MTR station names – revisited

Yesterday I wrote about six tips and tricks for the MTR and I remembered that I had written about the MTR before.

I have blog posts about what I like and don’t like about the MTR, what my MTR pet hates are and a short post about MTR station names. But there is so much more about MTR station names that I hadn’t realised back then!

MTR Yau Ma Tei

Many of the station names are actually linked to Hong Kong’s history and the time when it was a huge harbour for sailors from all over the world. Most of the areas simply describe the area as seen from a boat. You’ll find (‘Wan’, meaning ‘Bay) appears in many station names, such as Cheung Sha Wan (meaning ‘Long Sandy Beach’). The word ‘Sha’ (meaning ‘Sand) also appears in Tsim Sha Tsui (meaning ‘Sharp Sandy Mouth’).

The other station name that would be familiar to someone from the very old days would be ‘Tin Hau’, the name of a goddess that protects fishermen and sailors (and yes, there is a Tin Hau Temple on almost every island – and several ones across Hong Kong, like this one in Stanley). The Tin Hau station gets its name from the Tin Hau temple in the area.

Waiting in the MTR

Then there are the names that are linked to their location. Back toward the Western end of the island, the station names follow the district names that the Chinese residents gave to the new city. Sheung Wan is the name for ‘Upper District’, and then comes Central and there used to be a Ha Wan (‘Lower District’) but due to a large naval dock, this was changed to Admiralty.

Admiralty is a weird name, in Chinese it is Gum Jung, which translates to ‘Golden Clock’ in English. Apparently there used to be such a clock that used to adorn the entrance to Wellington Barracks (Royal Navy). The dock was later demolished when land was reclaimed and developed northward as the HMS Tamar naval base. Causeway Bay is another station where the English and Chinese names don’t match. Tung Lo Wan literally means ‘Copper Gong Bay’ – not very similar to its English name!

MTR station names translated into English

There are so many mismatches across Hong Kong’s MTR station names that a number of people have taking this to the extreme and produced an entire MTR network map where the station names are translated literally – ‘Lost in Mong Kok‘ did a version in 2011, as did blogger Justin Moe in 2014.

If you want to know how to pronounce the Cantonese names correctly, head over here as ExploreMetro has provided a good guide to help you with the Cantonese names.

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