NAMES OF THE CHI­NESE PEO­PLE

Jamaica Gleaner - - FAMILY & RELIGION -

“HELLO, MR/MS Chin!” That is the usual greet­ing I find that the Ja­maicans give to the Chi­ne­selook­ing peo­ple when they meet in the street. But ac­tu­ally, there are about 3,500 Chi­nese sur­names. Among the 100 com­monly used sur­names, the three most com­mon are Li, Wang and Zhang; Zhuge, Ouyang, Situ and Sima are the com­mon com­pound sur­names.

In China, the sur­name comes first and is fol­lowed by the given name, and the lat­ter has its own tra­di­tions and fea­tures. It can have one or two char­ac­ters. In the same clan, the given name is ar­ranged in the or­der of se­nior­ity in the fam­ily hi­er­ar­chy. And the given names of the peers usu­ally have one Chi­nese char­ac­ter in com­mon if there are more than one char­ac­ter in their given names.

The names of the an­cient men were more com­pli­cated than those of the modern peo­ple. Peo­ple of lit­er­acy and sta­tus have both a style name and an al­ter­na­tive name, along with the sur­name and given name. For ex­am­ple, a man of let­ter of Su Shi in the song Dy­nasty had style name Zizhan and the al­ter­na­tive name Dongpo. The poet Li Bai in the Tang Dy­nasty lived in the Qinglian Vil­lage in Sichuan Prov­ince in his child­hood, and thus he styled him­self Qinglian Jushi (re­tired scholar).

DEEPER SIG­NIF­I­CANCE

Chi­nese names usu­ally have cer­tain mean­ing, ex­press­ing some kind of wish. Some names em­body the lo­ca­tion, time or nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non when the per­son was born, such as Jing (Bei­jing), Chen (morn­ing), Dong (win­ter), and Xue (snow). Some names in­di­cate the ex­pec­ta­tion of pos­sess­ing some virtues, such as Zhong (loy­alty), Yi (right­eous­ness), Li (eti­quette), and Xin (faith). Some names have the mean­ing of health, longevity and happiness, such as Jian (health), Shou (longevity), Song (pine, rep­re­sent­ing longevity), and Fu (happiness).

Male names are dif­fer­ent from fe­male ones: men’s names usu­ally have char­ac­ter mean­ing power and vigour, such as Hu (tiger). Long (dragon), Xiong (grandeur), Wei (mag­nif­i­cence), Gang (stead­fast­ness), and Qiang (strength). And the names of fe­males usu­ally use char­ac­ter rep­re­sent­ing gen­tle­ness and beauty, such as Feng (phoenix), Hua (flower), Yu (jade), Cai (colours), Juan (grace­ful), and Jing (quiet).

Take my name as an ex­am­ple. Lu Shao­gang is my name, my younger brother’s Lu Shao­qiang is my sur­name. Shao means to in­herit and Gang and Qiang mean stead­fast­ness and strength, re­spec­tively. So call me Mr Lu rather than Mr Shao­gang.

To­day, the Chi­nese do not pay as much at­ten­tion to nam­ing, as did an­cient folk. Gen­er­ally, a per­son has an in­fant name and an of­fi­cial one, and the given names are not nec­es­sar­ily ar­ranged in the or­der of the se­nior­ity in the fam­ily hi­er­ar­chy. How­ever, it’s still the Chi­nese peo­ple’s wish to give their chil­dren a name which sounds good and mean­ing­ful. LU SHAO­GANG Chi­nese Di­rec­tor, Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute, UWI, Mona

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