What Is The Difference Between Chinese And Mandarin?

One very common question raised by our students who just start learning Mandarin  is that: What is "Chinese”, what is “Mandarin”, and what is the difference between Chinese and Mandarin?

Let me explain it for you in a simple and clear way.

 Chinese  Mandarin

Chinese: Hànyǔ(汉语) or Zhōngwén(中文)

It is a group of related but in many cases mutually unintelligible language varieties, comprising of seven main dialects: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Wu, Min, Xiang, and Gan.


Mandarin: Pǔtōnghuà(普通话)It is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. It is the official language of Mainland China.

Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many other ethnic groups in China. Nearly 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.


Mandarin is spoken by more than 1 billion people. 70% of the Chinese people speak Mandarin and it is the largest spoken dialect in China.

Chinese is spoken in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and other areas with historic immigration from China.

It is usually spoken at home, between friends and relatives, entertainment, etc.


Mandarin is the official language of mainland China and Taiwan, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore.It is spoken at school, government, media, public places, etc.

Chinese can be traced back over 3,000 years to the first written records, and even earlier to a hypothetical Sino-Tibetan proto-language.


Mandarin is standardized by the “National Character Reform Conference” in 1955.

1. Simplified system: Vocabulary which is the same as Mandarin.


2. Traditional system: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Chinese speaking communities (except Singapore and Malaysia) outside mainland China.


3. Dialectal characters: Cantonese and Hakka, or vocabulary which is considered archaic or unused in standard written Chinese.


Simplified Chinese character system.

Now you can start to study Chinese without any confusion of what is Chinese and what is Mandarin!

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