“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Exploring the Impact of Manchu on Northeast China’s Place Names and Dialects


In a recent informal and informative interview in Chinese (探寻满语背后的文化圭璧), Shi Lixue chats about idioms and place names that bear a Manchu imprint. He points out that almost one-half of Jilin’s place names—including Changchun (长春), Jilin (吉林), Siping (四平), Liaoyuan (辽源) and Tonghua (通话)—are actually based on Manchu words . . .


# 1.   

Changchun, for instance, comes from “茶阿冲,” he says. Jurchen women fishing or hunting on the banks of Cha’ganhu Lake (查干湖) used to yell “茶阿冲” in unison when offering sacrifices to the gods, and this sound—“cha-a-chong” when transliterated in Mandarin—eventually became Changchun.

This sounds a little too much like a cute folk etymology (and it's not aided by claims elsewhere that 茶阿冲 was a name first given by the Sushen people 7,000 years ago...) Turns out that in this 2005 essay, Shi Lixue provides a number of competing explanations but doesn't come down in favor of any particular one. He even cautions (in regard to some dubious etymologies of an alternate name for Tonghua 通化): To truly study the regional culture of the northeast, only listening to those stories can be pretty harmful, because they block our vision and drive us further from the road to truth. (如果真正研究东北地域文化,光听这些故事是比较害人的,因为它遮住了我们的视线,让我们离认识真理的路就越来越远了。)

jdmartinsen, January 22, 2014, 3:24a.m.

# 2.   

I'd always been under the impression that Changchun was originally a military encampment, named for on of the halls in the Forbidden City...

 Eric Abrahamsen, January 23, 2014, 12:09a.m.


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