Taipei or Taibei?

What do you say?

  • Taipei
  • Taibei

0 voters

This really bothers me. I was telling someone that I wanted to go to Peitou and checkout the hot springs and that person laughed at me.


You mean BEItou they said, I said yeah, I guess so. A few days later I noticed that Beitou and Taipei both use the same character. Then I was really miffed. Why is it ok to say Taipei and not ok to say Peitou, and why don’t they fix their damn spelling? :x (I don’t really care, but that’s what I thought to myself).

It’s just strange that I’ve been practicing Chinese so long and no one has bothered to correct me.

While previewing this I noticed something else. Why does the pinyin get fixed for peitou and not for Taipei (Taibei)?

From now on I’m saying Taibei and spelling it, and no one will know what I’m talking about.

miltownkid, I sympathize. Your questions are all good ones. Fact of the matter is that common “western” pronunciation and spelling don’t always reflect the original pronunication. For instance, did you know that Peking and Beijing are the same words, and originally meant to be pronounced the same way?

Now that Hanyu Pinyin (the international standard for Mandarin) has been implemented for Taipei city (God bless Mayor Ma), we are faced with a minor dilemma. What do we do with words that have been consistently misspelled and/or mispronounced for so long that they have entered the international psyche? The answer has been to leave them alone and treat them as exceptions to the rule. Thus Hong Kong is never referred to as Xiang Gang, even though it’s a part of mainland China and the language of China is Mandarin.

Beitou is probably considered “local” enough that it can conform to standard orthography. Keelung (spelled Jilong in Hanyu and pronounced “g-long”), as an international port, will probably not be changed, nor will Kaohsiung b[/b], according to my understanding of the matter. I’m not sure about Taichung, but it will also probably go unchanged. Kenting b[/b], Pintung b[/b], Taitung, Chiayi b[/b], Hsinchu b[/b], and Ilan b[/b] are ripe candidates for change.

This is not a problem specific to Hanyu Pinyin, by the way. If the dreaded Tongyong Pinyin (

i think if you want to say taibei, you should also say tookyoo(both o’s are long) instead of tokyo. :stuck_out_tongue: and hong kong is out of the question altogether…

For the first half of the 20th century, Taipei, Keelung, Taihung and Kaohsiung were known internationally by their Japanese names - Taihoku, Kirun, Taichu and Takao repectively, while Taiwan was known by its Portuguese name of Formosa. I’m not sure what they were known as under the Qing (or should that be Ch’ing?) dynasty - might have been T’ai-P’ei, Chi-Lung, T’ai-Chung and Ta-Kou. The point being that they have changed more than once before, so what’s the big deal if they change again? The name Hong Kong is much more deeply embedded in the international psyche than any Taiwanese place name, both because the name has remained unchanged for at least 160 years, and because the place itself is of greater international significance. As I remember, the mainland Chinese media did use the name “Xianggang” for a while in the late 70s and early 80s, but they eventually gave that up as a lost cause.

The character

Well, I agree with Juba on this one. Good post.

Taipei/Taibei is a very small part of a very big problem. As for this specific example it doesn’t make any difference, Taiwanese people understand both. But as milltownkid said talk about anywhere else and Taiwanese people will just scratch their heads.

I agree with Maoman that there may be a case for the retention of the spelling of a few places like Keelung and Kaohsiung, but as for every other place in Taiwan the sooner their names are spelt using Hanyu pinyin system the better.

The world seems to have got used to Beijing instead of Peking. Taibei instead of Taipei would be an even easier change to make.

I pronounce it Taibei…the easier solution to writing it is to write it in characters. Then you’ll not have to worry about whether to use hanyu pinyin, Yale, or whatever funky romanization system that comes to mind. Taibei, Gaoxiong, Jilong, Taidong, Nanjing Dong Lu…it makes it easier to receive the directions if you use the Mandarin names rather than the bastardized English versions.

The essential problem is the audience for whose benefit these things are romanized. A textbook on Chinese history, for example, will contain a page long discussion of which system it prefers (normally leaving alone well-known spellings or abbreviations). One that really annoys me is the new “GMD” abbreviation for KMT. Why ? Why was this done ? No-one calls the KMT the “GMD”. The first time I saw GMD in the China Quarterly I hadn’t a clue what it was. Then I realised. Some idiot has decided to take the original Chinese charcters, romanize them in Hanyu Pinyin, and then abbreviate the HYPY into GMD. Do we now call CKS “JJS” ?

Is “Taipei” really romanisation at all ? Is it not just the English word for the capital of Taiwan ? “Taibei” is the HYPY romanisation. Tokyo in romanisation has a bar above both "o"s to indicate the length of the sounds, but in English does not.

All this is what comes of not having a proper standard for romanisation. The romanisation comes directly from the characters, and has nothing to do with how the word is spelt in English. If officially the romanisation is changed to HYPY, great, but Taipei will still be spelt Taipei in English.

