Bodgul (藏谚文/བོད་གུལ་)

February 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bodgul (藏谚文/བོད་གུལ་)

Bodgul (Chinese: 藏谚文) was devised by Jasper Cai from iceCube Creative Studio as an alternative script for Mandarin Chinese, and can be developed to transcribe some other dialects of Chinese, for example, Wu, Min Nan and Cantonese, and also the languages using latin alphabets. It uses Tibetan alphabets as parts of the characters and combines them into syllabic signs.

The name of ‘Bodgul’ is combines of Bod and the the suffix -gul. Bod is the phonetical latin transcription of Tibet (Tibetan: བོད་; Chinese: 吐蕃/西藏). Gul derives from the Korean Hangul (Korean: 한글; Chinese: 諺文), which is also a phonetical system to transcribe speaking Korean by using special symbols derived from parts of Chinese characters. Gul (글) individually means script in Korean.

So the idea of Bodgul is to use Tibetan letters as special symbols, as those in Hangul, to transcribe Chinese words so that one can read by simply looking at the characters. It can be used to write the word in Chinese which one can not find a corresponding character. This happens more in dialects like Wu and Min Nan.

Notable features of Bodgul

  • Type of writing system: Alphabet
  • Direction of writing: From left to right in horizontal lines.
  • Words, not syllables unlike Tibetan, can be separated by a dot, but not necessarily.

The Tibetan alphabet



Conjunct consonants


  • Not all these are needed to transcribe Chinese. Some pronunciations never appear in Chinese, especially the conjunct consonants. Yet /-wa/ sound and /-ya/ sound are often used, but they are not considered as conjunct consonants in Chinese.
  • These are not sufficient in transcribing Chinese. For example, there is no /f/ sound in Tibetan, in which case we need to create new letter or compound from the present ones, between which we prefer the later.

Mandarin Chinese



  • The Tibetan alphabet and Chinese Pinyin are matched by the IPA, not by their latin transcriptions. e.g. the Chinese g is the Tibetan ka, and the Chinese k is the Tibetan kha.
  • There is no /f/ sound in Tibetan, therefore we create the /f/ letter by wa and ha, i.e. /f/ = /w/ (ཝ) + /h/ (ཧ). The resulting wha sound doesn’t exist in Tibetan. And sometimes in Tibetan va = wa. So it is better to be written as vha, and /v/ /f/ are both Labiodental Fricative.
  • Here, q = ch and x = sh. q can be regarded as chi, and x as sh. e.g. the Chinese word for money 钱 qian = chian. The Chinese word for think 想 xiang = shiang. And 全 quan = chiuan/chyuan, 雪 xue = shiue/shyue.
  • The Tibetan zha is different from the Chinese zh, but here we use ཞ for substitute. The same happens in r, where we ར for substitute.



Since Tibetan seldom has diphthongs, and there are only five vowels, it leave us with a lot of place to create.

  • We use ཨཱ to stand for e /ɤ/.
  • Here འ is used as the main letter to form diphthongs.
  • When there is no initial consonant, ཨ is the initial letter.
  • ཨྱ = ཨ + ཡ. There is more often y than i, e.g. for 聊 we write lyau (ལྱའུ) rather than liao (ལིཨའོ, this is no Bodgul).
  • We use wa (ཝ) rather than ua (ཨུའ), for the former uses less letter and is easier to form diphthongs. Consider wei (ཝེའི) and uei (ཨུའེའི, this is no Bodgul).
  • There is no /y/ sound in Tibet, we use ཡུ for /y/. So you will see a main letter here with two vowel marks, e.g. yue /ye/ (ཡེུ).
  • The i sound in Chinese is complicated. It can be /i/ as in xi 希, or /ɨ/ as in shi 是. Here we use the e /ɤ/ with a long vowel mark ཿ to stand for /ɨ/, or to write as eh. Therefore you won’t be confused by she 蛇 (she ཤཱ) and shi 是 (sheh ཤཱཿ).
  • We use འ + ར to transcribe 儿 er /ɚ/. When er follows another word like 人儿 ren’er, often written as renr, we can directly write as རཱནྲ. ནྲ = ན (n) + ར (r).

Sample text in Bodgul script

Transliteration of Latin Letter

ren ren sheng ‘er tseh you, tsai tswen yèn he chyuèn li shang i lyu phing teng.

tha men vhu you li shing he lyang shin, ping ing i shyong ti kwan shi te jing shen hu shyang twèi tai.

This text in simplified Chinese characters


Transliteration of Chinese text in Pinyin

Rénrén shēng ér zìyóu, zài zūnyán hé quánlì shàng yīlǜ píngdĕng. Tāmen fùyŏu lĭxìng hé liángxīn, bìng yīng yĭ xīongdì guānxì de jīngshén hùxiāng dùidài.

Translation in English

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)

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