What syllables rhyme in modern Mandarin, according to the native speakers? I'm looking for some rules or rhyme tables. I have found some, but I'm confused by the fact that 韵 may both mean "rhyme" and "the final of a syllable", so I'm not sure how to find out which finals actually rhyme.

E.g. Does "yan" rhyme with "huan"? How about "qi" and "ci"? "Hun" and "wen"? That's the kind of questions I would like to answer. Note that I'm not asking whether their finals are pronounced the same, but rather whether native speakers of Mandarin consider them to rhyme.

  • 上车睡觉,下车尿尿,到地方拍照,回家了什么都不知道。 – An ode to chinese travellers that just came to my mind...
    – flaudre
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 14:57

4 Answers 4


As a native speaker, I don't think yan and huan rhyme, but yan and xuan do.

I think their endings can be written in IPA as:

yan - ɛn

huan - ɑn

xuan - ɛn

Only the last vowel and following coda count as 韵, the [u] in huan and the [ɥ] in xuan don't matter.

  • Do you think other native Chinese speakers would agree with you as to what rhymes? I wonder where the discrepancy between your answer and the rhyme tables comes from. According to the rhyme tables, yan and huan do rhyme.
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:53
  • Can you please post the link to the rhyming table? I am curious what the issue is too.
    – Danke Xie
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 13:50
  • Some rhyme tables are based on Ancient pronunciations, which have changed over time. Another possible reason is close rhymes are also listed, given that the user knows the difference. Some rhymes are perfect but if there's no good choices, you may go with semi-rhymes or even eye rhymes (visual/sight rhymes). For example, this poem is considered rhyming in line 2 and 4, but they do not rhyme so well in modern Chinese. 向晚意不适,驱车登古原。 夕阳无限好,只是近黄昏。
    – Danke Xie
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 14:21
  • 1
    This 押韵表 is modern Chinese. But it didn't say 'an' and 'uan' rhyme. You can just use their actual pronunciation. They are kinda different.
    – Danke Xie
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 23:39
  • 1
    Not always, actually that's just different classes of finals. For example, the class "eng ing ong iong" are not considered to rhyme. Some finals in the same class can be considered to rhyme: [a] [ia] [ua]. Though they have different vowels ([a] is a simple vowel, [ia] and [ua] are complex vowels), they share the same final [a]. But in some cases, the parts in the same class do not have the same final sound. They can only be considered near rhymes.
    – Danke Xie
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 18:56

This should be sufficient.


You don't really need to learn 注音, pinyin matches "real" pronunciation quite well. The only changes for convenience are the merging of three different i sounds (jqx-zcs-zhchsh), that any word with pinyin "w--" is really the equivalent "u--" sound without an initial, and that any word with pinyin "y--" (but not yu, which a distinct initial) is really the equivalent "i--" sound without an initial. Then several finals are shortened under pinyin when they do have an initial: iou(you) is shortened to iu, uen(wen) is shortened to un, uei(wei) is shortened to ui. Therefore: []iu in fact rhymes with you, []un rhymes with wen, and []ui rhymes with wei. Finally, []uo is equivalent to []o.

  • I see that this is the way it is actually pronounced, but I still don't understand why it doesn't agree with the rhyme tables (e.g. huan and yan rhyme, according to these tables). Do native speakers of Chinese generally consider them to rhyme, even though the finals are pronounced differently?
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 8:01
  • I'd guess the rhyme tables you refer to are simply incorrect. I've heard singers occasionally elongating [ən] into [än] while singing, e.g. youtube.com/watch?v=U0Mxv3DJmvQ 1:40, but even in this case it's clear from the lyrics that yuan (which should more logically be written as yuian) is correctly considered to rhyme with []ian, and no other ending occurs with a genuine -uan. These are likely distinct enough sounds to almost everyone that conflation can only stem from their confusing representation in pinyin (yan should logically be "ian").
    – Yang
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 9:45

The easiest and quickest way is to look up the pinyin (the original character based pinyin which is called 注音符號, which is still in common use in Taiwan). Words with the same 韻母 with the same tone are rhymes. The difficulty comes in when pinyin transcribe 注音符號 in the Latin Alphabet. For example Wu and Yu are transcribe by two different 韻母 but both end in u in the Latin Alphabet. Some words has only 聲母 but no 韻母, examples are ci, si, zi (they are rhymes if the tones are the same), the i are not the same i as in bi, di, ji, li, mi, ni, pi, qi, ti, yi, xi) which has the 韻母 i, in addition, they are not the same i as in chi, shi, zhi) which also has only 聲母 but no 韻母. The second question concerns rhyme in modern Mandarin is harder to answer since pronunciation changes. Mandarin is adapted mainly from the dialect in BeiJing in 1932 and retained as the standard in 1949. PRC calls Mandarin PuTongHua and ROC calls Mandarin GuoYu. If you compare the dictionaries there will be minor differences PuTongHua and GuoYu went on slightly different path since 1949. So the most recent dictionary will give the correct modern Mandarin pronunciation. A dictionary I use is 新华字典 XinHua ZiDan, the 1990 edition ISBN 7-100-00042-4/H.16 (there are probably newer one in the market now). I like this because it is organized by PinYin but also included 注音符號.

  • Does whole 韻母 need to be identical, or just the last character? Does san ㄙㄢ rhyme with suan ㄙㄨㄢ? Does lan ㄌㄢ rhyme with lian ㄌㄧㄢ?
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 18:02

Rhyme tables are called 押韵表, and they follow standard mandarin pronunciation.

That is, qi and ji (di, ni, bi, xi, yi, li, mi) rhyme, but not qi and ri (zhi, chi, shi, ci).

Yan rhymes with anything -an, and also -ian, -uan, -üan.

  • What do you mean by "follow standard mandarin pronunciation"? Qi is pronounced /tɕʰi/, ci is pronounced /tsʰʐ/. Yan is pronounced /jɛn/ and huan is pronounced /xwan/. If they really rhyme, as you say, they don't follow the standard Mandarin pronunciation.
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 15:10
  • @倪阔乐 The link is correct but your example of "qi" and "ci" is not correct -- they do not rhyme. For example, here: blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_492faa8f0100e80c.html 七 and 刺 are in different categories (十、希奇 and 十一、诗词).
    – rxmnnxfpvg
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:41

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