Gan Chinese

Gan is a group of Chinese varieties spoken as the native language by many people in the Jiangxi province of China, as well as significant populations in surrounding regions such as Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, and Fujian. Gan is a member of the Sinitic languages of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and Hakka is the closest Chinese variety to Gan in terms of phonetics.

Different dialects of Gan exist; the Nanchang dialect is usually taken as representative.

Gon ua
Gan ua (Gan) written in Chinese characters
Native toChina
Regioncentral and northern Jiangxi, eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui, northwest Fujian
EthnicityGan people (Han Chinese)
Native speakers
22 million (2007)[1]
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3gan
Idioma gan
Gan Chinese
Simplified Chinese赣语
Traditional Chinese贛語
GanGon ua
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinGànyǔ
RomanizationGon ua
Jiangxi dialect
Simplified Chinese江西话
Traditional Chinese江西話
GanKongsi ua
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinJiāngxī Huà
RomanizationKongsi ua


Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is a large amount of mutual unintelligibility between Gan Chinese and other varieties. Within the variation of Chinese dialects, Gan has more similarities with Mandarin than with Yue or Min.


  • Gan: the most common name. Scholars in mainland China use Gan or Gan dialect.
  • Jiāngxī huà ("Jiangxi language") is commonly used in Chinese, but since the borders of the language do not follow the borders of the province, this name is not geographically exact.
  • Xi ("right-river language"): an ancient name, now seldom used, arising from the fact that most Gan speakers live south of the Yangtze River, beyond the right-hand bank when traveling downstream.


Map of sinitic languages-en
The area coloured in light yellow shows the Gan-speaking region in the PRC.

Most Gan speakers live in the middle and lower reaches of the Gan River, the drainage area of the Fu River, and the region of Poyang Lake. There are also many Gan speakers living in eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui, northwest Fujian, etc.

According to the Diagram of Divisions in the People's Republic of China,[3] Gan is spoken by approximately 48,000,000 people: 29,000,000 in Jiangxi,[4] 4,500,000 in Anhui,[5] 5,300,000 in Hubei,[6] 9,000,000 in Hunan,[7] and 270,000 in Fujian.[8]



During the Qin Dynasty (221 BC), a large number of troops were sent to southern China in order to conquer the Baiyue territories in Fujian and Guangdong, as a result, numerous Han Chinese emigrated to Jiangxi in the years following. In the early years of the Han Dynasty (202 BC), Nanchang was established as the capital of the Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡) (this name stems from the original name of Gan River), along with the 18 counties (縣) of Jiangxi Province. The population of the Yuzhang Commandery increased to 1,670,000 (by AD 140) from 350,000 (in AD 2), with a net growth of 1,320,000. The Yuzhang Commandery ranked fourth in population among the more than 100 contemporary commanderies of China. As the largest commandery of Yangzhou, Yuzhang accounted for two fifths of the population and Gan gradually took shape during this period.

Middle ages

As a result of continuous warfare in the region of central China, the first large-scale emigration in the history of China took place. Large numbers of people in central China relocated to southern China in order to escape the bloodshed and at this time, Jiangxi played a role as a transfer station. Also, during this period, ancient Gan began to be exposed to the northern Mandarin dialects. After centuries of rule by the Southern Dynasties, Gan still retained many original characteristics despite having absorbed some elements of Mandarin. Up until the Tang Dynasty, there was little difference between old Gan and the contemporary Gan of that era. Beginning in the Five Dynasties period, however, inhabitants in the central and northern parts of Jiangxi Province began to migrate to eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui and northwest Fujian. During this period, following hundreds of years of migration, Gan spread to its current areas of distribution.

Late traditional period

Mandarin Chinese evolved into a standard language based on Beijing Mandarin, owing largely to political factors. At the same time, the differences between Gan and Mandarin continued to become more pronounced. However, because Jiangxi borders on Jianghuai, a Guanhua, Xiang, and Hakka speaking region, Gan proper has also been influenced by these surrounding varieties, especially in its border regions.

Modern times

After 1949, as a "dialect" in Mainland China, Gan faced a critical period. The impact of Mandarin is quite evident today as a result of official governmental language campaigns. Currently, many youths are unable to master Gan expressions, and some are no longer able to speak Gan at all.

Recently, however, as a result of increased interest in protecting the local language, Gan now has begun to appear in various regional media, and there are also newscasts and television programs broadcast in Gan Chinese.


