Cheat-Sheet of Shanghai Road Names

Claire Li wrote an interesting article on the translation of roads in Shanghai in That’s Shanghai.

If “Central Tibet Road” on the road sign is correct, why is “Xizang Road middle” also used for the same street?

Source: ref: page 11, That’s Shanghai Magazine, Nov 2004 Edition

He/she also mentioned that a committee of 26 experts has been formed. It is great.

If they have time, they should at least take a look at the typos in Metro Stations first. To get ready for an international city, more initiatives like this are needed.

Since the name roads have already been named inconsistantly, and the philosophy of this site is to help, not to complain, I am offering you this cheatsheet so you can still find your way in the complicated naming systems.

Variations of Road Names

Always take the first one or two words as the key element for that road. Than take the following translation:

Middle = Zhong = Central = M = C

East = Dong = E

West = Xi = W

South = Nan = S

North = Bei = N

Road = Lu = Rd *This is important

Station = Sta = St

Yi Lu = No. 1 = No. 1 Road = One Road

Er Lu = No. 2 = No. 2 Road = Two Road (example: East Zhong Shan Er Lu, Zhong Shan East Road No. 2, Zhong Shan Er Lu East all refer to the same road)

Road Names

The main part (the first one or two words) of the road names also varies from location to location. Remember the space between to words are optional (I don’t know the official suggestions). For example

  • Pudong Airport = Pu Dong Airport
  • Yan An Road = Yanan Road
  • Wu Lu Mu Qi South Road = South Wulumuqi Road = Wulumuqi Nan Road…

While most of the roads are translated to English using Pinyin, there are some English translation for some places and roads. For example, Xizang is translated as Tibet. So both appear. Renmin Square and People’s Square may be both used. Pay attention to this.

Learn Some Chinese

The easiest way to avoid the confusing translation is, to learn some Chinese and always read the road names as a Chinese does. No matter how confusing the English road names are, the Chinese name for the roads are unique. For example, just ask for Fu Xing Dong Lu (Fu Xing East Road, remember the translation formulas?) so local people can easily understand and help you.

Good luck and don’t get lost in the big Shanghai maze.

5 Comments

  1. thanks for this cheatsheet, JS! this is really helpful! :)

  2. While I applaud the government’s concern over misnamed and inconsistent names, creating a committee of 26 to tackle it scares the heck out of me. It’ll probably take 26 years for them to come to any conclusion.

  3. One of the most confusing things are that the east/middle/west (or north/south)designations seem rather arbitrary. It is not fixed at a specific meridian or longitude, like it is where I am from (US). So you can have a east section of a road that is directly parellel to a section that is called west.

    Another confusining aspect is the road naming convention. For example, there is one road that goes begins at an intersection, runs south, then diverts west, then turns south again and ends at another intersection. This is Huashan road. Ok if it is in the countryside, but not in the city.

    What I would (in the US) consider one street that roughly runs North/South has five different names. Wanhangdu. then Huashan, then Changshu, then Baoqing, then Hengshan. Makes life interesting…….

  4. Shanghai is an organic city. If you want gridlock, try Beijing. hehe

  5. Taxi drivers don’t get any meaning out of the english names, so learn the system quick, if you’re a long-term tourist.

    About Xizanglu – China officially do not want to use the Tibet name, as this was the country’s own name before the occupation in the 1950’s. So, they named it “Xizang” so everyone could forget it !

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