Tainan County signage

I recently spent a few days in Tainan County and, as is my habit, paid special attention to the signage.

Although the signage in the city of Tainan is primarily — or perhaps now exclusively — in Tongyong Pinyin (which is now supposed to be changed to Hanyu Pinyin), the situation in the remainder of Tainan County is not so clear-cut. Basically, from what I saw most Tainan County towns do not have street signs in Tongyong. Indeed, many of them don’t have street signs in any romanization system whatsoever.

In some small towns there are some local signs in Tongyong. For example, the following three:


That one’s OK, as Tongyong goes. But as for the next two address plates, is it really too much to ask that the people who make signs learn what a baseline is and what it’s for, that sizes of letters should not be altered on a whim, and that amateurish font faces are not to be used?

Jhongsiao Rd.

Pingdeng St.

(Note the “Pingdeng” spelling above. It’s relevant to the next example.)

OK, so those were in Tongyong Pinyin. But two signs about one block from where the previous shot was taken reveal more of the picture of local signage in Tainan County.

Tongyong most certainly is not the only romanization found in Tainan County.
described below

Together on one pole we have “JIA DUNG RD. / 佳東路” and “Piandeng St. / 平等街”. “Jiadung” is MPS2 for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Jiādōng (Jiadong), while “Piandeng” is a typo (presumably from Tongong, as this is a newer sign that doesn’t match the style used on other MPS2-era signs in the area) for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Píngděng (Pingdeng). It would be spelled Pingdeng in Tongyong Pinyin as well, as can be seen above.

And some signs have no romanization whatsoever and should have been put out of their misery a long time ago.

But all sorts of old things can occasionally be found on the streets of Tainan County.
photo of man riding in a cart pulled down a Tainan County city street by a cow

Taizhong street signs are ‘wushasha’

This isn’t much of a story, really. But since it talks, however vaguely, about the messy romanization situation in Taizhong and since I haven’t put up anything lately in Pinyin itself, I decided to go ahead and post it.

Just don’t expect any useful news herein, unless you’d be surprised to hear that Taizhong’s street signs are a mess.

Táizhōng Shì lùpái suǒ shǐyòng de Yīngwén pīnyīn qiānqíbǎiguài, pīnyīnfǎ jìyǒu Tōngyòng, Hànyǔ, zhùyīn fúhào dì-èrshì, Wēituǒmǎ pīnyīn, děng, jiù yǒu mínzhòng xiàng běnbào bào liào, zhǐchēng zhèxiē lùpái ràngrén kàn de “wùshàsha,” wàiguó guānguāngkè gèng zhǐnéng gān dèngyǎn.

Yǐ Táizhōng Shì nánqū Wǔ-quán Nánlù [i.e, “the Five Branches of Government South Road”] de xīn-jiù lùpái láishuō, jiù yǒu lùpái shì cǎiyòng Wēituǒmǎ pīnyīn, yīncǐ “權” zì shǐyòng chuan, ér gānggāng wángōng de xīnshì lùpái “權” zì zéshì shǐyòng cyuan, shìwéi Tōngyòng Pīnyīn, rán’ér xiànzài Táizhōng Shìzhèngfǔ zǎoyǐ quánmiàn gǎiyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, “權” zì yīnggāi shì quan cái zhèngquè.

Lìngwài, zài nánqū xīng dàlù de lùpái, jiù yǒu lùpái “興” zì de pīnyīn wéi hsing, shì shǐyòng Wēituǒmǎ pīnyīn, rìqián gāi lùduàn yě gēnghuàn xīnshì lùpái shàng, shìyǐ Hànyǔ Pīnyīn jiāng “興” zì pīnyīn wéi xing, dàn liǎng ge lùpái dōu xuánguà zài lùkǒu, ràngrén kàn de “wùshàsha.”

