Before Getting Started

Q When is the deadline for submissions?

A Submissions must be received (in both e-format and paper copy) by October 5, 2017, in order to be considered.


Q When will the winners be announced?

A That will depend to a large degree upon the number of entries. At the moment we expect to be able to release the list of winning entries in the first quarter of 2018. Watch this site for updates as they become available.


Q May I submit something that has been published elsewhere or has been submitted for publication elsewhere?

A The contest is for new material only, which must be submitted exclusively to this competition.


Q May I submit a Pinyin version of something written by someone else?

A The contest is for original work only. Do not submit anything you didn’t write entirely by yourself.


Q May I submit a Pinyin version of something I wrote earlier in Chinese characters?

A No. The contest is for work originally written in Pinyin.


Q Why do you say it has to be written originally in Pinyin? Couldn’t I just write it in Chinese characters and then convert it to Pinyin?

A There are a lot of habits associated with writing in Chinese characters — especially the use of abbreviated forms — that aren’t very compatible with spoken Mandarin and thus aren’t very compatible with Hanyu Pinyin. So don’t write in Chinese characters; write in Hanyu Pinyin. We cannot emphasize this point too much.
If you try to cheat on this, yes, we will probably know. So don’t waste our time or yours: Compose your entry in Hanyu Pinyin.
Writing in Pinyin may seem a little odd at first; but with a bit of practice it will rapidly become natural to you. The same is true of reading things written in Hanyu Pinyin. You should definitely read some works in Hanyu Pinyin before trying to write in it.


Q If my work does not win any of the prizes, may I then submit it elsewhere?

A Of course. After the announcement of winners is made, you are welcome to publish elsewhere any work that was not selected for a prize. All prize-winning works, however, will remain property of the contest holders so that they may be published.


Q Most material I see with Hanyu Pinyin is for Chinese children and/or foreigners learning Mandarin. Is that the sort of thing I should write?

A Definitely not! You should write works aimed at adult native speakers of Mandarin. If you writing can be enjoyed by young people as well, that’s fine. But your main audience should be adults or at least advanced teen readers, not children.


Q Can you give some examples of things in Hanyu Pinyin?

A Certainly. See this site’s section of Sample Texts in Pinyin. All of those can be read for free online. Especially relevant is Li-ching Chang’s book Pinyin Riji Duanwen.


Q So, should I write stories like Li-ching Chang’s?

A Literature is not about copying style, copying content, or copying anything else. You should write whatever literature you write best. Be original. Be creative. Write well. And be sure to write in Hanyu Pinyin!


Q I’ve come up with what I believe are improvements upon Hanyu Pinyin. May I submit something in this new/revised system?

A Sorry, no. This is a contest for material written in standard Hanyu Pinyin, not a contest for material in something that’s more or less Hanyu Pinyin.



Formatting Requirements

Q What format should I submit my document in?

A For it to be considered for the contest, you need to submit two versions of your manuscript: one as an electronic file in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx), the other on paper as a printout of the MS Word file.


Q Two versions? Are you sure you wrote that correctly?

A Yes, that’s correct. You must submit both an electronic file and a printout of that file.


Q What are the formatting requirements?

A Format your document as follows:

  • MS Word format (.doc or .docx)
  • A4- or U.S. letter-size paper
  • margins of at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) on all sides
  • double-spaced, 12-point type, preferably Times, Times New Roman, Gentium, or another standard serif font that can handle all of Pinyin’s tone marks
  • do not use a font designed for Chinese characters (e.g., MS Gothic, MS Mincho, MS SimHei, and SimSun). Fonts designed for Chinese characters almost always produce ugly-looking Pinyin.)
  • page number at bottom of each page, center aligned
  • header with the name of the entry
  • indent the first line of each paragraph
  • do not use a blank line between paragraphs
  • most importantly, the writing must follow the rules of Hanyu Pinyin


Q Should my submission be only in Hanyu Pinyin or should I include Chinese characters with it?

A Your writing should be done entirely in Hanyu Pinyin and so should not contain any Chinese characters.



