How Not to Pick Your Chinese Name

Good Friends:

The summer heat wave here in Shanxi has continued unabated.  I have been thinking about leaving Taiyuan for cooler environs, but I am finding it hard to do so.  Not because of my duty to my people and a feeling of responsibility for the future, but because Shanxi is currently blockaded by the Japs and the Commies.

Sweltering and half insane, I have had to find all sorts of diversions to pass the time.  Booze has helped.  But even when drunk, you can only watch so many hours of opera before demanding that the young female lead be delivered to your palace for a personal performance.  Thus my days have fallen into a monotony, and I was so bored for distraction that I agreed to a meeting with my US military advisors.

Now, normally I despise such meetings, as they are always telling me what I am doing wrong.  If I actually listened to these fools, I would have to re-organize my army and take on the Japs head first.  No thanks!  But out of boredom I agreed to meet with them.  Overall the meeting was useless, but one hilarious thing did emerge: they had all taken Chinese names, each more ridiculous than the next.

What is it with laowai and Chinese names?  Is it so hard to choose one that does not make you look like a total douchebag?  As I have noted earlier, laowai are always doing stupid shit that I real man such as myself would never do.  But to flub something as simple as a name?  As public service, I thought I should share a few basic rules when it comes to laowai and Chinese names.

Now, I am sure that many of you, when hearing about bad Chinese names, think of this guy:

Meet Da Shan (大山), the guy who is famous for being able to speak Chinese.  This makes a lot of other laowai super pissed off, since they speak Chinese but don’t get to be all famous for it.  On one hand I feel their pain, since I speak Chinese and am not famous for it, but on the other hand I really cannot relate because I am totally famous for other things, like being a powerful warlord.

There is also a bit of controversy surrounding his name, which literally translates into “Big Mountain.”  Besides the fact that he named himself after a bad reggae band, there is this question: Is this not a really stupid fucking name?  The answer: Yes.  But it could be much worse.  I would say it is about as stupid as me moving to Denver and telling people they should start calling me Rocky Mountain.

Perhaps I am being a bit soft on Da Shan, since we both share the 山 character in our names.  But really, there are far more stupid names for a laowai to choose.  I will demonstrate this by discussing two of the worst names ever to be chosen by laowai.

The first name is an unfortunate mix of three factors.  The first is the desire to name yourself after an animal.  Why the fuck would you do that?  You are a person (I think, although a few of the laowai I know are a bit ape-like).  If you have the character of any animal in your name, and you have never starred in an action movie, you are a douche.  The second factor is having a small dick, and feeling insecure about it, so you want to emphasize your “bigness’ by putting the character for big (大) in your name.  The third factor is actually thinking that you somehow deserve to be compared favorably to Bruce Lee.

As some of you might have guessed, the name I refer to is Dalong (大龙), or “Big Dragon.”  If you have this name, you are an idiot.  Bruce Lee’s Chinese name was Xiaolong (小龙) or “Little Dragon.”  That is a fucking awesome Chinese name–for Bruce Lee.  You expect me to call you “Big Dragon”?  How about I just call you a fucking idiot.

If our first horrible name displays equal parts ignorance, insecurity, and misplaced arrogance, the second horrible name reveals in its holder a willingness to debase themselves for fame.  I speak of what I take to be the most idiotic name ever taken by a laowai (and that says something), Aihua (爱华).  Meet Aihua:

Aihua.  What a fucking name.  It means “love China.”  I suppose it will not surprise you to know that Aihua is an actress.  Here is what the always reliable CCTV said about her:

[She is an] American girl who has embraced and adopted Chinese culture and tradition as her own. Meanwhile, she is beloved by the Chinese people, and they have accepted her as a Chinese, not a foreigner. She has graced the stages and TV screens of China since the young age of 10. “Ai Hua”, meaning Love China, is her Chinese name. And the name proves very appropriate, for not only does she love the Chinese, but the Chinese love her as well.

