Mandarin (mănˈdərĭn) [key] [Port. mandar = to govern, or from Malay mantri = counselor of state], a high official of imperial China. For each of the nine grades there was a different colored button worn on the dress cap. Mandarin Chinese was the language spoken by the official class and was based on the Beijing dialect. A version of Mandarin Chinese, known as putonghua [common language], is now taught throughout the country, and it is the official national language. A first or second language for roughly half the nation's population, it is widely spoken in native Chinese regions except along the southeastern coast, where the Cantonese, Fukienese, and Shanghai languages (considered by some to be Chinese dialects) are dominant. See Chinese.
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