Place Names in Rural China since Late Antiquity

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No. 10, 2021


Place Names in Rural China since Late Antiquity



Lan Yong


Since late antiquity, there has always existed spatial and temporal differences in clusters of rural Chinese place names. In the Song dynasty, there were two types of rural place name clusters in southeastern and northern China. The former is represented by Yinxian and Qinchuan, where a certain proportion of village place names used the generic cun (village) or zhuang (village). Generic names were particularly common among waterrelated place names. A large part of these place names followed the formula “surname + jia (family) + generic name.” From the Song to the Qing, there were few changes in groups of village place names of this type. The northern type is represented by Anyang and Luzhou, where quite a high proportion of village place names used the generic cun. Specifically, place names in the form of “surname + cun” were the most common. In village place names in Anyang, the collocation “position + the same name” was often used and was passed down in names in which the characteristic generic cun remained unchanged over a long period. In Luzhou, however, the style of village place names changed quite considerably during the period under question. Specifically, the proportion of the village place names using the generic cun showed a marked decline. Under the Qing, large numbers of place names appeared in the form “surname + jia + generic name from the natural world.” The style of rural place name clusters has varied greatly depending on spatial differences and temporal trajectories, driven by the common demands of people in given localities at a given time. One can find some historical memory of Chinese rural areas in the spatial and temporal differences and changes in rural place name clusters.