Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Xiamen with a 下 , Xiamen with a 厦

My husband and I went to the southern city of Xiamen a few years ago for a conference about search engines. Both the conference and the city were winners. I especially liked our walking tour of little Gulangyu Island, a short ferry ride from Xiamen, where we strolled through the small lanes, stumbling upon friendly musical concerts performed in lovely old colonial buildings.   

I made one mention of Xiamen in my book, Dreaming in Chinese, and recorded the first character as instead of . Trouble!! Or so thought a few readers, who kindly (or not so kindly) pointed this out to me. Wrong!! They said. Wrong character choice! 

That sent me searching. And here’s the scoop, which I report with many thanks to Art Kho, whose Hokkien/Minnan-speaking family (his grandparents) hails from Xiamen.

According to Wikipedia,  (And hey! Wikipedia is never wrong!) the earliest rendering of Xiamen is with a , meaning literally "lower gate". This could make sense: Xiamen lies at the mouth of the Jiulong (Nine Dragon) River, so Xiamen could be named for its at the "lower gate” to the sea.  

At some point later, the rather unlovely name for Xiamen was upgraded, by one quick swap of the first character from to  . Xiamen suddenly meant the much more glamorous  "gate of the grand mansion". 

Interestingly, in the Minnan/Hokkien dialect still spoken around Xiamen, Kho reports, the city still goes by its original name of (roughly pronounced) Amoy.  The pronunciation of the first character is a much closer rendering to the current Hokkien pronunciation of Amoy than is the pronunciation of the character . Kho says   sounds more like “ha”. So actually,   is a better choice, closer to the true pronunciation. 

A happy ending: everyone is right!

(image and Wikipedia information from


  1. When I was on a destroyer in 1954 patrolling off of Quemoy we called it Amoy too. I think in pre-Pinyin days it showed up on maps as Amoy. - Jim DeVries

  2. The mdbg dictionary give 大廈 (大厦) for mansion or large building e.g., 世貿大廈 (Shì Mào Dàshà), the World Trade Center, and 金茂 大廈 (Jīn Mào Dàshà), Jin Mao Tower, but in that use, the pinyin is dàshà, not dàxià, a not-so-subtle distinction in pronunciation. Perhaps a native speaker could confirm.

  3. We lived in Xiamen for three years and have to say with the travel we did in China, we were so glad we ended up living on our island.

    Gu Lang Yu has applied for a World Heritage site, and certainly hope that they receive this designation, as it is well deserved.

  4. Replica Handbags: Amount & Superior Consciousness!Our handmade Replica accoutrements are absolute artist delights consummate accessories for gucci replica the appearance conscious,at a atom of the amount of an aboriginal artist handbag.You could buy a Versace replica backpack for anniversary day of the anniversary for the amount of one aboriginal Versace handbag.Afar from you and,no one abroad will apperceive that your Versace replica backpack is louis vuitton replica a replica and not the actual original!From the aboriginal canicule to the present day the backpack is still a actualization icon,and over time the styles accept chanel replica afflicted but accustomed a backpack still agency fashion.Most able who abrasion these Rolex replica watches accept accepted that they accept begin a new angel of themselves afterwards they accept started cutting these Rolex replica watches!So what are you cat-and-mouse for? Get one of the endless models of cartier replica the Rolex replica watches and see your activity change immediately.Not alone will the girls at the affair battery all their amore on you,you can be blow assured that even your bang-up will pay appropriate absorption at you.Rolex replica watches accomplish these wonders and lots more.Swiss replica watches are acclaimed all over their apple for their body and accomplish and you can acquisition a lot of celebrities cutting them and assuming off that they are anyone special.They wish to get the best out of activity for the least.Swiss replica watches provides them with an befalling to appearance off replica watches uk what is declared to be the best for the minimum cost.

  5. Thank you for another fantastic posting. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a speech next week, and I was looking for more info.
    agario unblocked
    atari breakout game
    five nights at freddy's
    geometry dash online
    happy wheels
    tank trouble

  6. This blog is so nice to me. I will continue to come here again and again. Visit my link as well. Good luck
    temple run 2

  7. Thanks for the great post. I liked your writing style most. I like play game as game Stick RPG, Douchebag workout 2, game return man and game Potty Racers, score hero

  8. The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.

  9. then after spraying your home with safe pesticides on your health and health of your family Guarantee and periodic follow-up free because we will not be happy, شركة مكافحة حشرات بالقطيف
    شركة رش مبيدات بالقطيف
    شركة الانوار لرش المبيدات
    شركة رش مبيدات بالمجمعة

  10. This website and I conceive this internet site is really informative ! Keep on putting up!

  11. The collection Marts can Helps you to find latest trends. We have latest designs at comforter Set, Bed Sheets, Sofa Covers, Baby Comforter Set, Pillow Covers, Blankets and much more. Our Service is provide high Quality Stuff and Satisfaction of customer. You can view latest desigsn at our facebook page.
    bed sheets , maria b chiffon collection 2018 , bed sheets , nishat bed sheets price , quilts and coverlets , bedding , razai , couch slipcovers , pillow covers