Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

NOTES ON CHINESE NAMES

The new Pinyin system of romanization of Chinese words is used throughout this book, with the exception of certain personal names and place-names familiar in the West only in dialect form or in a non-Chinese form; in these cases, on the first occurrence of the name, the familiar form will be given first and will be followed by the Pinyin form in parentheses: e.g., Chiang Kaishek ( Jiang Jieshi). Both forms are listed in the index.

The Pinyin system of spelling corresponds more closely than the old system to the phonetic expectations of English-speaking readers: for example, in the previous Wade- Giles system pan indicated the sound ban and the sound pan had to be represented by p'an. In Pinyin, pan is pan and ban is ban.

There are, however, three initial consonants which are not pronounced as they would be in English. (i) q is pronounced ch, as in chair; (ii) c is pronounced ts, as in outside; and (iii) x is pronounced sh, as in she, but is more sibilant (between she and see).

There are very few different surnames in China, and the fact that the Chinese language depends so much on tones (not indicated in Pinyin) increases the number of apparent homophones and near homophones. The reader is advised to think of each Chinese name as a single word: for example, to think of Wu Peifu as Wupeifu; this reduces the potential confusion.

The strict Pinyin orthography has been altered in two ways: first, by omitting the umlaut which occurs in some syllables but which makes little difference to pronunciation; second, by inserting an apostrophe between the syllables of a word whose composition is ambiguous in Pinyin (for example, the town of Xian -- pro- nounced She-ann -- could equally well be pronounced misleadingly as a single syllable, and it is therefore written as Xi'an).

Two Chinese provinces have names which, in the absence of tonal differentiation, are the same: shanxi. In Pinyin, therefore, an exception is made in order to distinguish them as Shanxi and Shaanxi (formerly distinguished in the old international post- office romanization as Shansi and Shensi).

There are three further possible sources of confusion over place-names; they are not the result of problems of translation but it is convenient to note them here: (1) During the republican period the old banner lands of Inner Mongolia were divided into three new provinces, Suiyuan, Chahar, and Jehol (Reher). These were abolished when the Chinese People's Republic was founded, and Inner Mongolia was redivided into autonomous Mongol administrations. (2) Under the Empire the province sur- rounding Beijing was called Zhili, which means 'directly subordinate', the area being ruled from the capital. When the Nationalist" Republic moved the capital to Nanjing in 1927, Zhili was renamed Hebei. (3) The name Wuhan is an abbreviation of the names of the three cities of the conurbation which straddles the middle Yangzi: Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang. Wuhan is used here except in contexts in which it is necessary to be specific as to which city is in question.

-lxvii-

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