There are differences within the Gan speaking region. For example, in Anfu county, which was categorized as Ji-Cha, there are two main dialects, called Nanxiang Hua (Southern region) and Baixiang Hua (Northern region). People from one region cannot even understand people from the other region if they were not well educated or exposed to the other dialects.

Gan Dialects
The main dialect areas of Gan in Mainland China.

The Language Atlas of China (1987) divides Gan into nine dialect subgroups:[9][10]

Subgroup Representative Provinces Cities
Changdu 昌都片 Nanchang dialect northwestern Jiangxi Nanchang City, Nangchang, Xinjian, Anyi, Yongxiu, Xiushui*, De'an, Xingzi, Duchang, Hukou, Gao'an*, Fengxin*, Jing'an*, Wuning*, Tonggu*
northeastern Hunan Pingjiang
Yiliu 宜浏片 / 宜瀏片 Yichun dialect central and western Jiangxi Yichun City, Yichun, Yifeng*, Shanggao, Qingjiang, Xingan, Xinyu City, Fen yi, Pingxiang City, Fengcheng, Wanzai
eastern Hunan Liuyang*, Liling
Jicha 吉茶片 Ji'an dialect central and southern Jiangxi Ji'an City, Ji'an*, Jishui, Xiajiang, Taihe*, Yongfeng*, Anfu, Lianhua, Yongxin*, Ninggang*, Jianggangshan* Wan'an, Suichuan*
eastern Hunan Youxian*, Chaling*, Linxian
Fuguang 抚广片 / 撫廣片 Fuzhou dialect (撫州, not to be confused with 福州) central and eastern Jiangxi Fuzhou City, Linchuan, Chongren, Yihuang, Le'an, Nancheng, Lichuan, Zixi, Jinxi, Dongxiang, Jinxian, Nanfeng, Guangchang*
southwestern Fujian Jianning, Taining
Yingyi 鹰弋片 Yingtan dialect northeastern Jiangxi Yingtan City, Guixi, Yujiang, Wannian, Leping, Jingdezhen*, Yugan, Poyang, Pengze, Hengfeng, Yiyang, Chuanshan
Datong 大通片 Daye dialect southeastern Hubei Daye, Xianning City, Jiangyu, Puxin, Chongyang, Tongcheng, Tongshan, Yangxin, Jianli*
eastern Hunan Linxiang*, Yueyang*, Huarong
Leizi 耒资片 / 耒資片 Leiyang dialect eastern Hunan Leiyang, Changning, Anren, Yongxing, Zixing City
Dongsui 洞绥片 / 洞綏片 Dongkou dialect southwestern Hunan Dongkou*, Suining*, Longhui*
Huaiyue 怀岳片 / 懷嶽片 Huaining dialect southwestern Anhui Huaining, Yuexi, Qianshan, Taihu, Wangjiang*, Susong*, Dongzhi*, Shitai*, Guichi*

Cities marked with * are partly Gan-speaking.


The Nanchang dialect has 19 syllable onsets or initials (including the zero initial), 65 finals and 5 tones (counted as 7 in Chinese classifications).[11]


In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA transcription, the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Dental/
Velar Glottal
Nasal m
Plosive plain p


Affricate plain ts

aspirated tsʰ
Fricative ɸ
Lateral l


The finals of the Nanchang dialect are:[12]

- -i -u -n -t -k
- a


-i- ja

-u- wa

-y- ɥɛ

Consonantal codas

Syllabic nasals

consonantal finals -p -t -k -m -n -ng
IPA [-p] [-t] [-k] [-m] [-n] [-ŋ]
  • The codas in italic are at present only reserved in several Gan dialects.


Like other Chinese varieties, tones in Gan make phonemic distinctions. There are five phonemic tones in Gan, which are reduced to two 'entering tones' before stop consonants. In the traditional classification, these are considered separately:

tones of Gan
Tone number Tone name Pitch numbers IPA transcription (on a)
1 upper level (42) a˦˨ or â
2 lower level (24) a˨˦ or ǎ
3 rising (213) a˨˩˧ or á̀́
4 upper departing (55) or á
5 lower departing (21) a˨˩ or à
6 upper entering (5) ak˥ or ák
7 lower entering (21) ak˨˩ or àk

The 6th and 7th tones are the same as the 4th and 5th tones, except that the syllable ends in a stop consonant, /t/ or /k/.


