Library of Congress
Pinyin Conversion Project

Frequently Asked Questions

Conventional Chinese Place Names

General Questions

Q - Which headings for Chinese place names have been changed?

A - The Library has changed headings for Chinese place names established in conventional English-language form, and other headings established systematically according to Wade-Giles romanization, in order to bring then into conformance with the form used by the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The Library is also revising and updating subject authority records for headings containing those same place names either in $a subfields of headings tagged as 151 (geographics), including those with subdivisions or as qualifiers in headings for other geographics, buildings (110), and events (150).

Please note: Because of the implementation of the Library's new integrated library system, the publication of weekly lists of new and changed subject headings will be suspended until September 8, 1999. Changes made internally to LC subject authority records after mid-July will not be distributed until after mid-September.

Q - Why were these headings changed, and not others?

A - The headings changes 1) would not convert by program because they were not established in a systematically romanized form or 2) involved a change in policy related to administrative units (Shi) and populated places of the same name.

Q - Why were these changes made now, and not as part of the pinyin conversion project?

A - Changing conventional place names was regarded as a separate undertaking from pinyin conversion. By definition, the conventional headings (primarily first-level administrative units) were not established systematically according to the Wade-Giles system. Therefore, they would not convert on a 1-to-1 basis to pinyin form. Because of the scope of the pinyin conversion project, it was decided that, insofar as possible, conventional place names should be changed as a separate (but related) undertaking. Library officials debated whether it would make more sense to change the headings before pinyin conversion, or leave them until afterward.

While changing headings for the Chinese conventional place names included in LC Rule Interpretation 23.2, other non-Wade-Giles headings for Chinese places were identified. The project expanded to include lower-level administrative units for which current headings were no longer timely, as well as any earlier forms of name that were linked to these headings by the reference structure.

An experiment was conducted in the summer of 1998 to see how much work would be involved in changing authorities and headings on bib records for the conventional headings for one province (Sichuan Sheng) and the major cities therein: Chongqing (later elevated to a first-level administrative unit), and Chengdu. The Library wanted to discover what problems would arise, and what possible economies might help us accomplish the changes efficiently. Beginning in February 1999, Bob Hiatt, CPSO policy specialist, systematically compared LC headings with those approved by BGN on GEOnet. He then changed NARs for more than 260 geographic locations. Sometimes extensive research was required to provide references to earlier forms of names. Catalogers Lydia Hsieh and Min Zhang devised highly efficient methods of identifying and changing some 5,000 related NARs (such as subordinate bodies).

The Library hopes that at least some of the most-used headings on bibliographic records will be changed by computer program as part of the pinyin conversion project.

Q - When should we begin using the new headings?

A - One should use the form of heading that appears on an authority record in the name authority file.

Q - Should we establish new Chinese place names in pinyin form now?

A - No, the official romanization scheme for Chinese will continue to be Wade-Giles. On "Day 1" for pinyin romanization, new headings for geographic locations that are established in systematic Chinese will be romanized using the new PY guidelines. The date of "Day 1" will be announced later this year. The place names that have been established in pinyin form as part of the conventional names project should, however, be given in their new pinyin forms.

For example, if establishing Feng-hsien located in Jiangsu Sheng, romanize the name of the county systematically according to the current (Wade-Giles) standard, but use as a qualifier the name of the province that has been changed to a pinyin form.

Feng-hsien (Jiangsu Sheng, China)

At a later date, this heading, like others, will be converted to pinyin form:

Feng Xian (Jiangsu Sheng, China)

Form of Heading

Q - Why are some of the headings qualified with the name of a province, while others are not?

A - Headings for Chinese place names are qualified according to AACR2 23.4 and 24.6, and Library of Congress Rule Interpretations 23.4B, 23.4F1 and 24.6. Headings for the names of places in China are qualified in the same manner as those for places elsewhere. When the name of a city or county conflicts with another either in the database, in a BGN gazetteer or on GEOnet, that heading must be qualified with the heading for the name of the province in which it is located. If more than one place in a province having the same name is established, then the qualifier must be further refined, for example:

Shenzhen (Guangdong Sheng, China : East)
Luzhou (Anhui Sheng, China : To 1912)

Q - Why do the headings for some place names include the generic term Shi (city), while others do not?

A - The term Shi denotes an administrative unit. If GEOnet shows that a populated place at the same basic location as the Shi has the same name as the substantive portion of the administrative unit's name, the place is established without Shi. If the name of the populated place is different, the administrative unit alone is established and the name included the administrative term Shi.

GEOnet: Chengdu Shi, ADM2, 300 40' 00" N 1040 04' 00" E, CH27
  Chengdu, PPL, 300 40' 00" N 1040 04' 00" E, CH27
Heading: Chengdu (China)
GEOnet: Dongchuan Shi, ADM2, 26005' 00" N 1030 10' 00" E, CH29
  Xincun, PPL, 26005' 00" N 1030 10' 00" E, CH29
Headings: Dongchuan Shi (China)
  Xincun (Yunnan Sheng, China)

Q - Why are headings for some places romanized systematically, while others are romanized according to some other system? For example, the place which is romanized Wulumuqi is established as Urümqi (China). The place which is romanized as Ha'erbin will retain its conventional form of Harbin (China) in the name authority file.

