Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chinese Family Names

Our name , most of the time stands for our Identity.

It usually has two parts, consist of surname and given name. i.e. the individual family identity and individual’s identity.

In the Chinese culture as in most of the other cultures, the surname is the indication of the clan of one’s origin, and the given name give some idea of expectation or wishes of our parents or their hope for us.

Before 2, 300 years ago, most of the people did not have Surnames, for at that time the surnames were for the royalty and the aristocrats. In other word, it is a privilege or a title bestowed and not a right for everyone. Wong – 王 (Royal name; Song – 宋(Descent of Righteous Prince); Hu –胡and Chen- 陳Royal names.

After this time, the surnames were given to people by the decree of the emperor, or as a sign of recognition of the person as he as earned it by his position. Ma – 馬 the Tax officer; Kang – 康The Great Governor; Qian – 錢 The Treasuers .

Soon after the unification of China into one country, the common people, family-wise; begun to take surnames :

They took the name of their states in order to express their allegiance to a national or ethnic identity. Song – 宋; Chen- 陳; Wu- 吳; Tan – 譚 .

The name of their place of origin, Ouyang –歐陽 ( Descendant of a Prince.)

The name of their well known or well love ancestor, Kwan –關 (Descendent of a famous warrior )

Sometime the order of the seniority within the family is used as surname. The eldest is Meng - 孟; the second – is Chong 仲; the third is Shu - 叔; the fourth Ji- 季.

The name of an occupation is taken as surnames: Minister of War – Sima 司 馬; Potter – Tao 陶; Shaman (A spiritual leader)- Wu 巫

The surname taken to show its ethnic group: Hu- 胡 (the non-Han people living in the northern China)

It is estimated that there were more than 22,000 surnames in China, but due to elimination over the time, there are about 3,500 now.

Although there are thousands of Chinese family names, the 100 most common surnames, which together make up less than 5% of those in existence, are shared by 85% of the population. The three most common surnames in Mainland China are Li, Wang and Zhang, which make up 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% respectively. Together they number close to 300 million and are easily the most common surnames in the world.

Transliteration of Chinese family names into foreign languages poses a number of problems. Chinese surnames are shared by people speaking a number of dialects and languages which often have different pronunciations of their surnames. As a result, it is common for the same surname to be transliterated differently.

So it is common for family names to appear ambiguous when transliterated. Example: 鄭/郑 (pinyin:Zheng) can be romanised into Chang, Cheng, Chung, Teh, Tay, Tee, Zeng or Zheng, (in pinyin, Chang, Cheng, Zheng and Zeng are all different names).

Translating Chinese surnames from foreign transliteration often presents ambiguity. For example, the surname "Li" are all mandarin-based pinyin tranliteration for the surnames 黎 (Lí); 李, 理 and 里 (Lǐ); 郦/酈, 栗, 厉/厲, and 利 (Lì) depending on the tone which are often omitted in foreign transliterations.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese Calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumn and spring Equinoxes of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.

Chinese people like the moon very much. In Chinese culture, the full moon is a symbol of peace and prosperity for the whole family. Its roundness symbolizes wholeness and togetherness. In the middle of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar the moon is full, and eight is also a popular number in Chinese culture.

Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
  • Putting pomelo rinds on one's head
  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e
  • Planting Mid-Autumn trees
  • Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
  • Fire Dragon Dances

The main celebrations during the Moon Festival are appreciating the moon, eating moon cakes together and making Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns though mid-autumn lanterns are not as colourful as the ones in Lantern Festival. These three celebrations or rituals have been passed from generation to generation. Chinese people may think the Mid-Autumn Festival is not coming if they don’t do these three things. This Year It's on 3rd October 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Warriors of Heaven and Earth

The film's score and soundtrack were composed by two-time Academy Award winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman and features 16 tracks, including the theme song, "Mirage (Warriors In Peace)", in 3 languages, Chinese (Mandarin), English and Hindi.

The Mandarin version of the theme song is sung by Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai, while the Hindi version is sung by Sadhana Sargam and English version by Sunitha Sarathy.

Following the film's release, the score and soundtrack were released in one album separately, under the title Between Heaven and Earth. ( SONY )

In 2003 after researching and utilizing Chinese and Japanese classical music, A. R. Rahman did the music for Warriors of Heaven and Earth.

Performers of the score include The Czech Film Orchestra and soloists. Other instruments, including the erhu, flute, duduk, dizi, taiko drums, and others, are also featured.

Track listing :

"The Golden Era" (3:56) – Instrumental
"Warriors in Peace" (Mandarin Version) (4:31) – Jolin Tsai
"Lord An’s Empire" (3:31) – Instrumental
"Water" (3:52) – Instrumental
"Horses" (2:27) – Instrumental
"Mountains" (1:49) – Instrumental
"Dacoit Duel" (3:26) – Instrumental
"Lai Chi" (1:31) – Instrumental
"Buddha’s Remains" (2:40) – Instrumental
"Blue Light" (2:23) – Instrumental
"The Monk and the Miracle" (4:05) – Instrumental
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth (English Version)" (4:31) – Sunitha Sarathy
"Desert Storm" (5:19) – Instrumental
"Escape" (2:33) – Instrumental
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth" (4:27) – Instrumental
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Hindi Version)" (4:31) – Sadhana Sargam

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Chinese Film Festival at The Spring Club

The Chinese Film Festival is on at the Spring Club till September 20th
Screening starts at 4 pm onwards

The Films :
  • The Road Home
  • Kekexili : Mountain Patrol
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Warriors of Heaven and Earth
  • Light Rail No 3
  • Together

at Silver Screen in THE SPRING CLUB- KOLKATA
5, J B S Halden Avenue
Phone: 22517057 / 8 / 9

Film screening schedule :

18.9.2009 : LIGHT RAIL (4PM)/ THE ROAD HOME (7PM)
20.9.2009 : KEKEXILI ( 4PM)