I know something about both Chinese and philology, but not much, so please explain like I'm 20. :)

I'm looking at a text on Wikisource dealing with "the Shû King". It refers to "Mo-3ze" (Mo-zi) and "Hsün-3ze" (Xun-zi), and someone called "3o Khiû-ming" — where I'm using the ASCII letter "3" to represent the crazy, on-beyond-zebra letter that the typesetter actually used.

on beyond zebra

In lowercase it looks kind of like a cursive z or an ezh, but in uppercase I have no idea what's going on: it's like a 3 with cleavage, plus a circumflex accent hanging off its lower horn.

Notice that this Romanization system also seems to use significant italics; e.g. "King" is a different word from "King". (And in both cases "K" denotes what we'd call "J" these days — as in "Peking".)

What is the name and/or Unicode codepoint of this character? What sound is it supposed to represent? And whose Romanization system are we looking at here?

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    Typographically speaking, the fancy things are Fraktur style z and Z. I have no information on the transcription system used, unfortunately. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 21:15

1 Answer 1


This is Legge Romanisation, as taken from the 1879 volume of Sacred Books of the East. It is a transcription of the "Mandarin" speech of 19th-century Beijing, which is slightly different to both later transcriptions of standard Mandarin e.g. Wade-Giles.

The symbol under question bears most phonetic resemblance to the zemlja of the Cyrillic script, з, although it is probably just a z but written in Fraktur as opposed to Italic script. It represents the sound of z- in Pinyin, the alveolar affricate, which had a wider distribution than in current standard Mandarin.

Note also that k is different from k.

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    What is the significance of writing "зze" instead of just something like "зe"? Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 3:59
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    Wow, you are correct, my mystery character "𝖅" is indeed just a plain old "Z" in Fraktur — that Unicode character (U+1D585 MATHEMATICAL BOLD FRAKTUR CAPITAL Z) looks exactly the same on my screen, in my browser's default font, as it does in that typeface from 1879! I had no idea. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 4:00
  • Ah, I just realized, maybe in "зze" the "ze" is meant to indicate that the vowel following "з" is basically a syllabic fricative [z], instead of a normal schwa which would be represented by "e" alone. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 9:08
  • @Quuxplusone Thank you for digging out the Unicode: I had an inkling it was in there somewhere.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 11:19
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    @sumelic I don't believe there is a зe... on the talk page of the Wikipedia article it has a list. Pinyin ze would be зeh (e.g. the reference to Mei Ȝeh / Mei Ze / 梅賾)
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 11:39

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