What if MTR station names are translated literally? 地名意譯的港鐵圖

As somebody who loves the railways, my interest immediately extends to railway maps. It’s quite common to mess around with the underground map in London; but doing that is too mainstream. Rather, how about if I do something to the Hong Kong MTR map?

With Cantonese place names in Hong Kong, its English name is the simply a phonetic transliteration. As a result you get names that are almost impossible to pronounce correctly without Cantonese knowledge. Moreover, the toponymy of some Hong Kongese place names are actually different in Cantonese and English, further complicating the issue.



Instead of a translation by phonetics, how about one by meaning?

Rather than ‘Mong Kok’ and ‘Causeway Bay’, how about ‘Prosperous Corner’ and ‘Gong Bay’? (Click to enlarge)

Please read further for rules and explanations for less obvious translations. 翻譯的規則和較特別的譯名,請按入看詳情。

Rules of Translation

  • The Chinese station names as shown on the MTR map is standard.
  • For station names where its Chinese definition is not obvious, I used their original meaning where possible. The research is done with the utmost authority in the world aka the internet.
  • A few names have their Chinese characters changed for good fortune. This ‘fortunate’ version is translated.
  • Stations with Chinese names transliterated from English, and those already with a literal translation are left unaltered.
  • I have joined up some station names as Western place names rarely exceed 3 words.

p.s. I’ve received some very warm feedback for this and thanks to all for that. Many Cantonese speakers have kindly suggested that the translation was not precise enough and ignored the original etymology for a few places. (Admiralty, for example)

I want to make it clear that the purpose of this exercise is to let the non-Chinese speakers among us to have some ideas as to what the MTR map is actually saying to the Chinese speakers. Indeed, that’s why Prince Edward Station was changed despite the Chinese version having pretty much- but not exactly- the same meaning. Hence, this is a literal, and not (necessarily) a precise version.

  • 翻譯以港鐵圖上的中文名稱作準。
  • 若車站的中文名字看來無甚意思,我盡量從網上找到名稱的由來,然後把它們譯成英文。
  • 很多地名的用字因要「好意頭」而被改過。我譯了「好意頭」的名字。
  • 本身中文名是英文音譯,又或者英文名已是中文意譯車站名字不作改動。
  • 英語系的地方多數不超3個字,所以我把部份的譯名連了起來。

Couple of Observations

  • Public Housing Estates, take a bow. I would quite like to live in ‘Utmost Peace’ or ‘Permanent Security’. Would avoid ‘Bright Screen’ though, and I am not sure what ‘Trillion Health’ is going to get me.
  • ‘I live in No. 1 City,’ is not a bad claim either.
  • There’s a Red Cliff in the middle of the Victoria harbour. War hazard caution.
  • The Irony of LOHAS Park being called ‘Health City’ when there’s a huge landfill right next to it.

More Obscure Translations 較特別的譯名

Original Name 原名
My Translation 翻譯
Tsing Yi 青衣
Quarry Bay 鰂魚涌
Blackspot Tuskfish
Goldfish Stream
Both came from fish species. 青衣 is straightforward. 鰂魚 is more complicated: goldish is a subset. (The alternative would its academic name, Carassius Auratus)
Che Kung Temple 車公廟
Nam Cheong 南昌
Wong Tai Sin 黃大仙
Che Kung Temple
All are proper nouns. Changed Nam Cheong’s spelling to pinyin to fit the city in China
Mei Foo 美孚
Tai Koo太古
Both transliteration of company names. Their english name is used here
LOHAS Park 康城
Prince Edward 太子
Health City
Crown Prince
While the Chinese translation came from the English, their meanings differ slightly
Sham Shui Po 深水埗
Tai Po Market 大埔墟
Deepwater Pier
Great Port Market
Both and implies port. is apparently smaller in scale
Fo Tan 火炭
Fire Beach
From Hakka 火灘 (“Fire Beach”)
Lo Wu 羅湖
Shell Lake
Originally 螺湖
Yuen Long 元朗
Plentiful Lowland
The difficult one. According to Wikipedia, 元朗 was evolved from 圓蓢and 元塱. ‘‘ means ‘perfect’ or ‘plentiful’, while ‘‘ suggests that it was a wet lowland by the river.
Shek Kip Mei 石硤尾
Gorge End
comes from ‘gorge’
Kam Sheung Road 綿上路
Brocade-Upper Road
The road between 綿田(Brocade fields) and 上村 (Upper Village)
Po Lam 寶琳
The funny one. Po Lam was named after the wife of the priest in a nearly sanatorium. So I invented a similar name to keep the spirit!
據聞「寶琳」一名是療養院牧師太太的名字。直接寫 Po Lam有點無聊,所以作了個名。
Sheung Wan 上環
is most likely boundaries of the City of Victoria at the beginning of colonial times. Considered ‘Upper Victoria’, but went with ‘Upper’ so it is in the same style as Central.
Not gonna lie, that took a lot longer than I thought. But it is actually quite fun. Also in the process I managed to amuse myself with a couple of inappropriate/ politically incorrect/ downright vulgar names in the process, so there is another map coming maybe? Map from the MTR website.