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How to Say “North, South, East, West” in Chinese Directions?

~ 东 南 西 贝 ~



Mandarin Directions I – 东南西北 vs North, South, East, West in Chinese

You learn about Mandarin Directions 东南西北 Dōngnán xīběi on a geographic position – North, South, East, West in Chinese and its inter-cardinal points – North-West, South-West, North-East and South-West. The next section is a little introduction to consult a geomancer (aka Feng Shui) in Asia, namely Singapore of where I come. You can scroll down the page if you have no interest to read about Feng Shui.

Fengshui Influence in Chinese Belief

Many Chinese people like to know the directions – North, South, East, West when buying a house, especially in Singapore. As Singapore is humid and hot throughout the year with a temperature between 28° – 35°C, people avoid buying a unit with windows directly facing the sun facing the west for fear of getting too much heat in the house.

For some other countries that I know of such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, consulting the Feng Shui before buying a house is a big deal. They believe a well-positioned house direction can bring luck, wealth and prosperity in their lives, improving their career and relationship.


In the Western world, people do not care about such stuff due to lack of information or feel that Fengshui is not scientifically proven. Quite a few that I know of are interested to know about how the geomancy works and believes in the power of a good Fengshui.

Today, we are not going to discuss geomancy and its relevancy but on the Chinese cardinal directions – North, South, East, West aka 东南西北 in Mandarin.

But, wait a minute…

Why 东南西北 East, South, West, North in Chinese?

In the Chinese language, we do not call the directions literally as North, South, East, West but East, South, West, North which is 东南西北 Dōngnán xīběi. Even the Chinese tile-based game, Mahjong, uses the four directions 东南西北 as one of its rules.

The four diagonal directions (Inter-cardinal or Ordinal) are North-East (NE), South-East (SE), South-West (SW), and North-West (NW). The table below will give you the exact directions in Chinese.

The translation of the inter-cardinal points in English is the opposite direction in Mandarin. Eg. North-East in English would read as East-North 东北 Dōngběi in Chinese and South-East in English would be East-South 东南 Dōngnán. Very confusing. I know.



 

Table of North, South, East, West in Chinese Directions and Their Inter-Cardinal Positions

Chinese people also believe in doing things in a clockwise direction and not in an anti-clockwise position where possible. Hence, the audio below will read 东、南、西、北、东北、东南、西南、西北 in a clockwise direction instead of the horizontal line. Therefore, do not be confused.

North-West

西北

Xī Běi

North

Běi

North-East

东北

Dōng běi

West

西

East

Dōng

South-West

西南

Xī nán

South

Nán

South-East

东南

Dōng nán



20 Vocabulary Relating to Mandarin Directions – North, South East, West in Chinese

Compass指南针,罗盘Zhǐnánzhēn, Luópán
World Map世界地图Shìjiè dìtú
Direction方位, 方向Fāngwèi, Fāngxiàng
Position位置Wèizhì
Geography地理Dìlǐ
Geographic Position地理位置Dìlǐ wèizhì
Region, Area 地区Dìqū
Place, Location地方Dìfāng
Located, Situated位于Wèiyú
Where哪里,在什么地方  Nǎlǐ, Zài shénme dìfāng

 

Towards, To向,朝,往Xiàng, Cháo, Wǎng
Sense of Direction方向感Fāngxiàng gǎn
Lose One’s Way迷失方向,迷路Míshī fāngxiàng, Mílù
East, Eastern Part东部Dōngbù
South, Southern Part南部Nánbù
West, Western Part西部Xībù
North, Northern Part北部Běibù
Centre正中,中心,
中央,中间
Zhèngzhòng, Zhōngxīn,
Zhōngyāng, Zhōngjiān
Clockwise Direction顺时针方向Shùn shízhēn fāngxiàng
Anti-Clockwise Direction逆时针方向Nì shízhēn fāngxiàng



Questions and Answers on Geographic Position

Below are 5 sets of questions and answers to ask about the geographic location of a country, city or place. One common term relating to directions in Chinese is 位于 Wèiyú which means “located” or “situated”.

Where is China geographic position on the world map?

中国地理位置在世界地图哪里?
Zhōng guó dì lǐ wèi zhì zài shì jiè dì tú nǎ lǐ?


China is located in the eastern part of Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean.

中国位于亚洲东部、太平洋西岸。
Zhōng guó wèi yú yà zhōu dōng bù, tài píng yáng xī’àn.

 

Beijing is in which part of China?

北京在中国的什么方位?
Běi jīng zài zhōng guó de shén me fāng wèi?


Beijing is in the Northern part of China.

北京在中国北部。
Běi jīng zài zhōng guó běi bù.

 

Jiuzhaigou is situated at which place?

九塞沟位于什么地方?
Jiǔ sāi gōu wèi yú shén me dì fāng?


Jiuzhaigou is situated in Sichuan Province, one of the three provinces in Southwest China.

九塞沟位于四川省,是中国西南地区的三大省份之一。
Jiǔ sāi gōu wèi yú sì chuān shěng, shì zhōng guó xī nán dì qū de sān dà shěng fèn zhī yī.


