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Voon Phin Keong


China, Japan and Korea have their own distinctive cultures and traditions, but from their different cultural background, is it possible to discern certain cultural similarities in the way by which places are named? Geographical place names are part of the rich heritage of history of a country. They represent a multi-dimensional layer of culture and reflect certain historical and cultural origins. The names by which certain places and territories are known do not appear randomly or haphazardly. Indeed, they are often linked to deep-seated historical and political processes.

By using a series of maps and illustrations, this lecture will discuss selected historical place names in China, Japan and Korea to illustrate certain common linkages in the naming of places and how these names are connected with the way in which space is politically “structured”. The focus of the lecture will centre on two aspects: (i) place names and the patterns and characteristics that may be seen on the ground and (ii) the cultural meanings of these patterns.

About guest speaker

  • Dr. VOON Phin Keong(文平強)
    • Director, Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Born in Sabah, he received his education at the University of Malaya where he obtained a B.A. (Hons) and M.A. in Geography. He later pursued his doctoral studies at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Hull University, England.

He served his entire career at the University of Malaya (UM) where he was appointed Professor of Land Use Studies in the Geography Department in 1987 and became its Chairman on several occasions. He was also appointed as the first Chairman and Professor of the Department of East Asian Studies from 1996 until his retirement in early 2000. He was a past Honorary Secretary of the Association of Malaysian Geographers and a Co-Chairman of the Association of ASEAN Geographers. He was also supervisor of Rikkyo prof Shirasaka in UM!

He has taught at Brunei University and Soka University, Tokyo, as a Visiting Professor, and served as Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard-Yenching Institute, the Institute of Developing Economies (Tokyo), and the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He also pursued short-term research at the Department of Geography of Edinburgh University, the Centre for International Studies of Griffith University (Brisbane), and the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of Kyungnam University (Seoul).

He was a former chief editor of the Malaysian Journal of Tropical Geography and is currently the chief editor of the Journal for Malaysian Chinese Studies. He has published extensively in both English and Chinese and has authored and edited ten books and monographs. His publications include Western Rubber Planting Enterprise in Southeast Asia, 1876-1921 (1976), Indebtedness and Land Use in Pre-War Malaya (1987), and edited The View From Within: Geographical Essays on Malaysia and Southeast Asia (1992), The Chinese Population in Malaysia (2004) and China: Emerging Relations and Development (2007). He has just completed editing Malaysian Chinese and Nation-building: Before Merdeka (Independence) and Fifty Years After.


  • Place names-example


    • 州sa a place name

Concept1,九州  九:9つ  州:province

Why nine province?

Nine means many in China, so "九州"mean China itself.

Why Japanese use "州"as place name?

In China and Korea,  meaning of "州" is changing. small area → large area

But in Lapan, its meaning is not changing. large area → large area

    • 道 
    • In Japan "道"means border area or far away from center ,exaple 北海道、東海道.

In korea, it means province.

This is example of miniaturization.