Comments on the LC's Proposal of Changing Forms of Heading for Chinese Place Names

CEAL Committee on Chinese Materials

The Committee on Chinese Materials of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) took a charge from the CEAL Executive Committee to review a draft of the Library of Congress (LC) proposal on changing forms of headings for Chinese place names in accordance with the LC's deliberation on changing its romanization system from Wade-Giles to pinyin. The following text is a summary of individual members' comments and reactions as well as limited e-mail discussions within the time frame given. The text attempts to present a consensual view of the Committee whenever applicable. However, different opinions are registered if they were explicitly expressed.

In general, the Committee recognizes two underline principles that the proposal should follow:

  1. Fully respect to and comply as much as possible with the official standards of the three territories, namely mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

  2. Promoting consistency and explicitness. Avoid as much as possible any inconsistency and ambiguity.

A. Comments related to Principle 1

Based upon these principles, we generally agree with the LC's proposal of using the BGN's forms for place names in China (including Hong Kong) and Taiwan, since the BGN's forms basically go alone with the native official or de facto standard. However, we would like to make following suggestions for changes and modifications.

  1. Eliminate the hyphenation for place names in Taiwan.

    Note: There is a different opinion on the issue that argues the elimination might be confusing since hyphenation has always been popular for Wade-Giles system when used for place names.

  2. Follow "Shaoshu mizuyu diming hanyu pinyin zimu yinyi zhuanxiefa" for Tibet names. Zhuanxiefa is the mainland China standard for romanizing place names in non-han languages.

    Note: We noticed that sampled place names in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu in the LC's proposal went along with Zhuanxiefa.

  3. Add province (including Hong Kong) as part of the qualifier for place names in China, so headings will be explicit to both catalogers and end users. Due to large number of homophones in Chinese language, especially when tone is eliminated, it is necessary to add province as part of the qualifier in order to reduce the degree of ambiguity in identifying a place.

    Note: There is a different opinion that such a practice will drift away from rules for geographic names of AACR IIR, which denote "the name of an appropriate smaller place before the name of the larger place for distinguishing between otherwise identical place names."

  4. Be consistent in administrative unit indicators. We suggest adding administrative unit indicators to all levels of place names (e.g., sheng, diqu, meng, shi, xian, qi, zhen, xiang, and cun etc.). We also suggest using romanized Chinese rather than English for these indicators. Again, for places in Taiwan, Wade-Giles should be used for romanization of these indicators.

    Note: In the Lc's proposal, both Chinese (e.g., sheng, xian) and English (e.g., district, village) were used for various administrative unit names.

    Note 2: There is a different opinion that English designations should be used consistently for all administrative unit indicators for the convenience of non-Chinese library users.

B. Comments on Principle 2

We suggest LC to take out the number 2 principle from the proposal since using whatever romanized form found on the item being cataloged will cause inconsistency.

Note: Principle 3 could sufficiently cover the situations that Principle 2 intends to cover.

C. Comments on Principle 3

We suggest Principle 3 be modified to "if no approved BGN form is found, use pinyin or Shaoshu mizuyu diming hanyu pinyin zimu yinyi zhuanxiefa for place names in mainland China and Wade-Giles for place names in Taiwan. For place manes in Hong Kong, follow the forms given in "Hong Kong Guide: Street and Places, 4th ed., Hong Kong: Survey and Mapping Office, Lands Department, 1996."

Note: This way, it will be consistent with the practice of the BGN for place names in these three territories.

Note 2: Although Wade-Giles is not necessarily the official romanization system in Taiwan, it has been by in large the de facto system used there for romanizing place names. We would like to urge LC to further investigate the issue of standard system or reference source for romanization of place names in Taiwan.

Note 3: Since the proposed change under review will not be implemented until at least after year 2000, the implementation must reflect official changes/update by that date, if any, on the systems/standards recommended above.

D. Miscellaneous Comments and Suggestions

  1. It was recommended of changing "Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous [region]" to "Guangxi Zhuang Zizhiqu" and "Ningsia Hui autonomous region" to "Ningxia Hui Zizhiqu". The standard romanization for these two regions should be "Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu" and "Ningxia Huizu Zizhiqu". In other words, the character "zu" was missing from the recommended forms.

    Note: For "Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu," the recommended form goes along with the Chinese standard (i.e., it does not need "zu" there.)

  2. We suggest using "Nei Mongol Zizhiqu" rather than "Inner Mongolia" to comply with the Chinese standard usage and to be consistent with the proposed changes for other place names in that province.

  3. "Tianzhu Zangzu Zizhixian" (under Tibet in the proposal) should be listed under Gansu Sheng.

  4. "Zamtang Xian" (under Tibet in the proposal) should be listed under Sichuan Sheng.

  5. Under "Inner Mongolia (china)", a typo was found in the first entry. "lianeqi" should be spelled "Lianheqi".

  6. Under "Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu", we suggest using "Barkol Kazak Zizhixian" for "Barkol" to comply with the Chinese standard usage and to be consistent with the proposed changes for other place names in that province.

Prepared by Yuan Zhou, University of Minnesota,

The Committee wish to acknowledge the contributions from Tai-loi Ma, Yu-Lan Chou (UC Berkeley), and Ju-yen Teng (University of Washington) to this text. Questions regarding this document should address to all CCM members:

Yeem-Mei Wu, Chair,
Jean Han,
Thomas Hahn,
Teresa Chang,
Yuan Zhou,

Originally posted on eastlib and LIB-CHINESE on May 25, 1998. With the Committee's permission, it is republished in CLIEJ.