Problematic Chinese Administrative Divisions in Member Search Page

The Chinese administrative divisions shown in the PC member search page are arguably problematic. Hereby I give two cases among them:

  1. inconsistensy in translation

    China has five autonomous regions, including Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi and Ningxia. In the PC system, Ningxia and Guangxi are followed by ‘zizhiqu’ - the pinyin word whereas Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet are featured as ‘autonomous region’ - the English word. Apparently, the translation for these provincial divisions are inconsistent.

  2. mixed and repetitive subprovincial divisions

    The administrative division one level lower than province in Beijing is district. In the list under Beijing, there are not only districts, but also subdistricts, mingling with eath other. Plus, there are repetitive names which seem confusing.

Presumably, this is a systematic problem concerning PC’s database of Chinese administrative divisions. It may need an overhaul in order to perfect its function.

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I noticed it too. It seems like these administrative divisions are named by users personally and individually so they are totally a mixture with different levels. I guess this situation also happens in other countries.

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One interesting discovery, among the mixed names of districts, subdistricts, towns and townships in Shanghai there’s even an outstanding “concession” in the list. This place is not an administrative division, people only mention it as a tourism term occasionly. Looks like somebody is so proud to live in a historical concession area. :sweat_smile:

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To be fair, various levels of administrative divisions are even a difficult area for us. I assume those who gave these names may not know in which level they shall clarify as PC didn’t provide a clear requirement.

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Any official reaction to this bug report?

The locations in Postcrossing are not translated by us — or even put together by us. That is an enormous project we just wouldn’t have the means to even start.

The data comes from the GeoNames project which tries to merge together several datasets into a single database. The result is not without its problems, but it’s still the best free database we have found. I’m not aware of a better one, even commercial ones, that has the level of coverage that GeoNames has.

Now, this topic is actually reporting two different issues: one with the names of the administrative divisions and another with the (potentially) repeated cities. But for both, the explanation is the same: that’s how it comes from GeoNames.

The good news is that GeoNames project is an open project and anyone can contribute corrections to it. We have done it a few times, but we can’t possibly report/fix every issue pointed to us because for many places we just don’t understand enough about the geography to make a proper report. I invite anyone interested in contributing to them — singing up is free. Their editing interface is not the most obvious or easy to use, but in general it works.

We sync with their database 1-2 times a year, so any changes made there will eventually trickle into Postcrossing. We don’t do this more often because it’s a time consuming process where we have to review some of the changes and decide what to do with cities that “disappear” or that “change” country, as the world is not as tidy as we’d wish it to be.

So, sorry for the non-solution, but there’s not much we can do ourselves to directly address this. We don’t want to put local fixes because whenever we update with GeoNames, they would be gone or become inconsistent.

PS: A note about the repeated cities: while there surely may be some duplicates, more than once we have seen cases where there are indeed multiple places with the same name, just of very different scales. Not long ago we were told “Beijing” was under the wrong region, only to found there are 10 places called Beijing in China — here’s what Beijing in Gansu province looks like:


Very much appreciated for giving the laborious explanation! At least we now have a rough idea where the problem is.

The example is just hilarious :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: Now you see that, when different administrative divisions are put together, repeated names happen. The one shown on the picture is a village whereas the capital is a provincial level city. And, since the system uses Latin alphabet, it cannot reflect the fact that the Beijing village and Beijing city use different characters for the phoneme jing (井 and 京)…