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If you’re American, there’s one question you’ll always be asked from curious people in China when they find out you’re from the US of A:
Although the average Chinese person on the street could only name 5-10 states, there is a Chinese name for each and every one. While the English names for Chinese provinces and cities are simple Romanizations of the words, the Chinese names for the 50 states are made by breaking the name down syllable by syllable. For each syllable, a Chinese character with a similar pronunciation is used. Or, in the case of states with North, South, West, or New in the name, the Chinese character for that word is used. You’ll see the Chinese word for “new” (新 – xīn) in the names of New Jersey, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, but interestingly enough, not in New York.
Sure, Americans tend to mispronounce Chinese words for cities/provinces – Chinese people are always correcting foreigners on their pronunciation of Shanghai, for example – but often times the Chinese words for American states or cities sound little to nothing like the English name. What state do you think is called “Qiáo zhì yà” in Chinese? How about “Bīn xī fǎ ní yǎ”? Those would be Georgia and Pennsylvania. Some names sound about the same, such as “Ā lā bā mǎ” and “Mì xī xī bǐ,” which you probably guessed are Alabama and Mississippi. My poor state (Michigan) can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to its Chinese name, as two are commonly used – “Mì xiē gēn” and “Mì xī gēn.” When referring to Washington or New York in Chinese, you’ll want to add the character for “state” (州 – zhōu) to differentiate the between D.C. and NYC. Without further adieu, here are the Chinese names for all 50 states:
There you go – now you’ll be able to tell people which state you’re from! If you’re American, leave us a comment in Chinese to practice! I’ll start: