Beijing or Peking?

March 23rd, 2007

 Update: I kind of regret posting that link now, having read the article. It wasn’t just the bizarre insistence on using Wade-Giles romanisation (and weird, way out of date names like ‘Amoy’, which I believe refers to Xiamen), but quite a few things in it set the old bullshit detecters zinging. I’ll explain later when I’m breakfasted and caffeinated.

Well, I don’t actually want to pose the question. I tell my students Beijing is Beijing; Peking is only used in an historic context. But I always wondered how Beijing got to be called Peking. I always put it down to some ridiculous old system of romanisation, like Wade-Giles or Yale, but now, via this post at Pinyin Info, I have an article which explains it all. Haven’t read it yet, I just downloaded it (bloody pdf files never cooperate with Firefox), but according to the summary at Pinyin Info, we got Peking through a combination of three factors:

  1. A plethora of romanisations
  2. A welter of local pronunciations, and
  3. Phonological change over time

Apparently that’s quoted from the original article. Anyway, follow the link to Pinyin Info to download the article, if you’re interested.

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