Giving Directions in Chinese

Giving Directions in Chinese

Does giving directions in Chinese sound too complicated? Here’s our quick guide to help you find your way.

Giving Directions in Chinese: How to Read a Map

You should already be familiar with cardinal directions. What are they? If you’ve ever used a compass or looked at a map the cardinal directions are North, East, South and West. The intercardinal are the points in-between. For example North East, North West and so on. Thankfully, this concept exists in Chinese. So here’s how you would say it:

North – 北 – Běi
East – 东- Dōng
South – 南 – Nán
West – 西 – Xǐ

If you want to say the intercardinal directions, you just combine the correct characters like so:

North East – 东北 – Dōngběi
North West – 西北 – Xīběi
South East – 东南- Dōngnán
South West – 西南 – Xīnán

Looking at this, can you guess how Beijing got its name?

Now, you’re probably wondering how you would use this to tell directions. Learning the cardinal/intercardinal is useful if you want to tell someone the location of a place. Here are some example sentences for you to use:

Wǒ de xuéxiào zài wǒ fùqīn bàngōngshì de běibian
My school is to the North of my father’s office.

Lúndūn zài sūgélán nánbù
London is to the South of Scotland.

If you noticed, the words 边 (bian) and 部 (bu) are placed after the directions. Bian means side, edge or border and bu means part. Bu is typically used when talking about an overall area, such as a country or city. Whereas bian is used when giving directions for a localized area.

Giving Directions: Useful Phrases To Know

Along with the cardinal directions, other useful phrases to know are:

Left – 左 -zuǒ
Right – 右- yòu.
Front – 前 – qián
Back – 后 – hòu
At/On – 在 – zài

Go straight – 往前走 Wǎng qián zǒu. You can also say 一直走 (Yīzhí zǒu).

Turn Left/Right – 向左转/向右转 – xiàng zuǒ zhuǎn/xiàng yòu zhuǎn . You can also use 拐 (guǎi) instead of zhuǎn.

From… to… – 从…到… Cóng…dào

Pass – 经过 –  jīngguò

Cross – (穿)过 – chuānguò

Giving Directions in Chinese: How to Pinpoint a Landmark

Pin-pointing landmarks is one of the uses of these phrases. I’m sure most of us struggle to give directions without providing a reference point. But, how do you piece these words together to make something coherent? Here’s how:

[Destination] 在 [reference] + [Position]

Túshū guǎn zài yínháng de zuǒbiān
The library is to the left of the bank

Giving Directions in Chinese: How to get from A to B?

Okay, now you know the cardinal positions and also how to give directions via a reference point. But, how to do we instruct someone to get from point A to point B? Here’s an example paragraph going over what we’ve learnt:


你在伦敦。 博物馆在伦敦北部。 博物馆在美术馆后面。
Nǐ zài lúndūn. Bówùguǎn zài lúndūn běibù. Bówùguǎn zài měishù guǎn hòumiàn
You are in London. The museum is in the north of London. The museum is behind the art gallery.

从这里一直走, 直到车站
Cóng zhèlǐ yīzhí zǒu, zhídào chē zhàn
From here keep walking straight until you reach the bus stop

Chuānguò dàolù ránhòu zuǒ zhuǎn
Cross the road and then turn left

Wǎng qián zǒu, zhídào nǐ jīngguò shūdiàn
Go forward until you pass the bookstore…

Why not use our handy guide to find your way around China next time you visit: Read our article on the top 4 places to visit in China

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