Historical Imprint on “MOUTAI”

On the brand label of Kweichow Moutai Liquor, we can see that the English name is “KWEICHOW MOUTAI” instead of the literal translation “GUIZHOU MAOTAI”. Why? A romanization system created by the Briton Wade for Mandarin Chinese had been used for more than 140 years and has recorded the wonderful historical sounds in phonetic texts deo many personal names, place names, trademarks, and dish names to demonstrate their long-established reputations.


A British diplomat, a renowned sinologist, and the first professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, Thomas Francis Wade created a system for foreigners in China to learn Chinese, he used Roman letters as the phonetic symbols of Chinese characters and created the Wade system. Which was a romanization system for Mandarin Chinese.


The first version of the Wade system had been used in China from 1867 to 1913. During late Qing Dynasty and early period of the Republic of China, Herbert Allen Giles, a British diplomat refined the system in 1912. The refined system (also called the Wade-Giles system) was widely used in personal names, place names, trademarks, English standard reference books, and all books about China published in western countries before it was replaced by the Pinyin system during 1958 in mainland China. 

In 1920s, with continued growth in international trades and cultural exchanges, many Chinese famous brands, including today’s world-renowned distilled liquor brand Kweichow Moutai, greeted the world According to the prevailing Wade system at that time, the spelling of the liquor was “KWEICHOW MOUTAI”.


On February 11, 1958, the Chinese government officially approved the Hanyu Pinyin system, which is so far the only unmodified bill since the founding of China. Since then, in Mainland China, the Wade system is gradually replaced by the modern Hanyu Pinyin system. Today, half a century has passed and the image of Kweichow Moutai has been well known in the international market. Therefore, the original spelling of “KWEICHOW MOUTAI” is allowed to remain in use. Besides the Kweichow Moutai liquor, other names with equally long history also continue to use their original Wade spellings.


These examples include some place names such as Tientsin, Hangchow, and Kwangtung, and some well-known Chinese historical figures, such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mencius. Even today, the universities that had been well-known in the world before 1949 still use the Wade spelling for their names, such as Sun Yat-sen University, Soochow University, Pekin University, and Tsinghua University.


Besides, some words that represent Chinese culture are conventionally translated into the combination of English and Wade Pinyin, such as Chinese kung fu, Chingming Festival, and Kung Pao Chicken. Being widely used, they have become representative symbols of Chinese culture, and are echoing the wonderful historical sounds.


The transformations of the spelling system imprinted the "KWEICHOW MOUTAI" is a historical brand. 


Source Reference: Issue 5 of Moutai Magazine - International Edition