Lugang signs

My wife and I also recently traveled to Lugang (Lùgǎng / 鹿港 / often spelled “Lukang”). This is in Zhanghua (Changhua) County, not far from Taizhong. It makes a nice day trip from Taipei, especially if using the high-speed rail for transportation.

Despite this being the second photo-laden post in a row, I haven’t dropped my general love of low-bandwidth entries. These photos are in part evidence toward an important point that I think is getting overlooked in the discussions of how much it will cost Taiwan to change to Hanyu Pinyin: The signs in much of Taiwan remain inconsistent and something of a mess despite the at-best partially instituted change several years ago to Tongyong Pinyin. More on that in a later post.

Now for the signs.

Lugang, whose name means “deer harbor,” put deer signs atop some signposts.

Many of the signs in Lugang are in Tongyong Pinyin (e.g., Jhongshan and Mincyuan, for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Zhongshan and Minquan). Note that other signs are in English — or in Chinese characters with no romanization at all. (Note, too, that the two signs for Minquan Road (民權路) — one of which is partially covered — point in different directions!)

But Tongyong Pinyin certainly isn’t the only romanization system found there. Here, for example, we have Wade-Giles (“Longshan,” “Zhongshan”). (Note that there’s no romanization given for Sānmín Road / 三民路.)
Lungshan Temple, Jhongshan Road Old Street, 三民路, Folk Arts Museum

And here’s yet another romanization system on official signage within Lugang. In the photo below the top sign is in the rarely seen Gwoyeu Romatzyh: Cherng-Hwang Temple, which in Hanyu Pinyin is Chénghuáng (“city god”) Miào (城隍廟). The sign below that (“San-Shan Kuo-Wang”) is in Wade-Giles. And the two signs below that don’t have any romanization at all. None of these signs are likely very old.

About 150 years ago “bilingual” signage meant something very different in Taiwan than it does today. Back then it was Literary Sinitic and Manchu, as seen on this stela outside a temple in Lugang.

While in the Lugang Folk Arts Museum I spotted a photo from the Japanese era of a building with romanization. Note, too, the “Huang” (黃) at the top, which marks the ownership of the Huang family. Many buildings in Lugang bear that mark.

Here’s the whole building:

I didn’t notice that particular building while I was walking around the town. But I did see this one, with “CHIN” in large letters:

No less interesting are the letters, now largely effaced, near the top of the same building (click to enlarge). They were used to write something in Taiwanese.

After leaving Lugang, what should I see at the Taizhong high-speed rail station but InTerCaPiTaLiZation. That practice is a cancer on romanization everywhere.
exit sign at the Wuri (Taizhong) high-speed rail station, reading 'Bus to Taichung County, ChangHua, NanTou'

I feel a little guilty because much of Lugang — at least its historic section — is lovely and worth visiting. But here I’ve been showing you a bunch of signs. If you’d like to see what Lugang looks like beyond its signs, try parts one, two, and three of Craig Ferguson’s posts on his visit there.

interviews with Y.R. Chao

I’ve just stumbled across a book-length series of interviews with Y.R. Chao (Zhao Yuanren / Zhào Yuánrèn / 趙元任 / 赵元任). Even better: The complete text is available for free on the Web!

China Scholars Series: Chinese linguist, phonologist, composer and author, Yuen Ren Chao. An Interview Conducted by Rosemany Levenson, with an introduction by Mary Haas.

Wow. This is absolutely fabulous. The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, deserves praise for this. Other works of interest to readers of Pinyin News are also available; but more about those later, in separate posts.

In case any readers are not familiar with Chao (1892-1982), he was the finest linguist ever to come out of China. He was also a supporter of romanization; he was even the lead creator of an ingenious if somewhat complicated romanization system for Mandarin: Gwoyeu Romatzyh. But there’s no way a few short sentences could do justice to the depth and breadth of Chao’s learning. To get a better idea of the man, read the introduction to the work linked to above — and then read the rest!


Further reading: Y.R. Chao’s translation into Gwoyeu Romatzyh of the Humpty Dumpty section of Through the Looking-Glass, with Hanyu Pinyin and English