A couple of months ago, Cindy Chang wrote about her family’s interesting baby name tradition in the LA Times. Her Taiwanese family (now in the U.S.) has been naming all baby boys using the words in a special couplet, “probably part of a larger poem lost during the Cultural Revolution,” for at least 6 generations now.
Here’s the couplet (and the translation):
Hu guang xuan bei dou
Light from the lake reflects the north dipper (big dipper)
Shi dai le yong xi
Generations delight at the golden age
And here are the names in Cindy’s family that correspond to each word:
- Hu, “lake”
Her great-great-grandfather was named Hu-zao, “fertile lake.”
- Guang, “light”
Her great-grandfather was named Guang-xin, “shining prosperity.”
- Xuan, “reflects, announces”
Her grandfather was named Xuan-yao, “announcing brilliance.”
- Bei, “north”
Her father is named Bei-dwo, “northern bell,” and her uncle is named Bei-jiann, “northern key.”
- Dou, “dipper,” changed by her grandfather to Tian, “sky, heavens”
Her brother is named Tian-shu, “heavenly axis,” and her male cousins are named Tian-chuan, “heavenly authority,” and Tian-dong, “heavenly pillar.”
- Shi, “world”
Her nephews are named Christian Shi-jun, “world #1 talented, smart, handsome man,” and Julian Shi-xia, “world knight.”
But, like I said, this tradition only pertains to male names. So what’s Cindy’s Chinese name?
It’s Shin-tzer [pron. sheen-dzuh]. Shin means “heart,” and tzer means “swamp,” literally, though by extension it also means “glossy, radiant, enriching.” She says:
My name isn’t full of flowers, fragrance or delicacy like most Chinese girls’ names. My grandfather wanted me to have strength of character, not mere physical beauty.