Note on "Brassica chinensis L."

" Once upon a time ", there was a cabbage named "Brassica chinensis L." by the famous Swedish taxonomist Carl von Linnaeus (1707-1778).

A scientist, who had some knowledge of Cantonese culture but shall remain nameless, associated to the hard-to-ignore-Linneus ' cabbage the name "Bok choy". This name was adopted by the dominant English speaking scientific community and there started the confusion which has been compounded forever since. The manuals on transliteration systems and romanization dictionaries tell us that: Bok choy = bak choi = baak choi = paak ts'oi = pak choy = pe ts'ai = pe tsai = bai tsai = bai cai (none of these but one being valid incidently) = accuracy 100% The bilingual dictionaries with plant names tell us that: "Bok choy" is in fact Cantonese for the Mandarin "Bai cai" and refers to a cabbage called bai cai (Mandarin) or "Non-heading Chinese cabbage" or simply "Chinese cabbage" in English. So in conclusion this cabbage called: in Both Mandarin and Cantonese should not be called "xiao bai cai" or "da bai cai" but : "Pe tsai" or "bok choy" or "bai cai" and preferably simply referred to as "Chinese cabbage" or "Non-heading Chinese cabbage" in English. Meanwhile the taxonomists in their wisdom have decided that all Chinese cabbages should come under the classification

Brassica rapa   (specific level)

so this cabbage which over the decades has been known as :

Brassica chinensis L. var. communis Tsen & Lee
Brassica chinensis L.
Brassica rapa L. var. chinensis (L.) Kitam
Brassica oleracea L. var. chinensis (L.) Prain
Brassica campestris L. ssp. chinensis (L.) Makino

should now be called:

Brassica rapa  L. ssp. chinensis  (L.) Hanelt var. chinensis

("var. chinensis" is considered optional by many people. It does not generally add anything or substract anything if removed. In the context of our work however, it is relevant to distinguish as clearly as possible the typical "bok choy" from non-typical forms and closely related species and / or varieties).



Copyrights WATANABE NOJI Co. Ltd. (1987 Catalogue)

For a different view of the same plant and further information check the ACCE$$ TO A$IAN VEGETABLE$ ' Thesaurus


to Gateway, to Note on B. pekinensis , to the Landcare Group Homepage

to European Names of Chinese cabbages


Date created: 02 / 04 / 97
Authorised by Glyn Rimmington,
Last modified: 29 / 09 / 99
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