Chinese telegraph code

The Chinese telegraph code, Chinese telegraphic code, or Chinese commercial code (simplified Chinese: 中文电码; traditional Chinese: 中文電碼; pinyin: Zhōngwén diànmǎ or simplified Chinese: 中文电报码; traditional Chinese: 中文電報碼; pinyin: Zhōngwén diànbàomǎ)[1] is a four-digit decimal code (character encoding) for electrically telegraphing messages written with Chinese characters.

Encoding and decoding

A codebook is provided for encoding and decoding the Chinese telegraph code. It shows one-to-one correspondence between Chinese characters and four-digit numbers from 0000 to 9999. Chinese characters are arranged and numbered in dictionary order according to their radicals and strokes. Each page of the book shows 100 pairs of a Chinese character and a number in a 10×10 table. The most significant two digits of a code matches the page number, the next digit matches the row number, and the least significant digit matches the column number, with 1 being the column on the far right. For example, the code 0022 for the character (zhōng), meaning “center,” is given in page 00, row 2, column 2 of the codebook, and the code 2429 for the character (wén), meaning “script,” is given in page 24, row 2, column 9. The PRC’s Standard Telegraph Codebook (Ministry of Post and Telecommunications 2002) provides codes for approximately 7,000 Chinese characters.

Senders convert their messages written with Chinese characters to a sequence of digits according to the codebook. For instance, the phrase 中文信息 (Zhōngwén xìnxī), meaning “information in Chinese,” is rendered into the code as 0022 2429 0207 1873. It is transmitted using the Morse code. Receivers decode the Morse code to get a sequence of digits, chop it into an array of quadruplets, and then decode them one by one referring to the book.

The codebook also defines codes for Zhuyin alphabet, Latin alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet, and various symbols including special symbols for months, days in a month, and hours.

Senders may translate their messages into numbers by themselves, or pay a small charge to have them translated by a telegrapher.[2] Chinese expert telegraphers used to remember several thousands of codes of the most frequent use.

The Standard Telegraph Codebook gives alternative three-letter code (AAA, AAB, …) for Chinese characters. It compresses telegram messages and cuts international fees by 25% as compared to the four-digit code.[3]


Looking up a character given a number is straightforward: page, row, column. However, looking up a number given a character is more difficult, as it requires analyzing the character. The Four-Corner Method was developed in the 1920s to allow people to more easily look up characters by the shape, and remains in use today as a Chinese input method for computers.


Obsolete chinese telegraph code
Viguier’s Chinese telegraph codes from 0001 to 0200 (Viguier 1872). These codes are now obsolete.

The first telegraph code for Chinese was brought into use soon after the Great Northern Telegraph Company (大北電報公司 / 大北电报公司 Dàběi Diànbào Gōngsī) introduced telegraphy to China in 1871. Septime Auguste Viguier, a Frenchman and customs officer in Shanghai, published a codebook (Viguier 1872), succeeding Danish astronomer Hans Carl Frederik Christian Schjellerup’s earlier work.

In consideration of the former code’s insufficiency and disorder of characters, Zheng Guanying compiled a new codebook in 1881. It remained in effect until the Ministry of Transportation and Communications printed a new book in 1929. In 1933, a supplement was added to the book.

After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the codebook forked into two different versions, due to revisions made in the Mainland China and Taiwan independently from each other. The Mainland version, the Standard Telegraph Codebook, adopted the simplified Chinese characters in 1983.


The Chinese telegraph code can be used for a Chinese input method for computers. Ordinary computer users today hardly master it because it needs a lot of rote memorization. However, the related Four-Corner Method, which allows one to look up characters by shape, is used.

The Hong Kong residents’ identification cards have the Chinese telegraph code for the holder’s Chinese name (Immigration Department of Hong Kong 2006). Business forms provided by the government and corporations in Hong Kong often require filling out telegraph codes for Chinese names. The codes help inputting Chinese characters to a computer.