Shocking, is it not, that this CCTV report is inaccurate?   Note to all laowai: You will never be accepted as Chinese.  Picking a suck-up name might make us feel comfortable around you–it does show that you will kiss our asses for as long as we keep you around–but it does not make you Chinese.

I still cannot believe anyone would take this name.  To balance the scales, I am currently looking for a Chinese citizen to move Montana and take the name “Me Love USA Long Time.”  If you know anyone who might be interested, contact me at once.

YXS

Update:  The newish blog “Peking Order” (get it?) has a list of the top 5 laowai.  You will find that these “top” laowai are also dumb-ass laowai with seriously stupid names, a few of which have already been referenced above.  Check it out here.  BTW the Peking Order gets +6 internet points for referencing Yan Xishan, but -3 internet points for showing pity to Ai Hua.

32 Responses to How Not to Pick Your Chinese Name

  1. PRC FTW says:

    There was a really annoying guy in my language program that had the name “Xiaohu”–little tiger. I have to agree with the above analysis.

  2. The Kid says:

    I know a Chinese guy with a animal in his name, but it is some kind of mythical animal (and no not a damn dragon). It seemed kind of cool to me, although if it had been dragon, well not so cool.

    Yan–I will start looking around for someone to take that name. I assume you pay well? I know a few rather crazy girls from my Shanghai days.

    • HonoH Tron says:

      《山海經》有記載,在神州和東海蓬萊之間有一座海底仙山,隋唐以來,日本、高麗循海路來中原進貢的使臣和留學生,以及唐、宋、明、清歷代東渡扶桑的中華人士都目睹過蘇岩,並留下文獻記載,歷史古籍更確認蘇岩礁屬於中國無誤。

      清末民初,中國的地質學、地理學進步後,專家更證實蘇岩礁位於東海大陸架上,是中國大陸海床的一部分。

      清末民初,中國的地質學、地理學進步後,專家更證實蘇岩位於東海大陸架上,是中國大陸海床的一部分。它位於中國領海和二百海里專屬經濟區內,是中國領土,外國無權在蘇岩礁上建築前進基地,更無權在其周邊海域開採石油,霸佔該島礁就是侵犯中國領土主權的完整。

      宏觀來看,朝鮮半島狹小,三面環海,朝鮮人自古就有「北拓精神」,向與中國接壤的北部拓邊移民是擴大疆域的唯一選擇,近代在日據朝鮮時期,朝鮮邊民越界到偽滿洲國吉林一帶開墾,就是一例證;

      那以後,韓國開始向東拓展領域,在日本海與日本爭奪獨島,採取先佔原則,日本居下風,韓國成功開闢了東疆。如今,韓國又開始擴張南疆的領土,強硬而迅速先佔為主。

      從微觀看,韓國想將蘇岩礁築成人工島,而後根據國際海洋法,在中國東海、黃海圈出一塊相當於法國大小的一片海域,屬於韓國,目的是劫掠東海漁業礦產,覬覦海底石油資源。

      中國失去蘇岩礁後海域縮小,大面積海洋國土淪喪,東海和黃海與韓國對半分都分不到,空域也被連帶壓縮,防空識別區拱手讓給韓國。

      漁民丟失漁場,漁業發展受到制約,海軍只能在沿岸近海游弋,成了海岸巡邏隊,最重要的是海底石油財富全給韓國人搶去了。

  3. Qin Gui says:

    I will admit Da Shan has some awesome Chinese, but seeing his smirking face drives me nuts.

    Please, never put his picture in this or any blog ever again in the future.

    As for that Aihua chick, I never heard of her. Maybe she is does have a dumb name, but I would not kick her out of bed for that.

  4. Yan Xishan says:

    @PRC FTW: Xiaohu is a stupid name. Just call him Pussycat.

    @ The Kid: I should not be so harsh, there are probably some respectable names that contain not-too-obvious animal characters. But no Shanghai girls will be considered.

    @Qin Gui: I seriously doubt Da Shan will ever appear in this blog again.

