Mapping the Historical Transformation of Beijing’s Regional Naming System

Part of the Historical Geography and Geosciences book series (HIGEGE)


With the introduction of humanist and Marxist philosophies, we have witnessed a trend moving from empirical examination to theoretical discussions in historical geography. In comparison with the great developments of these theoretical perspectives, the research methods regarding how to collect and analyze data to support theories have still remained grounded in traditional notions. With the rise of historical GIS, research methods have rapidly developed from the textural to the visual, from case studies to spatial analysis on maps, and from methods separated into quantitative and qualitative to integrated methods. Although historical GIS is being used to provide new insights into geographical change over time, the changing of place names has received relatively little attention. To study changing regional names throughout Beijing’s history, I provide a new systematic classification of place names. Place names can be classified into three intertwined parts: objects and numbers (scientific/practical ways of naming), histories and emotions (humanistic ways of naming), and politics and ideologies (social constructionist ways of naming). Through spatial analysis of these groups of names, we can see that the ways of naming the regions in Beijing has been transformed from the humanistic and practical ways during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), to the social constructionist ways during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), and then to the scientific ways during the Republic of China (1912–1949).


Systematic classification of place names Humanistic geography Historical GIS Beijing 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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