Fangyan Friday #4: Pu-Xian Min

An endangered Fujianese dialect from the birthplace of Mazu, the goddess of mariners

For over a decade, The World of Chinese has been offering modern Chinese-language instruction from street talk to social phenomena to character tales. With 129 officially recognized dialects (方言), though, we have barely scratched the surface of everything there is to learn.

On select Fridays, TWOC will be presenting a basic lesson on speaking like a native of a certain region of China. This week, we head down to Fujian to brush on some Pu-Xian Min.

China’s southeastern Fujian province is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world. Its mountainous terrain kept some areas isolated for dynasties at a time, producing eight mutually unintelligible branches of a broadly defined linguistic family known as Min (闽) Chinese.

Pu-Xian (莆仙) Min, also known as the Putian (莆田) or xinghua (兴化) dialect, is a lesser-known member of the family. Though it has 2.6 million native speakers, they are confined almost entirely to the coastal city Putian and nearby Xianyou (仙游) county. By comparison, Fuzhou-based Eastern Min (9.5 million speakers), or Foochow, and Quanzhou-based Southern Min (47 million speakers), also known as Hokkien, can be heard in Chinatowns around Southeast Asia, Japan, the US, and Europe. The latter is also the best-known fangyan of Taiwan, where it’s simply called “Taiwanese.”

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author Eduardo Baptista

Eduardo Baptista is a former editorial intern at The World of Chinese. He is a fan of rap, basketball, and the TV rom-coms “Yanxi Palace” and “First Half of My Life.” Eduardo studied history at the University of Cambridge.

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