What’s in a name?


China says ‘no’ to bizarre and foreign names for residences, businesses and commercial buildings. 

NAME plays an important part in our daily life.

It is our identity, the first thing given to us from the day we are born.

Everything, from businesses, pets to non-living things like houses and toys, has a name.

The unique Chinese characters, plus the long history of Chinese numerology with the five feng shui elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth – have made the naming process a big deal.

Some people believe that a good name will somehow improve their luck, and business will prosper if the company name matches their date and time of birth.

A person must choose characters with the five-element components they lacked to make their lives complete.

I have read about some Hong Kong moviemakers even consulting feng shui masters for cast selection and naming their movie titles.

My Chinese name, which is pronounced as ying hui in pinyin, means full of wisdom.

I like it and have not come across anyone with the same name, so far.

It was given by my father, who had flipped through various books and calculated the strokes so that it fits me well.

Some of my friends gave themselves an English name, saying it would make it easier for others to call them.

It is quite common to see housing estates in China named after famous foreign cities or countries from Rome, Hawaii, Venice to Santiago and Los Angeles.

According to China Daily, foreign names emerged in the early millennium as a gimmick by developers to associate their projects with a foreign lifestyle to promote sales.

The creative ones came up with “bizarre” names for residences, businesses and commercial buildings to catch attention.

All of them now feel the pain when the government launched a nationwide operation against “non-standardised” names - those they considered meaningless, “too big”, promote feudalism or fawn over foreign lands.

However, places associated with the real persons or history such as names of hospitals, places of worship or memorial parks would not be affected.

In fact, a naming guidance was also issued by the Civil Affairs Ministry in April.

Among the words banned in the naming were yi hao (number one), yi pin (first grade), zhong yang (central), hai an (coast), shi jie or tian xia (world), yu zhou (universe) or huan qiu (universal), Ou Zhou (Europe), Zhong Guo or Zhong Hua (China), quan guo (nationwide), te qu (special administrative region) and shou fu (state capital).

Also prohibited were unapproved names given to individual mansion or villa.

A clause in the nation’s Implementation Method for Place Names Regulation has clearly prohibited the practice of naming local places after foreign places or persons.

Although the law was introduced in 1996, many developers did not know about it as it was not strictly enforced in the past, China Daily further reported.

In the latest development, authorities in southern Guangdong province have come out with a list of 251 “non-standardised” names after a check in five cities, namely Guangzhou, Huizhou, Shantou, Yunfu and Zhuhai.

Among the names were Xintian Banshan (Mid-mountain), Shidai Huasheng (Times Peanut), Luoma Huayuan (Rome Garden), Yipin Shuyuan (First Grade Tree Courtyard), Ma’anshan Yihao (Ma’anshan No. 1), Aoyun Guanjuncheng (Olympic Champion City), Italian Riviera and Eastern Venice.

The authorities have suggested standardised names for them.

In Hainan, the provincial government has ordered for 84 businesses, housing estates, high-rise buildings, roads and bridges in 12 cities to change their names.

On the list were 15 hotels owned by the Vienna Hotel Group because of the word “Vienna”.

Voicing out their dissatisfaction on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), the hotel chain – which has hundreds of properties nationwide – said the brand name was legally registered in 2012 with the Trademark Office under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and still valid until 2022.

Others on the list included Olympic Garden, Pacific Villa, Victoria Garden, Heidelberg Hotel, 119-acre-foot Community and 156 Humanity Palace.

Huang Hongxi of the provincial Civil Affairs Department told the local media that they were willing to listen to different views and have discussions with those involved.

He pointed out that giving the places a touch of local influence would help promote Chinese culture.

In Xian of northwest Shaanxi province, 18 residences with foreign names such as Santiago Community, Senna Mansion Community, Caesar Mansion, Hawaii Coast and The Manor of British Emperor were ordered to be renamed.Other provinces which have launched a similar operation include Zhejiang, Henan and Gansu.

Netizens have a mixed reaction to this with some lauding the government for bringing back the Chinese elements, agreeing that places in the country must have their own characteristics.

Others have queried the move, asking if it was necessary as the names have been used for long and some have even become landmarks.


   

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