  5. Jerry C. says:

    Yan:

    I am in the process of picking out a new Chinese name, so this was quite helpful. I am almost tempted to go with Dalong to be an asshole, but as I hope to be using this name for a long time, that is probably not wise.

    Jerry

  6. DALONG says:

    FUCK YOU YAN

    No matter what you say, I love my name.

  7. Yan Xishan says:

    @Jerry: Way to listen to your elders

    @Dalong: Don’t be mad kid, the truth hurts sometimes.

  8. Cooper says:

    Haha…good call! Especially about 爱华, christ.

    I have heard that he earned this name when he didn’t understand the Beijing expression 侃大山. Anyone confirm this?

  9. Yan Xishan says:

    Cooper:

    I never heard that 侃大山 story… I would imagine one could figure out the origins of the name, but that would involve reading up about 大山, which I am not inclined to do. Any adventurous reader wants to go ahead and prove your internets skillz, step up and be heard.

    YXS

  10. Baby, I love your way says:

    Yo I gotz da mad skillz.

    According to a very painful to read article I found online, Dashan was the name of the character he played the first time he was on TV. He just kept the name.

    Big Mountain indeed…

    I think I saw that Aihua chick getting her China love on during an infomercial or something.

  11. Yan Xishan says:

    “Mad skillz” indeed.

    +2 internet points for the Big Mountain reference.

  12. Dan says:

    Wow, thanks for the heads up that Chinese are intolerant, in your opinion. Chinese people can certainly be accepted as Americans or Canadians, or even French or British. But then, those aren’t real countries… with something to prove.

  13. Yan Xishan says:

    Dan:

    I apologize if I hurt your feelings. You seem like a lovely and sensitive laowai. I am sure you will be fully accepted as Chinese by your wife’s family. I hear they are extra open to outsiders up in Dongbei. And not just because they need the extra warmth during that long winter.

    YXS

  14. da gong ji says:

    one of the troubles is trying to translate an interesting english name into chinese.

    i wanted to have a name translated from “ballsack foreskinski” but it ended up like a fuckin paragraph in chinese.

  15. zuo ai says:

    I chose my Chinese name from the only Chinese character from the Street Fighter video game, and so of course it involves a dragon in it. I honestly get a kick outta how corny it is… 飞龙

  16. Yan Xishan says:

    飞龙 is on the cheesy side, but Street Fighter was (is?) a great game, so I say live it up. Besides, I (and this is true) actually know an actual Chinese person with that name. Although they of course also had a standard Chinese surname, and I am not sure if that is the case here.

  17. FOARP says:

    Re: Aihua, I think I’ve seen her on one of those 19th century dramas playing an English woman married to a treacherous British diplomat. If it was her then her English really is fucked up – I thought she was Romanian or something.

  18. Noychoh says:

    I’ve read your essay and the comments with great interest. Now I will ask your opinion about my Chinese name: Maqi 马奇. I have not chosen it myself, it was given to me by my first Chinese teacher. In fact it is Chinese phonetical approximation of my original name which sounds like Maqiei. For the respect to my first teacher I have kept and used this name. Now what about the animal in my name?

  19. Yan Xishan says:

    “马” is a standard last name, so there is no shame, as long as you are using 马 as your last name. For those of you do not yet speak Chinese, 马 is pronounced “ma” and means “horse.” 马 is a common last name among Chinese Muslims, such as my mutton munching rival Ma Bufang.

    But in any case you will need to confirm that you are using 马 as your surname before I can give you the Yan Xishan Seal of Approval for Laowai Chinese Names. It’s prestigious.

    • Noychoh says:

      Yan Xishan! I have read your answer only now, 4 years after it habd been published, I have completely forgotten about my question :). May Your Honour Excuse your humble servant!

      No, I am not using 马 as my surname (the surname is 检), and I am not Muslim (thank to all Chinese gods of North and South), but 马奇 is my personal name.

