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Sze Yup
Location of Siyi within Guangdong China.png
Top: Location of Sze Yup (pink) within the province of Guangdong (gray)
Literal meaningFour counties
Alternative Chinese name
Literal meaningFive counties

The Siyi (Seiyap or Sze Yup in Cantonese; Chinese: 四邑; pinyin: Sìyì; Jyutping: sei3 jap1; lit. 'Four Counties') refers to the four former counties of Xinhui (Sunwui), Taishan (Toisan), Kaiping (Hoiping) and Enping (Yanping) on the west side of the Pearl River Delta in Southern Guangdong Province, China.[1][2]


One of the early descriptions of the land came from the American missionary, William Speer, who lived there around 1850 and observed: "Towns embowered in bamboo, a species of banyan and other trees meet the eye on every hand. The level portion of the soil is cultivated as only the Chinese know how to do in order to obtain the utmost possible returns from Nature. The view appears like a great garden bounded by ranges of hills."[3]: 472 

Xinhui is a city district and the other three are county-level cities, all four belong to Jiangmen Prefecture administered from the city of Jiangmen. An alternative term, Wuyi (Chinese: ; pinyin: Wǔyì, Cantonese: Ng5 Yap1; 'five counties'), which refers to the five former counties of Xinhui, Taishan, Kaiping and Enping as well as Heshan, all administered by Jiangmen, has become an official title and is widely accepted by the local residents today. However, among overseas Chinese, the name Siyi (Cantonese: Sze3 Jup1) is still popular and frequently used as Heshan County was established much later than the other four.

It is said that over 100 famous people come from the Siyi or Wuyi region of Guangdong Province, making the region famous for producing more entertainment stars than any other region in mainland China. As a result, the local government in Jiangmen which administers the Siyi or Wuyi cities of Taishan, Kaiping, Enping, Xinhui and Heshan, decided to build a Stars Park called Jiangmen Star Park.


The area gave rise to the Siyi dialects, the most prominent of which is Taishanese (Toisanese/Hoisanese). Although Siyi and Cantonese both belong to the Yue branch of Chinese, Cantonese speakers cannot easily understand Siyi dialect.[4][5][6]


The Num Pon Soon building in Chinatown, Melbourne. The Num Pon Soon Society is a district society, a benevolent association aimed at supporting Siyi immigrants to Melbourne during the Victorian gold rush.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many people from the Siyi (or Sze Yup as it was then known) emigrated to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Australasia, North America and South America. Of the Chinese American population from that time until the 1950s, Sze Yup accounted for the vast majority, about 80%, along with people from Sanyi (Sam Yup) and Zhongshan (Chung Shan).[7]

In America, people from Sze Yup generally worked as laborers; Sam Yup people worked as entrepreneurs; and Chung Shan people specialized in agriculture.[8] The Punti-Hakka Clan Wars also erupted in the Sze Yup counties just prior to this time period of emigration.[9] In 1851, two Wui Gun (huiguan; traditional Chinese: 會館; simplified Chinese: 会馆; pinyin: huìguǎn; Jyutping: wui6gun2)[10] (native place associations) were established in San Francisco: the Sze Yup Wui Gun and the Sam Yup Wui Gun.[11] Endowed with only limited arable lands, with much of the terrain either rocky or swampy, Sze Yup was the "pre-eminent sending area" of overseas Chinese.[7]

In addition to being a region of major emigration abroad, Sze Yup is a melting pot of ideas and trends brought back by overseas Chinese. For example, many tong lau in Chekham and diaolou in Hoiping and Toishan built in the early 20th century incorporate architectural features from both China and the West.[12]

Notable people:

  • Chen Xian Zhang (陳獻章): scholar of Ming dynasty
  • Liang, Qi Zhao (梁啓超): scholar of early modern China
  • Wu, Xiang Shi (吳尚時) (1904-1947): geographer
  • Gary Faye Locke (駱家輝): Chinese American, a politician, his ancestral hometown is Taishan City
  • Joey Yung (容祖兒): female singer of Hong Kong
  • Andy Lau (劉德華): male singer and actor of Hong Kong

Popular Culture[edit]

Mark Twain references the See Yup Company, and the Ning Yeong Company, in Roughing It.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chinese American Names: Tradition and Transition - Page 118 Emma Woo Louie - 2008 "These were the Sam Yup and Sze Yup dialects, which the author spelled as “Saam Yup” and “Sz Yip,” respectively. Sam Yup means “Three Districts dialect,” which is akin to standard Cantonese, and Sze Yup means “Four Districts dialect.”
  2. ^ Shanghai Girls - Page 8 Lisa See - 2010 "My first language was Sze Yup, the dialect spoken in the Four Districts in Kwangtung province, where our ancestral home is located...”
  3. ^ Speer, William (1870). The oldest and the newest empire: China and the United States (PDF). Pittsburgh, PA: Robert S. Davis & Co. (1877): S. S. Scranton & Co. pp. 1–681.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ Szeto, Cecilia (2001), "Testing intelligibility among Sinitic dialects" (PDF), in Allan, Keith; Henderson, John (eds.), Proceedings of ALS2k, the 2000 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, retrieved 5 Jan 2014
  5. ^ Phonology of Cantonese - Page 192 Oi-kan Yue Hashimoto - 1972 "... affricates and aspirated stops into consonant clusters is for external comparative purposes, because the Cantonese aspirated stops correspond to /h/ and some of the Cantonese affricates correspond to stops in many Si-yi (Seiyap) dialects."
  6. ^ Language in the USA - Page 217 Charles A. Ferguson, Shirley Brice Heath, David Hwang - 1981 "Even the kind of Cantonese which the Chinese Americans speak causes difficulties, because most of them have come from the rural Seiyap districts southwest of Canton and speak dialects of that region rather than the Standard Cantonese of the city"
  7. ^ a b Pan, Lynn (1999). The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0674252101.
  8. ^ Hsia, Lisa (2007). "Asians and Asian Americans in the West". In Mancall, Peter; Johnson, Benjamin Heber (eds.). Making of the American West: People and Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. pp. 161–187.
  9. ^ Punti-Hakka Clan Wars and Taishan County Archived 2007-09-10 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Huiguan". Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  11. ^ Chi, Tsung (2005). East Asian Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 65.
  12. ^ Pan, Lynn (1999). The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0674252101.
  13. ^ Twain, Mark (1994). Roughing It. Pleasantville: The reader's Digest Association, Inc. pp. 261–266. ISBN 0895776286.

External links[edit]