Vol. 71 No. 2 (2023): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

Practicing and Managing Foreign Toponyms in China: Cultural Politics and Ideologies

Guowen Shang
University of Bergen
Lili Yang
Soochow University

Published 2023-06-08


  • place names,
  • toponymy,
  • xenophilia,
  • China,
  • politics,
  • cultural studies,
  • linguistic landscape
  • ...More


This study examines the vogue of adopting foreign-origin place names in Chinese cities and the Chinese governments’ endeavors to regulate the toponymic landscape. The place naming practices, management, and public attitudes concerning foreign toponyms are analyzed to reveal the cultural politics and ideologies of place naming in China’s context. It is found that the foreign toponyms emplaced in urban space mostly have Western origins or roots, and their profusion is largely attributed to their associated symbolic capital, and the clientele’s taste and class identity. In the rectification process, Chinese governments at different levels constructed themselves as protectors of traditional Chinese culture and guards against xenophilia, thus enhancing their symbolic power and governing legitimacy. The general public has resisted top-down toponymic planning via acts of citizenship to reclaim the rights of naming and owning public space. Our findings suggest that nowadays, even in highly regulated societies like China, it would be hard to achieve the expected planning goals when governments simply resort to hegemonic power to implement the place (re)naming policies.


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