Basic Geographic Knowledge about China – Part II

Previous entry: Basic Geographic Knowledge about China

Directions and Provinces

东 Dong (Dong1) means east

西 Xi (Xi1) means west

南 Nan (Nan2) means south

北 Bei (Bei3) means north

As Jens Leo Malmqvist already found out, knowing it will help a lot to understand the Chinese province names.

There is Shan Dong and Shan Xi (Shan means the Mountain).

There is He Nan and He Bei (He means the river – The Yellow River)

There is Hu Nan and Hu Bei (Hu means the lake, or the Dong Ting Lake)

There is Guang Xi and Guang Dong. Guang may refer to that area, south China.

There is Xi Zhang (or Tibet), which means it is west most part of the country….

Regarding Cities, the most famous city Beijing means the north capital. Jing means capital. There is another city called Nanjing, which is also an capital. Tokyo is called Dongjing. Xian in the Shaanxi province implies the city is in the west…

Interesting, isn’t it? I agree that Chinese langauge is easier to learn than English – just put two word (very simple word, like Xi, Bei, Nan, Dong) together and there is a meaning.


Bigbro‘s useful comment:

Kaili’s point about north-east and south-east reminds us that it is probably much useful to introduce the “big-regions” that Chinese conventionally refer to. Furthermore, it is informative, to the Americans anyway (not to Kaili), to relate locations of Chinese cities to locations of American ones, as China and US are geographically somewhat similar. For example, China has a Northeast (Dong Bei) region, referring to Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces, including cities of Shenyang and Dalian. It’s location relative to the rest of China is that of New England relative to the rest of US. China’s Southeast (Dong Nan) region is similar to US’s south. Guangzhou (Canton), Shengshen, Hong Kong, Fushou, Xiamen, Quilin, Kunming are in this region. China has a Northwest (Xi Bei) that covers a larger area than does the US northwest. It has five provinces: Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Xian, Dunhuang, Lanzhou are in this region. China has a vast Southwest where Sichuan and Tibet are, so does the US but Texas is part of the South. China has Central (Hua Zhong) and North (Hua Bei), the US has a Midwest. And then there is the east coast (Hua Dong).

It is true. Xinjiang, Xizang, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia…. the latitude of these provinces are two high so the population density is too low. So we call Sichuan the Southwest China, aalthough it is geographically located in the central south.

Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning – these three provinces on the north-east part of China are called Northeast in general. The region shares the same ascent.

Suggested Places to Visit

Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are the three major cities. You have to visit Beijing. You are suggested to visit Shanghai if you want to experience the modern China more clearly. Xi’an is a typical Chinese old city. Guilin is beautiful. The most beautiful area in China are in the southeast and Xinjiang (for example, Daocheng and Kanas)

By the way, do you know that the old Chinese map are drawn with south at the top and north at the bottom? We call compass Zhi-Nan-Zhen. In Beijing’s Forbidden city, the west door is called Right Door and the east door is called Left Door, which shows us vividly who the old Chinese map were drawn.

8 thoughts on “Basic Geographic Knowledge about China – Part II

  1. Mr. Wang

    From Shanghai to Xi’an by train, how long does it take? Is Nanjian on the way to Xi’an? Please revert!


  2. “hu” in “Hu Nan” & “Hu Bei” means “Dong Ting Lake”, not “Po Yang Lake”

  3. “The most beautiful area in China are in the southeast and Xinjiang (for example, Daocheng and Kanas)”

    Is that right: southeast? That would be Fujian province. Don’t you mean southwest, like Yunnan and GuangXi?

    I personally really like Hainan Dao.

  4. Do Tibet (XiZang) count as REAL China nowadays ?? (not outside China, but…)

    If so, it must be the most western part of China.

    If not, it must be Yunnan Province, I guess…

  5. There are several “pairs” of province names: Guang-xi, Guang-dong; Hu-nan, Hu-bei; He-nan, He-bei; Shan-dong, Shan-xi. There are also provinces that do not have a counterpart to pair with: Jiang-xi, Shaan-xi, Yun-Nan, and Xi-zang.

    Notice, Shaanxi is the only province name that does not strictly follow the Pin-Yin convention. There two provinces by the name of Shan3 Xi1 and Shan1 Xi1. To distinguish them for the foreigners, the former is called Shaanxi by adding an extra “a” in the first word.

    There are the north capital Beijing and the south capital Nanjing, so there must also be a west and an east capital. Well Xian was the Xijing whereas both Luoyang and Kaifeng were at one time or another considered the east capital—Luoyang was called the Dongdu and Kaifeng was called Bianjing or the Dongjing Bianliang. Hongzhou once served as an east capital though it may not have been call that. Because it was a capital, the people there spoke the official Mandarin instead of Shanghaines which is spoken in all areas surrounding Hongzhou.

  6. Xi Zhang means Flat West, a reference to the fact the area is located in Western China on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on Earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *