Geographic name in Hokkien

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.

Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by SL De » Sun Dec 05, 2004 4:58 am

I hope the Hokkien speaking people, can reuse these "native Hokkien geographic name" in your oral language and the spoken language. Which give us the comfortable feeling in conversation and thinking. And hope the friends of forum can post some other geographic names in Hokkien which you heard from your parent, grandparent, friends and etc.

Geographic name in Hokkien, Mandarin and English list:

lu-song ?嗡?--hui-lu-bin 菲律?--- Philippines
bin-li-la 岷里?---ma-ni-la ?尼拉---Manila
lap-bau ?卯---da-wuo ?沃---Davao
sap-bu 霎?---su-wu 宿?---Cebu
pa-lo-oan 巴[竹/老]??--ba-la-wang 巴拉望---palawan

sit-lat ??力---ma-lai-si-ya ??砦??---Malaysia
sit-lat-pho ??力埠---sin-jia-puo 新加坡---Singapore
pin-ling-su ??榔?Z---bin-lang-yi ??榔?Z---Pennang

an-lam 安南---be-ye 北越---North Vietnam
chiam-po 占婆---nam-ye 南越---South Vietnam

hoan-ping 番爿---in-du-ni-si-ya 印度尼西??---Indonesia
ka-lau-pa 加留吧---ye-jia-da 耶加?---Jakarta

siam-lo 暹?---tai-guo 泰??--Thailand

ko-ku-le 高句?---gau-shi gau-li 高氏 高?---a state established by
the "nation of ko-ku-le" before the "Tong dynasty 唐朝".

ko-le 高?---1. wang-shi gau-li 王氏 高?, 2. chau-sien 朝?---1. a state established by
a person, called Ong-kien 王建" after the "Tong dynasty. 2. North Korea

sin-lo 新?---han-guo ???--South Korea

ue-kok ?z??--le-ben 曰本---Japan

liu-kiu 琉球---chong-seng 冲?---Okinawa Prefecture
tiong-san 中山---chong-sen-dau 冲??u---Okinawa

an-ping 安平---tai-nan 台南---Tainan
tai-ka-la 大佳?---tai-bei 台北---Taipei
taN-kau 打狗---gau-siong 高雄---Kaohsiung
chui-tng-kha 水??---xi-zhi 汐止---?
kue-lang ??--ji-long 基隆---Keelung
chu-lo ??---jia-yi 嘉?---Chiayi
Andrew Yong

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Andrew Yong » Mon Dec 06, 2004 11:50 pm

Very interesting. I recall reading somewhere that in Chinese there are various names for the main immigrant areas - e.g. sit-lat for malaya, something like 'golden gate' for san francisco etc.

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by hong » Tue Dec 07, 2004 3:15 am

I don't agree about this .Any fangyan is just like putonghua.All are xiandaihanyu We have to change the country name from time to time.Only the sound is not the same.Anyway,you can say it the way your like as long as people around understand you.I certainly don't like the word dama for malaysia because we are a small country with small population.Only Indonesian can called dayin

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Sim » Tue Dec 07, 2004 11:18 am

My mother's parents, who were born in Amoy always referred to Malaya/Malaysia as "lam iu~" (nan yang).

I seem to remember that in my youth two major Chinese language newspapers were had "nan yang" in their title (perhaps something like "Nan Yang Siang Pao" and "Nan Yang Jit Pao"?).

From the meaning of the characters, I suppose the term might have had wider significance, and perhaps referred to the whole of S.E.Asia, but I think my grandparents used it to mean Malaya/Malaysia.



Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by hong » Tue Dec 07, 2004 12:00 pm

yes,it means south east asia but not malaya alone. We have to know when those people travel to Nanyang ,they are not even sure where there are going.My grandfather didn't know when the hell is malaysia and never read a map before.

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by hong » Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:28 pm

sit lat proverbhttp://

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Niuc » Tue Dec 07, 2004 3:23 pm

Hi all

Thanks a lot SL De for this wonderful info, many of them were unknown to me. I never knew that Singapore was called 實力埠 sit8-lat8-(po`7?), I only knew it as 新加坡 sin1-ka1-pho1.

Sim, nice to see you here again :)

I think 南洋 lam5-iu*5 (Southern Ocean) refers to Malaysia and Singapore, even Indonesia, but not sure about all SE Asia. Nanyang is also the name of a university here in Singapore.

