What’s its Name?

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that in a country of over 2 billion people, 32 babies are born a minute. In my China Love post, I’d like to take a moment to discuss names. Here in China, I dare say in Asia, there are quite a few customs that differ from the western world.

name

Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about names in China:

  • When you write someone’s name, their surname or family name goes first. This has to do with identifying the clan you were born into, which was especially important during more ancient times. Name order confuses me all the time here, and even at school, they write western names this way.
  • In the past, girls weren’t really called by a name. When your parents yelled for you to come to supper, you were called “1st daughter”, “2nd daughter”, etc.. I’m not sure if this was due to infant mortality rates or that the previous attitudes about girl children were that they would become her husband’s “slave”–so what’s the point of naming someone who will inevitably not “belong” to you?
  • Unlike many western cultures, the Chinese do not take their father’s surname and often use their mother’s instead. Also, middle names are uncommon.

In a country that names their children, “great” (Zhang Wei), “brave” (Wang Yong)  and “glamorous” (Wang Yan), I  often wonder where they get their inspiration from when deciding their English names.

  • Chinese people often have an “English” name, which comes in handy since my pronunciation is quite poor. I don’t know how these names come about, but some are rather cute, like Apple, and others seem a bit odd (see above).
  • Just like people in other cultures give their children strange names, people here also have been known to name children after special events which would be translated into words such as Space Travel, Olympic Games or even the @ symbol.

Chinese names are meant to convey special meaning, with the given names often expressing the best of wishes on the new-born. Some imply the birthplace, birth time ornatural phenomenon, like Jing (Beijing), Chen (morning), Dong (winter) and Xue (snow); Some embody the hope of virtue, like Zhong (faithful), Yi (righteous), Li (courteous) andXin (reliable) while others express the wishes of life, like Jian (health), Shou (longevity), and Fu (happiness). Source: People’s Daily

I am just scratching the surface here, but just like most cultures, the history and etymology of names are simply fascinating.

Year of the Cock (or Rooster for the young and modest)

This is my final year living in China, and how I will miss it so. I know for many people, especially those of you who have never peeked behind its red curtain, you will never appreciate what a delightful place it is to live.  For the last 4 years, my motto has become, “you can’t make this sh$%t up” because this place is so full of surprises. So, I’m dedicating a series of blog posts in an effort to commemorate this special time in my life and summon some love for China–because, quite frankly, there’s a lot to love about this crazy place.

We are still in the midst of holiday season here, as the Chinese New Year is fast approaching and commences around the  27th of  January, depending on the moon. There’s a lot to this holiday, so today I only plan to focus on the Chinese Zodiac, which is based upon lunar cycles and has some fascinating elements behind it.

First of all, in the creation story,  Buddha (or God) wanted to make a calendar before departing from Earth. He summoned all the animals to a race, and the first 12 animals to cross the finish line were the ones who were awarded the privilege of the zodiac for this calendar. So, you could say that no matter which Chinese Zodiac sign you are, you are a winner! hahaha

chinese-zodiac

2017 is the Year of the Rooster, which is most unlucky for you if you are one. Yep–your Zodiac Year is 365 days of confusion and misfortune–or so the belief is. Don’t distress, however, because wearing red (especially something given to you from an elder) helps to ward off ill fate and create harmony in your zodiac year. But for all of us other signs, it means a year of hard work is ahead. No sitting on your loins and procrastinating. Get busy! If you put in the effort, then this is supposed to be a good year to increase your wealth and health. So, if you have been slipping on your New Year’s Resolution, then it’s time to get back on track because the rewards will be plenty for those who are diligent.

Speaking of Chinese New Year–no, it is not the custom to make New Year’s Resolutions during this time; however, it is a time to pay off debts, clean the house and look spiffy with a new hairdo.

So there you have it, that’s a brief rendering of this wonderful element of Chinese culture.