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New Chinese Name for Seoul, Korea

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Shou Er

For hundreds of years, Chinese have referred to the capital of Korea as Han-cheng (Hanseong in Korean). It is a strong, brave-sounding name. Han is the word for "man" or "hero" and cheng is "a walled city." So Han-cheng is "a heroic city" or "the city of heroes." No one is certain how the city of Seoul got this name.

The mayor of Seoul wants China to change the name it uses for his city. Perhaps he is concerned that Han can be associated with the Chinese Han dynasty and its people. That would make Han-cheng mean "The Chinese City." Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-Bak asked China to use the transliterated name Shou-er instead.

Shou means "head" and er is a character with no meaning that is often used in transliterated names. The Chinese use Shou-du when speaking of the "capital" of a political entity. In pronunciation, Shou-er sounds very much like the South Korean word "Seoul."

In a press conference announcing his request of Beijing, Lee noted that China is the only country to use the name Han-cheng. All others call the capital city Seoul. Lee said his government would use the new name Shou-er in Chinese translations of official city documents.

January 2005

October 24, 2005: CHINA began officially adopt "Shou'er" as the Chinese name of Seoul today, Xinhua news agency reported.

October 2005

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