What's in a Name?
Chinese Rivers, Cities, and Provinces

Back to Elementary-level Resources: China or China: 1000 BCE to 300 CE

Using only these translated forms and a physical/political map of China, find the meanings of the names of as many provinces, cities, and natural features as possible.


Beijing = Northern Capital

Nanjing = _______ Capital

Shanghai = ____________

Huanghe = Yellow _________

Hainan Island = ________ Sea Island


Provinces: What do the following provincial names mean?

Guangdong = ____________________ Hebei = ____________________
Jiangxi = _______________________ Henan = ____________________
Shandong = _____________________ Yunnan = ____________________
Shanxi = _______________________ Sichuan = ____________________


Note: Each number in brackets next to the pinyin transliterations below indicates the tone used to pronounce the word. For example, [1] indicates an even tone and [2] a rising tone. For more on the four tones, see The Chinese Language.

Pinyin (Wade-Giles) Meaning in English
zhong [1] (chung) middle
hai [3] (hai) sea
he [2] (ho) river/stream
jiang [1] (chiang) river/stream
chuan [1] (ch'uan) river/stream
hu [2] (hu) lake
huang [2] (hwang) yellow
jing [1] (king/ching) capital
guang [3] (kuang) wide/broad
gui [4] (kwei) honored
liao [2] (liao) distant
lin [2] (lin) woods
ling [3] (ling) range
nan [2] (nan) south
bei [3] (pei) north
ping [2] (p'ing) peace
ning [2] (ning) peace
an [1] (an) peace
po [1] (p'o) slope
sha [1] (sha) sand
shan [1] (shan) mountain
shang [4] (sheng) above/upon
shen [3] (shen) a surname
xi [1] (hsi) west
si [4] (sze/szu) four
tian [1] (t'ien) heaven
jin [1] (tsin/chin) ferry/ford
dong [1] (tung) east
yun [2] (yun) clouds
yang [2] (yang) sun

Note to the teacher: In some cases the above translations are approximations and are, as such, acceptable for the purposes of this exercise.

Acknowledgments: This unit was prepared by the China in Schools Program,
Center for War and Peace Studies, University of Denver, Colorado.

Back to Elementary-level Resources: China or China: 1000 BCE to 300 CE