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NZCA Retains Original Historical Name

August 2010
By Gordon Wong

What’s in a name?  The early Chinese immigrants in New Zealand came mostly from the south of China, principally Guangdong (Kwangtung) province.  These immigrants referred to a phonetic translation of New Zealand in Cantonese ‘Nau Sei Lan’.  The New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA), established as an incorporated society in 1935, adopted this translation (shown above).

The NZCA conference this year, discussed a motion to amend the name of NZCA to include the name of New Zealand currently used by China, ‘Xin Xi Lan’ (Sun Sei Lan in Cantonese).  ‘Xin’ is a literal translation of ‘New’. The motion was rejected to retain 75 years of tradition.  The historical name gives a small amount of recognition to the Chinese people of many generations who have built the complex and rapidly changing Chinese community we have today.

If you are a New Zealander of Chinese descent, you may come from a variety of backgrounds:
  • Descended from gold miners in Otago arriving from 1865 onwards
  • Descended from refugees during the second World War
  • More recent immigration
  • Combinations of the above

The more recent immigrants, who mainly speak the Chinese national language (Mandarin) refer to New Zealand as ‘Xin Xi Lan’.


Nau Sei Lan Wah Leun Jung Woy (Cantonese)

Niǔ Xie Lan Huá Lián Zǒng Huì (Mandarin)

New Zealand, abbr. for China, united/to join, chief/head, association/assemble (English translation)

Xin Xie Lan (Sun Sei Lan)

Niǔ Xie Lan (Nau Sei Lan)


Traditional characters


Traditional characters


Simplified characters


Simplified characters

NB: The Chinese name of OSCA (Otago and Southland Chinese Association) also contains a mixture of phonetic and literal translation


Ou Ta Go Sou Fu Lun Wah Luen Woy (Cantonese)

Otago, Southland, abbr. for China, united/to join, association/assemble (English translation)

You can find a more detailed account of New Zealand Chinese immigration in Dr James Ng’s article at: