago, hi- and hü- became modern Mandarin xi- and xu-), or from a dialect that wasn't affected by palatalization (with which I'm not familiar). However, a Google search for "Ta Hio" seems to result in many citations of Ezra Pound, who is a relatively modern author. I don't know whether the term predates Pound though. – Claw Oct 7 '13 at 18:29
@user58955 Legge appears to have transliterated it as Ta Hëŏ, which is close. – Claw Oct 7 '13 at 20:43
Could be court mandarin or the contemporary standard pronunciation... The mandarin spoken in the Qing court experienced less palatalization despite the ongoing process in vernacular Beijing accent, that's why 北京 and 南京 were called Peking and Nanking, and 福建 was transcribed as Fukien. Not sure if h->x happened in the court pronunciation though. – user58955 Oct 7 '13 at 20:44
@Claw (Using Baxter's Middle Chinese notation) It seems lots of [jqx]ue and [jqx]iao words started with -æwk endings in MC. Baxter doesn't make any notes that one is regular or irregular though, so I expect it's a 白/文 distinction. This info + chart implies that -iao is regular Mandarin and -ue is literary (Beijingified Nanjing chinese?). Perhaps xiao~hio was the normal pronunciation in Beijing a long time ago? – Stumpy Joe Pete Oct 9 '13 at 19:23
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's Mandarin transliteration by Portuguese Jesuit Fr. Inácio da Costa (17th century).

Partial text:


Ta hio chi dao, cai min min te, cai cin min, cai chi yu chi xen

share|improve this answer
Can you link some sources? This seems like the right answer! – Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 28 '14 at 23:55
Prospero Intorcetta (殷铎泽) and Inácio da Costa (郭纳爵). You can find the first guy in Wikipedia. – amateur Jan 29 '14 at 0:19
Another PDF – amateur Jan 29 '14 at 0:23

It's just the pinyin of a dialect for 大學.

share|improve this answer
If you read the comments, you'll see that that's pretty unlikely. – Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 23 '14 at 16:11
@StumpyJoePete It's a romanization/pinyin of ancient Chinese, possibly some regional dialect. – phoeagon Jan 24 '14 at 7:08
@phoeagon If by "ancient dialect", you mean "probably court Mandarin, probably quite modern", then yes. The transcription was given in a modern book, using translation resources that can't be more than a few hundred years old (and furthermore, are definitely based on court Mandarin of some type). – Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 24 '14 at 16:24

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.