Chinese Railways Rename Stations with Cardinal Directions in Controversial Move

Bei Jing Xi Zhan Signpost

The Ministry of Railways has just issued an order which means that railway stations with a cardinal directions are supposed to be given new names in English. This means that instead of writing it out in full in English, north, east, south and west will now use all Pinyin: bei, dong, nan and xi, respectively. This means also that Beijing West station will in future be termed Beijingxi station.

The official rationale is that compass directions are supposed to form part of the station name, which is why, as we mentioned before, Beijing West Railway Station will in future be termed Beijingxi Railway Station. To some extents, the railways had been using this for all regular rail tickets and some announcements as well, and all direction signs on trains for regular rail trains use Pinyin, not English, for cardinal directions.

Yet the move is fraught with failure, because it mixes a non-English element and “force-considers” it English. It brings a new Chinglish element and is a failed, doomed, and confusing move. While we at Tracking China are fiercely opposed to this name change, in the interests of the ridership, we will have to eventually add, at a later stage, Pinyin to our station names for all articles on and after today (and we might be obliged in future to re-edit existing pages and add the Pinyin moniker), if only to ensure our international ridership is not lost on the rails in the world’s third largest country!

This site will only consider the “new names” as “Pinyin annotations” and will continue considering those with proper cardinal directions (such as the properly named Beijing West) as the true English name of stations. We are sorry to our readership for any confusion this may present you.

David Feng

David Feng — founder and publisher, Tracking China, a Street Level China website.

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