The national language

The need to establish an official national language was felt as early as the 17th century when the Ch'ing dynasty established a number of "correct pronunciation institutes" to teach standard Peking pronunciation, particularly in the Cantonese and Fukienese-speaking southern provinces. The success of these schools, however, was extremely limited. The concept of a national language coalesced around 1910. In 1913, the Ministry of Education convened a Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation to establish a standard national tongue. Wu Ching-heng (also known as Wu Chih-hui, a philosopher and one of the founders of the Republic of China, was chosen to direct the task of creating a truly national language that would transcend locality and dialect. Due to the domination of the numerically superior Mandarin-speaking delegates, the Peking dialect was voted for the general foundation of the new national language 'guoyu' (national speech). It embodies the pronunciation of Peking, the grammar of the Mandarin dialects, and the vocabulary of modern vernacular Chinese literature, but features of various local dialects were also incorporated. Guoyu is now the official language of mainland China, Taiwan and one of the official languages of Singapore. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 it was renamed to putonghua (common language) . In 1956, it became the medium of instruction in all schools nationwide and a policy of promoting its use began. It is now the most widely used form of spoken Chinese. In Taiwan, it still goes under the name of guoyu, or 'national speech'. In the West it is generally referred to Mandarin.

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