Loongson unveils LoongArch CPU instruction set architecture for processors made in China

Loongson is a Chinese company better known for its MIPS processors, and we often see the company being mentioned in mainline Linux changelogs with regards to updated to Loongson MIPS SoC’s.

But with the MIPS architecture fading away, the company has decided to create its own CPU instruction set architecture (ISA) called LoongArch, short for Loongson Architecture, that is independent of x86, Arm, and even RISC-V architecture.

The reason for the move is that foreign CPU manufacturers use the instruction system as a means to control the ecology, and manufacturers like Loongsoon need to obtain “authorization” to develop compatible CPUs, meaning it’s impossible to develop an independent industrial ecosystem. Loongsoon further illustrates the point by saying “Chinese people can write novels in English, but it is impossible to form Chinese national culture based on English”.

That makes sense considering the trade sanctions regularly imposed by the United States that make it hard to plan ahead, and for instance, caused Huawei to stop making new Kirin processors.

LoongArch
Slide from a LoongArch/LoongISA presentation – Source: EET China

LoongArch includes extensions such as vector instructions, virtualization, and binary translation, with around 2500 instructions. EET China has more details about the “first self-developed ISA” in China.  Loongsoon notably designed binary translation tools for MIPS Linux, ARM Android, x86 Linux, and x86 Windows instructions into LoongISA so that existing software can be reused.  MIPS Linux to LoongISA performance is same to be the same, but there’s a noticeable performance hit for other architecture/OS combos with for instance, x86 Windows to LoongISA only achieving 70% of the native performance.

Loongson LS3A5000
Source: HKEPC

All new Loongson CPUs developed since 2020 are said to support the new LoongArch architecture, and one of the first LoongArch processors will be Loongsoon LS3C5000 16-core processor clocked at up to 2.5 GHz, manufactured using a 12nm process, and aiming to compete with AMD and Intel server processors.

Loongson said they’ve made sure LoongArch ISA does not infringe existing patents, and EET China says the company has released a LoongArch infrastructure instruction system manual with basic/limited information, and that a  more complete version will be released in the future. I could not find any link to the document, so it may not be public yet.

Via Liliputing and Tom’s Hardware

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Willy
Willy
19 days ago

70% performance in binary translation is pretty good. You only need a CPU 40% faster to deliver the same raw performance, while often I/O and peripherals count for a great part of the user’s wait time. I’ve always considered that emulation is the right way to propose architecture evolution/changes. Limiting oneself to the least common denominator only deprives everyone from improvements until the oldest in the chain is not supported anymore. Focusing on the most recent and emulating it on older versions encourages migration. And when you do that you figure that there is not much difference with emulating other… Read more »

RK
RK
19 days ago

> 0% performance in binary translation is pretty good…

Not to say it’s bad or anything, but keep in mind both Intel and AMD are already decoding from x86 to their internal RISC architectures and microarchitectures.

> while often I/O and peripherals count for a great part of the user’s wait time.

For desktop loads.

Anyhow, considering how RISC-V is doing in China nowadays I doubt there’s a market for a new ISA that isn’t backed by a huge monopoly / government.

willy
willy
19 days ago
  RK

hardware decoding for the same platform is not comparable to software decoding for a foreing platform that doesn’t have a 1:1 mapping of instructions nor registers.

RK
RK
18 days ago

The mapping isn’t 1:1 with Intel either otherwise they wouldn’t have screwed up so often 😀

But yeah you’re obviously right and it’s apples to oranges. Still, they started it 😀

Arnd Bergmann
Arnd Bergmann
15 days ago

They are not talking about previous models here, but specifically about those “developed since 2020”, which fits the 3A5000 that was just taped out. https://www.zhihu.com/question/414069789 actually had a lot of information on this last year. I don’t think they actually expect Loongarch on its own to become a dominant player, but based on their existing products this seems like a smart move. Without committing to either RISC-V, Arm or x86, they can support all three of those as well as remain backwards compatible with their existing MIPS based products. Since they already supported emulating x86-64 and arm64 emulation in several… Read more »

Sander
Sander
19 days ago

“The reason for the move is that foreign CPU manufacturers” … what is “foreign” on a website from Thailand … ? 😉

Old story: on CNN, using the word “foreign” led to penalty of x USD for the journalist using that word. 😉

Sander
Sander
19 days ago

Great development … if & when Loongson takes care of mainline Linux support.
Until then … mwoah.

Andreas
Andreas
19 days ago

Wasn’t UniCore32 already a Chinese-developed instruction set and then C-Sky?

uiop
uiop
18 days ago

If they genuinely want to ensure Chinese culture, they should also make their own programming language, operating system, and software ecosystem as well. In addition, they should have their own peripheral bus, interconnect, memory interface, and network architecture. I really support the Chinese doing this, if there is a genuine push for it, however what Loongson is doing is simply marketing.

Furthermore, the RISC-V foundation already, I feel it’s been over a year, legally relocated to Switzerland to be away from silly American stupidity. I think anyone is welcome to join if you pony up the renminbi.

RK
RK
18 days ago

> Furthermore, the RISC-V foundation already, I feel it’s been over a year, legally relocated to Switzerland to be away from silly American stupidity. I think anyone is welcome to join if you pony up the renminbi.

They’ve been working on this for way more than a year and the RISC-V patent pools still have US-led partners that might be sanctioned off of it altogether leaving RISC-V broken depending on the whims of Washington.

Juvent
Juvent
18 days ago

I think Loongson sounds more like the future

Noloqoq
Noloqoq
18 days ago
Occam
Occam
17 days ago

I’d be concerned about ChiCim back doors hidden in the microcode. Everything … EVERYTHING … in China is monitored and surveiled by the ChiComs. That’s what “Chinese Culture” means. No thanks.

evadim
evadim
17 days ago

So, you not concerned about CIA back doors then?
They are exist, clearly seen by anyone and we have bunch of public-available cases when those things used to get contracts by companies from USA.

Occam
Occam
17 days ago

Nope…they aren’t ChiComs.

Drone
Drone
14 days ago

Irrelevant. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Evil is always evil, no matter where you find it.

back2future
back2future
17 days ago

that’s not what open source among it geeks means; shared information or shared code relates to its purpose of why being distributed and that might not differ that much on western or eastern security authorities (if related to misuse of power by individuals opportunism or because of indoctrination or fanatism)?

If Chinese geeks go open source with this ISA, people telling it has back doors like ‘many (?)’ other cpu’s microcode, its another independent ISA for cpus then. Interestingly increased variety.

Occam
Occam
17 days ago

Unintelligible gibberish

back2future
back2future
17 days ago

what made organized ‘communists’ give up on my devices?
mission accomplished 🙂

Occam
Occam
15 days ago

More of the same…

bkydcmpr
bkydcmpr
16 days ago

Loongson a scam and political stun to begin with, they virtually finished once, now making a comeback because Chinese government is desperate to hand out money for any chip firm, Nationalism is the Chinese version of political correctness. RISC-V is the Western verizon of Loongson on the other hand,

Drone
Drone
14 days ago

@bkydcmpr said: “RISC-V is the Western verizon of Loongson on the other hand.”

“verizon” > “version”, unless maybe you have a Verizon branded mobile phone with an over-aggressive spell checker.

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