Chinese telegraph code is used extensively in law enforcement investigations worldwide that involve ethnic Chinese subjects where variant phonetic spellings of Chinese names can create confusion. Dialectical differences (Mr. Wu in Mandarin becomes Mr. Ng in Cantonese) and differing romanization systems (Mr. Xiao in the Hanyu Pinyin system, and Mr. Hsiao in the Wade–Giles system) can create serious problems for investigators, but can be remedied by application of Chinese telegraph code. For instance, investigators following a subject in Taiwan named Hsiao Ai-Kuo might not know this is the same person known in mainland China as Xiao Aiguo and Hong Kong as Siu Oi-Kwok until codes are checked for the actual Chinese characters to determine all match as CTC: 5618/1947/0948 for 萧爱国 (simplified) / 蕭愛國 (traditional).[4]

Chinese telegraph code is also used on occasion in U.S. and Australian Immigration documents. For example, the DS-230 form for K1/K2 visa applicants requires the telegraph code of the applicant's name (as of 8 March 2009).

See also


  1. ^ Simply diànmǎ or diànbàomǎ may refer to the “Chinese telegraph code” whereas diànmǎ is a general term for “code,” as seen in Mó'ěrsī diànmǎ (simplified Chinese: 摩尔斯电码; traditional Chinese: 摩爾斯電碼) for the “Morse code” and Bóduō diànmǎ (simplified Chinese: 博多电码; traditional Chinese: 博多電碼) for the “Baudot code.”
  2. ^ The Tianjin Communications Corporation (2004) in the PRC charges RMB 0.01 per character for their encoding service, compared to their domestic telegraph rate of RMB 0.13 per character.
  3. ^ Domestic telegrams are charged by the number of Chinese characters, not digits or Latin characters, hence this compression technique is only used for international telegrams.
  4. ^ For more information, refer to: A Law Enforcement Sourcebook of Asian Crime and Cultures: Tactics and Mindsets, Author Douglas D. Daye, Chapter 20

References and bibliography

  • Baark, Erik. 1997. Lightning Wires: The Telegraph and China’s Technological Modernization, 1860–1890. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30011-9.
  • Baark, Erik. 1999. “Wires, codes, and people: The Great Northern Telegraph Company in China.” In China and Denmark: Relations Since 1674, edited by Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard and Mads Kirkebæk, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, pp. 119–152. ISBN 87-87062-71-2.
  • Immigration Department of Hong Kong. 2006. Card face design of a smart identity card. Hong Kong Special Administrative District Government. Accessed on December 22, 2006.
  • Jacobsen, Kurt. 1997. “Danish watchmaker created the Chinese Morse system.” Morsum Magnificat, 51, pp. 14–19.
  • Lín Jìnyì (林 進益 / 林 进益), editor. 1984. 漢字電報コード変換表 Kanji denpō kōdo henkan hyō [Chinese character telegraph code conversion table] (In Japanese). Tokyo: KDD Engineering & Consulting.
  • Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (中央人民政府郵電部 / 中央人民政府邮电部 Zhōngyāng Rénmín Zhèngfǔ Yóudiànbù), editor. 1952. 標準電碼本 / 标准电码本 Biāozhǔn diànmǎběn [Standard telegraph codebook], 2nd edition (In Chinese). Beijing: Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
  • Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (中华人民共和国邮电部 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Yóudiànbù), editor. 2002. 标准电码本 Biāozhǔn diànmǎběn [Standard telegraph codebook], 修订本 xiūdìngběn [revised edition] (In Chinese). Beijing: 人民邮电出版社 Rénmín Yóudiàn Chūbǎnshè [People’s Post and Telecommunications Publishing]. ISBN 7-115-04219-5.
  • Reeds, James A. 2004. Chinese telegraph code (CTC). Accessed on December 25, 2006.
  • Shanghai City Local History Office (上海市地方志办公室 Shànghǎi Shì Dìfāngzhì Bàngōngshì). 2004. 专业志: 上海邮电志 Zhuānyèzhì: Shànghǎi yóudiànzhì [Industrial history: Post and communications history in Shanghai] (In Chinese). Accessed on December 22, 2006.
  • Stripp, Alan. 2002. Codebreaker in the Far East. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280386-7.
  • Tianjin Communications Corporation. 2004. 资费标准: 国内公众电报业务 Zīfèi biāozhǔn: Guónèi gōngzhòng diànbào yèwù [Rate standards: Domestic public telegraph service] (In Chinese). Accessed on December 26, 2006.
  • Viguier, Septime Auguste (威基謁 / 威基谒 Wēijīyè). 1872. 電報新書 / 电报新书 Diànbào xīnshū [New book for the telegraph] (In Chinese). Published in Shanghai.
  • Viguier, Septime Auguste (威基謁 / 威基谒 Wēijīyè) and Dé Míngzài (德 明在). 1871. 電信新法 / 电信新法 Diànxìn xīnfǎ [New method for the telegraph] (In Chinese).
  • Yasuoka Kōichi (安岡 孝一) and Yasuoka Motoko (安岡 素子). 1997. Why is “” included in JIS X 0221? (In Japanese). IPSJ SIG Technical Report, 97-CH-35, pp. 49–54.
  • Yasuoka Kōichi (安岡 孝一) and Yasuoka Motoko (安岡 素子). 2006. 文字符号の歴史: 欧米と日本編 Moji fugō no rekishi: Ōbei to Nippon hen [A history of character codes in Japan, America, and Europe] (In Japanese). Tokyo: 共立出版 Kyōritsu Shuppan ISBN 4-320-12102-3.