A poem of Meng Haoran (“Men Hau-len” in Gan):

春曉 孟浩然     Cun Hieu – Men Hau-len
春眠不覺曉, cun mien bhut gok hieu,
處處聞啼鳥。 cu cu mun ti tieu.
夜來風雨聲, ya loi fung ui sang,
花落知多少? fa lok zi do seu?


In Gan, there are nine principal grammatical tenses – initial (起始), progressive (進行), experimental (嘗試), durative (持續), processive (經歷), continuative (繼續), repeating (重行), perfect (已然), and complete (完成).

The grammar of Gan is similar to southern Chinese varieties. The sequence subject–verb–object is most typical, but subject–object–verb or the passive voice (with the sequence object–subject–verb) is possible with particles. Take a simple sentence for example: "I hold you". The words involved are: ngo ("I" or "me"), tsot dok ("to hold"), ň ("you").

  • Subject–verb–object (typical sequence): The sentence in the typical sequence would be: ngo tsot dok ň. ("I hold you.")
  • Subject–lat–object–verb: Another sentence of roughly equivalent meaning is ngo lat ň tsot dok, with the slight connotation of "I take you and hold" or "I get to you and hold."
  • Object–den–subject–verb (the passive voice): Then, ň den ngo tsot dok means the same thing but in the passive voice, with the connotation of "You allow yourself to be held by me" or "You make yourself available for my holding."


In Gan, there are a number of archaic words and expressions originally found in ancient Chinese, and which are now seldom or no longer used in Mandarin. For example, the noun "clothes" in Gan is "衣裳" while "衣服" in Mandarin, the verb "sleep" in Gan is "睏覺" while "睡覺" in Mandarin. Also, to describe something dirty, Gan speakers use "下里巴人", which is a reference to a song from the Chu region dating to China's Spring and Autumn period.

Additionally, there are numerous interjections in Gan (e.g. 哈、噻、啵), which can largely strengthen sentences, and better express different feelings.

Writing system

Gan is written with Chinese characters, though it does not have a strong written tradition. There are also some romanization schemes, but none are widely used. When writing, Gan speakers usually use written vernacular Chinese, which is used by all Chinese speakers.[13]


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gan Chinese". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ 《中華人民共和國行政區劃簡冊》 (in Chinese). 2004.
  4. ^ 江西人口状况. 泛珠三角合作信息网 (in Chinese). 9 September 2005.
  5. ^ 安徽人口控制:14年少生800万人. Xinhua (in Chinese). Shanghai. 7 January 2005.
  6. ^ Archived May 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Archived August 29, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Archived April 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Yan, Margaret Mian (2006). Introduction to Chinese Dialectology. LINCOM Europa. p. 148. ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6.
  10. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Walter de Gruyter. p. 70. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
  11. ^ Yan (2006), p. 150.
  12. ^ Yan (2006), pp. 150–151, based on Hanyu Fangyin Zihui.
  13. ^ "Chinese, Gan". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  • Chen Changyi. Summary of Gan.
  • Chen Changyi. Chorography of languages in Jiangxi.
  • Li Rulong. Investigation of Gan-Hakka.
  • Xiong Zhenghui. Dictionary of Nanchang Dialect.
  • Yan Sen. Division of languages in Jiangxi.
  • Yan Sen. Summary of modern Chinese·Gan.

Further reading

External links

Chang-Du dialect

Chang-Du or Chang-Jing dialect, sometimes called Nanchang dialect (simplified Chinese: 南昌话; traditional Chinese: 南昌話; pinyin: nánchāng huà) after its principal variety, is a dialect of Gan Chinese. It is named after Nanchang and Duchang County, and is spoken in those areas as well as in Xinjian, Anyi, Yongxiu, De'an, Xingzi, Hukou, and bordering regions in Jiangxi and in Pingjiang County, Hunan.

Da-Tong dialect

Da-Tong, sometimes called Daye dialect (simplified Chinese: 大冶话; traditional Chinese: 大冶話) after its principal variety, is a dialect of Gan Chinese. It is spoken in Daye, in the southeastern part of Hubei province near the Jiangxi border, as well as in Xianning, Jiangyu, Puxin, Chongyang, Tongcheng, Tongshan, and Yangxin in Hubei, as well as in Huarong and bordering areas of eastern Hunan.

