Yi script and language
The origins of the Yi script are unknown, though it is believed
that it was invented during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) by Aki
(阿畸 or 阿〇). The earliest known examples
of Yi writing date from 1485 but some of the numerous manuscripts
and monumental inscriptions in the Yi script might be older than that.
The syllabary was used for religious, magical and medical texts
for many centuries mainly by priests, or pimu. Until 1975
there was no standardised Yi script and there was considerable
regional variation in how the characters were written.
The standardized Yi script uses a total of 1,165 characters to
represent Liangshang Yi. 819 of those characters are used to write
all the possible syllable/tone combinations for the three basic
tones (high level, mid level and low falling), while another 345
represent syllables with the secondary high tone.
- Type of writing system: syllabary – the largest syllabary ever to be standardised
- Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
- Used to write: Yi/Lolo
- Each character represents one syllable. Many characters have up
to three separate forms to represents the three different tones of
- Yi is also written with the Latin alphabet
Used to write:
Yi, a member of the Loloish branch of the Tibeto-Burman
language family spoken by about 4 or 5 million people in the Chinese provinces
of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi.
Yi, which is known as 彝 in Chinese and Lolo
in English, has six main dialects: Northern Yi (ꆈꌠ – Nuosu), Western Yi (Lalu),
Central Yi (Lolopo), Southern Yi (Nisu), Southeastern Yi (Nasu) and Eastern Yi
(Nasu), with limited mutual intelligibility between them.
Northern Yi has the most speakers – about 2 million – and is spoken
south-western Sichuan, mainly in the Liangshan Yi Nationality Autonomous Region
(凉山彝族自治州), and in Northern Yunnan.
Standardized Liangshan Yi Script
Download this chart (Excel format)
Muxhlie : Comrade, where do you come from?
Muxrryr : I am originally from Xide.
Muxhlie : Are you Yi or Han nationality?
Muxrryr : I am Yi.
Muxhlie : Your hometown is a peaceful place I suppose.
Muxrryr : Quiet and peaceful.
Muxhlie : Have you had a good harvest there this year?
Muxrryr : We had a bumper harvest.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Latin alphabet for Yi (Yi Pinyin)
A method of writing the Liangshang dialect of Yi with the Latin
alphabet was proposed in 1956, and a standardised version of the
Yi script was devised in 1974. It was used experimentally from 1975,
and offically from 1980.
Information about the Yi script and language
Free Yi fonts
Information about the Yi people (in Chinese)