Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Yang Fan

yangfan, originally uploaded by dadapunk80.
This is my new Chinese name: Yang Fan.

The first character, Yang, was easy to choose. It's my mother's surname. Choosing the second character, however, was not so easy. My first Chinese name was given to me by my first boss. It was Mei Le which is a horrible name that means "beautiful and happy." My university students told me it sounded like a farmer's daughter's name (and in China, being a farmer is exceptionally bad socially [so much for socialism]). My second Chinese name was Hong Lian. A Chinese man I sat next to at a football match gave it to me. Hong means "red" and Lian was taken from the second character in the name of the city I was living in, Da Lian. I was also told by my students that Hong Lian was too farmerish, though better than Mei Le. My third Chinese name was assigned to me by the mother of a friend and that was Hai Lan. This means "sea blue." Also farmerish, apparently, and I never really took to it.

Finding the Chinese people around me inadequate in their ability to give me a name, I took the task upon myself and, like many Chinese in search of an English name, I went into the dictionary.

Most Chinese words or concepts have a few characters, so I started with words starting with Yang (second tone), a very common Chinese surname that means "poplar." I didn't find anything I liked, but the next character listed, also Yang in the second tone, can be written with Fan (first tone), which means "sail," to mean "hoist the sails" or "set sail." This I liked, but I didn't like the idea of having the first name "sail." I continued for other characters for Fan in the first tone and found what you see in the picture. This Fan means "to have an altogether different flavor."

So there we have it: "poplar of an altogether different flavor," but when said together I'm to "set sail."

The name has since been approved by those around me to a good and very Chinese sounding name. One of my private students, a very hip 15-year-old girl, even told me it was cool and that the wife of a nobel prize winner at Tsinghua University (the MIT of China) has the same name.

This is Yang Fan, signing off...

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