Taiwan’s Pinyin Road Progress: Signs Are a Changin’

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Driving around in Pinyin recently, we noticed that some names on highway and road signs have changed:

Pinyin Progress

Take a close look and you’ll see the entire name on the left has an overlay, and “Zhu” on the right is overlaid on the sign.

Pinyin Progress

But not just in that one spot – it seems that every sign we saw within a certain radius has been changed too.

Pinyin Progress

Pinyin Progress

“Zhudong” got a makeover too.

Pinyin Progress

Pinyin Progress

But on certain highways, the changes haven’t caught up yet.  In case you’re wondering, “Cyonglin” is the former spelling of the new “Qionglin” seen at the beginning of this article.

Pinyin Progress

Several words on these signs will eventually be changed.  The reason they are changing is because the government of Taiwan has adopted the standard Hanyu Pinyin for all place names in the country (back in 2002).  Now I’m all for standards, but personally I dislike Hanyu Pinyin because it’s hard to tell the actual pronunciation from the looks of the spelling – it’s not instinctive.  Hanyu Pinyin uses the English letter “Q” without the following (and necessary) “u” which violates the rules of English.  Another hair-brainer is the use of “X” for the “sh” sound.  So, instead of using the easy-reading “shiao” (for 小) they use “xiao” which also makes no sense in English.  One may as well learn BoPoMoFo.  I did 3 semesters of Chinese at NCTU in Hsinchu and I’m still not sure how to pronounce certain Hanyu Pinyin spellings.

Pinyin Progress

I do understand the need to adopt a standard, and I also understand the reason behind choosing Hanyu Pinyin.  I just think it gives a “PRC” feel to the island’s names.

Pinyin Progress

Now this just looks weird.  Take a look at the Chinese words in these 2 green signs.  You don’t have to read Chinese to be able to see that the second word in “Hsinchu” is the same as the first word in “Zhubei”  (竹 which means “bamboo”).  Eventually “Hsinchu” will become “Hsinzhu” if the standard is to be held.  Also, the second word “bei” in “Zhubei” (北 “north”) is the exact same word used in “Taipei” (台北) which means that someday Taipei will become “Taibei!”

Pinyin Progress

This is the worst example of Pinyin I have ever seen!  I have no idea what system this is, and it almost looks like Cantonese.

Pinyin Progress

This sign was shot across the street from the previous one and shows the correct Hanyu Pinyin rendering of 中山.

MJ Klein
Former field engineer MJ Klein now lives in Taiwan, and writes articles that primarily feature photographs of travels of MJ and wife Hui-chen, plus daily goings on in the bustling island nation of Taiwan, and other places in Asia. Articles feature people, culture, food, situations and sometimes the trials and tribulations of traveling in places such as China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos and of course Taiwan.
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