Street of Virtuous Migrant Gentlemen

Amsterdam has its own Chinatown. You’ll know it when you get there because the street names are given in Dutch and Chinese. If you’ve noticed the signs you might wonder how the Chinese names were derived, are they a translation, or a transliteration?

A mixture, as it turns out.

Nieumarkt for example is a direct translation – 新廣場 (xin1 guang2 chang3) means “new square”.

Stormsteeg – 順風里 (shun4 feng1 li3) means “smooth wind alley”, it seems the Dutch ‘storm’ has been turned into something much milder, with auspicious overtones.

Zeedijk – 善德街 (shan4 de2 jie1) means good/kind virtue street – Zeedijk would have been a dyke against the sea (surprised?), but that was several hundred years ago, long before there were Chinese in Amsterdam so this is pure transliteration.

Binnen Bantammerstraat – 百達内街 (bai3 da2 nei4 jie1) means “hundred prosper within street” (or hundred reach within street) – this one is probably part transliteration and part translation. Since “binnen” means inner.

My personal favourite is Geldersekade – 僑德仕街 (qiao2 de2 shi4 jie1) – this one is probably transliteration, but what a clever choice of characters: 僑 (qiao2) may be short for 僑民 (qiao2 min2 – migrants), 德 (de2 – virtue), 仕 (shi4 – short for shen1 shi4 紳仕 – gentry) giving a meaning of Street of virtuous migrant gentlemen.

In the current political climate I’m delighted to see that there has been a secret advertisement for migrants, right in the middle of Amsterdam all this time.

Many thanks to Marsbar (you know who you are) for the translations and explanations, and to Shilgia for the photos and the inspiration.


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