- Romanization of Chinese
romanizationof Chinese is the use of the Latin alphabetto write Chinese. Chinese has been written in Chinese characterssince about 1500 B.C. Chinese characters do not represent phonemes directly.
There are many uses for Chinese romanization systems. They serve as a useful tool for foreign learners of Chinese by indicating the pronunciation of unfamiliar characters. It can also be helpful for clarifying pronunciation—Mandarin pronunciation is an issue for some speakers of other mutually unintelligible Chinese languages who do not speak Mandarin fluently. Standard
keyboardssuch as QWERTYare designed for the Latin alphabet, often making the input of Chinese characters into computers difficult. Chinese dictionaries have complex sorting rules for characters, and romanization systems can simplify the problem by listing the characters by their Latin form alphabetically.
Well known systems are
Hanyu Pinyin, Wade-Giles, and Yale Romanization. Hanyu Pinyin has since become the international standard since 1982.
Sanskrit grammarianswho came to China two thousand years ago to work on the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the transcriptionof Buddhist terms into Chinese, discovered the "initial sound", "final sound", and "suprasegmental tone” structure of spoken Chinese syllables. This understanding is reflected in the precise Fanqiesystem, and it is the core principle of all modern systems. While the Fanqie system was ideal for indicating the conventional pronunciation of single, isolated characters in written Classical Chineseliterature, it was unworkable for the pronunciation of essentially polysyllabic, colloquial spoken Chinese languages, such as Mandarin.
Aside from syllable structure, it is also necessary to indicate tones in Chinese romanization. Tones distinguish the definition of all
morphemes in Chinese, and the definition of a word is often ambiguous in the absence of tones. Certain systems such as Wade-Giles indicate tone with a number following the syllable, i.e. "ma1", "ma2", "ma3", etc. Others, like Pinyin, indicate the tone with diacritics, such as "mā", "má", "mǎ", and the like. Still, the system of Gwoyeu Romatzyh bypasses the issue of introducing non-letter symbols by changing the letters within the syllable, as in "mha, ma, maa, mah", each of which contains the same vowel, but a different tone.
* Making the actual pronunciation conventions of spoken Chinese intelligible to non-Chinese-speaking students, especially those with no experience of a
* Making the syntactic structure of a Chinese language intelligible to those only familiar with Latin grammar.
* Transcribing the citation pronunciation of specific Chinese characters according to the pronunciation conventions of a specific European language, to allow the insertion of that Chinese pronunciation into a Western text.
* Allowing instant communication in "colloquial Chinese" between Chinese and non-Chinese speakers via a phrase-book.
* Identifying the specific pronunciation of a character within a specific context [Chao (1968, p.172) calls them "split reading characters".] (e.g. 行: xíng (to walk; behaviour, conduct) or háng (a store)). Such a system has to work vertically down the page, right-to-left, and left-to-right. [Note that Chinese was only written vertically until modern times. The
People's Dailydid not print its Chinese characters left-to-right until January 1, 1956(Chappell, 1980, p.115) and other printed literature took a long time to follow.]
* Reciting a Chinese text in Mandarin for some literate speakers of another mutually unintelligible Chinese language, such as
Cantonese, who do not speak Mandarin fluently.
* Learning Classical or Modern Chinese by native Mandarin speakers.
* Use with a standard QWERTY keyboard.
* Replacing Chinese characters to bring functional literacy to illiterate native Mandarin speakers.
* Book indexing, dictionary entry sorting, and cataloguing in general.
* Teaching spoken and written Chinese to foreigners.
The Wade, Wade-Giles, and Postal systems still appear in the European literature, but generally only within a passage cited from an earlier work. European language texts now use the Chinese
Hanyu Pinyinsystem (usually without tone marks) as adopted by the People's Republic of Chinain 1979.
