Newspaper article International New York Times

China's Had It with Imported Place Names

Newspaper article International New York Times

China's Had It with Imported Place Names

Article excerpt

A Chinese official said that names that "damage sovereignty and national dignity" would be targeted, a state news agency reported.

There is a Vancouver Forest in Beijing, a Thames Town in Shanghai and an Oriental Yosemite in Dalian, China.

China's suburbs have been filling up lately with housing developments whose names and architectural styles are meant to evoke the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, anywhere but China. And the authorities don't like it.

The minister of civil affairs, Li Liguo, said on Tuesday that "bizarre" names that "damage sovereignty and national dignity" or "violate the socialist core values and conventional morality" would be stamped out, the state news agency Xinhua reported.

And it is not just foreignness he objects to. The report quoted Mr. Li as saying that excessively grandiose or strange names for roads, bridges, buildings and residential compounds would also face scrutiny.

Housing developments have been the biggest generators of odd names. Beijing alone has a Chateau Regalia, a Rose and Ginkgo, Merlin Champagne Town, Le Leman Lake Villa, Beijing Riviera and International Wonderland.

Developers say the international flavor helps sell houses. On the outskirts of Beijing, the Jackson Hole resort community, known in Chinese as Hometown America, attracts residents dreaming of a "free and uncomplicated life."

Tides of embrace or rejection of foreign arts, styles and philosophies have ebbed and flowed through Chinese history. In recent years, officials have tried to push back against Western values in textbooks and English-language acronyms in television and radio broadcasts. …

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