Contact Information
  • Librarian: Wen-ling Liu
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E860
  • Phone: (812) 855-9695
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 2/8/2012

Chinese Studies -- Pinyin Conversion

The Pinyin conversion refers to the machine conversion of the Chinese bibliographic records from the Wade-Giles1 to the Pinyin2 romanization system. All libraries in North America have recognized Pinyin as the standard romanization scheme for Chinese records, and started cataloging according to the new Chinese Romanization Guidelines released by LC since Oct. 1, 2000. The national Pinyin Conversion Project, conducted by a joint effort among the Library of Congress (LC), the Research Libraries Group (RLG), and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), was officially completed on April 1, 2001. The Chinese bibliographic and authority records in the OCLC and RLG databases were accordingly converted to the Pinyin system. At IU, we have followed the national practice of creating cataloging and acquisitions records for Chinese materials from day one, Oct. 1, 2000.

The switch from Wade-Giles to Pinyin romanization in Chinese language catalog records has a notable impact on the libraries' local database. This being the case, our local library online database, IUCAT, contains a mixture of Wade-Giles and Pinyin records. Most of the Chinese monograph records as well as other records with related romanized Chinese authority and subject headings contain mixed Wade-Giles and Pinyin romanization access fields, often even within the same bibliographic record.

Thanks to the successful work by the Technical Services, all Chinese serials records in IUCAT (1,437 titles in total), were recently converted to the Pinyin romanization system. The relabeling of the current Chinese periodicals in the Current Periodicals Collection was also completed.

Here are some important points of which the library users should be aware:

  • In order to ensure a smooth transition, library users need to be assisted with proper user guides and the new Pinyin romanization guidelines, both of which can be acquired from the East Asian Collection office.

    Stack browsing enthusiasts should be aware of the fact that there will be changes in stack locations of similar books, brought about by the new cataloging rules under the new romanization.

  • In addition to the user guides for the new Pinyin romanization system, library users and staff need to be informed of our local Pinyin Conversion Project. The East Asian Collection has created a local Pinyin-conversion-related web page as a source of references.

  • The East Asian Collection is planning to offer training sessions on how to search Chinese language materials in IUCAT. Individual session can be arranged by contacting Wen-ling Liu.

The Pinyin conversion has impacted every library function, from technical services to public services, from the Chinese Collection to any collection dealing with China-related materials in any language. To learn more about the Pinyin conversion, the related documentation, and the updates on the project, please visit LC's, OCLC CJK Users Group's, and Council on East Asian Libraries' Pinyin Conversion Web sites at:

1. The Wade-Giles romanization system, named after Thomas F. Wade and Herbert A. Giles, was widely used in English publications until 1979, and by libraries in North America until October 2000.

2. The Pinyin system was developed in China in the late 1950s. Used by the United Nations, institutes of higher education, and most of the Western world's media, Pinyin became the standard for the US Government in the late 1970s. It was not until 1997 that the Library of Congress officially decided to adopt the Pinyin as a standard for romanizing Chinese. A large-scale conversion project has been in place since then.

Wen-ling Liu
Oct.25, 2002

last updated: 2/8/2012