Special Focus - - Contents - Pan Lei, Zou Xin­sheng

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

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