There is no Chinese alphabet in the sense we understand it in the
Westerner languages. In the Westerner culture the word alphabet comes
from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta. Each
of the letters of our alphabet represents a sound that generally has
no particular meaning. Chinese characters are not letters. Although
there are a lot of exceptions, Chinese characters represent a
concept, an idea or an object.
The syllable is what gets closer to our conception of the alphabet we
use for spelling words in the Westerner languages. So for the modern
Chinese there is a set of about 400 syllables. These syllables are
made of two elements: an initial, the sheng
and a final the yun
The first part, the sheng is the consonant that begins syllable. The
sheng is followed by a yun that is generally a vowel. There is the
simple yun which counts only a single vowel like " a, e, o
" and the compound yun like " ao and an "as examples.
By analogy one can spell a syllable that corresponds to a character
in the same way as a word in English is spelt. To do this we have to
know the 21 sheng and the 38 yun. But we must remember that a
character is not always equivalent to a word. A word is most of the
time made of several characters in the same way as words in English
count generally several syllables. Obviously we know also that there
are in both cases words of a single syllable.