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February 20, 2011

What’s in a name?

by Robin Groen

Out for a wander one day in Kunming, we came across a “name change” business. Monica explained that people would use this service to help name a baby, pick a good name for a business or to change their own name if they felt that they needed a fresh start in life.

Most Chinese people that I’ve met in England have adopted English names as their original names can be difficult for the English to pronouce. Similarly, I couldn’t help but notice that when I’m in China, Monica’s friends and family struggle to say “Robin”. So perhaps it was time for me to get a Chinese name?

We went into the shop/office and found out more.

It transpired that names are selected using the I-Ching in conjunction with various facts about your time and place of birth and some basic family history. A quick text exchange with Mum and Dad back home produced my exact time of birth. So, after a consultation and payment of fee, we left the elderly and learned I-Ching expert to work through numerous books and charts and come up with a new name.

Several hours later, we got the call to tell us that he’d actually produced five names. We returned to the business and, after lengthy explanations and discussions, we jointly arrived at this new name:

To give some idea of how complex the deliberations were, each word had to have a set number of strokes to match an element of my identity and the total number of strokes is also important.

The name when written in pinyin (English characters) is Lu Ling Jia.

  • Lu is the family name and it means “Green” (as in Groen) and “wages of an important man a long time ago”
  • Ling means “shot up”, “in the morning” and “block of ice”
  • Jia means “wonderful” and “say good things”

While I won’t be using this name in England, it is nice to know that my in-laws and friends in China can now be confident when they say my name. Meanwhile, I’m still struggling to pronounce it correctly myself! If you fancy a new name, the business has its own website.

Read more from China honeymoon

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