Last week, I read about a Chinese woman named Lyu Yuanfang who gave birth on January 30 in Beijing. (The birth was newsworthy because Lyu, who has the neurodegenerative disease ALS, is believed to be the first ALS sufferer to give birth in China.)
Lyu and her husband, Luo Zhongmu, named the baby boy Guilong. Here’s how Luo explained the name:
‘Gui’ is another name for my hometown in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and ‘long’ represents my wife’s home province of Gansu.
What an interesting formula — a combination of two locations (each of which, in this case, represents a parent).
I’ve come across several other Chinese names that follow this formula as well.
One of them is Yinhua, the name of the baby born in 1942 to Indian physician Dwarkanath Kotnis and his wife, Chinese nurse Guo Qinglan. Guo talks about naming Yinhua in her memoir:
Kotnis asked me excitedly: Qinglan, tell me, what should we name him? I answered laughingly: Commander Nie is very considerate to us; it’s better if we request him to give the child a name.
When Commander Nie Rongzhen got to know about this happy news, he happily named the child Yinhua who had the blood of both the Indian and Chinese nations in his veins, symbolizing the friendship of the two nations. Yin stands for India, and Hua for China or flower [if pronounced in first or the parallel tone], therefore, when joined together it means either India and China or the Flower of India.
Three more I know of all happen to be named Zhongde (or Zhong-De), which is written with the Chinese characters for “China” and “Germany.”
The first I found in an essay about a a Baltic-German physician named Roger Baron Budberg (1867-1926) who moved to Manchuria as an adult. In 1907, at the age of 40, Budberg married a 14-year-old Chinese orphan named Li Yuzhen.
In March 1910, Li Yuzhen gave birth to a daughter, who received the name Zhong-De Hua, meaning “Chinese-German flower”. Despite the radical choices he had made, Baron Budberg’s identity as a German aristocrat had always remained central to him; his daughter’s Chinese name defined her as the fruit (the “flower”) of the union of what he clearly regarded as the two great traditions that together gave meaning to his life.
As an adult, Zhong-De Hua moved to Belgium and went by the name Antoinette Cecile.
The second and third were born in the wake of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in a field hospital set up jointly by the Chinese Red Cross and the German Red Cross in the city of Dujiangyan. The very first baby born at the hospital was named Zhong-De, “China-Germany.” The fourth baby was named Xie Zhongde, which means “Thank you, China and Germany.”
Do you know of any other Chinese baby names made up of a combination of locations?
- “ALS Patient Gives Birth to Baby Boy.” Xinhua/China Daily 30 Jan. 2013.
- “China quake babies bring joy.” Independent Online 9 Jun. 2008.
- Gamsa, Mark. “China as Seen and Imagined by Roger Baron Budberg, a Baltic Physician in Manchuria.” Eastwards: Western Views on East Asian Culture. Ed. Frank Kraushaar. Bern: Peter Lang, 2010. 23-35.
- “Germany Plans Next Round of China Aid.” DW 2 Jun. 2008.
- Guo, Qinglan, Baojun Xu and B. R. Deepak. My Life with Kotnis. New Delhi: Manak Publications, 2006.
P.S. Wondering how to pronounce Chinese names?