Zhēnduì Táizhōng Shì lùpái suǒ shǐyòng Yīngwén pīnyīn gèzì bùtóng de qíngkuàng, Táizhōng Shìzhèngfǔ Jiāotōngchù jiāotōng guīhuà kē biǎoshì, zài gègè niándài suǒ xīngjiàn de lùpái shǐyòng bùtóng de pīnyīn fāngshì, cái huì zàochéng xiànjīn hùnluàn de qíngkuàng, mùqián Táizhōng Shì yǐjing quánmiàn cǎiyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, wèile jiějué cǐ yī wèntí, yóu Táizhōng Shìzhèngfǔ dūshì fāzhǎn chǔyǐ “chéng-xiāng xīnfēngmào” de jīngfèi, jìnxíng tǒngyī lùpái pīnyīn de gōngzuò. Zài Wǔ-quán Nánlù de xīn lùpái fāngmiàn, yuánběn yīnggāi shǐyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, dàn chéngbāoshāng què fāshēng cuòwù, mùqián yǐjing yāoqiú gǎijìn; zhìyú zài xīng dàlù fāngmiàn, yě huì yāoqiú chéngbāo yèzhě jiāyǐ gǎizhèng.

source: Lù míng pīnyīn luànzāozāo — kàn dé rén wùshàsha (路名拼音亂糟糟 看得人霧煞煞), Zìyóu Shíbào (Liberty Times), March 21, 2009

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.

Penghu street signs

My wife and I recently spent a weekend in Penghu, a beautiful, stark archipelago between the main island of Taiwan and China.

Since Penghu is under KMT rule, I expected to find street signs in Magong, the capital, in some old system (e.g., MPS2 or perhaps bastardized Wade-Giles) or perhaps even Hanyu Pinyin. (Highway signs, however, are a different matter. They’re put up by the central government, which means that relatively recent ones are in Tongyong Pinyin, regardless of which party might control the area.)

This first street sign, however, is unmistakably in Tongyong Pinyin, giving “Wunsyue” (for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be “Wenxue”).
street sign reading 'Wunsyue Rd.' (Wenxue Road)

But I looked around some more and saw signs in Hanyu Pinyin, such as “Huimin” for what in Tongyong would be “Hueimin” and “Hui[‘]an” for what in Tongyong would be “Huei[-]an.”
street sign reading 'Huimin Road'

street sign reading 'Huian first Road'

So were there some signs in Hanyu Pinyin after all? Apparently only coincidentally. The previous two hui signs were probably just a mistake, the result of Taiwan’s standard, sloppy chabuduo jiu keyi approach to signage. Here’s a sign on the same street as above; but in this case “惠” is romanized huei and not hui. (And “first” is missing, from both the Hanzi and romanization.)
street sign reading 'Hueian Rd.'

Most signs were in Tongyong, such as these. (Note that Penghu, too, has a Hot Milk Road.)
street signs: 'Jhongjheng Road' (Zhongzheng Road) and 'Renai Road' (Ren'ai Road)

So, Tongyong after all. Well, at least they don’t have InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion … or do they?
street signs reading 'JhongShan Rd.' -- note InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion -- (Zhongshan Road) and 'Jhongjheng Rd.' (Zhongzheng Road) -- no intercapping

Fortunately, that sign was a one-off. I didn’t spot InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion elsewhere. Here’s another sign from the same road:
street sign reading 'Jhongshan Rd.' (Zhongshan Road)

So, in short, Penghu’s street signs are in Tongyong Pinyin — but with plenty of mistakes and inconsistencies (e.g., missing apostrophes/hyphens, “first” rather than “1st”, and both “Road” and “Rd.”). It’s especially ridiculous that the KMT-administered Penghu bothered with Tongyong, especially since it was free to adopt Hanyu Pinyin. Now it’s going to have to change its signs over to Hanyu Pinyin. But some of the signs would need to be updated anyway, since many already show signs of age, with letters missing. (My guess is that Penghu put up such low-quality signs that in the annual windy season some of the letters just get blown away.)

