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Real names matter for overseas Chinese

By Zhu Lixin in Hefei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-06-08 17:02

Rather than adopting Western names for study or work in the United States, a group of Chinese students use their real Chinese names with pride and confidence, according to a video they made recently.

The students, from Northwestern University in suburban Chicago explain the meanings and stories behind their own Chinese names and want to show others how names are tied to the unique Chinese culture and the blessings they've received from their parents.

"Chinese names are usually composed of two or three characters. Since one single Chinese character has multiple meanings, a lot of our names are complex and filled with layers of significance," the video explains.

"As an international student, I hope people can learn the history and culture behind our Chinese characters and our names. I am proud of my name and my Chinese identity," said Lin Jiaxin, a freshman at the university.

Wang Dawei, who finished his undergraduate studies at the university in 2019, said, "Our names are filled with the blessings and wishes that our parents and family members gave us when we were born."

For some overseas Chinese, it's a dilemma whether to use a Chinese name or a Western one in international circumstances for study and work.

"When I first came to America for boarding school nine years ago, I called myself David, which is the Americanized version of my name, Dawei. I did that because I thought people could pronounce it better," Wang said.

After she came to the US, Zhang Xinwen used her English name, Coco, most of the time, because she thought it was easy to remember and avoids long explanations about how to pronounce her Chinese name.

The students have realized that their Chinese names are not only beautiful in the way they reflect the culture but also crucial to their identity.

After a while, Wang found that "David" is not who he is.

"I have to call myself by my real name," he said. "Since I came to college, I started calling myself Dawei, and I'm very happy that I did."

Zhang Xinwen, aka "Coco", has similar feelings.

"I'm really proud of my Chinese name. It represents and bears my memory and time spent in my home country and culture, and it also serves as a very important part of my identity," she said.

Huang Yujia, a sophomore who came up with the idea of making the video, said, "Our names are a reminder of our deep roots — all the generations of Chinese people who lived, fought and thrived here on Earth before us. I hope you call me by my name, my real name," she said.

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