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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Update on Chinese name for Emmaline

Even though Emmaline has a Chinese name, that name has no particular heritage other than that of the orphanage/city in which she was born. Why bother giving her a new Chinese name, in light of the fact that it won't be reflected on any legal documents (her Chinese papers will list "Shao Mi Gao" and U.S. documents "Emmaline Anne Ding")? I suppose I want to emphasize that she's a member of the Ding family as much as any of our natural-born children, and that's why I want her to have a Chinese name according to the Ding family tradition.

So... we've been wrestling over and rejecting several dozen possible Chinese words for a given name for Emmaline. According to Ding family custom, our two boys thus far are named 明哲 (míng zhé) and 明隽 (míng jùn). The character 明 (míng) is particular to this generation of Dings, inasmuch as my brother and I share a common middle character in our Chinese names (兆/zhào). So for Emmaline we simply had to choose a third character to append to 丁明 (dīngmíng).

For Emmaline, we've finally agreed on 雯 (wén). And for those of you without Chinese character support in your web browsers, here's her full name in gif format:


You can click on each character to see a dictionary entry for it.

The character “雯” (wén) literally simply refers to “cloud patterns, coloring of cloud.” It is composed of the character for rain (雨) on top of the character for culture (文). It's also a homonym for the word which means culture, . As such, the given name implies elegance and a sense of culture.

At least, that's what I'm told. I'm just a simple ABC: American-Born Chinese. For all I know, it's all just sweet words to a dull ear. But I like how it sounds, nevertheless, even if she'll primarily be known (for the time being) as 妹妹 ("meimei", Chinese for little sister). She'll also be "小雯" ("xiao wen" = little wen, a nickname) or "雯雯" (wen wen).

Trivia: these links, respectively, are the number of results that google reports for each of our kid's Chinese names: Matthew (415), Andrew (55), and Emmaline (8).