China is a country of multiple ethnicities, some of which can also be found in its neighboring countries, like Russia and Koreas. So the same ethnic groups are named the same as that in such other countries, like 俄罗斯族 and 朝鲜族.

But in the case of a minority ethnic group which is also found in a central Asian country, it is named 乌兹别克 for the country, but 乌孜别克 for the race living in China, why is there the different spelling for the same thing?

P.S.: 壮族in China is named 京族in Vietnam, but there are also 京族 living in Hainan and Guangxi of China.

  • 1
    In the Wikipedia page(zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/…), there is such statement: "在现代汉语中,对分布于中国境内的一般记作乌孜别克族,对分布于中国境外的一般记作乌兹别克族。". But it did not say the source of the statement.
    – fefe
    Sep 1, 2017 at 15:38
  • 2
    pros and cons of differing orthographies discussed in zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user6065
    Sep 1, 2017 at 15:43
  • Generally, if a name used in ancient and till now, we use it directly. so if Chinese people use 乌孜别克 for a long period, nothing required to be changed, it is a fact. Sep 6, 2017 at 1:39

3 Answers 3


In 1934, 盛世才 held the second public meeting in Xinjiang, determining 乌孜别克 (wū zī bié kè) as the official ethnic name, and the foreign Uzbek still writing as 乌兹别克.

Therefore, 乌孜别克 usually refers to the race in China. But, many people still use 乌兹别克 interchangeably, as shown in the government web page.

However, 乌兹别克 mostly refers to the foreign country or race. 乌孜别克 is seldom used in this case.

I think 孜 is more popular than 兹 in Xinjiang, and that's why 盛世才 chose it. For example,
seasoning : 孜然 (cumin)
festival : 肉孜节, 诺鲁孜节
place : 克孜尔千佛洞, 克孜尔尕哈, 柏孜克里克, 克孜尔魔鬼城, 克孜勒山, 克孜利亚, 克孜库尔干, 克孜勒苏, 牙通古孜
language : 柯尔克孜语

盛世才 (Shèng Shì-cái) (1897/1/8 - 1970/7/13)
Sheng ruled the Xinjiang province from 1933 to 1944, and had the name of "King of Xinjiang".

  • But I don't think the communist China would accept such a decision one hundred percent from a warlord of the earlier KMT administration, and that there is more behind the story of two different spellings. Sep 10, 2017 at 3:16

對於上個回答我感到抱歉 I am sorry for the last answer! 我想最有可能的原因是"口音"的關係 The most reason is the 'Pronunciation'!

在古代中國的人口就不少,再加上氣候變遷戰亂造成的人口移動! 在冷兵器的時代大規模的人口的移動本身也很容易引發戰亂.扯遠了~ 通常命名一個族群通常是因為商業上或官方上的需求 (雙方需要交易,且沒有一方有絕對的武力優勢) 通常會以地理環境,或者對方怎麼稱呼自己,發展出的命名法則! 當然名稱是會變得~但那又扯遠了,或者要說很多...

Uzbek '乌孜别克'和'乌兹别克'以中文來發音,兩者並沒有不同,這明顯是個音譯(用聲音翻譯)而不是意譯(用意思翻譯)! 也就是說,你就算把Uzbek寫成'汙齜蹩剋'也是可以的! 只是'汙齜蹩剋'這些音沒有問題,但個別字的字義就有非常的糟糕! 如果我是個Uzbek的人且明白中文的字義,你的國家把我的國家翻譯成'汙齜蹩剋',我肯定會找你拼命的!所以在國家翻譯尤其是音譯不會選擇明顯帶有歧異的字眼!

  • A minor difference in spelling might be a trick played by politicians, who want others to believe these two peoples are different. Xinjiang is the place where such ethnic groups live in great numbers but Xinjiang seems to mean "New Frontier or Boundary", place obtained from others by the Qing Dynasty of China. Sep 7, 2017 at 12:44

The distinction is not a strict rule. According the this and this Wiki, both spelling can be used to denote either the country or the ethnic group. A quick search for both terms will show that they can be used interchangeably. It is good practice, however, to standardize the spelling within a single document so as not to bring about unnecessary confusion. I would not recommend making the differentiation in formal writing, unless you have something to say about it. (Such as, needing a shorthand to differentiate between Uzbeks who are Chinese nationals and those who are not.)

Chinese has its own convention for transliterating proper nouns from a foreign language. As long as the convention (primarily phonetic, often also lyrical) is followed and people can easily see what you mean from the context, you will be doing fine.

