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Origin of Taiwanese place names

Moderator: hansioux

Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby Hokwongwei » 13 Aug 2015, 12:54

UDN came up with this interesting list of some place names in northern Taiwan and their origins. Here's my English version.

You'll notice that Chinese place names like to use geogrpahic cues more than anything else. While we do have a share of these in the US (Boulder, Oceanside), we tend to prefer personal names (Washington, Bismark, San Anyone). I wonder it would be like if Taiwan did things the same way...

Taipei

    1: Shilin: The area was home to a large number of schools and academies during the late Qing years, earning it the name "a forest of scholars"-- 士子如林, abbreviated to 士林
    2: Beitou: This is a Sinification of the word for "witch" in the language of the Pingpu people, the original inhabitants of the area. Legend has it a witch lived here.
    3: Neihu: Nei (內) means inland, while Hu (湖) refers to sunken lands, valleys, or depressions, which filled with water easily. Hence the Hu does not refer to any specific lake, but rather means "Inland Puddles."
    4: Wanhua: This one's complicated.it was originally called Banka, the Ketagalan word for "the place where wood canoes gather," because they would load their fish and vegetables onto boats here to wade down the river and trade with the Chinese population. Chinese settlers chose the Chinese name 艋舺 (Taiyu prounciation: Báng-kah), and the Japanese kept that pronunciation but changed the characters to 萬華, pronounced in Japanese as "banka" and in Mandarin as "Wanhua." When the ROC took control of Taiwan from the Japanese, they kept the characters and just used Mandarin to pronounce them.
    5: Wufenpu: This place name literally means "clearing split into five." The five in question refer to five families who divied up the land and began developing it: He, Zhou, Shen, Du, and Li families

New Taipei

    1: Tucheng: The name, literally "earthen walls," refers to defensive walls built by Chinese settlers to defend against the native population.
    2: Sanxia: "Three Gorges" (三峽) refers to its location at the intersection of the Dahan River, Heng River, and Sanxia River. It was originally named 三角湧 (Surging Three Corners) -- Sann-kak-íng in Taiyu. The Japanese maintained a similar pronunciation (Sankyou) and changed the cjaracters to 三峽 to reflect that Japanese pronunciation.
    3: Shimen: "Stone Gate," named after the eye-catching rock formation on Taiwan's north coast that has a door-like hole in the middle of it. Pretty straightforwad.
    4: Banqiao: the name means "Plank bridge," and refers to an unknown bridge that crossed a river. The Japanese changed the characters from 枋橋 (Pang-kiô) to the present 板橋 (same pronunciation in Taiyu)
    5: Taishan: Originally named Ding Tai Shan Yan after an 18th century home in the area (頂泰山巖, today located at Yinghua St No. 32), it was renamed to just Taishan, apparently, because the entire Taipei Basin is visible from atop the mountain. This made learned people of the past think of the saying "The world is small from atop (China's) Mt Tai" (登泰山而小天下).
    6: Xindian: The area was devastated by a flood in the early 19th century, but managed to prosper after being rebuilt. It was therefore christened the town of "New Shops" (新店).
    7: Shulin: This isn't even a challenge. It literally means "forest."
    8: Yingge: Now written 鶯歌 (oriole song), it was originally called the homophonous name 鸚哥 (parrot) after a rock that supposedly looked like... a parrot.
    9: Pingxi: "Calm River" or "Mild River" as the waters here aren't very intense.
    10: Shenkeng: "Deep Ravine," since it's located in a valley
    11: Linkou: "Forest Mouth" i.e. the entrance to a forest. This was originally called 樹林口, because there were lots of trees.
    12: Xizhi: "Tide's End." It was originally called 水返腳 and was given the more poetic name 汐止 later on. The name comes from how waters would hit the banks of the river when swelling and just come right back.
    13: Shiding: 石 is stone, and 碇 is the Taiwanese term for the high stone threshold in the doorway of old homes. It is named after the large flat stones in the river.

More to come later.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby super_lucky » 13 Aug 2015, 13:18

Hokwongwei wrote:UDN came up with this interesting list of some place names in northern Taiwan and their origins. Here's my English version.

You'll notice that Chinese place names like to use geogrpahic cues more than anything else. While we do have a share of these in the US (Boulder, Oceanside), we tend to prefer personal names (Washington, Bismark, San Anyone). I wonder it would be like if Taiwan did things the same way...

