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Chinese postal romanization

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Title: Chinese postal romanization  
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Subject: Zhenjiang, Bao'an County, Beihai, Yazhou District, History of the administrative divisions of China (1912–49)
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Chinese postal romanization

Chinese postal map romanization (Chinese: 郵政式拼音; pinyin: Yóuzhèngshì Pīnyīn; Wade–Giles: Yu2-cheng4-shih4 P'in1-yin1) was the system of romanization of Chinese place names which came into use in the late Qing dynasty and was officially sanctioned by the Imperial Postal Joint-Session Conference (帝國郵電聯席會議) held in Shanghai in the spring of 1906. This system of romanization was retained after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912 and since it was in use in the official postal atlas of the Republic of China (ROC), it remained the most common way of rendering Chinese place names in the West (by cartographers for example) for a large part of the twentieth century.

Following the establishment of the ISO, the system has gradually been replaced by pinyin for Han Chinese location names and SASM/GNC romanization for ethnic minority language location names, which is now almost universally accepted.[1]

The system was based on Wade–Giles for postal purposes, especially for placenames in the official postal atlas, letters and stamps. It uses some already common European names of Chinese places that override the Wade–Giles system, and incorporates some dialectal and historical pronunciations.

Main differences from Wade–Giles include:

  • Complete lack of diacritic and accent marks.
  • Chi, ch'i, and hsi (pinyin ji, qi, and xi) are represented as either tsi, tsi, and si or ki, ki, and hi depending on historic pronunciation, e.g.,
    • Changkiang (Wade-Giles: Ch'ang-chiang, pinyin: Changjiang. The name "Yangtze" is not the same word at all.)
    • Chungking (Ch'ung-ch'ing, Chongqing)
    • Peking (Pei-ching, Beijing)
    • Tientsin (T'ien-chin, Tianjin)
    • Tsinan (Chi-nan, Jinan)
  • Unless it is the sole vowel in the syllable, the Wade–Giles u becomes w, e.g.,
  • Guangdong (Kwangtung), Guangxi (Kwangsi), and Fujian (Fukien) placenames are romanized from the local dialects, such as Hakka, Cantonese, and Min (systems also obtained from Giles' A Chinese-English Dictionary).
  • Popular pre-existing (from 19th century or earlier) European names for places in China are retained, such as those of the treaty ports.

Other orthographic peculiarities include:

  • hs- becomes sh- or -s, e.g., Kishien (from Chi-hsien)
  • (schwa) and -ei both become -eh, e.g., Chengteh (from Ch'eng-te) and Pehkiao (from Pei-ch'iao). occasionally also can be -e or -ei.
  • final u sometimes become -uh, e.g., Wensuh (from Wen-su)

See also


  • China postal album: showing the postal establishments and postal routes in each province. 2nd ed. Peking: Directorate General of Posts, 1919.
  • China postal album: showing the postal establishments and postal routes in each province. 3rd ed. Nanking: Directorate General of Posts, 1936.
  • Playfair, G. M. H. The Cities and Towns of China: A Geographical Dictionary. 2nd. ed. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Ltd., 1910.
  • Harris, Lane. "A 'Lasting Boon to All': A Note on the Postal Romanization of Place Names, 1896–1949." Twentieth Century China 34, no. 1 (2008): 96–109 [1].
  • "Yóuzhèng shì pīnyīn" (邮政式拼音) Zhōngguó dà bǎikē quánshū: Yuyán wénzì (中国大百科全书:语言文字). Beijing: Zhōngguó dà bǎikē quánshū chūbǎnshè (中国大百科全书出版社), 1998.
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