Where is Harbin in Heilongjiang?

哈尔滨在黑龙江哪里?
Hā’ěr bīn zài hēi lóng jiāng nǎ lǐ?


Harbin belongs to Heilongjiang Province in the northern geographic region of Northeast China (Dongbei). Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang, located in the South of Heilongjiang.

哈尔滨属于黑龙江中国东北北部地区。哈尔滨是黑龙江的首都,位于黑龙江南部。 
Hā’ěr bīn shǔ yú hēi lóng jiāng zhōng guó dōng běi běi bù dì qū. Hā’ěr bīn shì hēi lóng jiāng de shǒu dū, wèi yú hēi lóng jiāng nán bù.

 

Which direction should I walk if I am lost in the forest? My sense of direction is not that good.

如果我在森林迷失方向,往哪里走?我的方向感不是太好。
Rú guǒ wǒ zài sēn lín mí shī fāng xiàng, wǎng nǎ lǐ zǒu? Wǒ de fāng xiàng gǎn bù shì tài hǎo.


If you are lost in the forest, always head towards the north.

如果你在森林里迷路,永远朝北方向走。
Rú guǒ nǐ zài sēn lín lǐ mí lù, yǒng yuǎn cháo běi fāng xiàng zǒu.



 

15 Vocabulary for Eastern, Western Culture and Continental Location

The Chinese terms of adjectives and nouns describe the people, culture and the location name of the continent.

Oriental People东方人Dōngfāng rén
Westerners 西方人Xīfāng rén
Eastern Countries东方国家Dōngfāng wénhuà
Western Culture西方国家Xīfāng wénhuà
Eastern Culture东方文化Dōngfāng wénhuà
Western Culture西方文化 Xīfāng wénhuà
Chinese and Western Culture中西方文化 Zhōng xīfāng wénhuà
North America北美,北美洲Běiměi, Běi měizhōu
South America南美,南美洲Nánměi, Nán měizhōu
Latin America 拉美,拉丁美洲Lāměi, Lādīng měizhōu
Northern Europe北欧Běi’ōu
Southern Europe南欧Nán’ōu
Eastern Europe东欧Dōng’ōu
Western Europe西欧Xī’ōu
South-East Asia东南亚Dōngnányà


Sentence Examples – Culture and Location

The sentences examples are vocabulary that you have learnt above.

Which western country do you want to travel the most?

你最想去哪个西方国家旅行?
Nǐ zuì xiǎng qù nǎ ge xī fāng guó jiā lǚ xíng?


Oriental refers to the people of the East, generally refers to Asians.

東方人是指东方国家的人,一般指亚洲人。
Dōng fāng rén shì zhǐ dōng fāng guó jiā de rén, yī bān zhǐ yà zhōu rén.


Although I am a Westerner, I am very interested in Eastern (Oriental) culture.

虽然我是西方人,我却对东方文化非常感兴趣。
Suī rán wǒ shì xī fāng rén, wǒ què duì dōng fāng wén huà fēi cháng gǎn xìng qù.


What is the difference between the Western and Eastern culture?

西方文化与东方文化有什么区别?
Xī fāng wén huà yǔ dōng fāng wén huà yǒu shé me qū bié?


I want to travel to South America, especially in Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

我想去南美洲旅行, 尤其是巴西、哥伦比亚、智利和阿根廷。
Wǒ xiǎng qù nán měi zhōu lǚ xíng, yóu qí shì bā xī, gē lún bǐ yǎ, zhì lì hé ā gēn tíng.


The five Nordic countries in Northern Europe are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

北欧五国是位于北欧的丹麦、芬兰、冰岛、挪威和瑞典。
Běi’ōu wǔ guó shì wèi yú běi’ōu de dān mài, fēn lán, bīng dǎo, nuó wēi hé ruì diǎn.


Eastern Europe’s economy is not better than the countries in Western Europe.

东欧经济不比西欧国家来得好。
Dōng’ōu jīng jì bú bǐ xī’ōu guó jiā lái dé hǎo.


In South France, Nice is a famous Gold Coast.

在南法,尼斯是个著名的黄金海岸。
Zài nán fǎ, ní sī shì gè zhù míng de huáng jīn hǎi’àn.


How many countries are there in Southeast Asia?

东南亚一共有几个国家?
Dōng nán yà yī gòng yǒu jǐ gè guó jiā?


Southeast Asia has a total of 11 countries. They are Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

东南亚一共有11个国家。 它们是文莱、柬埔寨、东帝汶、印度尼西亚、老挝、马来西亚、缅甸、菲律宾、新加坡、泰国和越南。

Dōng nán yà yī gòng yǒu 11 gè guó jiā. Tā men shì wén lái, jiǎn pǔ zhài, dōng dì wèn, yìn dù ní xī yà, lǎo wō, mǎ lái xī yà, miǎn diàn, fēi lǜ bīn, xīn jiā pō, tài guó hé yuè nán.

 

Next: Mandarin Directions Part II

Hope you enjoy the lesson today understanding more on North, South, East, West in Chinese. Learn the next two parts of Mandarin Directions: –

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