Roman Catholicmissionaries from Europe used Latin as their international language, and the Latinized names of some famous early Chinese thinkers are used today. For instance, " Confucius" can be analyzed into four parts, "con" (a regional version of the sound of the Chinese family name Kong), "fu" (same as in other common romanization systems), "ci" ("tzu" in Wade-Giles, "dz" in Yale, and "zi" in pinyin), and "us" which was added to give the name the proper Latin form for the name of a male human. The "fuci" part of the name means "grand master," so the whole thing represents the appellation "Grand Master Kong." Similarly, the second most important Confucian is named " Mencius" in the English of today. It consists of "meng" (a common Chinese surname), "ci" ("tzu" or "zi", and meaning "master"), and the male ending. So his Latin name means "Master Meng."
The first consistent system for transcribing Chinese words in Latin alphabet is thought to have been designed in 1583-88 by
Matteo Ricciand Michele Ruggierifor their Portuguese-Chinese dictionary - the first ever European-Chinese dictionary. Unfortunately, the manuscript was misplaced in the JesuitArchives in Rome, and not re-discovered until 1934. The dictionary was finally published in 2001.Yves Camus, [http://www.riccimac.org/doc/JesuitsJourneys.pdf "Jesuits’ Journeys in Chinese Studies"] ] "Dicionário Português-Chinês : Pu Han ci dian : Portuguese-Chinese dictionary", by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN 9725652983. [http://books.google.com.au/books?id=A7h5YbM5M60C Partial preview] available on Google Books] During the winter of 1598, Ricci, with the help of his Jesuit colleague Lazzaro Cattaneo, compiled a Chinese-Portuguese dictionary as well, in which tones of the romanized Chinese syllables were indicated with diacritical marks. Even more unfortunately, this work has been lost as well and not rediscovered.
Many linguistically comprehensive systems were made by the
Protestants such as the Legge romanization. In their missionary activities they had contact with many languages in South-east Asia, and they created systems that could be used consistently across all of the languages they were concerned with.
The first system to be widely accepted was the (1859) system of the British diplomat Thomas Wade, [Wade's system, introduced in 1859, was used by the British Consular Service.] revised and improved by
Herbert Gilesinto the (1892) Wade-Gilessystem. Apart from the correction of a number of ambiguities and inconsistencies within the Wade system, the innovation of the Wade-Giles system was that it also indicated tones.
A major drawback of the Wade-Giles system was that it demanded the use of apostrophes,
diacritical marks, and superscript digits (such as Ch'üeh4), all of which, despite their crucial significance, were often omitted in texts; therefore, without matched character(s), the "Chinese" syllable delivered no meaning at all. [For example, the sixteen different syllabic sounds indicated, in Wade-Giles, as Chu1, Chu2, Chu3, Chu4, Chü1, Chü2, Chü3, Chü4, Ch'u1, Ch'u2, Ch'u3, Ch'u4, Ch'ü1, Ch'ü2, Ch'ü3, Ch'ü4 could all end up appearing as "Chu".]
This system is still used today but was largely relegated to scholarly writing after the Nixon mission to China.
: "Main article:
EFEO Chinese transcription"
The system devised in 1902 by Séraphin Couvreur of the
École française d'Extrême-Orientwas used in most of the French-speaking world to transliterate Chinese until the middle of the 20th century, after what it was gradually replaced by hanyu pinyin.
Chinese Postal Map Romanization, standardized in 1906, was based on French styles of romanization, [Which was logical, since the French were, for a time, responsible for the Chinese postal system (in the same way that the Germans were responsible for the railways).] and was exclusively used for place names.
Yale Romanizationsystem was created at Yale Universityduring World War IIto facilitate communication between American military personnel and their Chinese counterparts. It uses a more regular spelling of Mandarin phonemes than other systems of its day. [For example, it avoids the orthographic alternations between 'y' and 'i', 'w' and 'u', 'wei' and 'ui', 'o' and 'uo', etc. that are part of the Pinyinand Wade-Gilessystems.]
This system was used for a long time, because it was used for phrase-book usage and part of the Yale system of teaching Chinese. The Yale system taught Mandarin using spoken, colloquial Chinese patterns. Contemporary systems taught Mandarin as if it were a written language that followed the rules of Latin grammarFact|date=March 2007. The Yale system was for perhaps twenty years the most effective Mandarin teaching systemFact|date=March 2007. Furthermore, in the 1960s and 1970s, in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.A., the choices of learning simple or traditional characters and using either
Hanyu Pinyinor Gwoyeu Romatzyhhad political overtones of aligning with the Communist Party of Chinaor the Kuomintangrespectively. Many Overseas Chineseand Western academics took sides. The Yale textbooks, Yale teaching system, and Yale Romanization system were a neutral choiceFact|date=March 2007.
The Yale system has since been superseded by the Chinese Hanyu Pinyin system.
The first modern indigenous Chinese romanization system, the Qieyin Xinzi ("New Phonetic Alphabet") was developed in 1892 by Lu Zhuangzhang (盧戇章) (1854–1928). It was used to write the sounds of the Xiamen dialect of the Southern Min language. [Chen (1999), p.165.]
Wu Jingheng (吳敬恆) (who had developed a "beansprout alphabet") and Wang Zhao (王照) (who had developed a Mandarin alphabet, Guanhua Zimu, in 1900) [Hsia (1956), p.108.] and Lu Zhuangzhang were part of the
Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation(1912–1913), which developed the rudimentary Jiyin Zimu (記音字母) system of Zhang Binglininto the Mandarin-specific phonetic system now known as Zhuyin Fuhao (注音符號) or Bopomofo, which was eventually proclaimed on November 23, 1918.
The significant feature of Bopomofo is that it is composed entirely of "
ruby characters" which can be written beside any Chinese text whether written vertically, right-to-left, or left-to-right. [This is why Bopomofo is popular where Chinese characters are still written vertically, right-to-left, or left-to-right, such as in Taiwan.] The characters within the Bopomofo system are unique phonetic characters, and are not part of the Latin alphabet. In this way, it is not technically a form of romanization, but because it is used for phonetic transcription the alphabet is often grouped with the romanization systems.
In 1923, the KMT's Ministry of Education instituted a National Language Unification Commission which, in turn, formed an eleven member romanization unit. The political circumstances of the time prevented any positive outcome from the formation of this unit. [DeFrancis (1950), p.74.]
A new voluntary working subcommittee was independently formed by a group of five scholars who strongly advocated romanization. The committee, which met twenty-two times over a twelve month period (1925–1926), consisted of Zhao Yuanren,
Lin Yutang, Qian Xuantong, Li Jinxi (黎锦熙), and one Wang Yi. [DeFrancis (1950), pp.72–75.] They developed the Gwoyeu Romatzyhsystem, proclaimed on September 26, 1928. The most distinctive aspect of this new system was that, rather than relying upon marks or numbers, it indicated the tonal variations of the "root syllable" by a systematic variation within the spelling of the syllable itself. The entire system could be written with a standard QWERTY keyboard.
…the call to abolish [the written] characters in favour of a romanized alphabet reached a peak around 1923. As almost all of the designers of [Gwoyeu Romatzyh] were ardent supporters of this radical view, it is only natural that, aside from serving the immediate auxiliary role of sound annotation, etc., their scheme was designed in such a way that it would be capable of serving all functions expected of a bonafide writing system, and supersede [the written Chinese] characters in due course. [Chen (1999), p.183.]
Despite the fact that it was created to eventually replace Chinese characters, and that it was constructed by linguists, Gwoyeu Romatzyh was never extensively used for any purpose other than delivering the pronunciation of specific Chinese characters in dictionaries. [Such as, for example, Lin (1972), and Simon (1975).] And, while the "within syllable" indication of the tone made sense to Western users, the complexity of its tonal system was such that it was never popular with Chinese users. [Seybolt and Chiang (1979) believe that a second reason was that, subsequent to the promulgation of the Gwoyeu Romatzyh system in 1928, "the increasingly conservative National Government, led by the Guomindang, lost interest in, and later suppressed, efforts to alter the traditional script" (p.19). Norman (1988):
In the final analysis, Gwoyeu Romatzy failed not because of defects in the system itself, but because it never received the official support it would have required to succeed; perhaps more importantly, it was viewed by many as the product of a group of elitist enthusiasts, and lacked any real popular base of support. (pp.259–260)]
The work towards constructing the
Latinxua Sinwenzsystem began in Moscow as early as 1928 when the Soviet Scientific Research Institute on China sought to create a means through which the large Chinese population living in the far eastern region of the U.S.S.R. could be made literate, [Principally the Chinese immigrant workers in Vladivostokand Khabarovsk.] facilitating their further education.
This was significantly different from all other romanization schemes in that, from the very outset, it was intended that the Latinxua Sinwenz system, once established, would supersede the Chinese characters. [Chen (1999), p.186.] They decided to use the Latin alphabet because they thought that it would serve their purpose better than the
Cyrillic alphabet. [Hsia (1956), pp.109–110.] Unlike Gwoyeu Romatzyh, with its complex method of indicating tones, Latinxua Sinwenz system does not indicate tones at all, and it is not Mandarin-specific and so could be used for other Chinese languages and dialects.
The eminent Moscow-based Chinese scholar
Qu Qiubai(1899–1935) and the Russian linguist V.S. Kolokolov (1896–1979) devised a prototype romanization system in 1929.
In 1931 a coordinated effort between the Soviet
sinologists B.M. Alekseev, A.A. Dragunov and A.G. Shrprintsin, and the Moscow-based Chinese scholars Qu Qiubai, Wu Yuzhang, Lin Boqu (林伯渠), Xiao San, Wang Xiangbao, and Xu Teli established the Latinxua Sinwenz system. The system was supported by a number of Chinese intellectuals such as Guo Moruoand Lu Xun, and trials were conducted amongst 100,000 Chinese immigrant workers for about four years [The "Soviet experiment with latinized Chinese came to an end [in 1936] " when most of the Chinese immigrant workers were repatriated to China (Norman, 1988, p.261). DeFrancis (1950) reports that "despite the end of Latinxua in the U.S.S.R. it is the opinion of the Soviet scholars who worked on the system that it was an unqualified success" (p.108).] and later, in 1940–1942, in the communist-controlled Shaanxi- Gansu- NingxiaBorder Region of China. [Milsky (1973), p.99; Chen (1999), p.184; Hsia (1956), p.110.] In November 1949, the railways in China's north-east adopted the Latinxua Sinwenz system for all their telecommunications. [Milsky (1973), p.103.]
For a time, the system was very important in spreading literacy in Northern China; and more than 300 publications totalling half a million issues appeared in Latinxua Sinwenz. [Chen (1999), p.186.] However:
In 1944 the latinization movement was officially curtailed in the communist-controlled areas [of China] on the pretext that there were insufficient trained cadres capable of teaching the system. It is more likely that, as the communists prepared to take power in a much wider territory, they had second thoughts about the rhetoric that surrounded the latinization movement; in order to obtain the maximum popular support, they withdrew support from a movement that deeply offended many supporters of the traditional writing system. [Norman (1988), p.262.]
In October 1949, the Association for Reforming the Chinese Written Language was established. Wu Yuzhang (one of the creators of Latinxua Sinwenz) was appointed Chairman. All of the members of its initial governing body belonged to either the Latinxua Sinwenz movement (Ni Haishu (倪海曙), Lin Handa (林汉达), etc.) or the Gwoyeu Romatzyh movement (Li Jinxi (黎锦熙),
Luo Changpei(羅常培), etc.). For the most part, they were also highly trained linguists. Their first directive (1949–1952) was to take "the phonetic project adopting the Latin alphabet" as "the main object of [their] research". [Milsky (1973), p.102 (translated from People's Daily of October 11, 1949).]
In a speech delivered on
January 10, 1958, [Two different translations of the speech are at Zhou (1958) and Zhou (1979).] Zhou Enlaiobserved that the Committee had spent three years attempting to create a non-Latin Chinese phonetic alphabet (they had also attempted to adapt Zhuyin Fuhao) but "no satisfactory result could be obtained" and "the Latin alphabet was then adopted". [Zhou (1958), p.26.] He also emphatically stated:
In future, we shall adopt the Latin alphabet for the Chinese phonetic alphabet. Being in wide use in scientific and technological fields and in constant day-to-day usage, it will be easily remembered. The adoption of such an alphabet will, therefore, greatly facilitate the popularization of the common speech [i.e. Putonghua] . [Zhou (1958), p.19.]
The development of the
Hanyu Pinyinsystem was a complex process involving decisions on many difficult issues, such as:
* Should Hanyu Pinyin's pronunciation be based on that of Beijing?
* Was Hanyu Pinyin going to supersede Chinese written characters altogether, or would it simply provide a guide to pronunciation? [If intended to supersede the Chinese written characters, then the ease of writing the pronunciation (including tones) in a cursive script would be critical.]
* Should the traditional Chinese writing system be simplified?
* Should Hanyu Pinyin use the Latin alphabet? [Mao Zedong and the Red Guards were strongly opposed to the use of the Latin alphabet (Milsky, 1973, passim).]
* Should Hanyu Pinyin indicate tones in all cases (as with Gwoyeu Romatzyh)?
* Should Hanyu Pinyin be Mandarin-specific, or adaptable to other dialects and other Chinese languages?
* Was Hanyu Pinyin to be created solely to facilitate the spread of Putonghua throughout China? [For example, an American delegation that visited China in 1974 reported that "the principal uses of pinyin at present are to facilitate the learning of Chinese characters, and to facilitate the speed of Putonghua popularization, primarily for Chinese-speakers but also for minorities and foreigners." (Lehmann, 1975, p.52)]
Despite the fact that the "Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet" published in "People's China" on
March 16, 1956contained certain unusual and peculiar characters, the Committee for Research into Language Reform soon reverted to the Latin Alphabet, citing the following reasons:
* The Latin alphabet is extensively used by scientists regardless of their native tongue, and technical terms are frequently written in Latin.
* The Latin alphabet is simple to write and easy to read. It has been used for centuries all over the world. It is easily adaptable to the task of recording Chinese pronunciation.
* While the use of the Cyrillic alphabet would strengthen ties with the U.S.S.R., the Latin alphabet is familiar to most Russian students, and its use would strengthen the ties between China and many of its Southeast Asian neighbours who are already familiar with the Latin alphabet.
* As a response to Mao Zedong's remark that "cultural patriotism" should be a "weighty factor" in the choice of an alphabet: despite the fact that the Latin alphabet is "foreign" it will serve as a strong tool for economic and industrial expansion; and, moreover, the fact that two of the most patriotic Chinese, Qu Qiubai and Lu Xun, were such strong advocates of the Latin alphabet indicates that the choice does not indicate any lack of patriotism.
* On the basis that the British, French, Germans, Spanish, Polish and Czechoslovakians have all modified the Latin alphabet for their own usage, and because the Latin alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet, which, in turn came from Phoenician and Egyptian, there is as much shame attached to using the Latin alphabet as there is in using Arabic numerals and the conventional mathematical symbols, regardless of their point of origin. [All five points paraphrased from Hsia (1956), pp.119–121.]
The movement for language reform came to a standstill during the
Cultural Revolutionand nothing was published on language reform or linguistics from 1966 to 1972. [Chappell (1980), p.107.] The Pinyin subtitles that had first appeared on the masthead of the People's Dailynewspaper and the Hong Qi ("Red Flag") Journal in 1958 did not appear at all between July 1966 and January 1977. [Chappell (1980), p.116.]
In its final form Hanyu Pinyin:
* was used to indicate pronunciation only
* was exclusively based on the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect
* included tone marks
* embodied the traditional "initial sound", "final sound", and "suprasegmental tone” model
* was written in the Latin alphabet
Hanyu Pinyin has developed from Mao's 1951 directive, through the promulgation on
November 1, 1957of a draft version by the State Council, [It was adopted and promulgated by the Fifth Session of the First National People's Congress on February 11, 1958(Chappell, 1980, p.115). According to Chen (1999, pp.188–189) the 1957 draft was titled "First draft of phonetic writing system of Chinese (in Latin alphabet", while the 1958 version was titled "Phonetic scheme of Chinese". The crucial difference was the removal of the term "Wenzi" (writing system); this explicitly indicated that the system was no longer intended to eventually replace Chinese written characters, but only to act as an auxiliary to assist pronunciation.] to its final form being approved by the State Council in September 1978, [As a consequence of this approval, Pinyin began to be used in all foreign language publications for Chinese proper names, as well as by Foreign Affairs and the Xinhua Newsagency [from January 1, 1979] (Chappell, 1980, p.116)] to being accepted in 1982 by the International Organization for Standardizationas the standard for transcribing Chinese. [See List of ISO standards, ISO 7098: "Romanization of Chinese"]
Chinese languages have been phonetically transcribed into many other writing systems. The
Phagspa script, for example, has helped reconstruct the pronunciation of pre-modern forms of Chinese.
