Friday, May 14, 2021

Etymology of Chinese provinces' names

 link + comment from forum

As a native Chinese there are several (minor) mistakes I found.

  1. The word “Zhou” is usually translated to prefectures, not states or regions (Guizhou and Gansu), unless it refers to states in a federal country like the US.

  2. Although the word “川” means river in most contexts, it is not the case in the etymology of Sichuan. Sichuan is an abbreviation of “Chuanxia si lu/川峡四路”, (lit. the four circuits of plain and gorge) that merged to form the province. The four circuits themselves were part of a larger “Chuanxia lu/川峡路”(lit. the plain and gorge circuit) before it split in four. The “Chuanxia circuit” was itself a merger of Xichuan circuit (西川路 (lit. Western plain circuit, centered around Chengdu) and Xia circuit (峡路, lit. Gorge circuit, referring to the famous Three Gorges of Yangtze River).

  3. The Chinese name for Tibet, Xizang, is the transliteration of the Tibetan region of Ü-Tsang (although the modern-day Tibet AR extends beyond that particular region). The Ü-Tsang includes modern day Lhasa and Shigaze.

  4. The “廣”/Guang in Guangdong and Guangxi doesn’t mean wide, but Grand. The name of the two sister provinces are abbreviations of Guangnan East/West circuit/廣南東/西路. The “Guang” here refers to the Han Dynasty county of Guangxin (廣信, which is an abbreviation of the phrase 廣布恩信, lit. Grand propagation of virtue).

  5. The Yun/雲 within Yunnan derived from the Han Dynasty county of the same name. Where the county received its name is disputed.

  6. There aren’t errors in this part per se, just some additional contexts: Jiangxi is an abbreviation of Song Dynasty’s Jiangnan West Circuit. Jiangnan means to the south of Yangtze. Hubei and Hunan are abbreviations of Jinghu North/South circuits. The Jinghu region includes but is greater than just the lake.

If you noticed, there are a lot of abbreviations of circuits (Song/Liao/Jin/Western Xia Dynasty administrative division) in Chinese province names. That’s because provinces first appeared after the Mongol conquest.

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