Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Choosing a Chinese Name

In China, choosing your child's name is serious business. In Chinese tradition, a child's name can affect his or her fortune for the remainder of their lives.

When babies are born, they are often given a "milk" name (nickname or false name) before given their official names, which happens at their first moon or when they have reached 100 days. This can be something cute and simple, like "little" or "precious", a nickname that will be used for most of their childhood with their family. Or it can be something superstitious like "Dog Face", an unappealing name used to protect the child from harm, believing that with this name, the child would not incur the envy or malice of evil spirits. 

Photo Credit: Christopher
When it is time to officially name your child, grand parents and fortune tellers are often consulted. The fortune teller's/divinator's work is complicated: birth date and time, five elements (wood, fire, metal, water, air) determined from an ancient system, and the number of strokes used for the characters are all important factors.

Chinese names generally have a total of 2-3 characters: the family/surname, and then given names. Traditionally, the second character would be the generation name, followed by the given name as the third character. A generation name, for example, would mean brothers and first cousins all share the same character in their name. This practice is much less followed now due to the one child policy and modernization.

In the past, especially, names reflected parent expectations or the political situation. For example, a daughter might have been named "Joined to Brother", to reflect the hope of having a son, or the fifth child might be named "Last Child". Revolutionary names were common during the revolution such as "Strengthening the Nation" and "Eastern Wind".

We decided to choose our own Chinese names, similarly to the Chinese who choose an English name when learning English in secondary school. We checked out this webpage for Mandarin given female names, (and here's the one for male names) and after much deliberation, here is what they have come up with.

Elle: Peaceful Beautiful Lotus Blossom
Xie Fang Han

Pea: Peaceful Crystallized Ripples on Water
Xie Shuang Yi

Me: Peaceful Clear Jade
Xie Ying Lin

Of course, a fortune teller may scoff at these, and they are a bit of a mouthful in their English translations, but they are poetic, aren't they? And "Peaceful" as our family name, well that is the most auspicious wish for any family I can think of. 


  1. Fascinating to read about, as ever when I visit your lovely blog! I'm making a note of those websites, what a fun idea :-)

    1. Thanks Lucinda :) If you and your kids choose a Chinese name, I'd love to hear about them.

  2. I love the idea of a milk name. Choosing your child's name is important, given he or she must live with the result for the rest of their lives. It seems prudent to have a get out clause at the beginning!!

    1. I love that - a get out clause! I'm sure many of us would love the option :)

  3. I just found your blog today, as I was scouring the internet looking for ways to add to our exploration of China. I'm so pleased I found it. You've got so many interesting ideas! I'd love to know how you came up with ideas and decided on the things you've done to explore China. We are first year homeschoolers, and my kiddo is still in the "I refuse to do anything that even vaguely resembles "school". Your ideas seem like things she'd love to do. (She chose China as the topic). So... sorry to ramble, I just love the different things you've brought to your study, so much more than, here's the flag, and population. :)

    1. Hello Jackie,
      I'm so glad to hear you might find use in some of our ideas :) My daughters and I had been exploring different cultures for years, though now they've outgrown it. From an early age, I tried to focus on one culture over the course of an entire year in order to really dive in, and get a little deeper - though it does take some commitment! That's why I started the blog, to make it easier for others. Also, we weren't homeschoolers, so I had to find the time to fit it in around school and life. We loved learning about cultures so that made it easier to have engagement for the kids, and throwing crafts, food and celebrations in there helped a whole lot as well!
      Good luck with your study, and homeschooling! When writing this blog, I "met" various homeschoolers who blog themselves and it seems like an incredibly rewarding, though challenging, experience for both parents and kids.


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