呂宋 ly7-song3 is Luzon island, may be generalized to mean the Philippines.
占婆 ciam1-po5 should be Champa
番爿 huan1-pin5 in our usage refers not only to Indonesia but including other part of SE Asia.
加留吧 ka1-lau5-pa1 was derived from Sunda Kelapa the old name of Jakarta. Kelapa = coconut in Indonesian. We usually call Jakarta 吧城 pa1-sia*5, derived from Batavia, its Dutch name.


Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Sim » Thu Dec 09, 2004 5:03 pm

Hi Niuc,

>> Sim, nice to see you here again

Thanks. Nice to be back. I've been very busy lately, but will be posting more in the future.

I've just finished another round of (oral history) interviews with my parents, so quite a number of new questions have come up.

I'm going to start a new topic on poems and songs. My father and uncle came up with "Suat Bue Kua" (Suat Bue's Song), apparently a song where there are twelve verses, each verse covering some aspect of Suat Bue's life in the first, second, third etc month of the year.

Unfortunately, my father could only remember part of the first verse, and my uncle could remember the 3rd verse, concerning "cheng beng". It seems like a great song to me.

Anyway, will still have to do some work before I can post the song.



Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Niuc » Sat Dec 11, 2004 7:55 am

Hi Sim

Looking forward to reading your posting about the song. Have a nice weekend :)

Tang Loon Kong

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Tang Loon Kong » Thu Dec 23, 2004 7:06 am


I also cam across some funny geographic names in Hokkien.

Nanjing which is called Lam Knia.
Beijing which is called Bak Knia.

Shangdung which is called Snua Dang. This when I heard, I laughed uncontrollably which normaly I do not.

Tang Loon Kong
Peng Xnia e lang di Siong Hai, Diongkok

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by SL De » Sat Dec 25, 2004 12:19 pm


埠頭 pho 1-thau: means the city, in the ancient Greek "polis", (in Mandarin: 城市) when this word use in the name of a city, it would be "埠 pho", such as "Sit-lat Pho 1" means the "Singapore city". Sometimes, we speak the word, "外埠頭 goa-pho-thau", (the other city) or this popular words, "埠頭 錢, 埠頭 用。 pho-thau chiⁿ, pho-thau eng". (money earn in this city, it just enough for the spend in this city.)

>呂宋 ly7-song3 is Luzon island, may be generalized to mean the Philippines.

Yes, "Luzon" is indicate the Luzon island before the Spanish colonization, because there were some kingdoms, the Luzon was one of them.In the books of Ming dynasty, they indicated the Luzon as an island or a kingdom. But after the colonization, the Spaniard gave a new name, "the Philippines" to include these kingdoms of Luzon, Sulu and ect. Hence the Hokkieners used the Luzon to mean the new name of "the Philippines".

>占婆 ciam1-po5 should be Champa
You are right. Champa

>番爿 huan1-pin5 in our usage refers not only to Indonesia but including other part of SE Asia.

There was a popular proverb, "俗語 siok-gu" about the "Lu-song 呂宋 and Hoan-ping 番爿", I heard from the old persons in my child time.

『呂宋 山嶼 千千外, 番爿 山嶼 萬萬外。』
"Lu-song suaⁿ-su chhuiⁿ-chhuiⁿ-goa, Hoan-ping suaⁿ-su ban-ban-goa."

It means the Philippines have the islands more than thousands, and the Indonesia have the islands more than ten thousands.

There was an old song before 1900, "過番歌 ke-hoan-koa, (the song of crossing to oversea countries)" about the living societies of oversea Hokkieners. I heard from the old persons of E-mng 厦門, Tang-oaⁿ 同峖, Lam-oaⁿ 南峖 and An-kue 安溪, they travelled or lived in these places before the second war world. I forgot the contents of this old song, and I just recall some pieces.
This song was an "oral litherature". I wish there have someome who had the chance to hear this song from the old persons. He can record it and post this old song in the forum.

『第一 叻力 牛, 第二 台灣 牛。
呂宋 金山, 番爿 銀山。』
"te-it Sit-lat gu, te-li Tai-oan gu.
Lu-song kim-suaⁿ, Hoan-ping gun-suaⁿ."

It means the people in Malaysia firstly, and the Taiwan secondly, they needed to work as the cow, who gave out their work and received money more less . (may be the economic activities of these two places, controlled under some groups of people, or some big companies?) The Lu-song and Hoan-ping were the hill of gold and the hill of silver. (in these two places, people could be easily have the chance to build their own small business?)
In this song, there had four places: 1). Sit-lat, 2). Tai-oan, 3). Lu-song and 4). Hoan-ping. I find that Malaysia and the Philippines were not included in the place of Hoan-ping, hence the Hoan-ping just means the Indonesia.
The Indonesia existed some kingdoms in the past time, they had their own state names, old Hokkien called the names of these kingdoms. And after the colonization, these kingdoms all under controlled by the Dutchman. I guess, the Hokkieners used the Hoan-ping to name those lost kingdoms or the place of new Dutch Indonesia.

