Help with a chinese name
Could anyone help me with a chinese name? I'm trying to write to one of my girlfriend's relatives and his wife, whose name is Xiao Lu, but we don't know which Lu it is! Does anyone have any suggestions for what female first name Hanzi it might be?
light487January 05, 2011, 11:10 PM
The thing is... it could be any lu.... even if you find the most likely one, there are far too many options that it could be.. Even with the surname of Lu there are at least 4 main ones to choose from... maybe you could ask in your letter? :) Use it as an opportunity to work out how to write it politely :)
Thanks lujiaojie. Is it likely to be a surname? I thought the 小... beginning was usually appended to someone's first name? For example, my girlfriend's name is 冯雅 so sometime she's called 小雅, not 小冯?
There must be a big book written somewhere about names befitting the subject. I mean apart from One Hundred Names, which is actually a small book. I'm interested in names so look forward to more comments in your thread.
For what it is worth I have never heard 小 attached to a given name, only a family name. I have heard of brothers called 小海 and 大海, but these are 'family' names, not proper given names. I think that in modern China it is usual to have a family name (nickname) different to the name on your ID card.
I love this name 'game' - one of my hobbies here learning about names.
Just to clarify the above (hope I'm not stating the obvious to you but your comment made me wonder).. you attach 小 to a family name such as 陆 to get 小陆, but you don't attach it to a given name. (At least I haven't seen it). But 小 can be part of a given name (examples given by lujiaojie); that is a different thing. In the first case 小 is a sobriquet, in the second case it is a name given by parents or grandparents and appearing on your ID. The sobriquet can be given in the workplace often for someone who is younger than the person who uses this form of address. Or it can be used in the family as a nickname as in my example in the post above; in which case it would be 小.. [something other than the family name.] In rural areas it was common to just give kids names by number; actually it still happens at least as a family name.
PS. I have used 'family' name in two ways above - hope that isn't confusing. 1. Family name = surname; 2. Family name = a nickname just used within the exended family. Actually this extends to the way kids address their parents, just like it does in the West I guess. We have ma, mum, mother, mater!, etc. (my brother often called my mother 'mutter') and the Chinese have various forms as well that vary from family to family.
This case has always been about extended family of course. 小陆 is the wife of his girlfriend's relative (don't know how close--but I guess one of the people they spent time with in Guangzhou, in which case they're probably not very distant). As XiaoLiang says, my girlfriend's name is 冯雅 so sometime she's called 小雅, not 小冯. So he may have assumed it's another such 'family name' *meaning 2*.
Perhaps XL's girlfriend's family are keepers of the 族谱 tradition. As you know, following this tradition the first char in your full name is your surname, tells people what clan/family you belong to, the second char (first char in given name) tells people which generation of that clan you belong to, and the third char (second char in given name) is your personal identifier. So within the family she would be called 小雅. If this is the case I would expect her to have cousins with 冯 as the first char of their given names.
I'm just realising I know very little about names - I have not seen this referred to as the 族谱 tradition. I don't understand your reference to 冯 - could you explain? [I thought xiaoliang was asking a question about this in his post - I thought he meant that he wasn't sure what his girlfriend was called. If he was sure, why the question mark?]
I can tell you something interesting: I was at dinner with a family where three girls have been named (given name) char A, char B, char C. The father said to me he was named similarly one of char A, char B and char C. 'Oh', I said, 'so you carried on the tradition with your three daughters!'
'NO!', he said, 'you can't do it with daughters - it can only be done with sons.' So, to clarify, they named their daughters this way but it was, if you like, 'coincidental' - this naming tradtion can't be done with females. Or, it can be done, but it does not have the same meaning. One of the daughters was there and she said to me 'yes, it's just a coincidence that me and my sisters are named this way'. :)
BTW, is this a tradition in Japan as well?
Oops, I have to apologize for acting like a know-it-all, and completely forgetting about girls not being named under such traditions! Sorry.
About XiaoLiang's question mark, I guess I ignored it, thought he was telling us his girlfriend is called 小雅.
What do you mean "the father was named similarly one of char A, char B and char C"? I didn't understand that.
In modern Japan we have families that like to carry on a certain character down generations, or carry on a pattern down generations (sons in my father's family had three-char given names, until my father was given a one-char, a break from the line my father didn't think much of. he gave my brother a three-char name), or take a char each from the mother's and father's name, or take a char just from the father's name for instance. These could apply in naming daughters too. But I don't think we have anything as formal as the Chinese traditions I have heard of. The generals in the warring age passed down characters. Of course daughters were not part of the picture here.
