This book, the first in its field in a Western language, examines China's native phonological tool with regard to reconstruction, theory, and linguistic philosophy. After an introductory essay on the nature of the tables and the history of their interpretation, the book concentrates on three areas: application of rime table theory to reconstruction, the history of rime table theory, and the application of the tables to descriptive linguistics. An appendix details a number of 20th century systems for transcribing their phonology into Roman letters. Major topics include Altaic contact-influence on Chinese, early native understanding of the tables' meaning, the phonological work of Yuen Ren Chao, and Stammbaumtheorie/diasystemic thinking about Chinese. New reconstructions of Han and "Common Dialectal" phonology appear here, as do complete texts and translations of the Shouwen fragments and Yunjing preface.