Phags-Pa Script

       The Phags-pa script was created by Kublai, the founder of the Yuan Dynasty, who ordered it to be created by the national master Phags-pa. After 1269, it was used throughout the Yuan dynasty, but with the fall of the Yuan dynasty, it was gradually abandoned, becoming a dead script. Although the use of the Phags-pa script has a short history, it has served as a "translation of all words" of the text, translating and writing a variety of languages, recording a wealth of historical facts, and passing on valuable linguistic and historical information to future generations, all of which are important for the study of the Phags-pa script and the state of the language and Yuan dynasty society. Many papers and monographs on the Phags-pa script have been written in recent years as more people have collected and researched data on the script. Our work, however, needs to be expanded in terms of both breadth and depth of research. Only a thorough study of the Phags-pa script can lead to a complete and accurate understanding of them, and such scientific results are required for other disciplines to use the Phags-pa script materials.

Bie Buhua,who wrote on the eastern wall of the Dragon Pool on Mount Lushan using Phags-pa Character, the meaning of Dragon.


       The Phags-pa character's official name was originally "Mongxol Tshi," but it was later changed to Mongolian. The Phags-pa-character is referred to as "Mongolian Credentials" or "Mongolian Characters" by the authors of the History of Yuan and other historical books. It is also referred to as "Yuan Credentials" or "Yuan Characters" by the authors of the History of Yuan and other historical books. The Phags-pa character has two more common names in modern times: "Square Letter" (or "Block Letter") and "Phags-pa-character" (also known as "Phags-pa Script"). The former is named after the square shape of its letters, whereas the latter is named after Phags-pa, who designed it.

Famous Cultural Relics

A round plate with Phags-pa Script in the shape of a tiger (Gansu Provincial Museum Collection)

       Height and diameter: 18.0 cm and 11.7 cm, respectively. The objects are all made of iron, inlaid with gold and silver, and the grade is distinguished by the gold and silver material of the inlaid text. This type of round plate is also known as a "round talisman.” The round iron plaque has five lines of raised Phags-pa Script inlaid on both sides, the characters are silver, one positive and one back, and the front side is read from left to right, the Chinese translation is: "By order of Heaven, the Emperor's holy decree, those who do not obey the punishment." The font is elegant and dignified. The tiger's two sides are decorated with shallow relief carvings of a tiger, the tiger's face facing the front, hair rushing to the sky, the tiger's forehead appears to have a large two small three pearls, and the front paws hold in front of the chest, the tiger body hidden but not appear. The text on the back is the opposite of the text on the front. On the tiger plate, there is a ring with a rope. The tiger talisman round plate commemorates the Yuan Dynasty's establishment of a unified multi-ethnic state while also providing physical evidence for future generations to study the Yuan Dynasty's politics, military, and social culture.

Original Alphabet

       Because of the different standards and principles on which individuals base their work, the alphabet proposed by scholars who have recently studied the Phags-pa Script differs from one another, and the number of letters is not consistent. In our opinion, the alphabet should have a unified concept, and this concept should be established using the original alphabet. From the relevant documentary records, the original alphabet can be deduced. "Fa Shu Kao," "Yuan Shi," and "Shu Shi Hui Yao" are among the first documents to explicitly record the total number of letters in the Bspa alphabet or to list the Bspa alphabet. Despite the fact that the total number of alphabets in these documents varies from 41 to 43, and the alphabets listed varies from 41 to 42, they provide a reliable clue for exploring the Phags-pa Script's original alphabet.

       The following sentence appears after the alphabet in the "Fa Shu Kao," "Shu Shi Hui Yao," and "Xin Yuan Shi," all of which contain the Phags-pa Script alphabet: "Within the Chinese characters, the three characters xxx are removed and the four characters xxxx are added." As a result, it is clear that the alphabet of Phags-pa Script used in these documents is not a language-specific alphabet, but rather the original alphabet designed or recognized at the time.

