This is one of my favorite links of the year so far, namely how every Chinese province got its name. I cannot recommend it to most of you however, but if you ever have worried about Shanxi vs. Shaanxi, this is the place to go:
Shaanxi is unique amongst Chinese provinces in being the only one whose name is rendered not in Hanyu Pinyin but in Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR), the romanization system used in pre-Communist China. Instead of using accents above letters as in Pinyin, tones in GR were reflected in spelling. In Pinyin, which was invented in 1958, the provinces Shanxi and Shaanxi are indistinguishable in spelling, so the old romanization was retained to remove this ambiguity. However, authorities still tacked on the Pinyin “xi” instead of the GR “shi” to spell out the second character, making Shaanxi’s name even more unusual by combining two entirely different romanization systems within a single name.
I say the most obscure Chinese province is the very small Ningxia 寧夏, outlined in red below, what do you think? Or does it count only as an autonomous region? Is Gansu perhaps a runner up?
Which is the most obscure American state to an outsider? Nebraska? Idaho? Somewhere else? (I say it helps the Dakotas that you have two of them.) I believe the Clintons put Arkansas on the map, globally speaking that is, thereby removing it from contention for this honor.