Asian StudiesParenting 3G-CBC

Chinese name numerology – Round 2

It’s been four years since I’m at this point again, picking a Chinese name! Aside from learning the sex and picking an English name, this is the next most exciting part. It’s going to be nothing but rough for a while … years!

This time around, MIL re-articulated the process and I’ve learned a few new things. She mentions “beliefs” and such and I’ve tried to eschew superstitions that I don’t believe in and be the reasonable one yet here I am looking at this book with fortunes predictions and looking for balance between five elements and seeming superstitious. At the same time, I just want something that works together, be involved in her name selection, and use some rules, even if I only understand the calculation, to narrow down from billions of choices. I was truly feeling like I know just a small point on the whole iceberg when I was looking for the pages referenced by MIL to look into the options myself and flipping through tens of other pages where I had no idea what information was being imparted. Along the way, I learn a few new words!

As with kiddo’s name, MIL said it was tough. It is quite a responsibility and sometimes when you think you have one aspect covered, then you’ve violated another rule. The following are the options she came up with. Basically, it was all rejected – see below why.


One of the first things I noticed is that MIL hadn’t run with using the same first character as we used for kiddo, 俊. I had kind of fully expected that and told her that my sister and I and my two male Lock cousins all have the same generational character, 文. She explained that the generational character that we selected for kiddo is fairly male (oh yeah, it means handsome) and that she noted that most of the options were quite gendered. Meanwhile, my generational name is not so gendered and amongst other considerations I’ll never know, my grandfather gave the four of us the same one – nicely tying us together. So, if NPY’s younger brother wants to follow the same traditions we are, his male kid(s) will have the same generational character as kiddo – it’s set in stone! And his female kid(s) will have the same generational character as we are selecting now. So the responsibility is in my hands, largely.

MIL told me that she ruled out a character that is in her daughter’s name that fits the criteria because it’s not done to use a (close) relative’s character, no nods to elders, I guess.

  1. So that rules out 怡 and 秀, as they both appear in my sister and mother’s names, respectively.
  2. In a conversation that preceded mine with MIL, NPY ruled out 希 because of its sounding like “hey!” or to me, the first sound in the word “hate”. In any case, while its meaning of “hope” can be spun positively, I don’t like the potential other meaning of hoping without action, hoping without satisfaction.
  3. Amongst the set where the strokes total 39, I quite like 樂 as it means “happiness” and sounds like my surname.
  4. I also liked the option of 芋 which means “taro” and it is not the worse noun to be named after as far as I am concerned. However, MIL thinks the names sound awful with the taro “woo” sound and she’s disinclined to have a 39-stroke total (more below).

I feel like this time, I got a better tour of the process while still only touching on the surface of the whole topic. So, here I go again, outlining the process MIL described to me, that I followed again while taking illustrating photos. Because these days – it’s the final stretch – I’m only sleeping like between 2 to 6 am!

1. Look at the total stroke count and associate fortunes. Since the surname has 15 strokes, I guess, we wouldn’t be considering a total stroke count of less than 30 because that would be ridiculously limiting. If someone has a ridiculously simple surname, e.g., three strokes, then the world is their oyster! MIL seems to think that she’s been using 32 and 39 for her children and relatives but it turns out kiddo’s total stroke count is 31. Mine is 35 and is marked with an “o” atop and that is not bad. “x” notation is bad. So, you’re picking a fortune for the kid by selecting the total strokes – what do you want the fortune to be?? I can’t read those descriptions and suspect it might be some super-formal horoscope lingo that I wouldn’t understand anyhow. MIL seemed to explain that 39 strokes was a particularly “strong” fortune she’s shying away from and superstitious people would wait until the baby is born and decide whether the 32-stroke fortune or 39-stroke fortune fits. We’re not like that so we’re just largely going to ignore the 39-stroke options.I’m going to guess that the overall fortune for a total stroke count is what is in parenthesis so for 32-stroke total, it’s “辛運” which means “lucky, good fortune” – heavily relying on Sheik, my favourite online Cantonese dictionary. Meanwhile, a 39-stroke total’s overall fortune is “富貫” which means “riches and power” – yeah, pretty strong sounding, and arrogant, in my opinion.Since I hadn’t known four years ago to mention in my post, my own 35-stroke total’s fortune is “平安” which means “peaceful” and is a-okay to me. However, other aspects of my name are in perfect contradiction, as I was reminded of below.