       In the above documents, there are either 41 or 42 letters listed. If we add one more letter by "removing three and increasing four," we'll have 42 and 43 letters, respectively, with the former not matching 41 and the latter matching 43. The document that claims there are 41 letters and that the number of letters listed matches this number does not include the extra letter in the Chinese character "remove three and increase four" formula, which refers to the Phags-pa Script's original alphabet; The extra letter in the Chinese character "remove three and increase four" is included in the document that says there are 43 letters and the number of letters listed is 42. The "removal of three and addition of four" letters in the Chinese character, which refers to the alphabet of the Phags-pa Script used to spell Chinese and add new letters, are included in the document that says there are 43 letters and the listed letters are 42. It's worth noting that the one extra letter in the 42-letter document compared to the other 41-letter documents is also used to spell the Chinese language specifically, and the other 41 letters are consistent across all relevant documents.

       In conclusion, the original alphabet of Phags-pa Script contains 41 letters.

       The alphabets of the Phags-pa Script are not very precise in the above-mentioned documents and other related writings, and some of them are even completely out of shape. The alphabet below is based on the forms found in original official documents and inscriptions from the time period.

       The Tibetan alphabet is the basis for the majority of them, and a few newly created alphabets are based on the Tibetan alphabets. The Tibetan alphabets are listed first, followed by the Phags-pa alphabets, along with the Chinese characters in documentary notation and the Latin transcription symbols we use.

       For the complete alphabet of Phags-pa Script, please refer to the link here:

Principles of Spelling

       The spelling method of the Phags-pa characters is based on two principles: one is the phonological principle, and the other is the traditional principle, both of which are used separately when transliterating the languages. According to what we know now, the Phags-pa characters use the phonological principle for Mongolian and Chinese, i.e., spelling their languages according to their actual spoken languages, and the traditional principle for Tibetan and Sanskrit, i.e., transcribing their letters one-to-one exactly according to their written forms. As a result, there is no such thing as a spelling method for the Phags-pa characters in Tibetan or Sanskrit, and the spelling method described in this paper only applies to Mongolian and Chinese.



       The Phags-pa characters' lines are written from the left, straight down from the top, and the syllable is the unit of writing. The unit of writing for the word Phags-pa is one Chinese character for Chinese, one Tibetan syllable for Tibetan, and a little more complicated for Mongolian, sometimes one syllable, sometimes two syllables.

       The syllable structure of the Mongolian word Phags-pa is not fixed when spelling it; it changes as more components are added. When the additional component contains a vowel, the structure of the word's last syllable is altered.

       Since the Phags-pa unit is not a word and there is no punctuation, the only way to distinguish between words and words, and sentences and sentences, is to look at the context.

       The Phags-pa script is considered a syllabic script by some Phags-pa script researchers. "The Phags-pa script is a syllabic script, with each of its consonant letters denoting not only a consonant but the entire syllable consisting of that consonant and the vowel a," Pope writes in his book Square Script. Under certain conditions, the consonant letters (and semi-vowel letters) in the Phags-pa script can create syllables by reading the vowel a sound. The question is, however, how is the vowel a represented. The vowel an is represented by the zero forms of the vowel letter, rather than a consonant letter. This is due to the fact that the claim that a can also be represented by a consonant letter contradicts the alphabetic system and pronunciation of the Phags-pa character. The alphabet of the Phags-pa characters distinguishes between vowels and consonants. The zero form of the vowel a, like other vowel letters, is an independent phoneme that represents an unwritten an in contrast to other vowel letters. As a result, we believe the Phags-pa character is a phoneme script rather than a syllabic script.

