Phags-pa Script

About the Phags-pa Script

The Phags-pa script is a Brahmic script based on Tibetan that was used for writing Mongolian, Chinese and other languages during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Although it is no longer used for Mongolian and Chinese, it is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetan. Unlike other Brahmic scripts, Phags-pa was written vertically from left to right after the manner of the Uighur-derived Mongolian script.

The script was devised by the Tibetan lama Blo-gros rGyal-mtshan བློ་གྲོས་རྒྱལ་མཚན་ (lodoi ǰaltsan ᠯᠣᠳᠣᠢ ᠵᠠᠯᠼᠠᠨ in Mongolian), better known by the title 'Phags-pa Lama (འཕགས་པ་བླ་མ་) "Reverend Lama" (transliterated as Bāsībā 八思巴, 巴思八 or 拔思巴 in Chinese), at the behest of Kublai Khan in about 1269 for use as the "national script" of the Mongol empire. The script was originally simply called "Mongolian new letters" 蒙古新字 in Chinese, and is still known by this name in Tibetan (hor-yig gsar-pa ཧོར་ཡིག་གསར་པ་), but is now referred to as dörbelǰin üsüg ᠳᠥᠷᠪᠡᠯᠵᠢᠨ ᠦᠰᠦᠭ "square script" in Mongolian and as bāsībā zì 八思巴字 "Phags-pa letters" in Chinese. In English the script is sometimes referred to as the "Mongolian Quadratic Script", but is more commonly called 'Phags-pa (or variants such as ḥP'ags-pa, hPhags-pa, vPhags-pa, Phags-pa etc.). On this site the script is referred to as Phags-pa for conformity with the Unicode name for the script.

General Information about the Phags-pa Script

Please note that these pages are now somewhat out of date since Phags-pa has now been encoded in Unicode, and I intend to replace them with a completely new set of Phags-pa pages next year (along with pages for Jurchen, Khitan and Tangut ... eventually).

Unicode Encoding

The Phags-pa script is in now encoded in Unicode (since Unicode 5.0) in the PHAGS-PA block. Information about the Phags-pa encoding and shaping behaviour can be found in Section 10.3 of The Unicode Standard 5.0.

Phags-pa Fonts

A set of Unicode OpenType Phags-pa fonts are available from my Fonts page. These fonts should have correct shaping behaviour under Windows XP and later (N.B. Mozilla Firefox renders Phags-pa text correctly when configured for my Phags-pa fonts, but Internet Explorer 6 and 7 render Phags-pa as non-shaping glyphs; but on the other hand IE does support vertical layout whereas Firefox doesn't, so for some of my pages where there are tables of Phags-pa characters IE looks better). To view the Phags-pa text on these pages you should ensure that you have BabelStone Phags-pa Book font installed.

Phags-pa Keyboard Layout

A Phags-pa Keyboard Layout is available to help enter Phags-pa text under Windows 2000 and later.

Phags-pa Blog Posts

The following posts in my BabelStone blog relate to the Phags-pa script and my Phags-pa fonts.

Date: 2006-12-21

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