Here’s a sign in little danger of having its writing blow away any time soon. This is what a much older Magong street sign looks like. Note that it must be read from right to left: 復國路 (Fuguo Road — “Recover Atlantis the Lost Country Road”).
old concrete street sign reading, right to left, '復國路' (Fuguo Road)

Finally, here’s something that isn’t a street sign at all. But it is nonetheless a sign of historic importance, since it’s a stela that commemorates the Ming Chinese official Shen Yourong telling the red-haired barbarians (i.e., Westerners — in this case, the Dutch) to get the hell out of Penghu. (The Dutch were told they could instead go to Taiwan, since back then China didn’t care about it in the least.) The composite photo shows both the 400-year-old stone original and a modern reproduction in wood.

photos of the original stone stela and a modern reproduction in wood

The text reads “Shěn Yǒuróng yù tuì hóngmáo fān[zi] Wéimálàng děng” (「沈有容諭退紅毛番韋麻郎等」): “Shen Yourong orders the red-haired foreigners under [Dutch commander] Wybrand van Warwijck to withdraw.”

Gaoxiong education chief backs city retaining Tongyong

The news on Taiwan’s romanization situation has been coming in fast over the past few days. Unfortunately I’ve been too busy to report much on this. But rest assured that I am trying to get some things done behind the scenes … for all the good that will do given Taiwan’s piss-poor record on this issue. Still, I’m trying to remain hopeful.

Last week the deputy chief of Gaoxiong’s (Kaohsiung’s) Bureau of Education said that he was in favor of the city adopting the international system for romanizing Mandarin, Hanyu Pinyin. But on Friday his boss, Cài Qīnghuá, slapped down that idea.

Cai said that almost no schools reported problems with Tongyong Pinyin. I have no idea what that has to do with anything. But that was part of his justification for backing Tongyong.

He also said it would cost too much money to change, throwing out a reportedly conservative estimate of NT$900 million (US$28 million), which I think is likely a gross overestimate.

Here’s the story:

Gāoxióng shìzhèngfǔ dàodǐ zhī bù zhīchí Hànyǔ Pīnyīn? Gāoxióng Shì Jiàoyùjú zhǎng Cài Qīnghuá zuótiān biǎoshì, quán shì yī sì wǔ suǒ huíbào xuéxiào zhōng, zhǐyǒu sì suǒ tíjí Tōngyòng Pīnyīn shǐyòng de wèntí, juédàduōshù xuéxiào bìngwú yìjian, Gāoxióng shìzhèngfǔ jiù “zhǔguǎn dānwèi zài yèwù tuīdòng shàng, shì-fǒu yǒu xūyào xiézhù shìxiàng” wèntí shí, huífù “pīnyīn zhèngcè xū yǔ guójì jiēguǐ, jiànyì cǎiyòng guójì jiān duōshù shǐyòng de pīnyīn xìtǒng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn.” Shì Jiàoyùjú zhǔ mì de yìjian, tā méi zhùyìdào.

Cài Qīnghuá shuō, mùqián háishi zhǔzhāng yányòng Tōngyòng Pīnyīn, fǒuzé gēnggǎi Gāoxióng Shì guāngshì lùbiāo, dìbiāo, biāozhì děng, bǎoshǒu gūjì jiù xū huāfei yīdiǎn jiǔyì yuán.

source: Gāoxióng Shì Jiàoyùjú zhǎng zhǔzhāng: yányòng Tōngyòng Pīnyīn (高市教育局長 主張沿用通用拼音), Zìyóu Shíbào (Liberty Times), September 20, 2008

Taiwan to adopt Hanyu Pinyin!

I don’t have time to write a proper post on this now. But the big news is that Taiwan will adopt Hanyu Pinyin, with Tongyong Pinyin left to wither away.

Here’s the story: Zhōngwén yìyīn cǎi Hànyǔ Pīnyīn — bù bǔzhù Tōngyòng Pīnyīn (中文譯音採漢語 不補助通用), United Daily News, September 17, 2008.