Gan Chinese-speaking people

The Gan-speaking Chinese or Jiangxi people or Kiang-Si people (old romanized spelling) are a subgroup of Han Chinese people. The origin of Gan-speaking people in China are from Jiangxi province in China. Gan-speaking populations are also found in Fujian, southern Anhui and Hubei provinces, and linguistic enclaves are found on Taiwan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Hunan, Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian and non-Gan speaking southern and western Jiangxi.

Guo Gan

Guo Gan (Chinese: 果敢; pinyin: Guǒ Gǎn; born November 15, 1968) is an erhu musician from Shenyang, China now based in Paris, France. Gan was recognized as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2016.

Han Chinese subgroups

The sub groups of the Han Chinese people, also known as Sinitic peoples, Chinese dialect groups or just dialect groups, are defined based on linguistic, cultural, genetic, and regional features. The terminology used in Mandarin to describe the groups is: "minxi" (Chinese: 民系; pinyin: mínxì; Wade–Giles: min2 hsi4; literally: "ethnic lineages", pronounced [mǐnɕî] ), used in Mainland China, or "zuqun" (Chinese: 族群; pinyin: zúqún; Wade–Giles: tzu2 ch'ün2; literally: "ethnic groups" pronounced [tsǔtɕʰwə̌n]), used in Taiwan. Other than Hui people, which is a classification for Muslims of all backgrounds, no Han subgroup is recognized as one of People's Republic of China's 55 official minority ethnic groups.

Han Gan

Han Gan (Chinese: 韩干/韓幹) (c. 706-783) was a Tang Dynasty painter.

He came from a poor family in either Chang'an, modern-day Xi'an, Shaanxi; Lantian, modern-day Shaanxi; or Daliang, modern-day Kaifeng, Henan. As a young man, Han Gan was recognized by Wang Wei, a prominent poet, who sponsored Han in learning arts. Han became a student of Cao Ba, a court painter. After his studies, Han became a painter in the Tang court.

Han painted many portraits and Buddhistic themed paintings during his career; however, he is most widely remembered for his paintings of horses. He was reputed to be able to not only portray the physical body of the horse, but also its spirit. His reputation rose and surpassed that of his teacher. Horse painters of later generations studied Han. He is honored with a crater named for him on Mercury.

History of Gan Chinese

The history of Gan Chinese, a variety of Chinese spoken in modern-day China, stretches back to the beginning of the Qin dynasty. This long stretch of time is divided into Old Gan, late Old Gan, and Middle Gan periods.


Ji'an (Chinese: 吉安; pinyin: Jí'ān) is a prefecture-level city situated in the central region of Jiangxi province of the People's Republic of China while bordering Hunan province to the west. It has an area of 25,219 km2 (9,737 sq mi) and as of the 2010 census, had a population of 4,810,339, of whom 538,699 live in the built-up (or metro) area made of 2 urban districts. Ji'an lies next to the Luoxiao Mountains (罗霄山脉) with the Gan River running through the middle of the city. Local dialects include a form of Gan Chinese (Jicha subgroup, 吉茶片) as well as Hakka Chinese.

Ji'an is an abbreviation of its original name Jítàimín'ān (吉泰民安). It has also formerly been known as Luling (廬陵) and Jizhou (吉州).

Jishui County

Jishui (Chinese: 吉水; pinyin: Jíshuǐ) is a county located on the Gan River in Ji'an city, Jiangxi province, China.

It has an area of 2,531.73 km2 (977.51 sq mi) and a population of 480,000.It is located central of Jiangxi (central east of Ji'an city), 196 km (122 mi)south of the provincial capital of Nanchang, and 23 km (14 mi) north of downtown Ji'an. The local speech is a variety of Gan Chinese.

The government of Jishui is located in Wenfeng town (文峰镇).

Pha̍k-oa-chhi romanization

Pha̍k-oa-chhi (白話字) is a Latin script based orthography for the Nanchang dialect of the Gan language. Pha̍k-oa-chhi is based on Pe̍h-ōe-jī for Hokkien, and it is also related to the orthographies of Pha̍k-fa-sṳ for Hakka, Bàng-uâ-cê for Fuzhou dialect and Pêh-uē-jī for Teochew dialect.

Shao-Jiang Min

Shao–Jiang or Shaojiang Min (simplified Chinese: 邵将; traditional Chinese: 邵將; pinyin: Shàojiāng) is a collection of dialects of Min Chinese centered on Western Nanping in Northwest Fujian, specifically in the Nanping counties of Guangze, Shaowu, and Western Shunchang and the Northern Sanming county of Jiangle.

