New novel coronavirus market

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Those who followed the origins of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will remember that it was often connected with a Wuhan "wet market" called Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.  Now another wholesale market is suspected of being the point of origin for a second wave of the coronavirus, this time in Beijing.  Here is a report on the different interpretations of the name of the market from a born-and-bred Beijinger:

People in Beijing are getting disquieted again these days, because there have been 51 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases reported within 4 days in this city, which are all linked to the most important wholesale market in Beijing. This wholesale market, "Xīnfādì 新发地"*, although very well-known to the locals, is not very familiar to people in other provinces, and it's interesting that some have thus misinterpreted the name of this wholesale market "Xīnfādì 新发地" as "[Xīn] guān bào[fā] de [dì]fāng【新】冠 爆【发】的【地】方"** (a possible abbreviation for "the location of the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus"). People here had been almost lulled into a sense of security since there had been no newly registered domestic cases in Beijing for about 2 months, and now it seems that there could be another outbreak on a smaller scale.


* My original supposition was that the "fā 发" of this name likely derives from "pīfā 批发" ("wholesale").  "Xīn 新" means "new" and "dì 地" means "place" = "New Wholesale Place".  But see below for the actual derivation, which is both quite surprising and quite appropriate for the latest usage.

**  Again, "[xīn] 【新】" means "new; novel", "  "guān 冠" means "crown; corona", "bào[fā] 爆【发】" means "erupt; explode", "de 的" indicates that what precedes this particle is a modifier,  and "[dì]fāng 【地】方" means "place", hence "place of the new eruption of the coronavirus".]

"Xīn fā dì 新发地" is a general market, selling all kinds of agricultural products from various provinces, supplying most of the smaller markets in Beijing. From Xinfadi, vegetables, fruits, meat, and seafood are distributed to both supermarkets and vendors, and Xinfadi is known as the largest wholesale food market and the center of the network of almost all wholesale markets in this city. I've seen more misinterpretations of "Xīnfādì 新发地" linked to COVID-19 these days, including "Xīn fā bìnglì zhī dì 新发病例之地" ("the place where newly-registered infection cases occurred"), "Xīn yī lún bìngdú fāyuán dì 新一轮病毒发源地" ("the origin of the new round of the coronavirus outbreak"), etc.

While people in other provinces who had never heard of "Xīnfādì 新发地" misinterpreted it as possible abbreviations related to the coronavirus explanation, most Beijing residents are very familiar with it as the name of the most important wholesale market in Beijing, yet only some "old Beijingers" are aware that "Xīn fā dì 新发地", the name of this wholesale market, was originally derived from the name of its location in Fengtai district. The place where it is located was originally called "Xīn féndì 新坟地" ("new graveyard land") since it was close to a cemetery, and "Xīn féndì 新坟地" had been used for almost 300 years until the 1950s, when the graveyard was reclaimed into farmland. As a result, the name "Xīn féndì 新坟地" was accordingly changed to "Xīn fā dì 新发地" (literally "newly developed land"), which is now commonly known as the name of the wholesale food market located at this place.

Mass testing for COVID-19 has been carried out in Beijing to prevent the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, and about 200 thousand people, including both workers at Xinfadi and people who had visited the market since May 30, have been tested till now. I went to see a dentist in a hospital of stomatology in Beijing today, and there was a specific site for nucleic acid tests for people who did not meet the requirements to enter the hospital according to their body temperature and the surveys they submitted (in which information about whether the informant had visited Xinfadi recently was included), although this hospital is considerably far away from Xinfadi.


Selected readings


  1. liuyao said,

    June 16, 2020 @ 12:07 pm

    Chinese like to read into names, or uttered words that turn out to foretell the future, as in the set phrase 一語成讖. Kind of like prophecy, but I think there's an important distinction.

  2. James said,

    June 17, 2020 @ 7:23 am

    Taboo is another reason why xinfendi was renamed to xinfadi. Nobody wants to live in a 'new graveyard'.

    Also, fa can be interpreted as 'getting rich', therefore xinfadi = a new place where you could get rich.

  3. Dave Cragin said,

    June 18, 2020 @ 11:35 am

    One of the interesting English words in the above is "stomatology," as in "I went to see a dentist in a hospital of stomatology in Beijing." I had recently met a dentist in China and she mentioned her expertise in "stomatology." Before this, I had never heard the term (and couldn't even guess its meaning, other than being related to dentistry).

    In a google search, I could find only 1 place in the US that uses this term; a "Stomatology Center" at Texas A&M and it specializes in unusual oral diseases. Wikipedia suggests this term was replaced by "oral medicine", but it's not clear when this happened. I wonder when this happened and if other English speaking countries still use stomatology?

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    June 18, 2020 @ 12:13 pm

    Perhaps see : Grimaldo Carjevschi, Moses. (2017). Re: What is the difference between Dentist and Stomatologist?. Retrieved from:

  5. philip said,

    June 19, 2020 @ 5:16 pm

    So, did anyone else set off down the garden path I did with a quick glance at the title? My immediate understanding was – New novel corners market – and I clicked to see what this new literary work could be.

    Then I re-read the title of the post … more slowly.

  6. Thomas Rees said,

    June 19, 2020 @ 6:23 pm

    The name "2019 novel coronavirus” was used before "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” was adopted on 11 February 2020. No wonder it sounds archaic!

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