Since I didn’t take a photo or remark on kiddo’s 31-stroke overall fortune, I have included it here. His fortune is “知勇” which is a not a compound word as far as Sheik is concerned. The two parts of the word mean “knowledge” and “courage” and I don’t mind either in the least.

2. Find stroke combination for our overall fortune + surname. Then you go to the page with your surname listed and see the ideal strokes for the first and and second character to make up the total strokes you have picked. So, this page following also narrows down the total-strokes  you can consider for your surname as combinations for other totals are not given, i.e., MIL was considering the overall fortunes only for 21-, 31-, 32-, 39-, 47-, 48-, and 52-strokes. WHY THEY ARE NOT LISTED IN ASCENDING ORDER, I have no idea. So, you can see how if we went with 39-stroke total, we’d have three times the character combinations than 32-stroke total where you’ve got one path: first character has 10 strokes while second character has 7 strokes.


3. Which elements are compatible with your surname? Each character is associated with one of the five elements: 火, 土, 水, 金, and 木 (fire, earth, water, metal, and wood). The surname 董 is a fire element so what is it compatible with and truly not compatible with?

This is answered where they say things like “火生土” which I translate as “fire gives rise to earth” and is that true in that fire can change things up, bring about fertile soil? Let’s interpret also “土生金” … uh, you might find metals forming deep under earth? And it seems like in her initial search, MIL exercised the associative property in searching for a first and second character with elements 土 and 金, respectively. That is, 火生土生金. Makes enough sense to me! But she also told me that one of the characters (the second one) could be 火 again. Just don’t mix a water element in there.

I couldn’t even look up the character on the following page that indicates clashing elements. It indicate not to pair water with fire (or vice versa) and maybe not to put fire next to metal (it would melt).

The third image below shows the truly bad element combinations to avoid so for the fire-element surname, we have to avoid fire-metal-fire, fire-metal-water, fire-metal-wood. Got it!


Are we having fun yet?
I am!
Finally, we can get to seeing the possible characters!

4. Generational name selection
Criteria: 10 strokes, earth element.
Preferences: keep in mind that NPY’s brothers child(ren) might use this one too, not too gendered, sounds nice to Chinese and CBC ears, not an ugly-looking character to write nor a difficult character to write nicely, not a stupid or bad meaning … !


5. Second name selection
Criteria: 7 strokes, metal element.
Preferences: same as above except for the part affecting NPY’s brother’s child(ren) and in the case of this name – not generational – maybe a nod to my name??


