Taiwan Road sign Wars in Green and Blue : Taipei, Taiwan Governments Disagree on Romanization of Placenames

Thanks to David Cowhig for following content:

’s Interior Mininstry and the Taipei City government differ on how road signs should be spelled. The government favors Tongyong Romanization, a romanization that grew out of the Wade-Giles romanization for Mandarin Chinese. Tongyong is nonetheless fairly similar to Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong also accomodates spelling of two other languages of the Chinese language family spoken in , Taiwanese (minnan) and Hakka languages. Taipei City insists on adopting PRC standards romanization widely used around the world for the convenience of international visitors and trade.

PRC’s Xinhua news service criticized Tongyong Pinyin in an October 2002 commentary, called it another step in the desinicization of Taiwan. The Xinhua commentary also noted that Tongong Pinyin is 85% identical to Hanyu Pinyin.

The spelling war forces seem to map easily on to the Blue and Green side of Taiwan’s political divide.

In July 2004, following the decision of a Minnistry of Education committee in favor of Tongyong Romanization and a September 2002 non-binding central government administrative order, the Interior Ministry decided to standardized on Tongyong Romanization and put out guidelines for roadsigns and placenames.



Tongyong Pinyin has attracted considerable support outside of Taipei and especially in the southern part of the island. An August 2001 editorial in the english language paper Taiwan News



Taiwan has to play a more active role and be exposed more, making itself better known to the outside world. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education Tongyong Pinyin has been created based on the Wade-Giles phonetic system used for more then a century in the West as well as in the Orient. It is believed that the present Tongyong Pinyin shall automatically be linked to the traditional Wade-Giles system. Unfortunately a group of politicians and scholars argue that Hanyu Pinyin now used in China is the only romanization system available if Taiwan moves to choose one standard phonetic system. They argue that it is a must if Chinese characters are to be romanized that the Hanyu Pinyin system rubberstamped by Beijing and used in other parts of the world shall be the final and correct one. Obviously the traditional Chinese faith in the unification of thought and territory plays a hidden powerful role.

Taipei City is requiring that road signs be romanized in Hanyu Pinyin except for widely known historic names such as Taipei City and Roosevelt Road. The standard romanization of Taipei for indicating pronunciation however, becomes Taibei. In mid February 2005, Tapei City gave out prizes to people who pointed out road signs that are not romanized according to Hanyu pinyin. The contest award noted that the contest was meant to boost Taipei as a bilingual environment and as an international city.

A Taiwan government website provides online Tongyong romanization service to the perplexed.

Taipei City Department of Civil Affairs statement on Hanyu Pinyin



About Hanyu Pinyin

There are presently at least 6 different Romanization schemes in use in Taiwan, one of which is Hanyu Pinyin, which was adopted on the mainland in 1958. Worldwide, approximately 1.4 billion people reside in areas that accept Hanyu Pinyin as the standard, and the number is increasing. That is the reason Hanyu Pinyin increases communication and exchange of information between nations. Using the system can make communication easier for investors from overseas, international students, tourists, and for Taiwanese going overseas for study and on business.

City Hall held a conference inviting members from the international community, people engaged in international business and members of the tourist industry, and almost all staunchly supported use of Hanyu Pinyin. Using this as the primary rationale, City Hall agreed to use Hanyu Pinyin system.

There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, whereas the Zhuyin Fuhao system uses 37 symbols to represent all sounds of the Mandarin Chinese language (excluding tones), so there are not enough English letters. Hanyu Pinyin attempts to use only the 26 letters of the English alphabet in a one-for-one correlation with each consonantal and vowelic sound (excluding tones) of the Chinese language, without using the same letter to represent two different sounds. This maximizes writing efficiency.

Below is a simple explanation of how the Hanyu Pinyin system is used for street, road and boulevard names. You can visit here for a handy reference:

(1) Romanization of signs takes tradition and history and therefore there is not

an across-the-board sue of Hanyu Pinyin. Roosevelt Rd. is one example.

(2) When indicating place names and roads, tonal marks are not used. To better

make use of the advantages of Hanyu Pinyin, the city has decided to

capitalize the first letter of every syllable. For example, the R and A in RenAi

Rd. Publishers, book editors, etc. should use their own discretion in this

regard, but it is customary not to capitalize the second syllables in

morphemes in academia.

(3) Established spellings for names of cities, such as Taipei, remain, but in the

case of writing out pronunciation, use proper Hanyu Pinyin spelling: taibei,

not taipei.

(4) Section numbers, cardinal directions and type of road (road, street, and

boulevard) are directly translated and abbreviated. Sec. 2. XinYi Rd and

JinShan S. Rd. are two examples.

(5) Administrative districts and addresses are abbreviated and capitalized as

follows: F (for floor), No. (for number, use of the # symbol is discouraged),

Alley, Lane, Sec. (for Section), Rd. (for Road), Blvd. (for Boulevard), Lin, Li,

Dist. (for District), City, Province, Country.

(6) In cases where the city shares a location with another county or city and

where freeways and highways meet the city and when the romanization

system does not match, it is acceptable to place the non-Hanyu Pinyin

spelling in parentheses. For example “To Banqiao (Banciao)” .

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