Another bit of humor in Veltman (see this post) involves playing with a Chinese name, and trying to investigate it has taken me through interesting paths to a dead end. Here’s the passage in Veltman:
He found the tea business tempting. He learned that besides the Chinese van-sun-cho-dzi there was the Russian Ivan-sun-cho-dzi, and he began to deal in tea, opening a store for Chinese teas, sugar, and coffee. […]
Needless to say, selling tea at retail did not satisfy Vasily Ignatov, and he started wholesaling it; he started off for Kyakhta himself, he himself went to Dmitrovsky uyezd to buy the best sort of Ivan-sun-cho-dzi at wholesale.
Его соблазнила чайная торговля. Он узнал, что, кроме китайского ван-сун-чо-дзи, есть русский Иван-сун-чо-дзи и стал торговать чаем, завел магазин китайских чаев, сахару и кофе. […]
Нужно ли говорить, что мелочная торговля чаем не удовлетворила Василья Игнатова, он пустился в оптовую, пустился сам на Кяхту; сам съездил в Дмитровский уезд, чтоб сделать оптовую закупку самого лучшего сорту Иван-сун-чо-дзи.
The Russian name is a play on Иван-чай [Ivan-chai, literally ‘Ivan-tea’] ‘Chamerion Raf. ex Holub, fireweed, willowherb’; what I’m wondering is what the Chinese might mean, and I think I’ve found where Veltman must have come across it, in this paragraph from page 20 of the article “Май-Май-Ченъ” [Maimaicheng, the Chinese border trading town just south of Kyakhta] in Памятник искусств и вспомогательных знаний, Vol. 2 (Saint Petersburg, 1843):
The dialect of the merchants living in Maimaicheng, from Shansi province, differs greatly in pronunciation from that of Peking; for example, the firms pronounced in the Peking dialect Shi-de-tsyuan’-tszi [Shi-de-quan-ji?], Van’-shun’-chan [Wan-shun-chang?], and Mei-yui-gkun [Mei-yu-gong?] are pronounced in the Shansi dialect Shi-ty-choan-dzi [Shi-ty-choang-ji??], Van-sun-cho [Wang-song-chuo??] and My-yu-kon [My-yu-kong??]. This difference is due to the fact that in Shansi they pronounce sounds from the larynx, through the nose, so that voiceless sounds, especially soft ones, cannot be distinctly/intelligibly expressed. In general, dialects all across China are the same, but differ in the pronunciation of certain sounds; this difference extends from north to south and imperceptibly reaches the point that it is difficult for a southern Chinese to understand a northern one.
Нарѣчіе живущихъ въ Май-май-ченѣ купцовъ, губерніи Санъ-си, имѣетъ по произношенію большое различіе съ Пекинскимъ; напримѣръ: Пекинскимъ нарѣчіемъ произносятся фирмы торговыхъ домовъ: Ши-дэ-цюaнь-цзи, Вань-шунь-чанъ, Мэй-юй-гкунъ, а по Сансинскому произношенію — Ши-ты-чоан-дзи, Ван-сун-чо, Мы-ю-конъ. Разность эта происходитъ отъ того, что въ Санъ-си произносятъ звуки изъ гортани, чрезъ носъ, при чемъ, безгласныя, особенно мягкія не могутъ быть внятно выражены. Вообще во всемъ Китаѣ нарѣчія одинаковыя, но отличаются произношеніемъ нѣкоторыхъ звуковъ; это различіе простирается отъ сѣвера на югъ и нечувствительно доходитъ до такой степени, что южный Китаецъ съ трудомъ понимаетъ сѣвернаго.
This is a perfect storm of vague and exoticizing linguistic description (apparently in Russian, too, foreign speech is always “guttural” and “nasal”), Sinocentric totalizing (all Chinese talk the same, just differently), and antique transcription (this was written before the standard Palladius system for transcribing Chinese, so I’ve added question marks to all my Latin transcriptions, which are based on the Palladius system), so I suspect it’s unlikely that anyone can decipher it more accurately, but if anyone has any idea what Wan-shun-chang/Wang-song-chuo might have meant in North China two centuries ago, I’m all ears.
(I assume Veltman stuck the -dzi on for effect, taking it from other firm names mentioned.)
Update: It seems the ван-сун-чо-дзи label was well known as representing high-quality tea from Kyakhta, so I withdraw my suggestion that Veltman got it from the article I quote above; see my comment below for details. Also, I have discovered that in the original magazine version of this passage, there is a much more detailed discussion of how Ignatov discovered the immensely profitable potential of the tea trade (after being beaten up for selling fake booze) and learned how to mix the expensive Chinese tea with cheap Russian Ivan-chai; I wonder if Veltman was forced by the censors to delete it for book publication? It’s practically a manual of how to cheat the public for fun and profit.
Further update: Bathrobe has discovered that the Chinese name is 萬順昌 Wànshùnchāng ‘success in everything’: 萬順 Wànshùn means ‘ten thousand things go smoothly’, 昌 chāng means ‘prosper’. He adds that “There is a Hong Kong company called Van Shung Chong Holdings which uses those characters, although it was only established in 1961.”