Pine Flower Stone
Rain Flower Pebbles
Three Rivers Stone
Yellow Wax Stone
The Value of Pinyin
Most westerners would be totally lost in China, and somewhat confused even when learning about China, if it weren’t for a wonderful invention—pinyin. This Romanization of Chinese characters is the currently accepted phonetic system of translating the sound of Chinese characters into Latin script. It allows non-Chinese readers to more accurately pronounce Chinese words without having to learn the pictographs in the Chinese language. This phonetic system was originally developed solely to aid people in pronouncing Mandarin Chinese; however, in recent years some have been using pinyin as English words or combining English and pinyin to describe a stone. This article is to help you understand role of pinyin and how to avoid its misuse.
While there are earlier systems such as the Wade-Giles, modern pinyin is a product of the 1950s. The Chinese government published and adopted pinyin in 1958 and later revised it. Pinyin has been formally adopted by the United Nations, the U.S. Library of Congress, and many other international organizations. Most people use pinyin to a certain extent because the names of cities and geographic entities in China are expressed in pinyin. The city names Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, for example, are pinyin.
Pinyin is extremely helpful when you are visiting a stone market in China or trying to convey a message to a native Chinese speaking person. If you walk into a stone shop ask if they have any “chrysanthemum stones” or “Nine Dragon stones”, the shop manager will likely just look at you and smile, but will not have any idea what you are saying. However, if you ask for “Juhua shi” or “Jiulongbi shi,” they will know exactly what type of stone you are seeking. Thus, learning the pinyin for the more common stones can be very helpful. A list of some of the common viewing stone names and their Chinese and pinyin are provided at the end of this article.
It is best to not create or use hybrid names, that is, a combination of English and pinyin words when describing a stone. Examples of hybrid this are “Caitao stone” and “Moer stone” where the first word is pinyin followed by an English word. These should be more correctly given as “Pottery Stone” for “Caitao shi” and “Moore Stone” for “Moer shi.” This makes a clear distinction between the common English name for a stone and the pinyin that should be used for the pronunciation of the Chinese name. Hybrid names cause confusion and make it more difficult for people to learn the correct English name and how to pronounce the Chinese characters for each stone.
Diacritic marks are used to mark the four tones used in Mandarin. The four tones are: 1) flat or high level, 2) rising, 3) falling and rising, and 4) falling. These are important to understand the correct pronunciation and meaning of a particular character. The same character with different tones can have totally different meanings. The diacritic marks are sometimes left out of newspaper articles, popular publications, and other published works. They are not shown here.
On the left are several examples of popular viewing stones with the name given first in English, followed by the Chinese characters, and then the pinyin. A more complete list of stone names will be published by VSANA in a new Shopping Guide for Chinese Stone Markets that will be available at the end of 2013.
Consult the Gallery Section of the VSANA web site for additional names.