Foochow Romanized, also known as Bàng-uâ-cê ( BUC for short; ) or 平話字 Hók-ciŭ-uâ Lò̤-mā-cê ( Chinese: 福州話羅馬字), is a Latin alphabet for the Fuzhou dialect of Eastern Min adopted in the middle of the 19th century by Western missionaries. It had varied at different times, and became standardized in the 1890s. Foochow Romanized was mainly used inside of Church circles, and was taught in some Mission Schools in Fuzhou. But unlike its counterpart  Pe̍h-ōe-jī for Hokkien, even in its prime days Foochow Romanized was by no means universally understood by Christians.
An English-Chinese Dictionary of the Foochow Dialect
, 2nd Edition, published in 1905
Hand-written note in Foochow Romanized, ca. 1910. It reads: "...You are our dwelling place. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. And we are thankful, because Jesus died for us, resurrected, and enabled us to live in the life full of abundance. He helps us conform to the image of the Lord, and be patient and serve Him with all our heart. He teaches us to willingly forgive people..."
Fuzhou became one of the five Chinese treaty ports opened by the Treaty of Nanjing at the end of First Opium War (from 1839 to 1842), many Western missionaries arrived in the city. Faced with widespread illiteracy, they developed Latin alphabets for Fuzhou dialect.
The first attempt in romanizing Fuzhou dialect was made by the
American Methodist M. C. White, who borrowed a system of orthography known as the System of Sir William Jones. In this system, 14 initials were designed exactly according to their voicing and aspiration. ⟨p⟩, ⟨t⟩, ⟨k⟩ and ⟨ch⟩ stand for [p], [t], [k] and [ts]; while the Greek spiritus lenis ⟨᾿⟩ were affixed to the above initials to represent their aspirated counterparts. Besides the default five vowels of Latin alphabet, four diacritic-marked letters ⟨è⟩, ⟨ë⟩, ⟨ò⟩ and ⟨ü⟩ were also introduced, representing [ɛ], [ø], [ɔ], and [y], respectively. This system is described at length in White's linguistic work .
The Chinese Language Spoken at Fuh Chau
Subsequent missionaries, including
Robert S. Maclay from American Methodist Episcopal Mission, R. W. Stewart from the Church of England and Charles Hartwell from the American Board Mission, further modified White's System in several ways. The most significant change was made for the plosive consonants, where the spiritus lenis ⟨᾿⟩ of the aspirated initials was removed and the letters ⟨b⟩, ⟨d⟩ and ⟨g⟩ substituted for [p] [t] and [k]. In the aspect of vowels, ⟨è⟩, ⟨ë⟩, ⟨ò⟩ and ⟨ü⟩ were replaced by ⟨a̤⟩, ⟨e̤⟩, ⟨o̤⟩ and ⟨ṳ⟩. Since the diacritical marks were all shifted to underneath the vowels, this left room above the vowels which was occupied by the newly introduced tonal marks. Thus Foochow Romanized avoids the potentially awkward diacritic stacking seen for instance in the Vietnamese script, where tone and vowel quality marks both sit above the vowel.
The sample characters are taken from the
, a renowned phonology book about the Fuzhou dialect written in the Qi Lin Bayin Qing Dynasty. The pronunciations are recorded in standard IPA symbols.
Finals without codas
/e/ or /a/
/o/ or /ɔ/
e̤ / ae̤
/ø/ or /aø/
/ø/ or /ɔ/
eu / aiu
/eu/ or /aiu/
/eu/ or /au/
iu / eu
/iu/ or /eu/
oi / o̤i
/oi/ or /ɔi/
/øy/ or /ɔy/
ui / oi
/ui/ or /oi/
i / e
/i/ or /ei/
/i/ or /ɛi/
u / o
/u/ or /ou/
/u/ or /ɔu/
ṳ / e̤ṳ
/y/ or /øy/
/y/ or /œy/
Finals with coda
/oʔ/ or /ɔʔ/
Finals with codas [-ŋ] and [-k]
ing / eng
/iŋ/ or /eiŋ/
/iŋ/ or /ɛiŋ/
ung / ong
/uŋ/ or /ouŋ/
/uŋ/ or /ɔuŋ/
ṳng / e̤ṳng
/yŋ/ or /øyŋ/
/yŋ/ or /œyŋ/
eng / aing
/eiŋ/ or /aiŋ/
/eiŋ/ or /aiŋ/
ong / aung
/ouŋ/ or /auŋ/
/ouŋ/ or /ɔuŋ/
e̤ng / ae̤ng
/øŋ/ or /aøŋ/
/øyŋ/ or /ɔyŋ/
Shàngpíng (上平, BUC: Siông-bìng)
Shǎngshēng (上聲, BUC: Siōng-siăng)
Shàngqù (上去, BUC: Siông-ké̤ṳ)
Shàngrù (上入, BUC: Siông-ĭk)
Xiàpíng (下平, BUC: Hâ-bìng)
Xiàqù (下去, BUC: Hâ-ké̤ṳ)
Xiàrù (下入, BUC: Hâ-ĭk)
Note that Foochow Romanized uses the
breve, not the caron (ˇ), to indicate Yīnpíng and Yángrù tones of Fuzhou dialect.
Chinese characters (
Báe̤k-hŭng gâe̤ng Nĭk-tàu
The North Wind and the Sun
Ô sŏ̤h huòi, Báe̤k-hŭng gâe̤ng Nĭk-tàu duŏh hī dó̤i căng, káng diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi.
Once upon a time, the North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was stronger.
Căng lì căng kó̤ mò̤ suŏ iàng.
They disputed on and on without reaching a conclusion.
Ciā sèng-hâiu, duô lā̤ ô sŏ̤h ciéh nè̤ng giàng lā̤, sĭng lā̤ sê̤ṳng duŏh sŏ̤h iông gâu-gâu gì duâi-ĭ.
Just at that moment, there was a man walking along the road, wearing a very heavy coat.
Ĭ lâng ciéh gōng hō̤, diê-nè̤ng ô buōng-sê̤ṳ sĕng gáe̤ cī ciéh nè̤ng gâe̤ng duâi-ĭ táung lâi gó̤, cêu sáung diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi.
The two agreed that who first succeeded in making this man take his coat off should be considered stronger.
Dăng nĭ, Báe̤k-hŭng cêu sāi lĭk sī-miâng dék chuŏi, bók-guó ĭ muōng chuŏi dék lê-hâi, cī ciéh lā̤ giàng-duô gì nè̤ng cêu ciŏng hī iông duâi-ĭ muōng bău muōng gīng gó̤.
Then, the North Wind exerted all his strength to blow, but the harder he blew, the tighter that walking man wrapped his coat.
Gáu muōi-hâiu, Báe̤k-hŭng mò̤ bâing-huák, cêu cūng-kuāng láe̤k gó̤.
At last, the North Wind was at his wits' end, so he gave up.
Guó nék-òng, Nĭk-tàu chók lì.
After a while, the Sun came out.
Iĕk-pĕ̤-pĕ̤ sāi sāi lĭk sŏ̤h puŏh, hī ciéh lā̤ giàng-duô gì nè̤ng ché̤ṳk-káik cêu ciŏng hī iông duâi-ĭ táung lŏ̤h lì.
He shined out forcibly with a sweltering heat, and immediately that walking man took off his coat.
Cī-hâ Báe̤k-hŭng cêu nâ diông sìng-nêng, lâng gá nè̤ng diē-sié, gó sê Nĭk-tàu gì buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi.
And so the North Wind had no choice but to confess that the Sun was stronger of the two.