Compound position words can combine with general nouns denoting objects or places. The order between a general noun NP1 and a compound position noun NP2 is controlled by the conceptual Principle of Whole-Before-Part, that is to say, a general noun denoting an object or place precedes a compound position word that denotes a part or a component of the object or place, the formula is: ‘NP1 + NP2’. Just as a human being has legs and arms, so a box has its parts or components, as ‘shàngbiān’ (the top), ‘xiàbiān’ (the bottom), ‘pángbiān’ (the lateral side), etc. Their relationships to the box are whole and part. Thus we say: ‘xiāngzi shàngbiān’ (the top of the box), but not *‘shàngbiān xiāngzi’;‘xiāngzi xiàbiān’ (the bottom of the box), ‘xiāngzi qiánbiān’ (the front side of the box), ‘xiāngzi hòubiān’ (the back side of the box), ‘xiāngzi pángbiān’ (the lateral sides of the box), ‘xiāngzi lǐbiān’ (the interior of the box), ‘xiāngzi wàibiān’ (the exterior of the box). Please note, when used to refer to the reference object, there is usually no possessive marker ‘de’ between NP1 and NP2, so we do not say * ‘xiāngzi de shàngbiān’. Without the possessive marker ‘de’, NP1 and NP2 would have a closer relationship and form a compound word, denoting the name of an object. Compare: ‘Běijīng Dàxué’ (Beijing University), and ‘Běijīng de Dàxué’ (the universities in Beijing); ‘Běijīng kǎoyā’ (Beijing roasted duck) and ‘Běijīng de kǎoyā’ (the roasted ducks of Beijing or produced in Beijing). The former in the first pair denotes the name of an institute, the latter refers to all the universities in Beijing; in the second pair, the former is the name of a Chinese dish, and the latter refers to the kind of roasted ducks produced in Beijing.
 Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.