Hello Mr. Death! Researcher finds rare Chinese names

Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:49am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Unhappy with your name? Then spare a thought for those rare Chinese families whose surnames mean "zero," "ghost" or even "death."

A man in China's southern province of Jiangxi has spent the last 20 years compiling a list of unusual family names, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Most Chinese people share a few common surnames, like Zhang, Wang, Li, Liu and Chen. The Chinese expression for "ordinary people" literally means "the old one hundred surnames."

But Cheng Yinglian's interest was piqued after reading a newspaper many years ago and discovering a person with the surname Gui, meaning "ghost," CCTV said.

Since then, he has scoured newspapers, books and other publications to find similar rare surnames, coming up with about 2,000 to date.

Those he has found include Ling, or "zero," Cu, or "vinegar," Miao, or "second" and Yi, or "one."

Superstitions related to names are still strong in China, and many parents go out of their way to give their children auspicious names which suggest they will grow up to be healthy, strong and rich.

While you can legally change your surname in China, the report did not say how many people had chosen to change theirs if they were unfortunate enough to be born a "death" or "ghost."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Liu Zhen, editing by Miral Fahmy)