How to Identify Chinese Radio Stations
China is one of the few countries
increasing its presence on the medium wave (AM)
radio dial, as DXers have been able to observe.
Identifying Chinese stations can however be tricky
if you don't understand the language. With this
guide you will learn how to identify Chinese stations
based on just a few keywords and phrases. Don't
let the language barrier intimidate you, because
DXing Chinese stations can be extremely exciting
Standard Chinese (Putonghua) is the official
language both in the People's Republic of China
and the Republic of China (Taiwan). It is a spoken
form of Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of
Mandarin Chinese. In this article we won't delve
into written Chinese and its thousands of characters,
nor the four tones of the language, but will instead
use a phonetic transcription known as pinyin,
which will help you to recognize Chinese words as
you hear them.
Not all Chinese-language radio stations originate
from China, and on the other hand, not all broadcasts
from China are in the Chinese language. First we'll
learn how to tell the difference between Chinese-language
stations in mainland China and the rest of East
Asia. In the very end of the article we will also
briefly discuss some of the many minority languages
that can be heard on stations in mainland China.
This article is a practical guide to understanding
Chinese station identifications. Therefore, let's
assume that you've heard an AM station, which you
think could be Chinese, and you even have a recording
of what might be the ID. Listings of Chinese stations
are of course an essential reference guide, but
with these instructions you can probably figure
out your ID and also learn a lot along the way.
When you're hearing Chinese language on the AM or
shortwave dial, the first question is whether the
broadcast is from the People's Republic of China
or elsewhere. There are two main clues that can
point to mainland China: a time announcement where
Beijing is mentioned, and the use of the word "people"
in the station identification.
Beijing time across the country
At the top of the hour most mainland Chinese stations
air a time signal, followed by a time announcement
indicating the time in Beijing time. The entire
vast country observes only this one time zone, which
is eight hours ahead of Universal time (UTC/GMT),
Let's listen to a couple of examples:
UTC (21.00 Beijing time): "Beijing shijian
er shi yi dian zheng" (where er=2, shi=10,
making 20, and yi=1)
UTC (24.00 Beijing time): "Beijing shijian
ling dian zheng"
(where ling=0 and refers to midnight)
The time announcement usually follows a familiar
pattern "Beijing shijian (Beijing time)
... dian (o'clock) zheng (exactly)".
If you hear this, you can be sure that you're listening
to a mainland Chinese station.
However, the opposite is not true. Even if you don't
hear Beijing time mentioned, the station can still
be from mainland China, where many stations nowadays
prefer a less formal image, ditching official time
In any case, listening carefully around the top
of the hour is your best opportunity to catch a
station ID from a Chinese station. Also the end
of any top-of-the hour newscast and 30 minutes past
the hour are slots worth checking out. Especially
during overnight hours some stations may not react
to the top of the hour at all.
People or no people in the station ID?
The station identification has traditionally been
aired immediately after the time announcement. Increasingly
often there is a commercial spot or two in between,
but the station ID might also be heard before the
top of the hour. Sometimes the ID is announced twice,
both by a male and a female voice, making the DXer's
The most common station ID goes like this: "Zhongyang
renmin guangbo diantai" (literally
"Central People's Broadcasting Station").
This is China National Radio (CNR). It can be argued
that tientai would be a better transliteration
than diantai, but for the sake of simplicity
we'll stick to pinyin spelling.
Here is an example of what you can hear on CNR
at the top of the hour. First there is a time
announcement by a female voice at 8 seconds into
the recording. Based on the previous sound bites,
you now know that the time in Beijing is 22 hours
("Beijing shijian er shi er dian zheng").
What follows at 11 seconds is a very fast station
ID "... Zhongguo zhi sheng", then
there is a pre-recorded promotional announcement.
After the CNR interval melody there is a more thorough
station ID at 50 seconds into the clip: "Zhongyang
renmin guangbo diantai, Zhongguo zhi sheng",
then at 66 seconds the beginning of the news:
"Zhongguo zhi sheng, yang guang ye xinwen"
(Voice of China CNR Night News).
The keyword here is renmin
(people), which is unique to China and other communist
countries. If you hear renmin in the station
ID, you've heard a station from mainland China.
However, an increasing number of Chinese stations
prefer to skip the renmin in their ID.
As an example, you can compare how Hubei People's
Broadcasting Station identified in 2007
("Hubei renmin guangbo diantai"
twice, thankfully pronounced very slowly) and in
("Hubei zhi sheng" meaning the
Voice of Hubei, at 16 seconds). Both identifications
were heard on the same channel, News General Service.
