2 0 1 1 年 1 月 1 9 日

How to write a postal address in Chinese


A set of airmail envelopesWriting an address is one of those abilities you take for granted. It’s easy to come to do it in a foreign language and only then realise that you don’t know how.

Use this guide for letters being sent into China from other countries, or for internal post going from one Chinese location to another.

It’s best to use Chinese characters when writing the address, as this will ensure the fastest and most accurate delivery. If this isn’t possible, make sure you’ve got the correct pinyin romanisation for the address.

Biggest to smallest

In English and many other languages, addresses are usually written with the smallest location first, followed by increasingly large ones. In Chinese, this is the reverse. So if the address in English is:

Li Xiaofang
Apartment 8, Building 5,
No. 6 Hongkong East Road
Qingdao
Shandong
PRC

It’s written in reverse order in Chinese:

中国,山东省,青岛市
香港东路6号,5号楼,8号室
李小方 (先生)收

Split the address into two lines

The address itself is often split into two lines in Chinese. Where you make the split is up to you, but after the name of the city or county is usually a good bet.

Indicate the type of location

You might notice another difference between the English and Chinese versions of the address shown above. In Chinese, the type of location on each line is usually specified. For example, it says 青岛市 (Qīngdǎo shì) – “Qingdao city” – instead of just 青岛. After the country (you don’t need to indicate that the first line is a country), you might have the following sequence:

  • 省 (shěng): province
  • 县 (xiàn): county (you don’t need the county for a large city)
  • 市 (shì): city / town
  • 区 (qū): district
  • 大街 (dàjiē): avenue
  • 路 (lù): road
  • 楼 (lóu): building
  • 室 (shì): flat / apartment (or 宅 for a house)

Numbers

Numbers are much more common in Chinese place names than they are in English. Blocks of flats often have their own names in English, but in Chinese they usually just have a number.

To give the number of something (roads, buildings, residences etc.), use the character 号 (hào). It comes after the number, which is usually written in Arabic numerals. For example:

香港东路6号,5号楼,8号室

Use titles

When writing an address in Chinese, it’s polite to include the title of the person you’re writing to. This is put in brackets after their name. You can use their job title or a generic one like 先生. After the name and title, you can indicate that the letter is to be received or opened by that person by writing either 收 (shōu) or 启 (qǐ). For example:

李小方 (先生)收

“To be received by Mr Xiaofang Li”

The postcode (邮编)

This is probably the most essential part of the address. In mainland China (PRC) it’s a six-digit code, and in Taiwan (ROC) it’s three digits. In either case it should be written in the top left corner of the envelope.

Mainland China, Taiwan or Hong Kong?

If you’re sending a letter from another country, it’s important to indicate whether it’s going to mainland China or Taiwan. Preface the postcode with either “P. R. China” or “ROC Taiwan” to ensure your letter goes to the right place.

If you’re sending a letter to Hong Kong, it’s totally fine to format and write the address in English.

A useful book for writing letters in Chinese


  • Lina

    Thank you, it was very helpful!

  • Ana

    Very helpful! But can i just write the china address in chinese? Because im wondering how will the people in china will be able to read it if its in english? and the paper they gave me to write the address is not enough space

    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg (葛修远)

      You should write the address in Chinese, otherwise it may not be delivered, as you said.

  • Pingback: How To Write a Taiwanese Postal Address : Simply Unbound

  • Yen

    What if I am sending the letter from Singapore to China, do I need to write the address both in English and Chinese? Or only in Chinese will do?

    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg (葛修远)

      I would imagine just Chinese would be fine. Maybe write “PR CHINA” at the end in English just to be sure.

  • Michael Galianos

    when addressing the envelope is the address block flush RIGHT or like the US, flush left

  • http://lista.mercadolivre.com.br/OAA_DisplayType_G_OrderId_PRICE*DESC_PciaId_Minas-Gerais Busque OAA Baratos ML

    Hi, I received a chinese envelope with postmark date 2013.09.29.20.
    I need to know which is the real date of post.
    Tks.