I have been in China for two and a half years now and I still haven’t chosen a Chinese name. Normally, foreigners get a Chinese name from their friends or teachers. They will find a name which is either close to their name’s pronunciation or which has the meaning of an attribute that the person possesses or likes.
In my first year, I had asked my Chinese teacher to find a name for me. A Chinese name consists of the Family name or surname first and then your first name.
So my last name was Pan(潘), which is a popular family name here in Suzhou, and my first name di(迪) which is the first syllable of my name and which also means enlighten or guide. The whole name thus is Pan Di, isn’t it funny? It’s like Panda but with an I.
When I told some of my friends the name, they were amused, because they were like what is it? What does it mean? And silly as I was, I didn’t even ask, because when I first heard the name, I was not impressed by it.
Now that I think about it, it’s still not appealing to me, though I am thankful for the teacher for searching a name for me.
Also, many of my friends would tell me that it’s better to have a name that reflects your personality.
I then proceeded to ask my many Chinese friends to find a name for me. One of them, Terry, told me about this name which was Xiao Hong. Then he told me that was the name of a famous Chinese writer. Upon asking my other friends, I got to know that it’s a very old name and that I should maybe find something more modern.
I asked other of my friends and they all told me that they were clueless about what name to choose for me. They sent me many links to websites where I could find a name by myself, but being the indecisive person that I am, I could not decide on one.
This year, while working in the library, I met a volunteer who’s studying Chinese literature and history at the Suzhou University. Her name is Yang Xian. When she told me what she is studying I asked her to find a name for me. She proposed Lin Jin Ran(林尽染）which means a forest where the leaves of the trees are changing their colour to red. It is also part of a poem by Mao Tze Tong. She said that this name is appropriate for me because it suits me (as she thinks I’m a quiet girl; when I told my close friends about this, they all laughed because they know that I’m not quiet, once you get to know me better)
I then asked her an alternative so that I can make a better choice. She proposed Gu Chang An(顾长安) which is the old name of Beijing, the capital city of China and it is also the name of a novel or movie.
I was more confused now. I shouldn’t even have asked for another name I think.
I decided to ask my friends on Wechat, an application, which is a combination of Facebook and WhatsApp, which name suited me the most.
At the start, everyone who commented, preferred Lin Jin Ran, and then one or two of my friends said Gu Chang An. The ones who preferred the first option also said that Gu Chang An is more suitable for males rather than females
I pondered a lot. Some other friends tried to give me a description of the names to help me out, but I went down a spiral of confusion.
I wanted to wait for a day to take a decision and it has now been a few days and I haven’t yet decided on a Chinese name for myself.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should have chosen the first Chinese name that I was given, the one that my Chinese teacher gave me.
There is a new air coming this way. The Chinese New Year, Year of the Dog is here!
Happy New Year and may success, happiness and prosperity be yours!