The Forumosa thread on this topic supplies some information for those of you who want to read something on this in English: MOE Approves Hanyu Pinyin as Taiwan Transliteration Policy?

(Thanks, Jidanni, for the heads up.)

Taiwan Google searches: Hanyu Pinyin vs. Tongyong Pinyin

Taiwan’s still official but probably-not-long-for-this-world romanization system for Mandarin is Tongyong Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin, however, is basically unknown outside Taiwan and, in truth, very little known even within Taiwan. (And many of those — like me — who do know it don’t like it.) But still, it’s what the Chen administration forced into use on highway signs, within train stations, and on some other signage throughout the country. So there’s certain to be some interest for it here. But in Taiwan how does interest in it compare against interest in Hanyu Pinyin, use of the latter system being regarded as something close to a sign of the apocalypse among some Tongyong supporters? The new Google Insights provides some clues.

Here’s a relative look at Google searches from Taiwan in 2008 for the terms “漢語拼音” (Hanyu Pinyin) and “通用拼音” (Tongyong Pinyin).

In Taiwan, searches for Hanyu Pinyin have clearly been more popular this year.

What about in the longer term? Below is a chart from 2004 to the present. (The lines are a little different because in the long-term chart averages are by month; but the monthly averages probably give a clearer picture anyway.)

Again, interest in Hanyu Pinyin comes out on top — consistently — even in Taiwan.

Not surprisingly, in searches worldwide, Tongyong Pinyin basically doesn’t even register against Hanyu Pinyin, so great is the disparity.

If you’d like to run some searches on your own, note that Google Insights distinguishes between traditional and “simplified” Chinese characters, i.e., a search for “漢語拼音” will yield substantially different results than one for “汉语拼音”.

Gaoxiong street signs

Sinle StDuring an extremely brief trip a few weeks ago to Gāoxióng, Taiwan’s second-largest city, I was able to grab a few photos of signage there. Most of these were taken from a moving taxi; thus the poor quality and lack of much diversity. But these are the best I could do under the circumstances.

First, a few basic points:

  • they’re in Tongyong Pinyin (bleah — but at least they’re consistent)
  • they don’t use InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion (This lack is, of course, a good thing. If only Taipei hadn’t screwed this up!)
  • in most cases the text in romanization is large enough to read even at a distance (Very good — unlike all too many relatively recent signs elsewhere, such as Taipei County.)

In short, other than the choice of romanization most of these signs aren’t all that bad. They’re certainly much better (and more consistent) than the ones that Taipei County put up in Tongyong Pinyin a few years ago. (Although Taipei County’s current magistrate said more than two years ago that he was in favor of switching to Hanyu Pinyin, as far as I can see he has done absolutely nothing about this. Of course, some might say that he’s done absolutely nothing about anything; but I’ll leave discussion of that to the political blogs.)

Here’s another Gāoxióng sign with romanization that isn’t too small.
Dacheng St.

I’m not a fan of the practice of force-justifying the Chinese characters and romanization/English to the same width. This style can be seen in many of these signs. Sometimes this results in the romanized/English words being spaced too far apart; more often, though, the Chinese characters are left with lots of space between them — so much space that it would be easy to have spaces indicate word divisions for the texts in Hanzi (something Y.R. Chao recommended nearly a century ago), which might be an interesting thing to try on signs. I wonder if anyone has ever performed any experiments on this.

The full Mandarin name of the school indicated by the blue sign on the left is rather long:

Gāoxióng shìlì Gāoxióng nǚzǐ gāojí zhōngxué

Whoever made the sign wisely desided to cut that down to 高雄女中 (Gāoxióng nǚ zhōng). If only someone had realized that it would have been better to use something shorter than the full English name, too. “Kaohsiung Municipal Girls’ Senior High School” is a lot to fit on one small sign. “Kaohsiung Girls’ High School”, “Girls’ Municipal High School”, or something even shorter would have been much better.

Here are some more signs.

And finally an address plate on a building. This style could certainly be better.
Dayi St.