PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (11): 1692-1700.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.11.005

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Changes in Nanjing street names from the perspective of social memory

JI Xiaomei1, CUI Huifang1, TAO Zhuomin2,*()   

  1. 1. School of Tourism, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031, China
    2. School of Geographical Science, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2018-12-25 Revised:2019-01-23 Online:2019-11-28 Published:2019-11-28
  • Contact: TAO Zhuomin
  • Supported by:
    Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation of Ministry of Education, No(18YJC840019)


Since the 1980s, the critical theory of humanities and social sciences generates a new sub-discipline called critical toponymy, which focuses on the dissection of the cultural, economic, and political motivations of naming or renaming and pays close attention to the critical interpretation of the evolution of place-name landscape based on the perspectives of power competition and social relations. This sub-discipline gives an opportunity to account for the huge changes in the place-name landscape in China within the characteristic social context of market-oriented economy and rapid urbanization. It makes use of knowledge from multiple disciplines such as history, geography, management, linguistics, and folkloristics. As the produce and component of social memory, the application of social memory theory to the research of toponymy is of great theoretical and practical significance. But the role of social memory theory in toponymy has been overlooked for a long time. Meanwhile, place names have been considered intangible cultural heritage and many cities take diverse measures to preserve them. However, social memory is characterized by continuity, contemporaneity, and selectivity, which decide that not only the usage habitat and collective memory of local residents, but also the collective imagination of social groups can be ignored when naming or renaming place names. In other words, preserving historical place names and developing modern place names are equally important. Applying GIS spatial analysis and the theory of social memory, this study explored the spatiotemporal pattern and dynamic change of street names of the main districts in Nanjing City. It found that the most of newly-added street names distributed around the old urban area and the disappeared names clustered within the old urban area. The old south district has the highest density of both existent and disappeared street names. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the then newly-added street names were mainly found in the areas along the Yangtze River of Xiaguan District and districts surrounded by the Ming Great Wall, and from the 1990s they scattered at the periphery of the old city districts. Since 1911, the government came to control naming rights; as time went by, the leading role of the government and passivity of enterprises increased. The existing street names were mainly derived from surrounding residences, blessing, alien cultural sites, and natural landscape, which were not only inherited via the local culture of old districts, but also reflected the development prospect of the new districts. The street names based on religious beliefs, historical figures, economic activities, municipal facilities, and location in the city were more likely to die out due to the frequent change in social ideology and the city's functional space. The involvement of power and capital gave rise to many place names in modern style; the inertia of memory delayed the vanishing of old names; and the social construction of memory propelled the evolution of place names.

Key words: street name, spatio-temporal pattern, dynamics, social memory, Nanjing City