What Do You Know About Chinese Dialects?

What is Chinese? When most people think of the Chinese language, they often think of it as a single language that is the same everywhere. Chinese is Chinese, right? This couldn’t be further from the truth.

China is a diverse country that houses 56 different ethnic groups and hundreds of villages along with colossal cities, each with their own unique spin on the Chinese language. Each version of the Chinese language is referred to as a dialect.

Dialects emerge due to a difference in the background of the people creating and speaking them. Mainland Chinese dialects and the Chinese dialects spoken on islands like Hong Kong and Taiwan are spoken by people with drastically different heritages. Dialects are not unique to the Chinese language. For example, the disparities between American English, British English, and Australian English make each a dialect of English. These dialects were created by different people living in different places who created their own unique version of English.

Hundreds of Chinese dialects exist, but the seven major groups in descending popularity are:

Name of Dialect Spoken In Spoken By

(% of Han Population)



Northern and Southwest China 679,250,000 People


Wu (Shanghainese)


Area Around Shanghai and Zhejiang 80,750,000 People


Yue (Cantonese)

粤语 (广东话)

Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hong Kong 47,500,000 People


Xiang (Hunanese)

湘语 (湖南话)

Hunan 45,600,000 People


Min (Taiwanese)

闽语 (台湾话)

Fujian, Taiwan 38,950,000 People




Area from Sichuan to Taiwan 35,130,000 People




Jiangxi 22,800,000 People



Although Chinese dialects use the same characters, the pronunciation of each character differs among the dialects. While two people who speak different dialects of Chinese can gather the same meaning from the same characters, verbal communication between these speakers may be difficult.

Although each dialect is still considered Chinese in a general sense, some argue that each Chinese dialect is closer to being its own language than to one another. One’s language is a huge part of one’s cultural identity, and the true diversity of China is exemplified by each variant of the common language, Chinese!




There are 12 comments

  1. Juliann L

    The map you included was very helpful in proving your point about different ethnic groups in China. I like how you included the most popular dialects, where the dialect is spoken, and approximately what percentage of the Chinese population speak the dialect. Great article!

  2. Maggie Guo

    I really liked your chart for the different dialects in China. I think it is very helpful to see the diversity of dialects in China, and also the regions that speak those dialects. Thank you for the great article!

  3. Ashley K

    I love the diverse dialects that are spoken in China. I wonder why Mandarin became to be the most common dialect. Very interesting article!

  4. Daryn N

    It is so cool to learn about dialects in China. I know that America has many different dialects and it is interesting to see the ones that exist in China too.

  5. Derek Zhang

    It is so cool to learn about dialects in China. I love the diverse dialects that are spoken in China. Overall it is a great article.

  6. Hitomi Honda

    Wow, I didn’t know that there were 56 different ethnic groups in China! I like how you added a picture of a map and a chart with some examples and information about a few of the more popular dialects. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Jessica Chen

    I had no idea that China has 56 different ethnic groups! I also didn’t know that there are hundreds of villages along with colossal cities.

  8. Pratim Chowdhary

    This article gave just the right amount of information about Chinese dialects, not too much that would make the reader bored and not too little which would leave the reader confused. I also liked the chart which gave a good visual representation of the dialects in China.

  9. Alynah Ratansi

    It’s very great to read about the different dialects that come from China. Learning that are 56 dialects is absolutely crazy. I wonder how everyone finds a way to communicate with each other.

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