Many parents in China are fond of naming their dearest daughters “蕾 , ” which is pronounced “Lěi.” It is similar in meaning with the word “bud” in English. As a girl’s name, this Chinese character carries all the beautiful expectations and blessings of loving parents. Many parents hope their daughters will be like buds in early spring, growing into full blossom along with the approach of the best season of the year— and then the beautiful blossom will bring about a fruitful life.
Actually, in the field of botany, “Lěi” ( 蕾 ) is literarily an undeveloped or embryonic shoot that normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of a stem. It is specialized to develop flowers. Naturally, people metaphorically denote the meaning of any potential
for positive possibilities in other fields. It was adopted in countless ancient Chinese poems. For instance, almost 1000 years ago, Yuan Haowen lamented, “枝间新绿一重
重，小蕾深藏数点红 ,” which can be interpreted as “There are layers after layers of new sprouts on the branches. And the pink petals of little buds are showing signs of blossom.” This verse vividly pictures the vibrant scenes of early spring. “蕾 ” is tied with new life and growth in the beginning of a year.
However, common people in China tend to understand this character metaphorically. They are in favor of it not only for its calligraphic beauty, but also—and probably more—for the matters it symbolizes in Chinese culture.
In essence, “” ( bud) is
more favored than “花 ” (flower) for Chinese people. Chinese people believe most Chinese will stand by our side. Surely, a flower is fragrant and attractive with many colors. It displays directly to people its beauty to the fullest. Luring the passersby at first sight, its attractiveness gradually wears out. Soon people get bored. However, a bud, as a flower-to-be, carries with it a veiled charm, arousing the wild curiosity and imagination of the viewers. Its adolescent form is a wonderful suspense. Wondering about the possibilities of what kind of flower it may turn into, people are drawn to it unknowingly. Simply put, the charm of “蕾” is largely related to its potentials, or to the hope it brings to people in a social context, which is something a flower can not offer, no matter how beautiful it is.
A bud is a life at its early stage. People just love these cute little things, such as newborn babies. This is partly for their great vigor, of course, but more importantly, when facing such soft and simple creatures, people tend to drop their defenses and pretensions, as they are sure that babies will always be truthful to others and themselves. Although it is a very different form of life, a bud will attract people for similar reasons.
In Chinese, there is an old saying that goes, “有花必有果 .” It means “If there are flowers on the tree, then fruit can be expected in due time.” In other words, a vibrant bud growing into a flower in full bloom and then producing fruit is the life destined for “蕾 .” From the Chinese perspective, this is a life that all would long to have.
No wonder “蕾 ” enjoys such popularity in China, among thousands of Chinese characters as potential names. So, dear readers, if you have a loving daughter, perhaps you can name her “Lěi” as well. u