Friday, October 10, 2008

First Post

Hello everyone,

And welcome to my blog, which I will use to chronicle my adventures here in the Middle Kingdom.
I am currently living and studying in Beijing, whose Chinese name means “capital of the North”. That’s were my blog’s name comes from, in case you were wondering. Interestingly, Tokyo’s name means the capital of the East, and Nanjing’s name means the capital of the South, since it was the capital of China during several historical periods. I am unaware of the existence of a capital of the West.
In any case, I am planning to stay here for a couple of years, which should give me plenty of time to get below the surface of this fascinating and widely misunderstood country.
The name I have chosen for myself is quite simply my semi-official Chinese name. You see, if you live in China it is often convenient to have a name which can be written down in Chinese character. The university I am studying at requires foreign students to come up with a Chinese name for themselves. Your Chinese name can just be the closest rendition of your original name which is phonetically possible in Chinese, but it is far more interesting to make up a completely different name, usually with the help of someone Chinese. Personally, I had already been given a Chinese name by my students when I was teaching in China four years ago. The name was Ji Xiang, which is a traditional expression meaning "auspicious". I have sometimes seen the name written on top of temples, or on the scrolls which get pasted around the doors of Chinese houses on new year's eve. In the photo you can see my name written over the door of a temple in Chengdu. It is not a common name, however I gather it sounds quite good, or at least I hope so, so I stuck with it.
Having a Chinese name is not just a bureaucratic necessity, but it is also useful because for the Chinese it is usually very hard to pronounce and remember foreign names. Very often, your Chinese name becomes the name you are known by. Young Chinese people often do the opposite and pick an English name which they use when they are introduced to foreigners, who find Chinese names just as difficult and hard to remember.


T. said...

You made me very curious... I'd like to find out as well which is the capital of West and I'm looking forward to know it. Maybe is related with Ullanbaatar (even if it means The red hero)? Who knows?
We should ask our Chinese fellows/friends...

Tang Xiaoyan said...

very nice i get a lot from ur blog.

Lee Yuebing said...

Hi, I found your blog by chance and it's interesting. I've read several of your posts, and I plan to read all :)