Taipei

    1: Shilin: The area was home to a large number of schools and academies during the late Qing years, earning it the name "a forest of scholars"-- 士子如林, abbreviated to 士林
    2: Beitou: This is a Sinification of the word for "witch" in the language of the Pingpu people, the original inhabitants of the area. Legend has it a witch lived here.
    3: Neihu: Nei (內) means inland, while Hu (湖) refers to sunken lands, valleys, or depressions, which filled with water easily. Hence the Hu does not refer to any specific lake, but rather means "Inland Puddles."
    4: Wanhua: This one's complicated.it was originally called Banka, the Ketagalan word for "the place where wood canoes gather," because they would load their fish and vegetables onto boats here to wade down the river and trade with the Chinese population. Chinese settlers chose the Chinese name 艋舺 (Taiyu prounciation: Báng-kah), and the Japanese kept that pronunciation but changed the characters to 萬華, pronounced in Japanese as "banka" and in Mandarin as "Wanhua." When the ROC took control of Taiwan from the Japanese, they kept the characters and just used Mandarin to pronounce them.
    5: Wufenpu: This place name literally means "clearing split into five." The five in question refer to five families who divied up the land and began developing it: He, Zhou, Shen, Du, and Li families

New Taipei

    1: Tucheng: The name, literally "earthen walls," refers to defensive walls built by Chinese settlers to defend against the native population.
    2: Sanxia: "Three Gorges" (三峽) refers to its location at the intersection of the Dahan River, Heng River, and Sanxia River. It was originally named 三角湧 (Surging Three Corners) -- Sann-kak-íng in Taiyu. The Japanese maintained a similar pronunciation (Sankyou) and changed the cjaracters to 三峽 to reflect that Japanese pronunciation.
    3: Shimen: "Stone Gate," named after the eye-catching rock formation on Taiwan's north coast that has a door-like hole in the middle of it. Pretty straightforwad.
    4: Banqiao: the name means "Plank bridge," and refers to an unknown bridge that crossed a river. The Japanese changed the characters from 枋橋 (Pang-kiô) to the present 板橋 (same pronunciation in Taiyu)
    5: Taishan: Originally named Ding Tai Shan Yan after an 18th century home in the area (頂泰山巖, today located at Yinghua St No. 32), it was renamed to just Taishan, apparently, because the entire Taipei Basin is visible from atop the mountain. This made learned people of the past think of the saying "The world is small from atop (China's) Mt Tai" (登泰山而小天下).
    6: Xindian: The area was devastated by a flood in the early 19th century, but managed to prosper after being rebuilt. It was therefore christened the town of "New Shops" (新店).
    7: Shulin: This isn't even a challenge. It literally means "forest."
    8: Yingge: Now written 鶯歌 (oriole song), it was originally called the homophonous name 鸚哥 (parrot) after a rock that supposedly looked like... a parrot.
    9: Pingxi: "Calm River" or "Mild River" as the waters here aren't very intense.
    10: Shenkeng: "Deep Ravine," since it's located in a valley
    11: Linkou: "Forest Mouth" i.e. the entrance to a forest. This was originally called 樹林口, because there were lots of trees.
    12: Xizhi: "Tide's End." It was originally called 水返腳 and was given the more poetic name 汐止 later on. The name comes from how waters would hit the banks of the river when swelling and just come right back.
    13: Shiding: 石 is stone, and 碇 is the Taiwanese term for the high stone threshold in the doorway of old homes. It is named after the large flat stones in the river.

More to come later.


This is surprisingly interesting, since I always assumed most TW place names were simply airlifted from the mainland and specifically referred to the original hometown of the settlers. Certainly some of the street names are mainland references, I reckon, but this dispels the personal myth. Thanks.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby hansioux » 13 Aug 2015, 17:15

Hokwongwei wrote:
    1: Shilin: The area was home to a large number of schools and academies during the late Qing years, earning it the name "a forest of scholars"-- 士子如林, abbreviated to 士林


I think that's probably a Chinese reinvention, like if someone were to say Kaohsiung is so named because it once had very tall bears.

Before Shilin, the place was more commonly referred to as 八芝蘭, which came from Basai/Ketagelan word Pattsiran.

Shilin is probably also of Basai/Ketagelan origin. It matches what the Spanish and the Dutch referred to as the Senars people, who famously killed the beloved Francisco Váez.

士林 in Taigi is now pronounced as Sū-lîm, but other locations such as 武士林 are pronounced as Bú-sū-nâ. So 士林 could possibly be a phonetic translation of Senar.

It is worth noting when transcribing Aboriginal local names, the Hanji used don't necessary accurately transcribes the Taigi pronunciation of the place. Sometimes that's due to the original characters being changed to new ones with slightly different pronunciation for whatever reason. For example, 大雅 in Taichung would be read as Tāi-ngá by most, but it instead is read as Tāi-ngé by the locals. 北斗 in Zhanghua would be read as Pak-táu by most, but it is instead read as Pó-táu by the locals.

The MOE's dictionary has the correct reading for 大雅 but the wrong one for 北斗. If you search online, it's also filled with Han chauvinistic legends about how these names came about. For example, most sources would say 北斗 was originally 寶斗, and that was because it's streets were very straight and orderly. The real reason is that there was an Aboriginal tribe called Botau at the locale.

A good article that categorizes the origin of common Taiwanese place names:
http://www1.geo.ntnu.edu.tw/webs/teache ... ponymy.pdf

Hokwongwei wrote:
    2: Beitou: This is a Sinification of the word for "witch" in the language of the Pingpu people, the original inhabitants of the area. Legend has it a witch lived here.


