Where I am in Kunming there is a square that seems to go by two names:

金碧广场, Jīn bì guǎngchǎng, "Golden Square"

金马碧鸡, Jīnmǎ bì jī fang, "Golden Horse and Green Rooster Square"

When I look up "square" or "plaza" in English-Chinese dictionaries I only see 广场 (guǎngchǎng).

When I look up "坊" I only find senses such as "city subdivision" and "neighbourhood".

Wiktionary does not list "坊" and "广场" as synonyms.

Google Translate does translate "坊" to "square" but it can't always be trusted.

Are "square", "plaza", "piazza" valid senses for "坊"?

2 Answers 2


The 坊 in 金马碧鸡坊 refers to 牌坊. There is a 金马牌坊 and a 碧鸡牌坊 as mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

In the olden days, an arch known as 牌坊 is used to mark the entrance to a city subdivision. From Wikipedia:

The largest division within a city in ancient China was a fang (坊), equivalent to current day precinct. Each fang was enclosed by walls or fences, and the gates of these enclosure were shut and guarded every night. Each fang was further divided into several pai (牌; literally "placard"), which is equivalent to current day (unincorporated) community. Each pai in turn, contained an area including several hutongs (alleyways).

The most busy part of a town is usually at the gateway where the thoroughfare is. In modern times, 牌坊 only serves as a monumental structure.

The word 坊 has several other meanings. Including:

街市 (street market) and
里巷 (lane, e.g. 兰桂坊)

Nowadays, the usage has been extended to represent a place filled with activities, including a square, a plaza or even a shopping mall e.g. 朗豪坊.

  • Would it be fair to say then that "坊" acquired a new sense due to being used as an abbreviation for "牌坊"? Sadly I don't have access to Wikipedia due to the Great Firewall )-: Nov 4, 2013 at 14:37
  • @hippietrail, I can access wikipedia here Nov 4, 2013 at 16:22
  • 1
    I would say it is just one of the several reasons. 街坊,茶坊,工作坊,etc, possess the same connotation too.
    – 杨以轩
    Nov 5, 2013 at 0:59

“坊” has two meanings:

  1. fāng means “lane”.

  2. fáng means “workshop”

I think that 金马碧鸡坊 is not the name of a square. We have a place called 田子坊, it’s a place that has lots of workshops and lanes, people can buy many handcrafts there.
“Square” in Chinese should be 广场, and usually it could be a big place, like Tian’anmen square in Beijing.
“Plaza” in Chinese could be 购物广场 (shopping mall).
“Piazza” in Chinese should be 广场 as well, but usually it’s in the open air.

  • Hmm at 金马碧鸡坊 there is a bunch of little shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts, and local specialties plus just a couple of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Would that be a "坊"? Neither "lane" nor "workshop" seem like the right word to describe this place. Nov 5, 2013 at 10:47

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