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Chinese Phonological History

The earliest examples of writing in China which can be dated back to the thirteenth century BC; poetry which has its roots in early Chinese civilisation in the Zhou Dynasty; we have accounts of the unification of China and its subsequent language reforms during the Qin dynasty; the change of the major political centres of the Han eras, subsequent invasions and disintegration of China into shortlived kingdoms, the Sui reunification which lead to the flowering of Chinese culture again under Tang, the Confucian revival of the Song Dynasty, foreign conquest by the Mongols, followed by an interlude of Ming contact with the arrival of the Europeans, and then Manchu conquest until the Republic of the twentieth century. All the while, the Chinese language and writing had grown, spread and even changed in its usage and pronunciation.

However, from a linguistic point of view, how do we date the changes in a convenient manner? The use of these signposts will help us to discuss the differences in Chinese phonology. The divisions below are my own, and it will differ with other authors on the subject.

Linguistic
Period
Early
Late
Date Dynastic Periods Writing, Dictionaries, etc
Ancient
Chinese
Ancient
Chinese
before
771 BC
Xia
Shang 商 17th Century BC - 1122 BC
Western Zhou 西 周 1122BC - 771 BC
Oracle Bones 甲 骨 文 (c. 1300)
Bronze inscriptions 金 文
Great Seal Script 大 篆 (King Xuan 周 宣 王 827-781)
Old
Chinese
上 古
Early Old
Chinese
770 BC
to
256 BC
Eastern Zhou 東 周 770 BC - 221 BC
Spring Autumn Era 春 秋 770 BC - 476 BC
Warring States 戰 國 476 BC - 221 BC
ShiJing 詩 經
Confucian 孔 子 (Analects 論 語 )
Mencius 孟 子
LaoZi 老 子 (YiJing 易 經 )
Late Old
Chinese
256 BC
to
220 AD
Qin 秦 221 BC - 206 BC
Early Han 西 漢 206 BC - 25 AD
Late Han 東 漢 25 - 220
Small Seal Script 小 篆 (Qin 秦 Li Si 李 斯 ) [~3000 字]
XuanCuanPian 訓 篡 篇 (5 AD) [5340 字]
ShuoWen Ji (100) [9353 字]
Middle
Chinese
中 古
Early Middle
Chinese
220
to
750
Three Kingdoms 三 國 220 - 265
Jin 晉 265 - 420
Northern and Southern Dynasties 南 北 朝 420 - 581
Sui 隋 581 - 618
Early Tang 盛 唐 618 - 750
ZiLin 字 林 (c. 4th Century) [12824 字]
SiShengPu 四 聲 譜 (c.502-513)
YuPian 玉 篇 (543) [16817 字]
QieYun 切 韻 (601)
Late Middle
Chinese
750
to
1279
Late Tang 晚 唐 750 - 907
Five Dynasties, Ten Kingdoms 五 代 十 國 907 - 960
Northern Song 北 宋 960 - 1127
Southern Song 南 宋 1127 - 1279
YunJing 韻 鏡 (late Tang)
ShuoWen JieZi - XinFu 說 文 解 字 ˙ 新 附 (916-991)
GuangYun 廣 韻 (1008) [~26000 字]
JiYun 集 韻 (1037) [30000 字]
LeiPian 類 篇 (1039) [31000 字]
TongZhi 通 志 QiYinLue 七 音 略 (1104-1162)
QieYun ZhiZhangTu 切 韻 指 掌 圖 *****?
Recent
Chinese
近 代
Early Recent
Chinese
1279
to
1644
Yuan 元 1279 - 1368
Ming 明 1368 - 1644
ZhongYuan YinYun 中 原 音 韻 (1324)
HongWu ZhengYun 洪 武 正 韻 (1375)
QiongLin YaYun 瓊 林 雅 韻 (1398)
CiLin YaoYun 詞 林 要 韻 (1483)
YunLue YiTong 韻 略 易 通 (1442)
ZiHui 字 匯 (1615) [33179 字]
YunLue HuiTong 韻 略 匯 通 (1642)
Late Recent
Chinese
1644
to
1911
Qing 清 1644 - 1911 ZhengZiTong 正 字 通 (1670) [33000 字]
PeiWen YunFu 佩 文 韻 府 (1704)
KangXi ZiDian 康 熙 字 典 (1716) [47035 字]
PianZi LeiPian 騙 子 類 篇 (1719)
JingJi ZhuanGu 經 籍 撰 詁 (1799)
ShuoWen JieZi Zhu 說 文 解 字 注 (1808)
ShuoWen JieZi YiZheng 說 文 解 字 義 證 (19th C)
ShuoWen TongXun DingSheng 說 文 通 訓 定 聲 (1833)
ShuoWen ShiLi 說 文 釋 例 (1850)
ShuoWen JuDu 說 文 句 讀 (1850)
Modern
Chinese
現 代
Modern
Chinese
1911
to
present
The Republic 民 國 1911 - present ZhongHua Da ZiDian 中 華 大 字 典 (1915) [48000 字]
Zhongwen Da CiDian 中 文 大 詞 典 (1968) [49905 字]
HanYu Da ZiDian 漢 語 大 字 典 (1986) [56000 字]


Hakka Page
With thanks to lilo.wong for correcting my error.
© Dylan W.H. Sung 1999 onwards.
This page was first created on Monday 16th August 1999,
and was recently updated on Friday 20th April 2007.

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