Beijing or Peking?

 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 It wasn’t just the bizarre insistence on using Wade-Giles romanisation (and weird, way out of date names like ‘Amoy’, which I believe refers to Xiamen), but quite a few things in it set the old bullshit detecters zinging.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.

About the Author


A Kiwi teaching English to oil workers in Beijing, studying Chinese in my spare time, married to a beautiful Beijing lass, consuming vast quantities of green tea (usually Xihu Longjing/西湖龙井, if that means anything to you), eating good food (except for when I cook), missing good Kiwi ale, breathing smog, generally living as best I can outside Godzone and having a good time of it.

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