External links

A Chinese–English Dictionary

A Chinese–English Dictionary (1892), compiled by the British consular officer and sinologist Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935), is the first Chinese–English encyclopedic dictionary. Giles started compilation after being rebuked for criticizing mistranslations in Samuel Wells Williams' (1874) A Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language. The 1,461-page first edition contains 13,848 Chinese character head entries alphabetically collated by Beijing Mandarin pronunciation romanized in the Wade–Giles system, which Giles created as a modification of Thomas Wade's (1867) system. Giles' dictionary furthermore gives pronunciations from nine regional varieties of Chinese, and three Sino-Xenic languages Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Giles revised his dictionary into the 1,813-page second edition (1912) with the addition of 67 entries and numerous usage examples.

Character encoding

Character encoding is used to represent a repertoire of characters by some kind of encoding system. Depending on the abstraction level and context, corresponding code points and the resulting code space may be regarded as bit patterns, octets, natural numbers, electrical pulses, etc. A character encoding is used in computation, data storage, and transmission of textual data. "Character set", "character map", "codeset" and "code page" are related, but not identical, terms.

Early character codes associated with the optical or electrical telegraph could only represent a subset of the characters used in written languages, sometimes restricted to upper case letters, numerals and some punctuation only. The low cost of digital representation of data in modern computer systems allows more elaborate character codes (such as Unicode) which represent most of the characters used in many written languages. Character encoding using internationally accepted standards permits worldwide interchange of text in electronic form.

Chinese input methods for computers

Chinese input methods are methods that allow a computer user to input Chinese characters. Most, if not all, Chinese input methods fall into one of two categories: phonetic readings or root shapes. Methods under the phonetic category usually are easier to learn but are less efficient, thus resulting in slower typing speeds because they typically require users to choose from a list of phonetically similar characters for input; whereas methods under the root shape category allow very precise and speedy input but have a difficult learning curve because they often require a thorough understanding of a character's strokes and composition.

Other methods allow users to write characters directly onto touchscreens, such as those found on mobile phones and tablet computers.

Four-Corner Method

The Four-Corner Method (simplified Chinese: 四角号码检字法; traditional Chinese: 四角號碼檢字法; pinyin: sì jiǎo hàomǎ jiǎnzì fǎ; literally: 'four corner code lookup-character method') is a character-input method used for encoding Chinese characters into either a computer or a manual typewriter, using four or five numerical digits per character. The Four-Corner Method is also known as the Four-Corner System.

The four digits encode the shapes found in the four corners of the symbol, top-left to bottom-right. Although this does not uniquely identify a Chinese character, it leaves only a very short list of possibilities. A fifth digit can be added to describe an extra part above the bottom-right if necessary.

Japanese army and diplomatic codes

Japanese army and diplomatic codes. This article is on Japanese army and diplomatic ciphers and codes used up to and during World War II, to supplement the article on Japanese naval codes. The diplomatic codes were significant militarily, particularly those from diplomats in Germany.

Japanese army (IJA) and diplomatic codes were studied at Arlington Hall (US), Bletchley Park (UK), Central Bureau or CBB (Australian, US; in Melbourne, then Brisbane), the FECB (British Far East Combined Bureau) at Hong Kong, Singapore, Kilindi then Colombo and the British Wireless Experimental Centre in Delhi.