As the Hubei clips show, the pattern of the station
identification is usually identical on the national
and provincial (or local) level. Just replace "Zhongyang/Zhongguo"
(Central/China) with the name of the province or
city and you know what words to look for when trying
to locate a station ID. With some practise you will
learn to recognize the crucial keywords even if
you don't understand anything else of the program
Chinese can be heard also from Taiwan and South
If you don't hear renmin mentioned, let's
consider for a moment the possibility that your
Chinese-language catch is not from mainland China.
The Taiwanese national broadcaster is known as Broadcasting
Corporation of China (BCC). There are several BCC
networks and loads of other public and private stations,
none of which include renmin in their name.
As an example, here is a station
ID of the BCC News Network: "Zhong guang
xinwen wang, News radio" ("BCC News,
Newsradio"), followed by the time announcement:
"Xianzai shijian, liang(2) dian zheng"
("Now the time [is], 2 o'clock exactly").
After the distinctive melody you can hear a station
ID "Zhongguo guangbo gongsi" at
20 seconds into the clip, then "Gewei hao,
huanying shouting zhong guang xinwen, wo shi Wang..."
("Hello everybody, welcome to listen to Zhong
guang news, I am Wang...") from 29 seconds.
Romanization of the Chinese language in Taiwan
is more complicated than in mainland China, because
different spellings are used. For example, "China
broadcasting" is transliterated as Zhongguo
guangbo in mainland China, and Chungkuo kuangpo
in Taiwan, but they mean the same.
Among the easiest to hear Taiwanese stations are
powerful transmitters of the Voice of Kuanghua (sample
ID of this "Kuanghua chih sheng").
These broadcasts are aired around the clock and
are targeting mainland China. The external service
Radio Taiwan International broadcasts also in Chinese,
and can be easily recognized since "RTI
News" (as pronounced in English) is
often mentioned at the top of the hour.
In addition to China and Taiwan, you may encounter
Chinese programming especially from two religious
broadcasters in South Korea, HLKX (1188 kHz) and
HLAZ (1566 kHz), both used by the Far East Broadcasting
Company. Occasionally they use call letters as part
of the station ID. The more powerful HLAZ
can be heard identifying as "Liang you
yi you diantai yu nin, qian shou tong xing"
("Good friend and beneficial friend radio,
keeps your company").
If none of this sounds familiar, we'll return to
look for answers from mainland China. As the Chinese
broadcasting scene is becoming ever more diversified,
the above hints on time announcements and different
station identification patterns may not be enough
to help you identify your catch. To properly identify
the more trickier cases from mainland China, we
need to take a closer look at how radio broadcasting
is organized in China.
Structure of China's broadcasting stations
China National Radio (CNR) operates a total of
13 networks, at least 11 of which can be heard on
the AM band. Here are sample station identifications
of the networks and frequencies which DXers are
most likely to hear:
- 1st program: Voice
of China - Zhongguo zhi sheng on 639,
945, 981, 1035, 1359 and 1377 kHz
- 2nd program: China
Business Radio - Jingji zhi sheng, literally
Voice of the Economy, on 630, 720, 855 and 1305
- 3rd program: Music
Radio on 1008 and 1521 kHz
- 5th program: Voice
of Zhonghua - Zhonghua zhi sheng on 765,
837 and 1116 kHz (the interval melody is my favorite!)
- 6th program: Voice
of Shenzhou - Shenzhou zhi sheng on 1089
- 7th program: Voice
of Huaxia - Huaxia zhi sheng, and the
same in Cantonese, on 1215 kHz
- 12th program: Voice
of the Entertainment - Yule guangbo "Happy
Radio" on 747 kHz
Occasionally station identifications are given even
in English, especially on China Business Radio.
For detailed information on additional frequencies
and the remaining networks, check out resources
listed in the end.
On provincial level China has 33 units (mostly known
as provinces, but including also some municipalities,
autonomous regions and special administrative regions),
excluding Taiwan which China claims as the 34th
province. Provinces have a government-run broadcasting
company in the capital, and a varying amount of
local stations around the province.
Here you can practise the names of China's provinces,
just click around! In pinyin, Hong Kong is
Xianggang and Macau is Aomen. S.A.R.
stands for Special Administrative Region and A.R.
for Autonomous Region. If you don't see a map appearing
properly, it may be because your browser is incompatible,
Provincial and local broadcasting companies all
began with one channel, and this first channel has
subsequently developed into a News or General channel,
while more and more new channels (sometimes labeled
as stations or services) have been added. Economic
channel has usually been the first offshoot, and
other narrower formats have followed, depending
on the company's resources. Recognizing these channels
is necessary for being able to identify Chinese
stations. Although this is not a comprehensive list,
here you're very likely to find a match for the
ID that you heard, in case the channel name is part
of the ID. These short audio clips were generated
using Google Translate:
Then you just add the location (province or city
name) in front of the above ID template, and voilá,
you've got the typical ID announcement for that
particular channel. The ID may be preceded by zheli
shi, which means "This is". Diantai
(radio station) or dianshitai
(TV station) can be used in addition to or instead
(broadcasting station), but it all means roughly
Words in the above listing can also be combined.