We have a hero in baseball, Sadaharu Oh 王貞治 (not to keep raising this issue, but he is considered a 'national hero' in Taiwan as well. As far as I know he is a Japanese national--if anyone knows otherwise pls correct me), his mother was Japanese, his father originally from Zhejiang. He has no sons, three daughters. In Japan unlike China and Korea, usually when a woman marries she gives up her maiden name, takes the surname of the family she is marrying into. So he named his daughters 理香 Rika, 理恵 Rie and 理沙 Risa (sorry, not sure about the char for sa), saying it was so that even after they grew up and married they would always be known as daughters of Oh 王. I thought nothing of that then, just fatherly love, but now I see it as very Chinese also.
* I edited this comment several times. *
I meant that the father was named according to the tradition you refer to: three brothers, their given name shared the same first character (you note that is to do with the generation, I didn't know that, I thought it was just a character chosen for the usual reasons of meaning etc.) and then the last character of the given names varied. (I indicated the variation with A, B and C.)
Maybe xiaoliang can enlighten us as to whether his girlfriend is named this way, and (if he doesn't mind letting us know) why? :)
PS. You still sound like you are way ahead of me on names, Zhenlijiang, even if you did mix up that point. I am not sure myself whether this is a China-wide rule, the family is originally from Fujian. Actually I know that the minority nationalities have their own naming rules and some are markedly different to the Han tradition.
I don't know if keeping the 族谱 is China-wide either. A tutor from HK told me about it. As she said it, you have to go to Singapore these days, if you want to see Chinese traditions still thriving; the mainland was ravaged and so many traditions broken in the 文化大革命.
As she explained it to me, the 族谱, the family book, is passed down the generations and stays with the head (son) of the clan (so I think someone in his 40s or 50s), and he is the only one who can have access to it, open and see it. There would be a wheel, a cycle, of characters--not clear how many, it seemed like 60 maybe? some multiple of 12--to be assigned to the generations in order. So all the sons of the same generation, brothers and cousins, would accordingly have the same first char in their given name, and the second char in their given name treated as their personal name really. And I remember now, a 80后 teacher from Shenyang also told me about this naming tradition, though she didn't mention 族谱.
Well yes the 文化大革命 can be blamed for breaking many tradtions, and it seems that a whole generation missed out on the stories. (Some families really have made a break from traditions.) But thinking about it, there is nothing to stop valuable tradtions being revived except the will to do it. (Some traditions may not be worth reviving - society moves on. This happens in my country and I sure that it does in your country.) The reality is that Chinese people now make choices about tradtions, and many still follow the old ways. Many others think that it is just hocus pocus. And most people are a mix of these two positions. It is remarkable (just to take one example) that thousands of young couples who are well educated, and well read, and perhaps studied overseas for years (in other words those who you might expect to be wary of superstitions and old traditions) are this year holding off marriage plans because 2011 is a 'bad' year. Someone we know who studied in the West for years is deliberating (in consultation with families) about how to get married this year when it is such a bad year. I think that I am trying to say that many traditions remain very deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. The government is fighting a losing battle. :)
The government has flagged legislation to ban the consumption of dog (on animal cruelty grounds) but my 'corner' restaurant still has a big sign advertising 狗肉米线。
Bodawei, somehow I don't think that people will look at something like 族谱 as hocus pocus in any case, whether or not their family is still practicing the tradition. In reality, with the one-child policy, if you have a daughter there is no one to name according to that tradition. That daughter may also only have female cousins.
I was simply sharing the remark about Chinese traditions and the Cultural Revolution made by my born-and-raised-in-HK tutor. It is educational enough for us foreigners to hear the way one individual Chinese chooses to see and tell it. I know she doesn't speak for 1.3+ billion, and I have no assertion or opinion either way.
On another point, as an Asian raised with certain deeply ingrained customs, the word "superstition" used like that is an issue for me. It strikes me as misguided, or judging without being culturally informed--not that you are. I don't know well about the Chinese thinking on good and bad years, but I can relate to it. I know our thinking about good and bad years and days, and don't consider it superstition. It's more about being constantly aware of and showing our fear (respect) for higher powers, acknowledging that humans can not determine their own fate and fortune just by taking control (of what we can). I'm afraid I'm not explaining this very well, but what it really is is showing the absolute best effort that we humans can, so that heaven may help us in our endeavors and allow our humble wishes to be realized. It's just an extension of hard, honest work (and to people who think that way, bribing or lying and cheating, if you think you have to to get what you want) and virtuous living. Of earnestness. It's not like heathens needing rescuing by Christian missionaries and educators!
It's informative enough in itself, I meant to say, for us foreigners to hear one individual Chinese person's take on such things. In this case I suspect it's just as much about nostalgia (I reckon she's in her mid- to late 40s) and the multi-dimensional migrated-to-HK-Chinese emotional relationship with the mainland, as it is a political view.