Tìngäzìk: a Retrospective – ep. 33 “Inkyō Onji”

Inkyō Onji #chinese

Expected solvable difficulty

  • 1sample+: experienced solvers with Chinese proficiency
  • keywords+: most solvers

Level design

Reaching the finale of the game, we have a question related to Chinese. This question was inspired by tweet of 波鴻漫錄 || Sven Osterkamp, who mentioned a rather rare way of annotating pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese.

Shinkoku Kanwa Inkyō Onji (清国官話韻鏡音字) is a pronunciation symbol system designed by Izawa Shūji (伊沢修二) in 1904. The full content of it can be viewed in the National Diet Library Digital Collections of Japan. Interestingly, Inkyō Onji symbols usually don’t have a one-to-one correspondence to Pīnyīn or Zhùyīn. (In fact, Pīnyīn and Zhùyīn are not strictly one-to-one matching either.)

A sample illustration of the phrase “cicada in a desk” in Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Inkyō Onji, Pīnyīn, and Zhùyīn, with the zh sound highlighted in the last three.

For the answer, an ASCII variant of pīnyīn is used.

The sentences used in the answers are all being used in type specimens:

  • 「他们所有的设备和仪器彷佛都是有生命的。」
    “All their equipment and instruments are alive.”
    Used in Google Fonts.
  • 「夏日的午后,知了在不停地叫着。」
    “On a summer afternoon, the cicadas are chirping incessantly.”
  • 「烤面包的香味弥漫在空气中。」
    “The aroma of baking bread fills the air.”
  • 「清晨的第一缕阳光透射到她的书桌上。」
    “The first ray of sunlight in the morning casted on her desk.”
    All 3 are used in font demos in Windows 10+.

Even if you cannot manage to find the book to translate the words, using all 3 samples given, you can still decode 90% of the main. question.

An illustration of how many symbols from the 3 samples appeared in the main question.

Expected thought process

Lookup for the symbols to find the Inkyō Onji book and translate the symbols to Pīnyīn, or to use the sample question to translate most part of the question, and attempt to complete the rest.


The glyphs used in the questions are drawn using the KAGE engine running ion GlyphWiki.


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