Chinese postal romanization

Postal romanization[1] was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the corresponding postal romanization was the most common English-language form of the city's name from the 1890s until the 1980s, when postal romanization was replaced by pinyin.

Postal romanization
郵政式拼音, 邮政式拼音
Script type romanization
Time period
1892–1982
LanguagesChinese
Postal romanization was preceded by the d'Anville map (view) and followed by Hanyu Pinyin.
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Chinese postal romanization
A map of China with romanizations published in 1947
Traditional Chinese郵政式拼音
Simplified Chinese邮政式拼音
Literal meaningPostal-style romanization system

In 1892, Herbert Giles created a romanization system called Nanking syllabary. The Imperial Maritime Customs Post Office would cancel postage with a stamp that gave the city of origin in Latin letters, often romanized using Giles's system. In 1896, the Customs Post was combined with other postal services and renamed the Chinese Imperial Post. As a national agency, the Imperial Post was an authority on Chinese place names.[2]

When the Wade–Giles system of romanization became widespread, some argued that the post office should adopt it. This idea was rejected at a conference held in 1906 in Shanghai. Instead, the conference formally adopted Nanking syllabary.[3] This decision allowed the post office to continue to use various romanizations that it had already selected. Wade-Giles romanization is based on the Beijing dialect, a pronunciation standard since the 1850s. The use of Nanking syllabary did not suggest that the post office considered Nanjing pronunciation to be standard. Rather, it was an attempt to accommodate a variety of Mandarin pronunciations with a single romanization system.


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