List of information system character sets

This list provides an inventory of character coding standards mainly before modern standards like ISO/IEC 646 etc. Some of these standards have been deeply involved in historic events that still have consequences. One notable example of this is the ITA2 coding used during the World War II (1939-1945). The nature of these standards is not as common knowledge like it is for ASCII or EBCDIC or their slang names. While 8-bit is the de facto standard as of 2016, in the past 5-bit and 6-bit were more prevalent or their multiple.

Macau Resident Identity Card

The Macau Resident Identity Card (Chinese: 澳門居民身份證; Portuguese: Bilhete de Identidade de Residente) or BIR is an official identity card issued by the Direcção dos Serviços de Identificação of Macau. There are two types of Resident Identity Cards: one for permanent residents (Chinese: 澳門特別行政區永久性居民身份證; Portuguese: Bilhete de Identidade de Residente Permanente da R.A.E.M.), and one for non-permanent residents (Chinese: 澳門特別行政區非永久性居民身份證; Portuguese: Bilhete de Identidade de Residente não Permanente da R.A.E.M.).

Morse code

Morse code is a character encoding scheme used in telecommunication that encodes text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named for Samuel F. B. Morse, an inventor of the telegraph.

The International Morse Code encodes the 26 English letters A through Z, some non-English letters, the Arabic numerals and a small set of punctuation and procedural signals (prosigns). There is no distinction between upper and lower case letters. Each Morse code symbol is formed by a sequence of dots and dashes. The dot duration is the basic unit of time measurement in Morse code transmission. The duration of a dash is three times the duration of a dot. Each dot or dash within a character is followed by period of signal absence, called a space, equal to the dot duration. The letters of a word are separated by a space of duration equal to three dots, and the words are separated by a space equal to seven dots. To increase the efficiency of encoding, Morse code was designed so that the length of each symbol is approximately inverse to the frequency of occurrence in text of the English language character that it represents. Thus the most common letter in English, the letter "E", has the shortest code: a single dot. Because the Morse code elements are specified by proportion rather than specific time durations, the code is usually transmitted at the highest rate that the receiver is capable of decoding. The Morse code transmission rate (speed) is specified in groups per minute, commonly referred to as words per minute.Morse code is usually transmitted by on-off keying of an information carrying medium such as electric current, radio waves, visible light or sound waves. The current or wave is present during time period of the dot or dash and absent during the time between dots and dashes.Morse code can be memorized, and Morse code signalling in a form perceptible to the human senses, such as sound waves or visible light, can be directly interpreted by persons trained in the skill.Because many non-English natural languages use other than the 26 Roman letters, Morse alphabets have been developed for those languages.

In an emergency, Morse code can be generated by improvised methods such as turning a light on and off, tapping on an object or sounding a horn or whistle, making it one of the simplest and most versatile methods of telecommunication. The most common distress signal is SOS – three dots, three dashes, and three dots – internationally recognized by treaty.

Morse code for non-Latin alphabets

This is a summary of the use of Morse code to represent alphabets other than Latin.

On-off keying

On-off keying (OOK) denotes the simplest form of amplitude-shift keying (ASK) modulation that represents digital data at the presence or absence of a carrier wave. In its simplest form, the presence of a carrier for a specific duration represents a binary one, while its absence for the same duration represents a binary zero. Some more sophisticated schemes vary these durations to convey additional information. It is analogous to unipolar encoding line code.

On-off keying is most commonly used to transmit Morse code over radio frequencies (referred to as CW (continuous wave) operation), although in principle any digital encoding scheme may be used. OOK has been used in the ISM bands to transfer data between computers, for example.

OOK is more spectrally efficient than frequency-shift keying, but more sensitive to noise when using a regenerative receiver or a poorly implemented superheterodyne receiver.

For a given data rate, the bandwidth of a BPSK (Binary Phase Shift keying) signal and the bandwidth of OOK signal are equal.

In addition to RF carrier waves, OOK is also used in optical communication systems (e.g. IrDA).

In aviation, some possibly unmanned airports have equipment that let pilots key their VHF radio a number of times in order to request an Automatic Terminal Information Service broadcast, or turn on runway lights.