The Uzbel Pass, for example, has been rendered as「烏仔別里」、「烏茲別里」and「烏斯別里」in the《西北邊界地名譯漢考》and《清續文獻通考》published respectively in the late Qing and early Republican period, less than two decades apart. These are encyclopedic documents which record both historical and contemporary spellings of the term, so you get an idea of how the language works over here.

The preference for「孜」in place of「茲」to name the people within Chinese administrative region in this case is likely to be based on lyrical and/or practical grounds rather than brute politics. The latter is usually used as a preposition or pronoun to mean this, here or now in formal writing. On the other hand, the former has the unambiguous positive meanings of diligence and meticulousness. Which, incidentally, makes the differentiation a good way of making distinctions between the specific (Chinese nationals) and the general (Uzbeks in general) .

@user6065 has provided a very good lead. 「茲」is actually a heteronym with an alternative pronunciation of ci2, which is commonly used in foreign place names like 「龜茲國」(qiu1 ci2 guo2, also written as 「兹」, to show its affiliation with 「慈」). The point of contention over here is that the Uzbeks call themselves Oʻzbek, with a voiced and inaspirated consonant 'z' (sounds like 'Ooh-ze-bek') in the middle, while the Russians call them узбек (sounds like 'Uh-s-bek') , with an unvoiced [s] sound in the middle. The [s] is deemed to be aspirated, like ci2. (It is not; aspirated [s] should sound like the front 'S' in 'States'.) Therefore the choice of 「孜」 in place of 「茲」 is deliberately made as a show of amity: by calling the Uzbeks as they call themselves, rather than as the Russians call them. In fact, the phonemic contrast in question over here between Oʻzbek and узбек is actually that of the voiced [z] and unvoiced [s] rather than the aspirated [tsh] and unaspirated [ts] (between ci2 and zi1). Moreover, 「兹」(ci2) is historically pronounced with the voiced consonant [z], like Oʻzbek. So there actually is a more erudite way (traditionally adopted by the Chinese) to express friendship - that is, to be loyal to the original transliteration, based on middle Chinese pronunciations and read it as it is.

@hinen, check this out:


As pointed out by @NanningYouth, China was still under the Nationalist Government in 1934. Xinjiang under Sheng's rule nonetheless refused to kowtow to the Nationalist government till as late as 1943. Even so, his submission did not last long. Moreover, Sheng suggested in 1941 that Xinjiang should join the Soviet Union and relinquish any relationship with China. This shows that Sheng is more likely to be pro-Russian than pro-China (Sheng was ethnically Manchu, not Chinese), and whatever considerations he had when he proposed a differentiation of the term, it was definitely not in service of the Chinese government at that time.

The PRC government of today is merely an (possibly passive) inheritor of whatever custom that's been left behind. There's not doubt they may try to tweak the situation to their own advantage, but till now I've seen no concrete evidence that this has been done, as far as the naming of the ethnic group is concerned.

Given the above, here's a summarized conjecture of the possible political motivation (if any) behind Sheng's choice when he proposed to make that differentiation:

  1. We know that 「茲」can be pronounced as zi1 or ci2, with zi1 closer to the s in the Russian name, узбек, (don't get confused with the 'z' in the hanyupinyin) and ci2 closer to the voiced [z] in the Uzbek name, Oʻzbek.(Contrary to what is proclaimed in this wiki.) Some Chinese dialect still preserve the voiced「兹」ci2 today, such as the Shanghainese Wu dialect, which reads「兹」as [zɦ].
  2. 「孜」shares with「茲」the former pronunciation.
  3. Given that「茲」can be pronounced both the Russian way AND the Uzbek way, it is highly possible that Sheng chose「孜」to deliberately pick the Russian way of pronouncing 'Uzbek'. (Our current English pronunciation of 'Uzbek' is also closer to the Russian reading.) That Sheng was pro-Russia made this even more possible.

All said, the above 'political motivation' remains a conjecture and awaits more evidence to prove if it is true or not.

  • The case of 新加坡 is more about different rules of government than the variety of spelling in a country. As you know, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao are politically and administratively different from the mainland China, so they have their choices to use any translation for the same thing. Sep 8, 2017 at 15:07
  • You might need to do some further research to find out if this is truly a ubiquitous usage pattern amongst the Chinese nationals. I am fully aware of the pressure to be politically correct in the Mainland. So I would not be surprised if this were indeed the case. What I am trying to say over here is that we as users of the language can actually make a personal choice to use it effectively and responsibly. Rules are meaningful only when they fit this criteria for the individual user.
    – Sati
    Sep 8, 2017 at 15:26
  • Here is an exception. Check this out, and this search result as well. I rest my case.
    – Sati
    Sep 8, 2017 at 22:40

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