I’m going to offer you a crash course in understanding Chinese addresses, with a few examples based in Chongqing.
The first principle you should know is that Chinese addresses are typically written on a single line left to right, in order of general to specific.
In my example, the apartment complex is real, but the specific address is fictitious.
Block 7 Unit 3
Palm Springs Complex C
88 Jinkai Blvd
In Chinese, this address would be written as;
中国重庆市渝北区金开大道88号棕榈泉3期7栋3单元16-5 (China- Chongqing Municipality – Yubei District – Jinkai Blvd 88 – Palm Springs – Complex C – Block 7 – Unit 3 – Flat 16-1)
Deciphering the code – Part One
When an apartment complexes are built, the same developer will often design linked but separate communities under the same banner.
There are two main reasons for this.
The first is that a complex may be aimed towards a particular consumer bracket, such as wealthier families and individuals who want to live in a villa complex, or main street residents who prefer apartment buildings. These may cohabit the same plot of development land and share the same property management company, but security wouldn’t allow you to cross over without checking your identity and purpose.
A second reason may be to market a development in stages. As the developer completes one complex, they sell the properties in a single campaign whilst they are constructing the next batch for future sale.
Whatever the reason, different complexes are numbered 1,2,3 etc to facilitate people in finding the right address.
In the case of Palm Springs, they chose the simple variation of complexes A, B, C etc for the sake of change, but with the same exact meaning.
Next comes the block followed by its unit.
A development can have virtually any number of individual blocks. There are some giant complexes I know of in Chongqing that have in excess of fifty, like Fudi Shangcheng (复地上城).
In turn, a single block may be, but not necessarliy, further separated into multiple ‘units.’
Imagine how a semi-detached house can be occupied by two separate households on either side, with no access to the other side without exiting the building first.
These so-called units follow the same principle. A building could have two or three entrances which lead to lifts serving different apartment numbers. So, if a Unit 1 entrance leads to apartment numbers 1 and 2 on each floor, you’d have to exit at ground level, and take the lift at either units 2 or 3 to reach a neighbour in apartment numbers 3,4,5 or 6.
Catch my drift? Let me know.
So far then, Palm Springs C-7-3 means complex 3, block 7 unit 3.
Finally, the last part of 16-1 simply means apartment number one of the sixteenth floor.
If the address you are looking for happens to be on the fourth floor, there’s a small chance the lift button will be marked with the letter ‘F’ instead of the number.
The number four in Chinese is deemed to be unlucky because it’s a homopheme of the word ‘death.’ While most people aren’t superstitious enough to go to this effort, some places will refer to the floor as F, for ‘four.’
When there’s a torrential downpour or stinkingly hot weather outside, and you’ve taken the wrong unit entrace, you can always walk directly across the underground carpark, providing there is on. Just look for the minus symbol on the lift buttons, which is pronounced 负(Fu) in Chinese.
Key Chinese Words
期(Qi) – Complex 3期 = Complex 3
栋(Dong) 幢(Zhuang) – Both of these words mean ‘block.’ 7栋/7幢 = Block 7
单元(Dan yuan) – Unit 3单元 = Unit 3
楼(Lou) – Floor 16楼 = Sixteenth floor
负(Fu) – Minus 负2楼 = Second basement floor (Minus 2 floor)
– 杠(Gang) Dash 16-2(Shiliu gang er)