What does your name mean? Well, death!

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-13 08:16
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BEIJING - Don't like your name? Well, spare a thought for some Chinese families whose surnames translate to "zero", "ghost" and even "death".

A man in Central China's Hunan province has spent the last 20 years compiling a list of unusual Chinese family names, the Nanchang-based Jiangnan Metropolis Daily reported on Monday.

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, a retired worker living in Changsha, the capital of Hunan, said his interest in rare surnames was piqued after reading a newspaper many years ago and discovering a person with the surname Gui, which literally means "ghost", the report 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 (zero), Cu (vinegar), Miao (second) and Yi (one).

Cheng said in order to collect and find out the origins of the strange surnames, he bought many ancient works and dictionaries for study. This February, he also published a book based on his surname collection.

"I may apply for the Guinness (Book of World Records)," said Cheng.

He said most of the surnames he collected are not included in the Hundred Surnames, a classic Chinese text composed of common surnames in ancient China.

According to the latest statistics available from the Ministry of Public Security in 2007, nearly 93 million people in China are surnamed "Wang", taking the largest proportion among all surnames. And people with the top 100 common surnames in China take up 84.77 percent of the whole population.

Chinese people attach great significance to people's names and many parents go out of their way to give their children auspicious names that suggest they will grow up to be healthy, strong and rich.

China Daily - Reuters

(China Daily 04/13/2010 page6)