During the Northern and Southern dynasties period, Middle Chinese went through several sound changes and split into several varieties following prolonged geographic and political separation.
The royal courts of the Ming and early Qing dynasties operated using a koiné language (Guanhua) based on Mandarin dialects.
After the fall of the Northern Song dynasty, and during the reign of the Jin (Jurchen) and Yuan (Mongol) dynasties in northern China, a common speech (now called Old Mandarin) developed based on the dialects of the North China Plain around the capital.
As a practical measure, officials of the Ming and Qing dynasties carried out the administration of the empire using a common language based on Mandarin varieties, known as Guānhuà (官话/官話, literally "language of officials"). After much dispute between proponents of northern and southern dialects and an abortive attempt at an artificial pronunciation, the National Language Unification Commission finally settled on the Beijing dialect in 1932.
For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help: IPA.; literally: "Chinese writing") is a group of related, but in many cases mutually unintelligible, language varieties, forming a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many other ethnic groups in China.
Classical Chinese literature began in the Spring and Autumn period.The phonetic categories of Archaic Chinese can be reconstructed from the rhymes of ancient poetry.Qieyun, a rime dictionary, recorded a compromise between the pronunciations of the north and the south.Most linguists now believe it represents a diasystem encompassing 6th-century northern and southern standards for reading the classics.The relationship between spoken and written Chinese is rather complex.The written form of the standard language (; Hànzì), is shared by literate speakers of otherwise unintelligible dialects.The earliest Chinese written records are Shang dynasty-era oracle inscriptions, which can be traced back to 1250 BCE.Northern Vietnam was incorporated into the Han empire in 111 BCE, marking the beginning of a period of Chinese control that ran almost continuously for a millennium.The Four Commanderies were established in northern Korea in the first century BCE, but disintegrated in the following centuries.In addition, many of the smaller languages are spoken in mountainous areas that are difficult to reach, and are often also sensitive border zones.The first written records appeared over 3,000 years ago during the Shang dynasty.