Why ‘Beijing’ was spelled ‘Peking’

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released one of its popular back issues as a free PDF. This one, no. 19 (June 1990), deals with the common question of What’s up with that “Peking” spelling, anyway?

As Bosat Man explains in “Backhill / Peking / Beijing”:

The three main contributing factors to the discrepancy between Peking and Beijing are:

  1. a plethora of romanizations
  2. a welter of local pronunciations, and
  3. phonological change over time.

He then goes into detail, especially about the third point. The whole work is just six pages, single spaced. Here it is: “Backhill / Peking / Beijing” (1 MB PDF).

3 thoughts on “Why ‘Beijing’ was spelled ‘Peking’

  1. I also find it interesting that this phenomenon isn’t restricted to languages that use roman characters. Beijing is written as ???, or “Pekin” in Japanese.

  2. That article is definitely a good read, but you have to keep your dictionary handy to figure out some things that the author is trying to say. I believe a similar discussion could be made around the naming of Harbin (???). Why don’t we refer to Harbin as Haierbin, which is the pinyin for ????

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