In order to best prepare oneself to navigate within Chinese cities it’s helpful to learn a bit about how Chinese roads are named.
Sometimes street names in China can be confusing. Chinese roads in large cities are commonly named after other places in China.
You may see a street that changes names 3 or 4 times as you travel along it through the city. For example you may see a Nanjing Xi Lu, Nanjing Zhong Lu and Nanjing Dong Lu Which respectively means West Nanjing Road, Centre Nanjing Road and East Nanjing Road.
Here are a few helpful words that you will find on street signs:
Lu (路) = street, road
Jie (街) = street, road
Nan (南) = south
Bei (北) = north
Dong (东) = east
Xi (西) = west
Zhong (中) = centre
Da (大) = big. This will be combined with “lu” and “jie” to make “dalu” (大路) and “dajie” (大街) which are the main roads.
A typical street sign in Nanjing.
This sign points towards various tourist attractions in Nanjing.