Tai Yuen Tong Bao Zhe Shi


       Regular, seal, and double hook are the three types of alphabets for the Phags-pa characters, with regular and seal being the most common. Seals and tablets are only written in the seal script. It's based on a standard script. Its strokes correspond to the letters of the corresponding regular script, but its structure is much more complicated. This is because, like the "nine-stack seal" of Chinese characters, a single regular letter can have multiple seal forms, some of which contain symmetrical patterns or multi-layered structures. As far as we can tell, there are 11 seal forms of the regular alphabet y:

The alphabet of the Ninth Seal of the Phags-pa Script

In Game

ꡚꡃ ꡑꡞꡃ ꡉꡠꡋ ꡈꡞ ꡆꡞ ꡙꡞꡃ
ꡎꡓ ꡏꡞꡃ ꡮꡞꡓ ꡣꡟ ꡂꡦꡟꡋ
ꡯꡦ ꡉꡟꡃ ꡭꡃ ꡈꡟ ꡙꡟ ꡭꡞꡋ


       The Phags-pa character was widely used in official documents as the Yuan Dynasty's national character from 1269, when it was first issued, to 1368, when the unified "Great Yuan" was abolished. The various cultural relics that have survived, such as inscriptions, seals, signs, and coins, attest to this. In particular, in the extant cultural relics, there is an official seal with the character Phags-pa, "Seal of Gansu Province," engraved on the back with the Chinese characters "Tian Yuan five years in June, made by the Ministry of Rites of the Chinese Government." The Phags-pa character was still used officially until the so-called Bei Yuan era, and a unique seal symbol system evolved from the Phags-pa character, which was used in the Lama monasteries as a transcription symbol of Tibetan until recent times.

       As we know, the Mongolian emperor issued a series of "holy decrees" and took numerous administrative measures in order to implement and "permanentize" the Phags-pa characters, including providing generous treatment to Phags-pa character learners, such as "exemption from all service," "appointment to an official position," and so on. The Phags-pa characters, on the other hand, were never particularly popular. The Phags-pa script died for a variety of reasons, including social factors and the script's vowels. The Phags-pa script originally had 41 letters but was later expanded to 57. The increased number of letters created a problem: learning to promote became more difficult. The Latin alphabet now has 26 letters, which is already cumbersome, whereas the Phags-pa alphabet has over 40, demonstrating how difficult it is to learn. The Mongolian ruling class created the Phags-pa character for its own political purposes, but at the time, several established scripts had already appeared in the country, and there was no support among the general working masses, so the supporters of the new script, the Yuan Dynasty regime, collapsed and it died out. This was the social reason for the Phags-pa script's demise. Because the spelling method is based on the principle of balancing and compromising multiple language objects, it is not entirely suitable for each specific object, and it is detached from the specific object's characteristics to varying degrees in different aspects. Furthermore, the Phags-pa script's target languages, Mongolian, Chinese, and Tibetan, all had their own traditional super-dialect scripts at the time. Unlike the Phags-pa characters, these super-dialectal scripts were far more adaptable to their own dialectal sounds. The Phags-pa characters were unable to compete with these traditional scripts, and they eventually died out. This is why the Phags-pa script was discontinued.

       The Phags-pa script was China's first Hanyu Pinyin scheme, and it had a significant pioneering role. Hanyu Pinyin, which is similar to the Phags-pa script, was written in the Latin alphabet after the founding of New China. The use of the Latin alphabet for pinyin is, of course, more conducive to globalization and reduces the difficulty of learning Chinese, which is, of course, far superior to the Phags-pa script. Our current pinyin scheme might not be a Latin alphabet scheme if the Phags-pa script had been developed and improved.

Unicode Fonts

       The Phags-pa script has been included in Unicode V5.0, and the characters are mapped between U+A840~U+A877. Windows 7 and later systems have their own Phags-pa script, the Microsoft Phags-pa, while systems below Windows 7 and non-Windows systems need to install the font to display Phags-pa correctly. Here are a few fonts for download. The first one is Microsoft Phagspa, and the next ones are created by Andrew West, a Scottish sinologist.

BabelStone Phags-pa


Information is from Ancient and Modern Chinese Character Database,thanks to Jerry for his help and support.

Part of the information from the Baidu Baike, Zhihu




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