(For those of you who can’t wait for the answer, it’s wulong tea.)
Today, I stumbled across a page called Tea From Taiwan, via Angelica’s blog. At first glance it seemed to be suffering from a serious case of over optimizing for search engines. Search engines from 1997, that is. On the home page, I saw the word “oolong” fifteen times, “wulong” 17 times, including the title, and a couple of “wu longs” and an “wulung”. If only search engines still rewarded web masters for this sort of thing!
Fortunately, there’s a page to clear up any confusion that comes from being alternately bombarded with “oolong” and “wulong”. Unfortunately, the page is about as misinformative as is possible in such a small space.
Oolong or Wulong – What’s the big diff?
There are several different systems for romanizing the Mandarin language. Romananization is the process of transcribing the sounds of spoken Chinese so that Western speakers can learn the language without having to learn thousands of different Chinese characters.
Actually, the primary use of romanization isn’t to help foreigners learn Chinese. It’s to help Chinese children learn Chinese.
It is these competing systems of Romanization that causes the confusion over the Western spelling of Chinese words. Romanization systems include Wade Giles, Pinyin, Yale, and Gwoyeu Romatzyh.
Fair enough. There really isn’t that much “competition” outside of Taiwan, though. The worldwide standard is pinyin. You guys sure aren’t helping the confusion with this page.
China has adopted the Pinyin system, but Taiwan and Singapore still use Wade Giles. “Oolong” is an example of Wade Giles, and “Wulong” (or more properly “Wu Long”) is the Pinyin spelling.
Well.. ahm… no, no and no! Taiwan may have used a bastardized form of Wade-Giles decades ago, but Taiwan and Singapore don’t “use” Wade-Giles. The Singaporean government is currently promoting pinyin, and romanization in Taiwan is a hopeless mess, with some areas using standard pinyin, some using Tongyong Pinyin, and others using no systematic approach at all. Furthermore, “Wu Long” is not more proper pinyin than “Wulong”. Actually, “wulong” would be correct, since 烏龍 is a single word, not two. Finally, the Wade-Guiles equivalent of “wulong” isn’t “oolong”. It’s “wulung”.
What’s the point of even having an explanatory page if nearly everything in it is wrong?
(That said, they have good tea and it’s good for you.)
Update: The problems with the help page are no more. The Tea From Taiwan webmaster followed every one of my suggestions and updated the page very quickly.