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Place names in China



Paul Simon writes: "The old spellings of Chengdu, Chongqing, and Kunming are:

Chengtu, Chungking, and (sometimes) Kunning.
The spelling I used is Pinyin and very closely matches the pronunciation; it is standard spelling. The State depatment uses the Pinyin standard. If the military doesn't and is using old stuff like Peking, Canton, Amoy, etc. they'd better not stop and ask directions to anyone, because no Chinese person would recognize those odd old Romanizations! Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan (old spelling Szechuan)
Kunming is the capital of Yunnan
Chongqing, since 1991 has been a self-administered city-province like Shanghai, Tianjin, and Beijing".

My lament: It is difficult for editors to keep their sanity because apparently the US government and others involved cannot get their act together. I have the gazetteer approved by the Defense Mapping Agency, which apparently has been entrusted with the job. For example, it says (or said, since there may be revisions):
Peking Municipality (conventional), Pei-ching Shih (Chinese)

I have sent the Board this message: "WAIS is a worldwide network of specialists in international affairs. We are confused by the variety of US spellings of place names in countries like China. The massive (2813 pp) Government Phone Book in its 2002 edition (p.174) says of your office that it "is currently undergoing a reorganization. Further information was unavailable at the time of publication". Can you provide more information now? The US Board on Geographic Names once included representatives of State, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Government Printing Office, Library of Congress, Defense, Postal Service, and CIA. It was under Interior, but somehow it was controlled by Defense. Could you please tell us if the reorganization is complete? There seems to be no agreement within the government about the spelling of foreign place names, not to mention organizations like the National Geographic Society and other English-speaking countries. This confusion is potentially dangerous, since in dealing with countries like China, it should be clear what places we are talking about. Any clarification you can send us would be greatly appreciated".

I will inform you if and when I receive a reply.

Ronald Hilton - 1/13/02


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