My notes

Generational nameSecond name
CharacterPronunciation in Cantonese / MandarinDefinition & notesCharacterPronunciation in Cantonese / MandarinDefinition & notes
jan1 / en1kindness; mercy; charity; favor; grace; gratitude
- this one speaks to me and nice definition
zok3 / zuo4work; composition
- not very nice sounding
joeng4 / yang2ocean; vastness
- water suggests femininity; we live by the water/ocean
co1 / chu1like in lunar calendar
- not compatible with 原; not overly nice sounding
wan4 / yun2rue, a strong-scented herb used to keep insects away
- but I like it and it's a good herb!; same character as in Valen Hsu
haau3 / xiao4filial piety; but also funeral references
- like the filial piety aspect
jyun4 / yuan2original
- a nice meaning; doesn't seem too girly; nice to name #2 "original"
sam4 / cen2high hill; cliffy shore
- nice, nature name
jyu4 / yu2amusing; joyous; happy; delightful
- liked the presence of the female character but seems to suggest "entertainer" so not sure about that
-no dictionary results for this one
jin3 / yan4entertain with wine and food; of ease and comfort, leisurely
- sounds lazy HAHA
sing4 / cheng2succeed
- is it kosher to give them the same name? probably not
wu1 / wu1dark; crow/raven
- cool, but maybe not great to saddle BIL with
hang6 / xing4almond; apricot (kernel); apricot flower/colour
- pretty, nature, nice character to write
joeng1 / yang1sapling; to breed, raise, cultivate
- nice meaning, but the sound?
caam3 / shan1China fir
- nice except usage as "thorn in someone's side 心杉" and "stupid person 一碌杉"
zi2/ zhi3 Taiwan Angelica root/iris / it wasn’t in the book but MIL found it and confirmed that grass-radicals are earth elementscoi4 / cai2talent
- like but for "idiot 蠢材"
gei2 / qi3goji berry
- cool but probably not acceptable because of "gay" sound
bou6 / bu4step, advancement
- sounds like kiddo's nickname; like the CNY saying
jyu5 / ru3you; name of a river; Chinese surname
- has the female character and water; nice and simple
ci4 / chi2pool/pond/moat
- compatible or not with 洋?? maybe it's too modest
hei1/ xi1hope; expect; wish; seek; yearn for / seems kind of corny to me and NPY rejected it, too, immediately

I was so disheartened by the choices and it was definitely eye-opening* to loop my mother into it. NPY doesn’t want anything to do with it after his initial bout, terrified of being caught between me and his mother. After feeling it was too restrictive and that she would rather be a “rebel”, my mother didn’t really want to have anything to do with it, citing, “It’s her grandchild,” as in, there will hopefully be another one or more Tung cousins via NPY’s younger brother later and even I probably shouldn’t influence the generational name just to suit my whims. How much of it is me being a “rebel” to initially dislike the two characters MIL likes best? I’d like to think before I knew how much MIL wanted those characters, I already didn’t wholly like them. After that, she mentioned twice she likes those characters – and that she’s already picked out the names for BIL’s first son and daughter … !

But here is why I will submit to the name 芸希:

  • MIL says that 芸 doesn’t only mean “weed that repels insects” but also something like “a stand out woman” – geez Louise, that’s usually too much for me – but then 希 means “hope” or “dreaming” so that kind of tempers it – better than if the second character was also overblown like “spectacularly beautiful”.
  • Back in the day, and still now to an extent, I like the Chinese singer Valen Hsu 許茹芸. Besides the fact that mum thinks that 芸 is so common and typically feminine, she got mad at the intimation that I’m naming the kid “after” some talented Chinese singer she’s never heard of. It makes me laugh.
  • The name that MIL thinks she picked out for BIL’s daughter has my mother’s and her mother’s name in it – so why should I mess that up?
  • I thought about what 芸希 sounds like and it’s an approved and somewhat meaningful combination, whereas I might try to pick an object for the second character because I want to veer away from the usual sentiments and then accidentally make something meaningless sounding, laughable – and that’s terrible. And what I realized is that the Cantonese pronunciation vaguely sounds like my English name. So that’s my secret reason for accepting it.
  • I’m further heartened by other connections No. 2 will have to my family – e.g., my sister is also born in the year of the Pig and with some luck, we’ll be able to give No. 2 my mother’s name (and only my mother’s name) as the middle name.

* Essentially, a lot of slagging on the numerology system that she’s never heard of before and thus thinks is entirely too restrictive, mind-boggling and 八卦, her favourite insult to suggest that something is entirely beneath her more intellectual mind. Look, she’s not reading physics and philosophy textbooks either! She wanted to decry that I’m being influenced by my in-laws and that I am falling for superstition like some old throwback crony.

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