By Rei Tanotsuka, 10 February 2020
I wanted to address this problem for quite a while now as I have seen run of the mill explanations, none of which I agree with, because they describe the symptom, but never address the cause.
Here’s what we generally hear and regurgitate, believing it to be the most expedient and least unprincipled reason, assigning pragmatism as the sole heir to our lack of allegiance to our own roots.
The oft touted excuse is that Chinese people adopt Western names for OTHERS.
I usually get a swarm of asinine rebuttals such as, “what’s the big deal? or “It makes life easier” and a whole lot of other spineless cop outs, anything but the acknowledgement that NO OTHER NATIONALITY EXCEPT the Chinese, choose Western names DESPITE LIVING IN ASIA!! This logic perversion never dawns on those who espouse this assault on intelligence.
African Americans have adopted Western names but go to Africa and you will see almost noone calling themselves Peter except on Halloween.
Go to a Chinese predominant Asian country, and you will be met with a Mongoloid “Rebecca”, “Jonathan” or even “Caesar”. Coincidentally, it is also a Chinese historical first in HK, where the flag of the coloniser is raised with such piety, that the Brits must be wondering what other injustices could they have inflicted, gotten away with before finally being worshipped as the heralders of “equality”.
Still want to argue otherwise? Here’s a dose of reality, WHEN was the last time you saw a white girl called Xiu Bai Warren?
Ostensibly Chinese names are THAT difficult to pronounce, and Chinese people are pedantic enough they don’t want it messed up, so they don’t anglicise their name, they obliterate it all together so Mun becomes something like Alexa, Betsy or my favourite, Wansi…. things that make me go mmmm.
My name Rei comes from this Kanji, it’s pronounced Rei in Japanese and in my dad’s dialect. It can also be Li, Lei, Lai and a million other sounds according to my mum.
The Japanese and Koreans almost never adopt Western names, despite having names containing 2 trillion syllables and the spelling of which renders the application of the entire alphabet. Here’s an example of a Japanese name Hisakatsu Yamanashi.
Yet never do you hear an apologetic whimper of that being too “difficult” because guess what? It doesn’t have to be EASY for YOU, it must make sense to THEM!
Now, are you ready for the real reason why Chinese people betray their moniker and identity without shedding a tear for who they are?
Does anyone know the glorious Li Bai? The Chinese poet whose calligraphy skills enthralled Mao Zedong so much, that he clandestinely kept a calligraphy scroll containing 24 words written by the great master for years, before reluctantly forsaking this treasure to the Forbidden City’s museum in 1958? Yes, THAT guy!
Li Bai’s father, Li Ke, had a very unusual name, one that is rumoured he made for himself to give him a twinge of mystique.
“Ke” meaning guest or outsider, is not a name one commonly avows to one’s own child, so speculation lay in the creation of that name to Li Bai’s own father. Infact, both the family and first name, Li Ke, are conjectured to have been the result of “self creativity”!
By 700 AD, there was already a practice in China to self invent family names, aligning oneself to powerful clans so that they could claim special privileges.
The emperors in the Tang dynasty did have a Li in the line, and the closer you were to being ethnically “real Chinese” back in the day, the higher the reverence for your familial line.
The first Tang emperor Taizu had a foreign mother from Southern Hebei, known as a “sien pi” or Tartar. The court historians later thought it appropriate to embellish the royal family line, by proclaiming that they were all from the ethnically pure Chinese line in Guanlong from the majestic and prestigious bloodline of Li.
So even back then, Chinese people felt nothing for personal identity via the name, only what prestige a name bestows…. so what?
We change our names to align with ones we believe confer more clout, or have a higher social value, so we don’t even have to admit our inferiority complex, WE NAME IT.
What we are seeing here, is always something those who lack a deeper reflection refuse to acknowledge. It’s not JUST a name.
Your name is YOU!
Unless we get esoteric and metaphysical, and start a Humean dialectic of universal oneness and there never being an “individual” to begin with, we CAN’T escape our name being a HUGE part of being ourselves. So if we are all exiling Peng for Penelope, Keong for Kenneth, how is that we can boldly claim “I am Chinese” or “I believe in me”. You can’t believe, support and claim to have faith in something you refuse as part of yourself!
My proposal, is that the next time you introduce yourself, should you have a Western name, give AS MUCH IMPORTANCE to your CHINESE name TOO!
Let’s make an acute effort to NEVER FORGET OUR ROOTS, it’s OK to call ourselves Michael, but hey, let’s tell people you are Wei FIRST.
“Hi, I’m Wei Siew Leung, you can call me MICHAEL if it’s easier.” INSTEAD OF “Hi I’m Michael Leung.”
Think it can’t get worse? It already has. I have met pure Chinese people who are NOT adopted with a full Western name like Con Roberts, I didn’t even know whether to to laugh, tease or just pity him… Talk about delusional.
Never have I ever seen a boy with hair of wheat, and eyes of the sea introduce himself as “Wong Ho Kei”… This my friend, is why our Asian empowerment is just LIP SERVICE! Real empowerment means being PROUD of the food you eat, the philosophy you espouse and your own damn NAME!