Look at how Taliban and Al Q’aida have changed their spellings in Englsih over the last year or so. Who knows what it will be next week ? So far we have pronunciations of " Al Kai-eeda", “Al Kay-da”, “Al Keeda” and as many spellings. Nothing really to do with romanisation. The romanisation doesn’t change, but the English could change overnight.

i don’t see the problem with having the english name of taipei slightly different than the correct chinese pronounciation(a la hong kong). i mean, is anyone really bothered that we use japan instead of nippon/nihon or prague instead of praha? i think these names actually have more character and history than litteral transferance from the native language. hence the reason so many things here still carry the “formosa” moniker.

Most of the time I say “Taibei” and write “Taipei.”

Properly speaking, in the Wade-Giles system that place names are presumed to follow in Taiwan, Taipei should be written “T’ai-pei.” This is intended to indicate to those few who know Wade-Giles that the proper pronunciation is “Taibei.” But Taiwan (which should be written T’ai-wan in W-G) doesn’t bother to get the system right. Instead, it uses a useless, bastardized form of Wade-Giles. It might be worth noting here that Wade-Giles is not now nor has ever been the official romanization system of the ROC.

I am adamantly opposed to using any “English” names or bastardized romanizations for places in Taiwan other than its capital. Having exceptions for “internationally known” places is a slippery slope. Keelung is a good example of where such nonsense can lead. There is nothing in the least bit difficult in using the correct name: Jilong.

If the names don’t allow for clear communication, then they need to be rectified.

Juba: As far as I remember from living in Mainland China, Chinese media still uses “Xianggang” for Hong Kong.


I agree with Cranky, there is no basis for supporting Taipei on the basis that it is a “romanisation” as W-G without the aspiration marks is meaningless. I would keep it (and Kaohsiung) on the basis that they are well-known in English and ditch the rest of them.

I guess what bothered me the most was that some places (like Taipei) it was ok to use the whacked out English version, but with Peitou I got laughed at.

If they (who ever they is) don’t want to use a standard version of spelling they (?) shouldn’t laugh when a foreigner like me self doesn’t pronuonce it correctly. Sorry for sounding so general.

This spelling won’t only confuse me. I think it will also mess people up here that are learning english. But that’s just what I think.

[quote]Juba: As far as I remember from living in Mainland China, Chinese media still uses “Xianggang” for Hong Kong.



I’ve never heard a Taiwanese refer to Hong Kong as Hong Kong, only Xiang Gang.

I think the name Hong Kong is obsolete in Chinese speaking regions.

I imagine Ayatollah U-turn would have a fit if you suggested such a thing to him. But he’d probably love to have a crack at changing the spelling to represent the Taiwanese pronunciation if he could get away with it.

I’d be in favour of the wholesale change of place names to Hanyu pinyin spellings.

Headline From the People’s Daily: Hong Kong SAR Govt to Study Fight Crime Suggestions

From Xinhua News Agency.

Far as I know, all mainland Chinese refer to Xianggang by the name Hong Kong when writing in foreign-language domestic media.

Headhoncho, you have misunderstood the issue. We are talking about the way the name of the place is spelled in English, not how it is pronounced in Chinese. It is and always has been pronounced “Xianggang” in Mandarin. The English name Hong Kong is based on the Cantonese pronunciation of the same two characters - “Heong Gong.” In Hokkien (“Taiwanese”) it is read “Heong Gang” and the Hakka pronunciation is almost identical with the Cantonese.

p.s. There is a popular myth that the character

Don’t beat me, please :?

Of course you’re right. My wrong!

Headhoncho is right for the spoken Chinese, though. I’ve never heard the name “Hong Kong” from anybody who spoke Mandarin Chinese.

I have mixed feelings about enforcing standard names for Chinese places. I hate it when I read the German weekly “SPIEGEL”, and they write “Schanghai” with sch. Of course, they also use “Peking” and “Tientsin” and “Tsingtao” (to be honest, I SAY and write “Peking” when I speak German). German version for Taipei/Taibei is “Taipeh”. I don’t really like these spellings. But I guess for lots of Germans, it would be confusing if they were changed all of a sudden. I remember when I was about to go to Tianjin to study Chinese, of course, my grandparents knew all about me leaving. But only a week before I left, my Grandma came up to me and said: “Why did you never tell me you are going to Tientsin? That would have been easier for me to remember”! It would probably take a generation or something to get rid of old spellings and get used to standardized ones. But then, why don’t start at one point? And if you want to keep some spellings because they are so common, where do you draw the line? Do you use Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (I still remember my confusion in 9th grade when our schoolbooks said “Mao Zedong” and I was so sure it had to be Mao Tse-tung :? ). And what’s the deal about changing KMT to GMD?

Really, where do you draw the line?

my 9 NT


What’s really funny about it all is when Taiwanese people say KEE lung and Nan KING East road to you when they speak English. Or even KIN men!
It’s going to be a long time until the Hanyu pinyin takes hold in Taiwan because most Taiwanese don’t have the faintest idea how to use any pinyin, much less pronounce it.

Then there’s Bombay. Mumbai.
The changes in the names of so many places seems to have come about post-colonization, post war, what have you. I would venture to guess that Hong Kong will be changed to Xiang Gang before Taipei is changed to Taibei, internationally.

I notice by the poll that Taipei is coming back hard and fast. Go you good thing.