Shao-Jiang developed from Northern Min (Min Bei), and was deeply influenced by Gan Chinese and Hakka Chinese. The classification of Shao-Jiang is disputed. It is frequently classified as a dialect of Northern Min, but sometimes it is excluded from Min and classified as Gan Chinese instead. But it is mutually intelligible with neither other Northern Min nor other Gan. Actually it is a collection of dialects which have limited mutual intelligibility instead of a language. Some Chinese scholars call it Min-Gan dialects (闽赣方言), Min-Gan transition dialects (闽赣过渡方言) or Min-Hakka-Gan transition dialects (闽客赣过渡方言).


Shaowu (Chinese: 邵武; pinyin: Shàowǔ) is a county-level city in northwestern Fujian province, People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the Wuyi Mountains and bordering Jiangxi province to the west. It has more than 100,000 inhabitants. The local dialect combines elements from Northern Min and Gan Chinese.

Shaowu dialect

Shaowu dialect is a dialect of Shao-Jiang Min Chinese spoken in Shaowu, Nanping in northwestern Fujian province of China. It combines elements from Northern Min and Gan Chinese.

Wannian County

Wannian (simplified Chinese: 万年县; traditional Chinese: 萬年縣; pinyin: Wànnián Xiàn; literally: "Ten thousand years") is a county in the northeast of Jiangxi province, China. It is under the jurisdiction of the prefecture-level city of Shangrao.

Its total area is 1,140.76 km2 (440.45 sq mi). Its 2003 population was 361,000.

Wannian County comprises 6 towns and 9 townships.

The county seat and largest population center is Chényíng Town (陈营镇). The second largest population center and former county seat is Qīngyún Town (青云镇), formerly Chéngguān Town (城关镇).

In addition to farming, pearl and concrete production are economically important. There is limited mining.

The local dialect, Wannianese, is a dialect of the Gan Chinese language.

Wannian is the location of the Xianren Cave (Fairy Cave), where historically important finds have been made of ancient pottery shards and rice grains.

Wanzai County

Wanzai County (simplified Chinese: 万载县; traditional Chinese: 萬載縣; pinyin: Wànzài Xiàn) is a county under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Yichun in the northwest of Jiangxi province, China, bordering Hunan province to the west. The name Wanzai literally means "10,000 years". It could also mean"10,000 loads" and could likely be related to its past importance as a center of trade. It is located along the Long He or Dragon River, a tributary of the main river of the province, the Gan River. It has an area of 1,718 km2 (663 sq mi) and a population of 460,000.

The Wanzai area was first settled 3,000 years ago. It was a prosperous city in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Like much of Jiangxi it was also important in fostering China's Communist revolution. Today it a small city with major industries including fireworks manufacturing and rice liquor distillation. Most economic activity is agricultural with rice being the major crop. Its position along the 320 National Highway has helped insure steady economic growth and better access to Pingxiang and Yichun in the west and Nanchang in the north. Like much of western Jiangxi, Wanzai is surrounded by forested mountains. This mountainous region of Jiangxi is home to many different dialects of the Gan Chinese language. Yi-Ping, the Wanzai dialect, is both geographically and linguistically between the Nanchang and Yichun dialects.

Wu Gan

Wu Gan (Chinese: 吴淦, born 14 February 1973) is a Chinese blogger and human rights activist from Fuqing, Fujian who uses the internet name "Super Vulgar Butcher" (Chinese: 超级低俗屠夫) or "Butcher Wu Gan" (Chinese: 屠夫吴淦), and is known for his provocative signs and banners in support of his protests.

Yi-Liu dialect

Yi-Liu, sometimes called Yichun dialect (simplified Chinese: 宜春话; traditional Chinese: 宜春話) after its principal variety, is a dialect of Gan Chinese. It is spoken in Yichun in Jiangxi province and in Liuyang in Hunan, after which it is named, as well as inShanggao, Qingjiang, Xingan, Xinyu City, Fen yi, Pingxiang City, Fengcheng, Wanzai in Jiangxi and in Liling in Hunan.

Ying-Yi dialect

Ying-Yi, sometimes called Yingtan dialect after its principal variety, is a dialect of the Gan Chinese. It is named after Yingtan and Yiyang, and is spoken in those areas as well as in Yugan Guixi, Yujiang, Wannian, Leping, Poyang, Pengze, Hengfeng, Chuanshan in Jiangxi province.

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