  20. Anonymous says:

    are you all retards?!!! the name Shan Da is an important name to many Chinese. It is the main character in the book Forbidden City by William Bell. The book is based on the massacre of Tian An Men Square. Alex, Shan Da’s English name, is responsible for getting the story out of the country after watching his friends get mowed down right in front of him by the PLA. for you retartds out ther that’s the People`s Liberation Army. The chinese government used it against the people because students were participating in a peaceful protest to be treated as equals. The book is so accurate that it is illegal in china. 2600 students died that day and their families were billed for the bullets. Even more civillians died and their families were also billed for the bullets. Google is pulling out of china because the government is controlling what citizens are allowed to search for. Search that is punishable by death: Tian An Men Square. Alex or Shan Da has become a symbol of freedom for the residents of beijing. if you don`t believe me, read the book. you will see.

  21. In a post about retard names, it seems a little rude not to leave your name.

  22. Jason says:

    Can I get the Yan Xishan Seal of Approval for Laowai Chinese Names? My Chinese name is 陆杰森,and while I realize that I’m neither heroic nor a forest, it was also my Chinese teacher’s idea and is about as phonetically-matching as Chinese names come.

  23. Yan Xishan says:

    @William Bell (aka Anonymous): Sure, whatever.

    @Jason: Well,杰 by itself does not mean hero, but just outstanding. So I would translate your name as “outstanding forest.” As Chinese names go, you could do a lot worse. So yes, you can have the Yan Xishan Seal of Approval for Laowai Chinese Names.

    But you might want to keep an open mind and make a change in the future, as technically you are not an outstanding forest.

  24. Second best post ever on a China blog. First best is your post on top ten thinkers. Well done.

  25. Chris Hagen says:

    I did not even take the time to read your article in entirety. My take on your China experience is that you have simply skimmed the surface and know little to nothing on Chinese culture, history, and of course, names.

    Take any Chinese person’s name and translate it and you will find a strange, but fascinating group of characters. In the same way Chinese take what we would consider strange English names, I find it both refreshing and fun. Why adopt a name like Peter, or Mary, when there are so many more interesting names available? I had one person who worked for me call himself Debt. No matter how I tried to get him to change, he would not. Others such as Snow, Rain, Gold, Samartha, (instead of Samantha), what is the harm?

    Same for Westerners taking Chinese names. Why would anyone adopt a normal name especially when it is a great honor to be given a surname and a name from a Chinese friend?

    I see that no one has posted on your dismal essay for more than a year, good. Also, your reference to putting the word 大 in front of a name has nothing to do with size or ego, but all to do with hierarchy in the family.

    I suggest you do more research for further articles.

  26. Matt_XVI says:

    Yan Xishan,

    You are an epic douche who is the idiot calling others idiots.

    Your examples of English names do not make sense. Chinese names (and characters) are almost always based on meanings. It’s the standard. So yeah of course “Special Horse” sounds idiotic in English however 马特 is perfectly acceptable in Chinese. Try to find a Chinese name that doesn’t refer to a combination of nouns, verbs and adjectives. It’s inherent in their culture.

    You yourself have a fucking mountain in your name. According to your logic it seems like your telling us your making up for a small insecurity yourself.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  27. Anonymous says:

    I would also like to point out the stupid names the Chinese seem to take in English such as Cherry, Candy etc.

  28. Curioser says:

    I met a chap called Satan Wong in Hong Kong. Awesome! Is there an equivalent Chinese name for Laowai? Evil spirit, perhaps?

  29. Wan Da Shan says:

    I was given the name Wan Da Shan which I was told means rich in spirit…has anyone else heard or know of a similar meaning for this name

  30. Anonymous says:

    Hi Yan! Thank you for the tips.
    I guess they get this native north-american “feel” and channel to chinese through this whole yingyang/taichi self-made theory.
    Where they get stuff from the nature… Big mountain = Brave sitting bull. Go figure, maybe Freud explains it…

    Anyway. My name is 马雅各 – whacha say?

    Cheers

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