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Author: Qian Kan
  • Video
  • 5 minutes

Chinese at the tip of your tongue: East, west, south and north

Updated Wednesday, 23 August 2023
Place names in Chinese are often associated with their geographical locations. Can you guess the place names correctly?

Chinese at the tip of your tongue: East, west, south and north

Dr Qian Kan
In China, there are 22 provinces, four municipalities and five autonomous regions.  Many of the province and the city names are associated with either history or their location. 

Beijing literally means north capital.  It’s the capital of China and it was the capital for many dynasties.  Also, it is situated to the north of the Yangtze River.  Nanjing literally means south capital because it is situated to the south of the Yangtze River.  Also, it was the capital of six dynasties.

Another important historic city is Xi’an meaning west peace.  It is best known for Terracotta Army and also for being the capital of the first dynasty, Qin dynasty.  Its original name was Chang’an meaning forever peace.

Next to Beijing is Hebei province.  Hebei literally means rivers north because it is to the north of the Yellow River.  And to the south of the Yellow River is the province called Henan meaning rivers south.

Shandong province is the hometown of Xin Zhao Bia and also the hometown of Confucius.  Shandong means mountains east because it is to the east of Taihang Mountains.  To the west of the mountains there’s another province.  You probably would guess what that province is called.  Yes, it is called Shanxi meaning mountains west. 

From these place names, we can have a taste of history and also the importance of the geographic directions; east, west, south and north - Dong, xi, nan, bei.

Dur: 2’48”


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