Port of Tianjin governance, traffic management and law enforcement

The Port of Tianjin falls under the supervisory and regulatory purview of the Tianjin Municipality People’s Government. The 2004 incorporation of the Tianjin Port Authority into TPG formally divested the group of its role as Port Regulator, which passed to the Tianjin Transportation and Port Authority (天津市交通运输和港口管理局), formerly the Tianjin Transport Commission. The TTPA implements state policy on port work; drafts local policies, by-laws and regulations; and licenses, audits, and issues certifications to businesses operating in the port, in particular to ship terminals. The TTPA supervises and manages compliance to all laws and regulations regarding environmental protection, service compliance, pilotage, maintenance of port infrastructure and handling of dangerous goods and disinfection in all terminals and storage areas.

The Tianjin Municipality People’s Government Port Services Office (天津市人民政府口岸服务办公室): was set up in May 2009 to streamline port operations, in particular customs and inspection clearance procedures. The Port Services Office main duty is the coordination of port services, fostering collaboration between government offices and inspection units, and resolving conflicts and disputes among them (a duty which includes the power to issue emergency rulings to solve jurisdictional problems). The office is also the Port’s "foreign office", charged with fostering interchange and cooperation with other provinces (in particular the development of dry ports), and with foreign entities. Finally, the office is responsible for drafting the Port Development Plan and approving all development and expansion plans, developing streamlined procedures and comprehensive joint clearance, the development of the Tianjin e-Port, etc.Tianjin Maritime Safety Bureau: Harbormaster powers for the Port of Tianjin are mostly vested on the Tianjin Maritime Safety Bureau (天津海事局), which is the local agency of the China Maritime Safety Administration. At present, the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration has 17 functional departments and 24 subordinate units, for a total of more than 2,122 employees. It has seven local field offices in Xingang (covering the Beijiang port area), Nanjiang, Tanggu (covering the Haihe port area), Beigang (covering the Beigangchi basin,Beitang and Hanggu), Dongjiang and Lingang port areas, plus an under-construction base at the Nangang area.

Tianjin MSA carries out a wide array of duties regarding the safe management of port activities, including vessel traffic management and berth operations, navigational safety (including SAR, AtoN, navigational warnings and management of the GMDSS), local application of the China Ship Reporting System (CHISREP), ship and crewing inspection (including Flag State Control and Port State Control obligations), ship surveying, crewmen examination and credentialling, management of waterways and underwater works, shore installation safety, dangerous goods handling, law enforcement patrolling, marine accident investigation, and hydrographic survey and charting. Riverine traffic control and vessel inspection is the responsibility of the Tianjin Regional Maritime Safety Agency (天津市地方海事局), which is a separate unit under dual control by the Tianjin government and the China MSA.Maritime Law: The Port of Tianjin falls under the jurisdiction of the Tianjin Maritime Court for all matters of national and international Maritime law, including all forms of maritime contracts, torts and offenses. The Court is based at TEDA, close to the Port, and it has also set up an “express window” at the Tianjin Port Service Center that provides legal consultation on matters of custom clearance; dispute resolution services; in situ summary issuance of emergency injunctions; protective writs; payment orders and the like; as well as a summary judgment service for simple and petty cases.

Telecommunications in China

The People's Republic of China possesses a diversified communications system that links all parts of the country by Internet, telephone, telegraph, radio, and television. The country is served by an extensive system of automatic telephone exchanges connected by modern networks of fiber-optic cable, coaxial cable, microwave radio relay, and a domestic satellite system; cellular telephone service is widely available, expanding rapidly, and includes roaming service to foreign countries. Fiber to the x infrastructure has been expanded rapidly in recent years.

Telegraph code

A telegraph code is one of the character encodings used to transmit information through telegraphy machines. The most famous such code is Morse code.

Transmission methods
Notable signals
Other writing systems
in Morse code
Early telecommunications
ISO/IEC 8859
Bibliographic use
National standards
ISO/IEC 2022
MacOS code pages("scripts")
DOS code pages
IBM AIX code pages
IBM Apple MacIntoshemulations
IBM Adobe emulations
IBM DEC emulations
IBM HP emulations
Windows code pages
EBCDIC code pages
Platform specific
Unicode / ISO/IEC 10646
TeX typesetting system
Miscellaneous code pages
Related topics

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