Lu-song 呂宋 Bin-li-la 岷里獵 Lap-bau 納卯 Sap-bu 霎霧 Pa-lo-oan 巴[竹/老]灣
Mang-kun-taⁿ-noo 網巾礁荖 (in old E-mng, Lam-oaⁿ, An-kue) Mang-kun-taⁿ-lo 網巾礁荖: Mindanao (in Mandarin: 岷答那峩)
Sit-lat 實力 Sit-lat-pho 實力埠 Pin-ling-su 檳榔嶼
An-lam 安南 Chiam-po 占婆
Hoan-ping 番爿 Ka-lau-pa 加留吧 "Se-li-an 西里安: Irian Jaya (Mandarin: 伊里安 查亞 yi-ni-an cha-yia)"
Sien-na-ngan 仙那眼 "Niuc: Did yoy know where is this place of Indonesia?"
Siam-lo 暹羅
Chiam-la 占臘: Cambodia (Mandarin: 柬埔寨 zhian-pu-zhai)
Bin-tien 緬甸: Burma (Mandarin: 緬甸 min-dien)
These geographic names I heard from my grandparent in child time. They lived in the Penang. When the old persons talked with the Hokkieners from other places of the South East Asia, they always speaking these native vocabularies. I never heard those loan words of Mandarin geographic names in the conversations between them.

Ko-le 高麗 Sin-lo 新羅
Ue-kok 媧國
Liu-kiu 琉球 (in English: Ryukyu) Tiong-san 中山
An-ping 安平 Tai-ka-la 大佳獵 Chui-tng-kha 水轉骹 Kue-lang 鷄籠 Chu-lo 諸羅 Taⁿ-kau 打狗, or Ki-au 旗後 (in Mandarin: 高雄)
These place names, I heard from some old man, they were sailors after the second world war visiting these places. They always used these native words in their conversation. When I talked with them in those lond words of Mandarin, they always telled me its place names in native Hokkien.

Ko-ku-le 高句麗

This word exist in the speaking of story-tellers "講古仙 kong-goo-sien", they talked the stories, the legends, the adventures, etc., in the public places at the old time. In E-mng, Singapore, Penang and Taiwan had these places at the past days. I heard some stories about the battle between the "Tong 唐" and the "Ko-ku-le 高句麗" from the old man. The old Hokkien gave a very comfortable feeling for me when I was hearing of these stories, legends and adventures. But I had forget the vocabularies of them now.

Hong, and Niuc,
Would you hope to restore the native "Hokkien Language (Lan-lang-oe)"?
or, would you hope to remain the Mandarin-fashioned "Min-nan Dialect"?
The native vocabularies is the spirit of a language and it can preserve the "concepts, ideas, thinking, feeling, living, history, culture of this speaking people" and other benefits. I wish to share my Hokkien speaking experience happening in my child time, with the other Hokkieners and the Hokkien speaking fabvourers. I also wish the native speakers to keep their own native vocabularies and deny those loan words, unless those "loan words with its meanings" in the Hokkien language were not existed native words in it.
In my experience, the speaking in the generration of our grandparents is very different with us, especially in their vocabularies. Our grandparents said the native "Hokkien Language (Lan-lang-oe)", but we talk the Mandarin-fashioned "Min-nan Dialect". The reason is the Hokkien Language that was prohibited in the educational system and the public media.


Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by hong » Sat Dec 25, 2004 12:55 pm

If you say the old word for malaysia ,it will mean malaya is not a country along with sabah and sarawak now. The old word for Thailand-Siam including Kalantan and kedah states in malaya which is not the same case anymore.So in formal speaking but not in story telling ,you have to use modern words for countries.As for minnan noun ,verbs and adjectives,we have to use our special words but not following putonghua.We have larger vocabularies which are different from putonghua compare to cantonese and wu .

Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by Niuc » Wed Dec 29, 2004 2:42 pm

Hi SL De

Thanks a lot, I learned a lot from your posting.

If I am not mistaken, we can also say 'pho1-chi7' for city, but I am not familiar with the term 'pho1-thau5'. I also found sit8-lat8-pho1 for Singapore in Douglas' dictionary. According to it, pho1 also means a mound and Barclay's writes it as 坡. In Advanced Mandarin dictionary, 埠 can mean big city.

