Choosing a Chinese name – part 4

Picking a Chinese name is like trying to pick out clothes to buy while blindfolded. How do you know if it they look good when you’re blind? How can you know what’s a good name and what isn’t when you can’t feel the cultural connotations of individual characters, let alone combinations of characters? Choosing a name is actually harder than buying clothes blindfolded, because unlike clothes, you can’t go home and change your name, or return it to the store for a different one. Once people start calling you by it, you’re stuck with it.

After a couple months of collecting names and opinions from all the Chinese people we know here, in Taiwan, and in North America, I wasn’t much closer to a name. It’s a highly intuitive thing, I guess, and every name that was suggested had at least one naysayer. How am I supposed to sort through all that? It’s all about the sound and the meanings, though most people seemed to ignore my request to have the name somehow connected to specific ideas; they just weren’t going for it. I also realized early on to explicitly state that I don’t care about getting rich, being lucky, or having a long life.

In the end, I followed Martin Symond’s advice and asked the Director of our school to suggest one. He’s a Chinese guy and former Mandarin teacher whom Martin knows personally. I scheduled a visit with him a week after asking to give him time. I think I can live with his suggestion. It has all manner of good cultural connotations that I will probably never come close to fully appreciating, but at least there’s meaning there that didn’t appear to involve getting rich and lucky. Hopefully I’ll learn enough to make some sort of personal connection with it. It’s kind of weird to try and psychologically “own” a name that you don’t have a feel for. But I suppose now that I have another name, I can start working on my alter ego!

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