There is a single widespread system for
cyrillization of Chinese, that is the Palladius system. Xiao'erjingis a system for transcribing Chinese using the Arabic alphabet.
The ongoing "Science and Civilisation in China" project uses another romanization scheme, similar to Wade-Giles. The most noticeable difference is that an "h" is inserted for aspiration (where Wade-Giles would use an apostrophe). Thus Hanyu Pinyin "tiān" / Wade-Giles "t'ien"1 is rendered "thien". See the SCC extract [http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~nsivin/alch.html The Theoretical Background of Laboratory Alchemy] as an example of this scheme in use.
Transliteration into Chinese characters
* Anon, "Reform of the Chinese Written Language", Foreign Languages Press, (Peking), 1958.
* Chao, Y.R., "A Grammar of Spoken Chinese", University of California Press, (Berkeley), 1968.
* Chappell, H., "The Romanization Debate", "Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs", No.4, (July 1980), pp.105–118.
* Chen, P., "Phonetization of Chinese", pp.164–190 in Chen, P., "Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics", Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1999.
* DeFrancis, J., "Nationalism and Language Reform in China", Princeton University Press, (Princeton), 1950.
* Hsia, T., "China’s Language Reforms", Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, (New Haven), 1956.
* Ladefoged, Peter; & Maddieson, Ian. (1996). "The sounds of the world's languages". Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-19814-8 (hbk); ISBN 0-631-19815-6 (pbk).
* Ladefoged, Peter; & Wu, Zhongji. (1984). Places of articulation: An investigation of Pekingese fricatives and affricates. "Journal of Phonetics", "12", 267-278.
* Lehmann, W.P. (ed.), "Language & Linguistics in the People’s Republic of China", University of Texas Press, (Austin), 1975.
* Lin, Y., "Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage", The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1972.
* Milsky, C., "New Developments in Language Reform", "The China Quarterly", No.53, (January-March 1973), pp.98–133.
* Norman, J., "Chinese", Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1988.
* Ramsey, R.S.(1987). The Languages of China. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01468-X
* San Duanmu (2000) "The Phonology of Standard Chinese" ISBN 0-19-824120-8
* Seybolt, P.J. & Chiang, G.K. (eds.), "Language Reform in China: Documents and Commentary", M.E. Sharpe, (White Plains), 1979.
* Simon, W., "A Beginners' Chinese-English Dictionary Of The National Language (Gwoyeu): Fourth Revised Edition", Lund Humphries, (London), 1975.
* Stalin, J.V., "Concerning Marxism in Linguistics", "Pravda", Moscow, (20 June, 1950), simultaneously published in Chinese in "Renmin Ribao", English translation: Stalin, J.V., "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics", Foreign Languages Press, (Peking), 1972.
* Wu, Y., "Report on the Current Tasks of Reforming the Written Language and the Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet", pp.30–54 in Anon, "Reform of the Chinese Written Language", Foreign Languages Press, (Peking), 1958.
* Zhou, E., "Current Tasks of Reforming the Written Language", pp.7–29 in Anon, "Reform of the Chinese Written Language", Foreign Languages Press, (Peking), 1958.
* Zhou, E., "The Immediate Tasks in Writing Reform", pp.228-243 in Seybolt, P.J. & Chiang, G.K. (eds.), "Language Reform in China: Documents and Commentary", M.E. Sharpe, (White Plains), 1979.
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/chinese2.htm Overview of Chinese phonetic transcription]
* [http://www.mandarintools.com/pyconverter.html Java-based tool for converting texts into different romanization systems]
* [http://www.edepot.com/taoroman.html Chinese romanization]
* [http://www.pinyin.info www.pinyin.info]
* [http://www.romanization.com/ www.romanization.com]
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