The Shanghai municipal government is progressing a project to protect the old names of historical places in the city and the whole list will be published at the end of 2006, Liu Bo, an official from the city's bureau of urban planning, said at the 9th conference on city names held on Monday.
Often of profound cultural significance, the name of a place allows historic culture to pass from one generation to the next. In a narrow sense these are just location names. But in broad terms these names contain a great deal of information including the relationship between the place and people, the origin, background and historical stories attached to a district.
Take Shanghai as an example. Its short names are "Hu" and "Shen." The original meaning of the word Hu was fishing tool. This suggests Shanghai people lived on fishing in history. Shen comes from Lord Chun Shen, a famous high official who administered Shanghai and its surrounding areas during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
According to Dai Junliang, director of the regional names division under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, a number of cities across the country including Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu and Zhengzhou have paid attention to the importance of old place names and taken measures to protect them.
Beijing, for example, has an ongoing project on the protection of the names of old hutongs (ancient city alleys or lanes unique to Beijing). Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, has forwarded an application for intangible cultural heritage protection for some of its place names.
A list of Shanghai place names to be protected is currently being prepared, said Liu Bo. The organization in charge has entrusted the Horizon Research to make investigations into the culture of place names at township level in the city.
The place names will be classified into different groups according to their history: 500, 1,000 and 2,000 years. Current investigations show that the place name "Huangdu" has been existing for more than 2,000 years.
Liu also said that the protection list will provide a basis for keeping the older name when two towns are merged.
(China.org.cn by Xu Lin, November 16, 2006)