Chinese language

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  • Japanese: 中国語 (Chûgoku go)
  • Chinese: 漢語 (Hànyu), 中文 (Zhōngwén)

"Chinese language" is a large and overarching term. While it is most often used to refer to Mandarin Chinese or to Cantonese, there are in fact many languages and dialects that can all be subsumed under the category of "Chinese language(s)."

Mandarin Chinese, grew out of the Beijing-based "officials' language" (官話, guān huà;[1] "mandarin" being an English term for Chinese court officials) of the Qing court, and was later declared the standard language of China by the People's Republic of China. "Standard Chinese" or "Mandarin Chinese" is typically referred to in Mandarin as pǔtōnghuà 普通話 (lit. "standard language") or as guóyǔ 国語 ("national language").

Mandarin Chinese terms that might correspond more broadly to "Chinese language(s)" as a whole include Hànyu 漢語 (lit. "language of the Han people"), Zhōngwén 中文 (lit. "Chinese writing" or "Chinese words"), and Huáyǔ 華語 (lit. "Chinese language").[2] The most typical term in Japanese for "Chinese language" is simply Chûgoku go 中国語, i.e. "the language of [the country] of China."

While most forms of Chinese share the same writing system, differing only in how the language is read and spoken but differing little in how the language is written, there are nevertheless a great many languages and dialects included within the broader umbrella of "Chinese language(s)." These include not only Mandarin, but also Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese (Taiwanese Mandarin), Hokkien (Min Nan), and a number of others.


  1. Chia-Ying Yeh, "The Revival and Restoration of Ryukyuan Court Music, Uzagaku: Classification and Performance Techniques, Language Usage, and Transmission," PhD thesis, University of Sheffield (2018), 118.
  2. The Zhōng 中 here referring to Zhōngguó 中国, i.e. "the Middle Kingdom," or China itself, while Huá 華 refers to Chinese culture or civilization, spanning beyond the political/geographical boundaries of China itself.