Monday, April 30, 2012

My New Name

I've never really had a Chinese name I'm comfortable with. For a while I just used the Chinese transliteration of my name, but that always sounded silly to me. After I went to Chengdu with my parents I started using Da Xiong Mao, or Panda (literally big bear cat). But that's not a real name either. For example I couldn't open a bank account in China as Panda, if I could I'd probably have stuck with the name. So for a while now I've been thinking about a new name. My parents suggested I use the same family name they picked, but it's just a transliteration of Davis, ie not a real name in Chinese. I wanted something that could actually be someone's name. I've been talking to my Chinese tutors about it for a while and I was able to come up with a family name, the first character in a Chinese name. I picked Yuan or 元 which has several meanings. For one thing it means money. If you look at any Chinese note of coin 元 will be there. Also it was the name of an ancient Chinese dynasty. The Yuan dynasty was the one established after the Mongolians conquered China, the dynasty of Kublai Khan for example. But 元 is still used as a family name in Inner Mongolia, and while not one of the most common names, isn't totally bizarre.

After I picked 元 though I got stuck. I still needed a given name. A given name in Chines is one or two characters long. The problem was that people in China pick names very differently than people in the US. For example I first wanted to use something with a similar meaning to Daniel, which means something like beloved of God, but there's nothing all that close in meaning in Chinese, at least not in a name. After that I was thinking about using a name for some famous person I admired in Chinese history, but people don't really pick names for either dead relatives or famous people, in China. Chinese names are essentially picked for a characteristic. Many of the names mean things like smart, hard working, important. People also pick natural objects. My friend Steve's Chinese name is a type of tree, and Carrie's Chinese name is literally Star Star. But I had a hard time picking a characteristic for myself. It's just pretty odd to pick your own name.

This logjam was finally broken on Saturday when during class, we had classes because of the May Day holiday this week, I mentioned my name problem to the students and they offered up some suggestions. The best of was adding 帅 to my name. 帅, or Shuai, by itself means handsome, always a good place to start. But when you add shuai to yaun you get 元帅 which mean marshal, or general. Though not so common anymore 元帅 was a rank that translates as commander in chief, field marshal, or more commonly marshal. A marshal is a rank above general, usually the highest possible rank, though some armies, like the US, don't use it. In ancient China there was actually one rank above it 大元帅, or big marshal. But despite having a literal meaning, 元帅 can also be a name. So there you have it. I picked a name that can mean money, an ancient Chinese dynasty, handsome, or general. I might be a little full of myself, but I like it. It's still a little funny like Panda, but it's also a real name. So this is 元帅 thanking you for reading my blog.... dismissed.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Death and Taxes

It's definitely spring here in Guangzhou, I can tell since my nose won't stop running. I thought that the upside of living in a country devoted to destroying the environment would be less seasonal allergies, but no such luck. The worst part of it is having a soar throat since I need to talk pretty loudly when I teach, which then only makes it worse. I've also been working on my taxes. I actually haven't filed out a federal income tax in a couple of years since I make so little money in China that I'm below the reporting threshold. But I figure that it's good to get back into the habit of doing it, and it might be necessary if I ever want to get any sort of possible financial aid for graduate school. It's a lot more confusing then when I was in the US since it's not as designed for people abroad, I don't just have a W-2 from my work to plug in. I'm not going to end up owing them anything since I don't make much of anything, but I'll fill it out none the less.