For instance, Jiangsu
jiankang shenghuo pinlu (this soundfile
generated, not recorded live) means "Jiangsu
Healthy Living Frequency" (which broadcasts
on 846 kHz).
With this listing I'm already slipping from my
promise and premise that just a few words and phrases
are enough to identify Chinese stations, but you
don't need to memorize these all, you can always
return to this article and use the above listing
and the embedded sound files as your reference.
Let's look at a few common and concrete examples
of how these identifications really sound like:
General Service: "Liaoning zonghe guangbo
[twice], AM 1089, FM 102.9" ID at 12 seconds.
Then at 22 seconds "Liaoning guangbo dianshitai,
di yi tao guangbo jiemu, xinwen zonghe pinlu"
("Liaoning radio and TV station, the first
program, news and general frequency"). Also
one more ID at 41 seconds. This station is heard
on 1089 kHz.
Economic Service: "Hebei jingji guangbo"
ID at 9 and 22 seconds on 1125 kHz
Life Service: "Tianjin shenghuo guangbo"
ID at 7, 42 and 61 seconds on 1386 kHz
Chinese Traffic Service: "Xilinguole
guangbo dianshitai, jiaotong guangbo" on
As you can hear, renmin is increasingly going
out of fashion these days. Commercial spots abound,
but this lucrative broadcasting business is still
a government/party monopoly, and there are no private
radio stations outside of Hong Kong (on 864 and
1044 kHz) and Macau (738 kHz).
Rebroadcasts can be confusing
To make matters more complicated, sometimes the
ID that you hear has nothing to do with the identity
of the transmitter you're listening to. Local stations
often rebroadcast provincial stations. Also, both
local and provincial stations can rebroadcast CNR,
even at prime time.
A recent confucing case has been Qianjiang PBS in
Hubei Province on 1242 kHz. It has never been logged
by DXers using its real name, but instead it has
always been relaying Wuhan PBS, such as in this
ID: "Wuhan renmin guangbo diantai, AM
873, FM 884".
This clip is interesting also because it gives another
valuable tool for you to try to figure out the identity
of a Chinese station: the frequency announcement
(in this case: "AM ba-qi-san, FM ba-ba-si").
The frequency announcement can reveal a relay of
another AM frequency, or give a parallel FM frequency,
which can disclose the identity of the station even
if you can't figure out a single word of the station
FM frequency announcements are especially handy
as some stations don't bother to identify at all,
just occasionally throwing in their FM frequency
and perhaps a slogan.
of numbers in Chinese
20 is expressed as "2-10",
80 as "8-10". In FM frequencies point/dot
(sounds more like tien), but it can also
be omitted. Large numbers are relatively easy
for DXers, because on the air each digit in
the frequency is treated as an individual number.
Although FM 102.9 should be pronounced FM
yi-bai-ling-er-dian-jiu, in practise
it is pronounced FM yi-ling-er-dian-jiu
(as you may have noticed in the earlier Liaoning
clip at 18 seconds)
Rarely, connecting the dots is just impossible.
Back in 2010 I heard a top-of-the-hour ID for Hanzhong
PBS in Shaanxi Province on 990 kHz. However, there
is not a single station in Shaanxi on 990 kHz. Hanzhong
that the ID was theirs, but struggled to find an
explanation as to how it was heard on 990 kHz, and
it still remains a mystery.
Foreign service broadcasting in China
If none of the above has been helpful in identifying
your catch, it may be that you've caught a foreign
service broadcast by China Radio International (CRI).
is easy to identify as it has a distinctive interval
melody between broadcasts, and it usually gives
a very clear bilingual station ID, first in Chinese
"Zhongguo guoji guangbo diantai"
and then in the language of the target area. Here
is an example of CRI
beginning a broadcast in Korean on 1017 kHz.
CRI also runs radio stations inside China, but they
broadcast mostly in English.
There are also five companies dedicated for transmissions
to Taiwan. These are not regarded as external service,
because China doesn't consider Taiwan an independent
of the Strait: "Haixia zhi Sheng, xinwen
guangbo" ID at 4 and 11 seconds on 666
kHz. Based on what you have learned before, you
know that the second part of the ID means this is
a News service. Interestingly, this station is run
by the Chinese army.
of Jinling: "Jinling zhi Sheng"
ID at 11 seconds on 1206 kHz.
of Pujiang: "Pujiang zhi Sheng guangbo
diantai" ID at 8 seconds on 1422 kHz. You
may notice that the frequency is also announced:
AM yi-si-er-er at 14 seconds.
