As I find out, there is an abbreviation for each province in China, for example, 北京 is 京, 广东is 粤, 上海 is 沪, 广州 is 穗 and so on, but in many cases these three cities are also known as 北上广 rather than 京沪穗。

Another example is that: A CBA basketball match between Guangdong and Beijing teams is 粤京大战, according to sport reports in media.

The development plan of a western region is known as 川渝双城记 (if 川 is Sichuan, how can it be a city?)

The city of Nanjing is shortened to be 宁, but that is also the abbreviation of 宁夏, and the Railway Bureau of Nanning or 南宁铁路局 is called 宁铁 in short, but not 南铁 or 邕铁, as 邕 is the official short form of 南宁.

So what is the rule for that?

  • There is no rigid rule on how to call the provinces and cities by their abbreviated names (簡稱), but usually are formalized by the government thru preference., then become the norm. 川渝 - 四川省重庆市.
    – r13
    Jan 13, 2023 at 19:36
  • Your info is outdated. Chongqing has been independent of Sichuan for almost 3 decades. Jan 15, 2023 at 2:01
  • Abbreviations have nothing to do with administrative levels, they only represent the short name for the local. baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%B7%9D%E6%B8%9D/9276229
    – r13
    Jan 15, 2023 at 3:52

2 Answers 2

  1. "Formal" abbreviations of many places have historical origin, e.g., related to the city's historical name.
  2. There are some "formal" abbreviations shared by several places. It's not common, but there are some.
  3. A place can have several abbreviations, and there are conventions on which is used in where.
  4. People are getting sloppier about abbreviations, e.g., not using the formal abbreviations but instead using the initial character. And social media contributes to the spread of those usage.

For example, the term 北上广 was first used in 2000s by tech industry workers. It's an easier and less formal term than 京沪穗. Social media definitely contributed to the popularization of this term.

You mentioned Nanjing. The formal abbreviation is 宁 because one historical name of the city is 江宁. This abbreviation is used in terms like 宁杭铁路 (Nanjing-Hangzhou Raiway). But there are also many occasions where Nanjing is abbreviated 南, e.g., the abbreviation of Nanjing University (南京大学) is 南大 rather than 宁大.

  • What about the railway line between Beijing and Guangzhou京广线? Two different types of abbreviation are mixed. Jan 14, 2023 at 3:23
  • Another example is the 粤港澳大湾区 and 省港杯足球赛, where 省 and 粤 are used to indicate 广东. In the case of number plate for vehicles, both 广西 and 贵州 use "Gui", 桂 for Guangxi, 贵 for Guizhou, which often confuse traffic radio listeners. Jan 14, 2023 at 3:27
  • @NanningYouth Both 广 and 穗 are widely-accepted abbreviations for 广州. Even in the railway system, there is usage of both: 京广线 and 穗深铁路 which connects Guangzhou and Shenzhen. So there's not much rigor and consistency, or rules that don't have any exceptions.
    – hooyeh
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:32

Thank you for this question I actually didn't know about it myself But looks like the abbreviations were decided instead of following certain rule.

the list of all the abbreviated locales (province) can be found here


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