BY ANY OTHER NAME:Xi’an’s Name Rectification Campaign

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Article by XIANEASE

In mid-June, the Xi’an Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau released a list of 115 properties with names they deemed “strange,” “confusing,” “hard to pronounce” and so on. The list was later revised to only include 98 properties. This process, roughly translated, is referred to as “name rectification,” an attempt to enact linguistic and cultural standards on naming things. The effect on your daily life should be minimal—the list is mostly comprised of apartment compounds and private businesses, with the only public place slated for change being Da Hua 1935—but barring any really convincing arguments that come from the public comment period (still active as of the time of writing), we’re probably going to see a lot of these places change their names. We thought that we would share a few of our favorites with you.

STRANGE AND CONFUSING NAMES

THE SMALL TOWN OF
WEILAND
Chinese name: 维兰德小镇
Pinyin: Wéi lán dé xiǎo zhèn

“Strange and confusing” is in the eye of the beholder, one would suppose. However, sometimes there are names so poorly conceived that they only get worse the more you analyze them.

While the “small town” part is easily parsed, the trouble is the “Wéi lán dé.” Individually, the characters mean “dimension,” “lan” and “de.” As far as our research could take us, there is no town or city anywhere else in the world called Weiland, and the only possible explanation we could come up with was that perhaps the proprietor was a big Stone Temple Pilots fan and named it for their late singer, Scott Weiland. That’s unlikely for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that nobody likes Stone Temple Pilots anymore.

“FOREIGN WORSHIPPING” NAMES

COURTYARD NO. 6
Chinese name: 6号大院
Pinyin: Liù hào dà yuàn

We would charitably assume that Courtyard No. 6 is a reference to its street address number, but apparently that’s not the case. Now we’re kind of worried about what happened to Courtyards 1 through 5.

The more sensational aspect of this story was the attention paid to the efforts to rectify “foreign worshipping” names. This phrase comes from a Chinese idiom cemented during the Qing Dynasty, accusing the dynasty of fawning over foreign things and persons at the cost of national sovereignty. These days it’s more likely a case of trying to borrow a certain cachet or kitsch for marketing purposes than it is property developers trying to sell out China, but all the same there are some pretty confounding results.

CHANG’AN CENTRAL SQUARE PHASE ONE
Chinese name: 长安中央广场一期
Pinyin: Cháng’ān zhōngyāng guǎngchǎng yī qí

Okay, so we can give these guys credit for one thing: technically, this place is in Chang’an. Otherwise it’s a damned mess. It’s not central to anything, not even Chang’an County, which means that more accurately it’s in the center of nowhere; it’s not a square it’s a shopping mall; and we can’t seem to find phases two or later. Was the person in charge of naming overambitious or just brain damaged? We’ll never know.

ROME SICILY COMMUNITY
Chinese name: 罗马西西里小区
Pinyin: Luómǎ xīxīlǐ xiǎoqū guǎngchǎng yī qí

Rome is not in Sicily. Sicily is not near Rome. A local Chinese was quoted in one of the articles we used for research as saying, “You can’t just put them together!” and now we can’t help but hear the pedantic exasperation in his voice. Well put, sir. You can’t just put them together. Also, now that the government has embarked on its campaign against organized crime, it’s probably inadvisable to name your property after the home of the Cosa Nostra.

ANYTHING WITH ‘SOHO’ IN THE NAME

There are a few places called Soho in the world, most famously in New York (South of Houston Street), Hong Kong (South of Hollywood Street) and London (the original, said to be named for a hunting cry). What the hell would a Soho in Xi’an even be describing, south of Houweizhai?

JIA FAMILY SPORT
COMMUNITY
Chinese name: 佳家SPORT小区
Pinyin: Jiā jiā SPORT xiǎoqū

We’ll end on this one, which just about gets a Stupid Crappy Name Bingo. Nonsense? Check. There is no such family with the surname 佳, nor is there anything particularly sporty about this rather typical neighborhood. “Foreign worshipping”? Check, if we consider a confusing and gratuitous use of English to qualify as such. Hard to pronounce? Check, because “sport” is not a Chinese word, which would by default make it difficult for Chinese people to pronounce. Oh, to have been in the room when they came up with this one. A shame none of us were—the most fascinating moments in history often go unrecorded. Congratulations, Jia Jia, on having the worst name in Xi’an.

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