What is Precious Name in Chinese
Snowy, Rainbow and Lancelot: Choosing a name in Chinese
Since June there has been a new naming law in China. It allows parents to give their offspring their father's and mother's last name. These additional combination options are intended to prevent many children from having identical names. In the future, students will no longer fare the same as Zhang Wei, who is 24 years old today: In her 45-person class, eight children were named exactly like her at the time.
The young woman is not alone with this problem. Because in China there are only just under 700 family names - extremely few for a population of 1.3 billion. Family names are repeated frequently; around 20 appear very often - such as Zhang, Wang or Li.
Out of the crowd
As a rule, Chinese names consist of two or three characters. The first character is the family name; it is always mentioned before the first name. The latter, in turn, is made up of one or two characters. Both partners keep their family names when they get married. The offspring have so far received the family name of their father. Now the parents can now also give him his mother's - and thus lift him a little out of the crowd.
It is no coincidence that this change came into effect this year: 2007 is expected to be a particularly high birth rate. According to the lunar calendar, it is the year of the pig, which is considered to be particularly good luck bringing a child into the world. The Shanghai Family Planning Committee expects over 137,000 births for the metropolis - almost twice as many as in 2006.
Grace and Jane, the hero and the zero
Another trend in naming can be observed in China's cities. Those who are self-conscious adorn themselves here with an additional Western first name. On the one hand, because some characters are not computer-compatible, on the other hand, because they are considered chic. These names are not officially recorded anywhere, so they can be changed as the mood takes you. Some time ago I was still dealing with Grace, but was corrected by her a little later, her name is now Jane, only to find out recently that she is now trading under her old name again.
Because there are no limits to freedom, you often come across extremely imaginative names: Snowy, for example, Rainbow or Sugar - the latter appropriately served me a cappuccino. Rainman, Micky or Lancelot can sometimes be found among men. Edeltraud, on the other hand, is more classic. Or Arnold, who - nomen est omen - works as a personal trainer in the gym around the corner. With Mr. Zero, whom I met last week, I assume, however, that he made a mistake: He probably wanted to be called Held (Hero) and not Null (Zero).
Conversely, many foreigners in China use Chinese characters to name themselves - if only because it makes it easier to deal with the authorities. However, a Chinese name is essential for western companies that want to do business here - the name alone can decide whether a product is top or not. A good translation should therefore not only sound similar to the original, but also have a positive meaning. This is well done with "xi men zi" for Siemens ("gateway to the west"), "bao ma" for BMW ("precious horse") or "ben chi" for Mercedes Benz ("drive quickly and safely").
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