After reading your explanation, huan1-pin5 was used to refer to Indonesia but I don't know why I have impression that it includes Malaysia and Singapore. I read another saying 第一好過番, 第二好過台灣 (te7-it4-ho2 ker3-huan1, te7-ji7-ho2 ker3-tai5-uan1): the best is to go to Indonesia, second is to Taiwan. About 仙那眼 sian1-na2-gan2, I don't know this place.

I agree with you that we should preserve these uniquely Hokkien vocabularies. Hope that you'll share more with us. Hong also got some points, as some terms may be not as accurate for nowadays hence some loan words may be unavoidable. I wish that soon there will be an International Board to carefully examine appropriate words in Hokkien language.


Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by SL De » Wed Jan 05, 2005 2:26 am


> So in formal speaking but not in story-telling, you have to use modern words for countries.

These geographic names were not speaking in story-telling, unless only this one term of "Ko-ku-le", which term was speak in the oral litheratures by the story-tellers.

The generation of our great-parents did not know the "Putonghua (Mandarin speaking)", and they also had not the chance to learn the "Han-yu (Mandarin Writing System)". Hence they could only use the native Hokkien geographic names to express their thinking and said these native geographic names in their oral language in everyday.

Since the 1950s to the present time, the new generations of Hokkiener are only learning the "Mandarin speaking" and the "Mandarin writing system" in the school, and they are prohibited to learn their "native language and writing system" in the educational system.

Our great-parents and us speak in the two different kinds of languages. So we could not say that the oral speaking of great-parents in their everyday living, was in story-telling. If the schools taught the Hokkien Language and the Hokkien writing system in past fifty years, we would speak the same geographic names as that of our great-parents.

The "geographic name" and the "name of political administrative region" are two different concepts. The first one is a term of geography, and the second one is a term of political administration. The Hokkien Language is not an official language of the Malaysia or Thailand, hence it does not care the changes of the political administrative regions in Malaysia or Thailand. We could not apply the Hokkien Language in the courts for debating the laws of Malaysia or Thailand.

In the world, there are many languages do not care the changes of political administrative regions. For example:
The German called their state, the "Deutschland", but the contempory English called it the "Germany". The Germany is an ancient term, which means a bigger territories than the contempory Deutschland.
In the time of Mongol Conquerors, the Russia was just a very small Dukedom, but today the Russia is a very big state, it always called the name of Russia from past time to the contempory, and does not care the great changes in its territories.
The Dutchman called their state the Netherland, but we called it the Holland, the territories of Holland is smaller than the territories of Netherland.
The Englishman called their state, the "United kingdoms" which includes England, Scotland, Wales and North Ireland, but we called them "Eng-Kok", it just has the name of England and does not care the others.
The name of Japan was from the 581-618 AC, but in the 19th century it annexed many new territories, and the Japanese also called their state, the Japan.
The Canton Province was include the big island of "Hai-nan", but today the Hai-nan separated from the Canton and established a new Hai-nan province. Although the territories of Canton province is smaller than past time, but it still called Canton province.
The term of Hok-kien is mean the areas of Hok-chiu and Kien-chiu, but in South East Asia the Hok-kien changes its meaning, it just indicate the people of Choan-chiu, Chiang-chiu and E-mng, do not include the people of Hok-chiu and Kien-chiu.
There exists many cases as these exemples in the world.

Therefore, we did not care the matters about the changes of "political aministrative regions". Hence, we did not care the meanings of geographic names in the languages of Malay, Thai or Mandarin. The Hokkien Language is a heritage of us, not belong to the Malays, Thais or Mandarines. So, we need only to consider a point, how to preserve the traditional terms in its usages of the Hokkien Language, to keep the terms in its native-fashioned and its historical memories. To keep the native Lan-lang-oe, as rebuild our own culture, and transfer in its native style to the far generations in the future time.


Re: Geographic name in Hokkien

Post by hong » Wed Jan 05, 2005 4:48 am

those grandparents who can't read are almost over now in china/taiwan (maybe within 20 years more at most )or in south east asia.Min language is a modern language where the proper name has to be changed and invented for new things or else it will be a dead language soon.New generation of min people should learn proper hanzi ,grammar and pronunciation in each person min language unlike the older people a century ago.
Who said today they are people still saying canton?people are changing to guangdong province even for westerners.
I don't believe that min people are so stupid that there cannot learn new pronunciation for a new country .