Broadcasting Company: "Dongnan Guangbo
Gongsi", giving an ID at 1 second on 585
- China Huayi Broadcasting Corporation on 873 kHz
Minority languages are common in border areas
If you're still perplexed about the identity of
your catch, let's take into consideration that the
ID may not be in Chinese after all, but perhaps
instead in one of the many minority languages used
The single most common Chinese AM station heard
in Europe is the most powerful transmitter of the
CNR Tibetan Service on 1098 kHz. Here's a top-of-the-hour
sample, but figuring out an ID in Tibetan would
require a more professional linguist. This 1000-kilowatt
transmitter is not located in Xizang (Tibet), but
instead in Qinghai, which has a sizable Tibetan
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is China's closest
area to Europe, so many European DXers have heard
programs also in the Uighur language. Here is an
example of how the Xinjiang PBS Uighur General Service
in Uighur. Uighur is written from right to left,
and most often in alphabets based on Arabic, which
you can find for example at the Xinjiang
PBS website. If you speak Uighur, please be
in touch, it would be great to have some help in
transliterating a station ID from Uighur.
minority language often encountered by DXers is
Mongolian, which in China is mostly spoken in Inner
Mongolia (Nei Menggu). Inner Mongolia is rapidly
expanding its network of AM transmitters, so you
can expect to hear Mongolian even more in the future.
is how Inner Mongolia PBS Rural and Pastoral Service
identifies, conveniently in three languages.
The Chinese version goes like this: "Nei
Menggu renmin guangbo diantai, nongcun muqu guangbo,
luye zhi sheng", and the English name sounds
like "Grazing Radio Inner Mongolia", but
again, I could use some help in understanding and
transliterating station identifications in Mongolian.
Another northern language which has gained prominence
on the Chinese AM dial is Korean, broadcast on some
stations in Heilongjiang and Jilin. The most powerful
such station is Yanbian PBS on 1206 kHz, often
heard during closing time station identifications
around 1600 UTC.
DXers in South East Asia or the Americas may have
a better chance hearing Minnan languages, such as
Amoy and Taiwanese, which are spoken in parts of
Fujian and Taiwan. The most common station in Cantonese
(which is spoken in Guangdong and Hong Kong) is
Zhujiang Economic Broadcasting Station on 1062 kHz.
Tools for QSLing Chinese stations
If you have by now succeeded in identifying your
catch, you may want to consider sending the station
a reception report. DXing is still virtually unknown
in China as a hobby, so being in touch with Chinese
radio stations can become a fascinating experience.
My reception reports to Chinese radio stations have
over the years resulted in numerous articles in
the local and national Chinese media. Many stations
are thrilled to hear from overseas listeners, but
on the other hand, getting a reply is often difficult.
You can improve your odds by writing in Chinese.
Keep your sentences simple, and Google Translate
will do a good enough job unless you can get translation
help from a native speaker.
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua has recently
(in November 2013) published several reports about
AM DXing. Including a link to the Chinese-language
Xinhua reports could be helpful in conveying the
idea of DXing and your wishes for getting a confirmation
in Chinese on Xinhua
in Chinese on CNC TV
Hungry for more information?
Check out these resources for AM DXers interested
maintained by Alan Davies, organized by frequency.
Here you can copy the name of the Chinese station
in Chinese characters, add an FM frequency which
you heard mentioned, and paste it to a search site
to look for a homepage of that rare new channel
that you've caught.
list for Asia and Pacific with lots of streaming
audio links is an excellent resource for checking
how the station identifications sound.
- an article on DXing
in China back in 2002
language on Wikipedia
numbers on Wikipedia
Translate is great for compiling reports and
Thank you (xie xie)!
Over the years I have received much help from fellow
hobbyists in China and Taiwan. They have listened
to numerous station identifications, which at the
time were gibberish to me. With this article I hope
to pass on what I have learned about identifying
Chinese radio stations, so that many more DXers
would be able to get a running start in exploring
the Chinese radio scene.
Your feedback has also greatly improved this article.
A special thank you to Li Jizhi for several transliterations,
to Victor Qian for audio clips of the province names,
and to Pyry Mäkeläinen for scripting the
map and audio player. If you notice mistakes, or
if you can provide help by transliterating more
of the announcements here, please be in touch.
It should be mentioned that the sample station identifications
embedded in this article have been recorded in Aihkiniemi,
northern Finland, roughly 6000-7000 kilometers away
from the Chinese transmitter sites.
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on January 1, 2014