Pinyin pĭn´yĭn´ [key] [Chin. Hanyu pinyin = Chinese phonetic alphabet], system of romanization of Chinese written characters, approved in 1958 by the government of the People's Republic of China and officially adopted by it in 1979. Developed in the 1950s by a committee headed by Zhou Youguang, it was based on several earlier romanization systems, and replaced that those and the more complex Wade-Giles system (1859; modified 1912), among others. The reasons for adopting Pinyin included promoting a national language, establishing a means for writing non-Chinese (minority) languages in China, and encouraging foreigners to learn Chinese. Pinyin, which became more widely used in the West in the 1980s, was adopted officially in Taiwan in 2009 but is not used exclusively there.
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