Where do Hongkongers get their un­usual names?

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Hong Kong is home to some in­ter­est­ing names that go be­yond the usual curious ap­pel­la­tions. There’s more to the city than our Win­sons and our Kelvins, our Ap­ples and our Sam­sons.

For much of it, you can thank the Por­tuguese. Ma­cau has al­ways seemed more open to cross­ing the racial di­vide than the Bri­tish—blame those hot Latin tem­per­a­ments in­stead of your stan­dard Bri­tish rec­ti­tude, per­haps—and as a re­sult there are many in Hong Kong and Ma­cau who claim a mixed Chi­nese-Por­tuguese her­itage. It’s re­flected, most ev­i­dently, in our names. Even to­day, you’ll meet Chi­nese-speak­ing Ma­canese who have Por­tuguese names but no Chi­nese ones—or even Chi­nese and English names that di­verge.

So there’s Court of Fi­nal Ap­peal judge Roberto Alexan­dre Vieira Ribeiro, in Chi­nese sim­ply — Lee Yi. Or there’s leg­is­la­tor and MTR ex­ec­u­tive Abra­ham Razack, also known as Abra­ham Shek. Or even singer, ac­tress, cook­ing show host “Fat Mama” Maria Cordero, whose Chi­nese name is just

— Ma Lei-ya.

But you don’t need the Euro­pean in­flu­ence to have an un­usual name: China has that cov­ered all on its own, thanks to a long his­tory of dif­fer­ent cul­tures mix­ing and match­ing.

You might read­ily think of Chi­nese names as be­ing made of two parts: A one-char­ac­ter sur­name and a one or twochar­ac­ter given name: “Le­ung Chun-ying” or “Li Ka-shing,” for ex­am­ple. But that isn’t al­ways the case. In fact, Chi­nese has a wealth of what’s called “com­pound sur­names”: last names which have more than one char­ac­ter. They have their roots in Chi­nese his­tory, de­riv­ing of­ten from oc­cu­pa­tions, ti­tles or sim­ply when one clan mar­ried into an­other—much like dou­ble-bar­rel­ing in the west. And while many of these names have passed out of us­age, some are still alive and well to­day.

Take leg­endary and dearly missed democ­racy cam­paigner Szeto Wah. “Szeto” was ac­tu­ally his last name, and orig­i­nally meant “Min­is­ter over the Masses”—an ironic name for this fear­less cham­pion of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. Or then there’s “Ouyang,” in Can­tonese Au Ye­ung ( )—which means “South of Mount Ouyu,” in Zhe­jiang Prov­ince. It’s one of the most com­mon com­pound sur­names in Chi­nese: TVB ac­tor Bobby Au Ye­ung or rap­per MC Jin Au Ye­ung, for ex­am­ple. Of course, it’s never that straight­for­ward: Hong Kong rac­ing driver Dar­ryl O’Young isn’t mixed-race, he’s ac­tu­ally an Ouyang, whose name has been Ro­man­ized with an Ir­ish twist.

And of course, there’s the golden fam­ily, the Aisin

Gioro clan. If you meet one, you should be bow­ing and scrap­ing, be­cause the House of Aisin Gioro are the Manchu monar­chs of China’s Qing

Dy­nasty, who ruled China from

1644 un­til 1912. What’s in a name? An aw­ful lot, if you’re an Aisin Gioro…

Bow be­fore Nurhaci, founder of the Aisin Gioro clan

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