Beitou came from the Basay word Patauw. It's worth noting the reoccurrence of the Tau/Tao root, which means people/person. It's the common root word for many Aboriginal tribal names, such as Ita Thaw, Tao, Tsou, Altayal, Makatao, Taokas and more. The Austronesian root word can be found outside of Taiwan, such as in Guam, the word for "people" is Taotao.

Image

Which brings me to the Austrunesian prefix "pa-", which is also very common in many Taiwanese place names. Pa- is the Austronesian way of turning something causative. It also has a meaning for "action, go, happening at the moment." This type of location names would be describing something that happens at the local, and then end with the locative focus.

Whcih brings us to the reoccurrence of -an suffix. It's a common Austronesian locative focus. It's almost ubiquitous in most most translated names, such as Taiw"an", which is very likely a form of "Tao-an," place where people lives.

Hokwongwei wrote:
    8: Yingge: Now written 鶯歌 (oriole song), it was originally called the homophonous name 鸚哥 (parrot) after a rock that supposedly looked like... a parrot.


it was originally written as 鷹哥, so supposedly an eagle.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby Mucha Man » 13 Aug 2015, 17:27

Great topic. I have nothing to add but my appreciation. :)
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby Hokwongwei » 13 Aug 2015, 23:23

hansioux wrote:Kaohsiung is so named because it once had very tall bears.


:roflmao:

These sources are from the respective city governments, so, :s

http://www1.geo.ntnu.edu.tw/webs/teacher/Yan-Zhao%20Wei/course/life_geography/life_geo/chp6_toponymy.pdf


I'll look through this when I get a chance and update.

鸚哥 (parrot) vs 鷹哥 (eagle)


Interestingly, the UDN site says it was 鸚哥 first, then in the Qing dynasty some document changed it to 鷹哥... Make up your minds people, which kind of bird is it?
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby hansioux » 17 Aug 2015, 10:43

Hokwongwei wrote:
Interestingly, the UDN site says it was 鸚哥 first, then in the Qing dynasty some document changed it to 鷹哥... Make up your minds people, which kind of bird is it?


I've read that Yingge rock, like the Eagle rock that rolled down the hill near Bisha harbor, Jilong, is a monolith of natural formation that's been sculpted. Some researchers say that there are great similarities between the Eagle rock that once stood over Bisha harbor, and Yingge rock. Both have sculpted features, especially the wings. They all look extremely like an eagle from one angle, and not remotely like anything from all other angles. They also both have a cave right next to the formation.

Eagle is a significant religious symbol in many aboriginal cultures. If the rocks were indeed sculpted, it was likely by one of the Pingpu aboriginal tribes, or perhaps by people that predates the pingpu aboriginals. In any case, they were probably sculpted by the same people who left the rock formations on Qixingshan. In the formations there's a pyramid shaped hill, that is also a monolith of natural formation that's been sculpted, which a deep tunnel near by.

http://www.knowlegde.ipc.gov.taipei/ct. ... 37&mp=cb01

http://www.tonyhuang39.com/tony0112.html
Image
Alter

Image
Tunnel by half man-made pyramid

The same people probably also left the rock formations at the Nuclear Power plant 4 site at Gongliao.
http://img.ltn.com.tw/2010/new/apr/28/i ... 400/18.jpg
http://news.ltn.com.tw/news/life/paper/391210

NPP4 site included an alter and a metal forging factory made by carving into rocks, dating back to 4400 years ago, and the site was promptly destroyed by Taipower before researchers from Academica Sinica could salvage it.

I read that Ketagalan (Kavalanic, includes Basay as a sub group) legends says taht their ancestors came to Taiwan at Sandiaojiao (Santiago) by a vessel named Gewu (葛霧), which made me think if they are taking about the Spanish Galleons. There are a bunch of tomb stones with the family origin of Shanxi (山西) on it, when it is impossible to have that many people from Shanxi in Taiwan. Most of those belong to the original inhabitants of the north coast. Shanxi stands for the legendary Ketagalan homeland, Sanasai.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby cybertai » 20 Aug 2015, 01:48

Image It is named after how this rock looks like.

Most local people believe it looks like a parrot, not an eagle.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby cybertai » 20 Aug 2015, 02:12

The name Songshan 松山 was changed by Japanese from Matsuyama 松山.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsuyama,_Ehime
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby Chris » 20 Aug 2015, 03:12

Dazhi 大直 (big straight) is named after the straight stretch of the Keelung (Jilong) River adjacent to it.

Muzha 木柵 (wooden barricade) is named after a barricade that was built as a defense against Aboriginal raids.
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Re: Origin of Taiwanese place names

Postby Hokwongwei » 20 Aug 2015, 08:52

cybertai wrote:Image


Yeah, ok, I see it. I'll give them this one, but I refuse to accept that 無耳茶壺山 looks anything like a teapot.
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