A - Chinese standards direct one to romanize non-Chinese place names in China in such a manner that it approximates the romanization that would be common in the places themselves. For example, the Chinese standard calls upon one to romanize the characters representing Tokyo as Tokyo, and not Dongjing; those representing New York are to be romanized New York and not Niuyue. Since the United States Board on Geographic Names accepts forms approved by the Chinese themselves using its guidelines, the Library of Congress will as well.

Q - What about headings for place names in Taiwan and Macao?

A - The Library of Congress will follow the forms approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names which are currently Wade-Giles forms. In light of the Taiwan Ministry of Education's recent announcement about adoption of pinyin romanization, the United States Board on Geographic Names will be revising its approved forms as promulgated by the government on Taiwan.

Q - Questions have arisen about the form of heading for these specific places:

Fengjia (Zouping Xian, China)

A cataloger at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology identified the Fengjia established in the name authority file as being located in northwest Shandong in Zouping Xian (and not in eastern Shandong, as the NAR had indicated). The heading has now been corrected, and qualified with the name of the county to distinguish it from the other Fengjia in Shandong Sheng.

Ganzhou Fu (Gansu Sheng, China)

According to name authority record nr97-19923, the area now established as Zhangye (China) was known as Ganzhou Fu until 1912 and as Zhangye Xian from 1912 until 1985. According to the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings, H708, it is subject cataloging policy to assign as a subject heading or as a geographic subdivision only the latest name of a political jurisdiction that has had one or more earlier names, as long as the territorial identity remains essentially the same. Hence the headings Ganzhou Fu (Gansu Sheng, China) and Zhangye Xian (China) should not be used as a subject heading for any item that deals with this part of China.

Luzhou (Anhui Sheng, China : To 1912)

The heading Lu-chou (Anhwei Province, China) has been changed to Luzhou (Anhui Sheng, China : To 1912). The qualifier for the province is necessary because of a conflict with Luzhou (Sichuan Sheng, China) on n83-138673, while the qualifier "To 1912" is needed to differentiate this historical place name with another Luzhou currently found in Anhui Sheng.

Nanyang Diqu (China); Nanyang (Henan Sheng, China); Nanyang Xian (China)

Nanyang Diqu, Nanyang Shi and Nanyang Xian were dissolved in 1994. At that time, a new Nanyang Shi was established, covering almost the same area as the original Nanyang Diqu (except for Teng-hsien -- Deng Xian in pinyin -- which was left out of the new city). The new Nanyang Shi is equivalent to the former Nanyang Diqu, while the old Nanyang Shi is an ADM2 -- a smaller unit. Therefore, no change will be needed.

Rehe Sheng (China)

Formerly known as Jehol Province (China), this administrative unit was dissolved in 1956 and absorbed into three other provinces (see n86-7207)

Shaanxi Sheng (China)

This heading has not been romanized strictly according to pinyin guidelines. An extra letter a was probably added in order to distinguish this province (formerly Shensi Province (China)) from another one which is systematically romanized in the same way: Shanxi Sheng (China), formerly Shansi Province (China).

Changes to Headings on Bibliographic Records

Q - When will LC change headings for all of these place names on its bibliographic records?

A - The Library has already changed these headings on many of its bibliographic records. It is hoped that most or all of the headings on Chinese bibliographic records will be changed by the pinyin conversion program. The Library is working with RLG and OCLC on conversion specifications. Final decisions about conversion of headings on bibliographic records will be made at a later date.

Q - How should we proceed to change headings for the conventional place names on our own bibliographic records?

A - You might want to wait to see how many of these headings will be changed by the pinyin conversion program. Of course, you could change them before then, in order to have access points on your bib records conform to the headings in the name authority file.

Q - If headings on bibliographic records are changed to pinyin form in advance of machine conversion, won't a lot of these headings be re-converted by the conversion program to a form that is not the correct one?

A -The Wade-Giles system romanizes Chinese in single-syllable units. Some Wade-Giles syllables are the same as their pinyin counterparts (ming = ming), while some differ (ch'ien = qian). However, there are 61 "common" syllables which, although they are used in both systems, indicate different sounds. For example, Wade-Giles t'a converts to pinyin ta, but Wade-Giles ta converts to pinyin da. This being the case, double conversion could occur if one of these common syllables were changed to pinyin form before machine conversion, and then converted (again) by the pinyin conversion program.

The Library is considering the possibility of double-conversion as it formulates a timetable for changing headings on bibliographic records. Most of the Chinese conventional place names have changed to multi-syllabic units (Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Dunhuang) which would not be considered for conversion by the computer program. Where single syllables have resulted, most would not double-convert because they are either the same as their Wade-Giles counterparts (Mei), or are different than any Wade-Giles syllable (Shi, Xian).

Only two of the more than 260 conventional headings would "double-convert":

Pi Xian (Jiangsu Sheng, China) would convert incorrectly to Bi Xian (Jiangsu Sheng, China)

Teng Xian (Shandong Sheng, China) would convert incorrectly to Deng Xian (Shandong Sheng, China)

Both of these headings represent earlier names of other place names that were being converted. Neither appears as a heading on any bibliographic records in the RLIN or OCLC databases, or in LC's local database. Therefore, LC believes that there is little risk that double-conversion would result from changing the headings for conventional place names on bibliographic records to pinyin form before machine conversion to pinyin.

Frequently asked questions and answers will be updated throughout the conversion project

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