Tone Marks

Q Do I have to use tone marks?

A No, tone marks are optional (except in entries in the category of poetry, where they are required). But you should be consistent: Use tone marks on every word (except de (的)) or don’t use them at all (except where needed for clarification). Note: If you’re using tone marks, don’t forget that because of the neutral tone not all syllables should have tone marks, especially in words with reduplication (e.g., write “Xièxie, Māma,” not “Xièxiè, Māmā”).


Q May I use tone numbers instead of tone marks?

A If you indicate tones, please use tone marks and not tone numbers. If you have a manuscript with tone numbers, you should first convert the numbers to tone marks. (In Wenlin, use Edit --> Make transformed copy --> Replace 1-4 with tone marks.)


Q How do I type Pinyin with tone marks?

A See the section on Questions about Computers and Pinyin.



Questions about Computers and Pinyin

Q How can I type Pinyin with tone marks into my computer?

A There are various methods, depending on the type of computer you have. And people prefer various methods. But in our experience one of the easiest ways is to use Wenlin. The free, non-expiring demo version of Wenlin will produce tone marks by typing the number of the tone after the vowel or after the syllable (e.g., typing either “Ha4nyu3” or “Han4yu3” will produce “Hànyǔ”). The full version of Wenlin comes with an electronic version of the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary, which is the Pinyin Literature Contest’s reference dictionary for spellings in Pinyin.


Q How do I type the letter ü?

A If you’re using Wenlin, typing the letter “v” followed by the tone number will produce ǖ, ǘ, ǚ, and ǜ, as needed. If you’re typing without tone marks and want just a plain “ü”, the easiest method is probably just typing the letter “v” and then going back and doing a search-and-replace (v –> ü) after you’re finished. If you like, you can copy the “ü” from this Web page and paste it into MS Word’s “Replace with” box. Just make sure you don’t inadvertently change anything in your contact information!



Questions about Poetry

Q Do submitted poems have to rhyme?

A Entries in the poetry category do not have to rhyme. Free verse, however, is not a license for sloppiness of any sort – quite the opposite! All poems, regardless of whether they rhyme, should make good use throughout of the sound and feel of the Mandarin language. The British poet W.H. Auden was often approached by young people who wanted to be poets. He would ask them, “Why do you want to write poetry?” And he wrote, “If the young man answers, ‘I have important things I want to say,’ then he is not a poet. If he answers, ‘I like hanging around words, listening to what they say,’ then maybe he is going to be a poet.”


Q What about topics for the poems?

A If you copy the themes or patterns of Tang, Song, or any other poetry, you will probably end up with something that is neither a good old poem nor a good new one. So don’t try that. Avoid clichés. Wisława Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, once wrote: “We have a principle that all poems about spring are automatically disqualified. This topic no longer exists in poetry. It continues to thrive in life itself, of course. But these are two separate matters.” So, again: Be original; be creative; write well.


Q What about tone marks?

A For entries in the poetry category, tone marks are required.



Submission of Manuscripts

Q The directions say that people should submit a manuscript through e-mail and a paper copy through the regular mail. Don’t you mean one or the other?

A A hard copy and an electronic file are both required for all submissions.


Q Where should I send these?

A E-mail your MS Word file to
And send your copy on paper through the postal service to

Pinyin Literature Contest
849 Williams Hall
255 S. 36th Street
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Be certain to include your name and contact information with both the electronic and paper copies.


Q Will my manuscript be returned to me?

A We’re sorry, but we will be unable to return entries.


Q When is the deadline for submissions?

A Submissions must be received (in both e-format and paper copy) by October 5, 2017, in order to be considered.


Q When will the winners be announced?

A That will depend to a large degree upon the number of entries. At the moment we expect to be able to release the list of winning entries in the first quarter of 2018. Watch this site for updates as they become available.




Q Why do you use “Li-ching Chang” instead of the Hanyu Pinyin form “Zhang Liqing” when writing her name?

A She used both forms but more commonly wrote her name as “Li-ching Chang.” It’s not a statement one way or another.