My previous post on postage stamps with Bopomofo (Zhuyin fuhao) mentioned Taiwan’s postal service, Chunghwa Post, which is terrifically efficient at delivering mail but which made an odd choice in romanization in its English name however many years ago . The Mandarin is Zhōnghuá Yóuzhèng in Hanyu Pinyin. But the post office spells its name
Chung is clearly Wade-Giles. (It probably would be bastardized Wade-Giles; but in this case chung rather than ch’ung is correct – so, luck of the draw.) Yet hwa does not exist in Wade-Giles, which uses hua. So where is that hwa coming from? The only system that uses hwa and has been official in Taiwan is Gwoyeu Romatzyh.
The Yale system, devised by George Kennedy, also uses hwa; but despite occasional confusion by reporters and others, Taiwan has never used the Yale system. Instead, what many people mistakenly believe is Yale is instead MPS2.
I’m afraid, though, that I don’t have a definitive answer for how Taiwan ended up with the portmanteau spelling of Chunghwa. I suspect that what happened is that the initial intention was to go with the country’s official romanization system, which, way back when, was Gwoyeu Romatzyh (“GR” for short), even if you wouldn’t know that from signage or maps or just about anything but long-distance buses. But using GR would have yielded Jonghwa, which would likely struck people accustomed to seeing 中 romanized as chung as “looking weird” (even though chung is hardly an intuitive spelling for native speakers of English for what is zhong in Hanyu Pinyin). So they kept the chung but then went ahead with hwa, which is not so different than Wade-Giles’s hua. At least that’s my guess, based on having followed romanization in Taiwan for decades.
The odd choice of Chunghwa is not limited to just the postal system. The main telephone system uses it as well: Chunghwa Telecom.
If Taiwan ever gets a broader rectification of names under which the Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Mínguó) — not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) — is simply called “Taiwan,” that would likely remove the issue. The spelling of Taiwan is certainly standard and the same across most romanization systems – with the notable exception of Gwoyeu Romatzyh, which would give us Tairuan. (GR’s fuunny sperlinqs strike again!)
Is “Chunghwa” not an example of the old ????? Postal Romanization?
Maybe. That’s a good idea. After all, the ROC postal system has been around for a long while.
It’s probably no surprise, though, that I’m not much on board with using Postal Romanization, which is too idiosyncratic to be labeled a system. This brings to mind that Taiwan’s government has decided to break with Hanyu Pinyin in some instances because “that’s the way things were spelled on some old maps we found” (e.g., Lukang instead of the proper Lugang, and Kenting instead of the proper Kending).
I’m more sympathetic when it comes to the Tamsui/Danshui issue.