Appreciating Chinese Place Names
Compass Directions   Physical Features
dong east   shan mountain
nan south   he river (broad/old)
xi 西 west   jiang river (canyons/young)
bei north   hu lake
zhong middle/central   hai sea


Associated with Taihang Shan 太 行 山   Associated with the central lakes:
Poyang Hu 鄱 阳 湖 and Dongting Hu 洞 庭 湖
Shandong 山 东 "east of the mountain"   Hubei 湖 北 "north of the lakes"
Shanxi 山 西 "west of the mountain"   Hunan 湖 南 "south of the lakes"
Associated with Huang He 黃 河: Yellow River or Hwang Ho   Associated with Chang Jiang 长 江:
Chang River, Yangzi or Yangtze River
Hebei 河 北 "north of the river"   Jiangsu 江 苏  
Henan 河 南 "south of the river"   Jiangxi 江 西  
        Zhejiang 浙 江  
Associated with rivers and clouds:
Sichuan 四 川

"four rivers" — Sichuan province is a basin with many rivers within it, including the Chang Jiang and several of its principal tributaries. The character chuan, like jiang and he means river but is not as commonly used. To some, the Chinese character for chuan resembles flowing water. Sichuan province is surrounded by high mountains, with the result that high humidity and cloud cover are common throughout the year. In the lowland areas, subtropical climatic conditions prevail.

  Yunnan 云 南 The Chinese name for Yunnan translates as "south of the clouds," a poetic name that also relates to the fact that the province is located to the south of cloudy Sichuan province. Yunnan province is made up of a plateau in the east and a rugged western section. It is an area known for its clear skies and moderate temperatures, climatic conditions that differ significantly from the hot and humid areas surrounding it.

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© 2009 Asia for Educators, Columbia University |