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Good luck lies in good names
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-01-26 14:51

So, what kind of name should someone born in the Year of the Monkey have?

One book for advice on the matter is "Choosing Auspicious Chinese Names" by Evelyn Lip, a Singaporean chartered architect, feng shui (geomancy) consultant, writer, artist, interior designer and lecturer on Chinese culture.

She recommends that the Monkey should have names with wood (mu) mountain (shan) and water (shui) in them. After all, it is quite obvious to see how monkeys would be quite happy frolicking in the mountain forests next to a bubbling brook. This, incidentally, is also the natural environment for the Tiger.

However, such elements won't work for those born under other animal signs. Wood, for instance, will "ground" the supernatural Dragon, while a mountain (shan) implies that the poor Ox has to work twice as hard.

What about the Rat? Lip recommends that the characters for rice grains (mi) beans (dou), rice-fields (tian) and wood (mu) be incorporated into their names. And please, avoid characters like knife (da), fire (huo), stone (shi) and carriage/car (che). All can mean great peril to the tiny rodent.

The other major consideration in choosing a person's name is to balance the Five Elements. These --Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Gold -- are part of the foundations in Chinese fortune-telling.

According to Lip, the date and time of a person's birth will determine his "Eight Characters." Known as the Bazi horoscope, it involves four pairs, including the year, month, day and hour of a person's birth, with each pair consisting of one Heavenly Stem and one Earthly Branch, which are used in fortune-telling.

This will in turn show which of the Five Elements influence his life. The interesting feature of "Choosing Auspicious Chinese Names" is that it provides English-educated Chinese with comprehensive tables, lists and even lunar calendars to pinpoint the Bazi, Five Elements and other associated details to consider when naming a newborn.

For example, let's say Mr Tian was blessed with a child on March 10, 1943 at 4 am. Using the book's tables and lists, we can see that the baby would have the birth elements of Wood, Water, Fire and Gold in his Bazi horoscope. Earth is the missing element (from the Five) and that is precisely what needs to be incorporated into baby Tian's name, to give his life balance.

But it is not so simple. All Chinese characters are imbued with one of the Five Elements, and the surname Tian itself has a fiery spirit. So when the Earth element is brought into the baby's name, it must be done in a way that is in harmony with the Fire surname. The traditional formula recommended by astrologers is Fire-Fire-Earth or Fire-Earth-Gold.

This is because Fire is deemed to "give birth" to Earth (think of a volcano) while Gold is "unearthed" from, well, Earth. Heaven forbid if the name goes Fire-Water-Earth because Water will "extinguish" Fire and "dissolve" Earth into a muddy mess...

So, like feng shui deciding on names is all common sense.

Most folks often stop at the Five Elements. But for those who want to go even further, Lip explains how to dissect the yin-yang balance (every Chinese character is either yin or yang of their child's proposed name, as well as the numerology associated with the number of strokes in the characters.

And that is not all. English names can also be transcribed into Chinese characters, and evaluated with the same methods. For instance, from the extensive list provided, one can see that Jacqueline can be written as Jie Ge Mei, which means very charming. The three characters are Yin-Yin-Yang and Fire-Wood-Water. It is a great combination because Water nourishes Wood (trees) while Wood, in turn, burns to produce Fire.

Why go through all the hassle? According to Lim Chooi Kwa, PhD, associate professor of Chinese Studies at University Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar), most Chinese would traditionally have all this analysis done by fortune-tellers or temple elders.

But for those who want to do some double-checking, or perhaps even some plain old D-I-Y, Lip's book is a useful guide. It may be tough to juggle the Five Elements, Eight Characters, Yin-Yang considerations and Numerology on top of the Monkey's needs all at once. But, if you are a True Believer, nothing is as important as your child's name.

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