Subject Guides

How to search Chinese materials in the Libraries

The purpose of this page is to inform library users with the basics of Chinese romanization in the library system and facilitate their search of the Binghamton University Find it! tool as well as databases such as WorldCat.

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 Latin script readings for Chinese characters. This means, in general, library users must search in Pinyin to find Chinese-language materials, regardless of publishing locations. If you are more familiar with Wade-Giles or Zhuyin, you may refer to Pinyin to Zhuyin to Wade-Giles Conversion Table for help.

There are two exceptions

  1. Place names. Place names in Taiwan used as subject or as headings for government or geographical entities remain in Wade-Giles, although they are in Pinyin when appearing in title, imprint, and other areas of the record. For example, 台中市 as subject heading is "T ' ai-chung shih", but "Taizhong shi" in the title of a Chinese-language book.
  2. Personal names. Those Chinese names in Wade-Giles that have been well established are not converted to Pinyin, such as 蒋经国 Chiang Ching-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 character with a space, such as 李老师   Li lao shi and 明清小说   Ming Qing xiao shuo.

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

  1. given names: 孙中山 Sun Zhongshan
  2. multi-character surnames: 司马相如     Sima Xiangru
  3. Forenames and courtesy names: 无名氏 Wumingshi, 孔子 Kongzi
  4. Names of persons of religious vocation: 玄奘法师 Xuangzang fa shi
  5. multi-character geographical names. Separate generic terms for geographical features or jurisdictions from the names of the   features or jurisdictions: 中华人民共和国 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo, 海南岛 Hainan Dao, 太平洋   Taiping Yang
  6. 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. You may also download the Chinese Romanization Guide for more detailed information.

C. Searching Tips

At Binghamton University Libraries, most Chinese bibliographic records are in Pinyin, although there might be a few that have not been converted. So when you search for Chinese books, please try different ways:

  1. Search in both Pinyin and Wade-Giles. As mentioned above, Pinyin is the standard in the library system now, but some records still exist in Wade-Giles. Also some place names and personal names remain in Wade-Giles.
  2. Search both separated forms and joined forms. Under current rules, there are some situations when separating syllables should be correct and other situations when joining syllables are correct. Therefore, we suggest users search both separated and connected forms.
  3. Be aware of the problem with the character " 的 ". Its Wade-Giles transcription is "ti" and it was converted to "di" automatically. But the standard form in Pinyin is "de", so, you may need to search both "de" and "di" when you are looking for materials containing " 的 ".

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