6 Reasons About Anime Being For Everyone Not Just Kids The Chinese American Without a Chinese Name

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The Chinese American Without a Chinese Name

I walked up to the customs agent’s counter at the Beijing International Airport and absent-mindedly handed the customs agent my passport. He then mindlessly did his thing with my passport. It was supposed to be a quiet transaction, but he broke the silence when he looked up and asked if I still use my Chinese name in America. With a blank look on my face, I started to think of giving him an answer he might want to hear, but he didn’t give me enough time to think and he answered for me that I shouldn’t use my name anymore Chinese. The passport was returned to me with a smile. He then wished me a pleasant trip and directed me to the three long security checkpoints reserved for passengers traveling to the US. Standing in line, I thought about my long-lost Chinese name and how disconnected I am from my Chinese name….

Born in 1969 in Communist China, my parents immediately decided to name me after something to do with Chairman Mao. Not that they thought of him as a great leader, but rather out of fear. They chose a little-known poem by Mao, which allowed them to show enough devotion to Mao without reminding him too much. My name was the first character of the title of the three characters of this poem. (They actually had to have three children to qualify for Mao’s poem, but they stopped at two. My sister’s name was the second title character, but her character is better known.) They went a long way. away with their research, not only did most people fail to properly associate my name with Chairman Mao, but most people simply do not know the character that my name is.

As a young child in China, it always amazed me if someone could pronounce my name correctly without telling them first. I considered anyone who knew my name to be the most knowledgeable and intelligent. They’d ask anyway how I got such a little-known character as a name, and I’d politely repeat the origin of my name, including that I only have one brother and that I don’t actually know the poem itself, just the title. I also endured many longer and more animated dialogues about my name between my mother and other curious people. From time to time, my parents would apologetically explain that my name was chosen to protect me, but I’m sure my name didn’t protect me once I got into trouble.

I came to America just in time to start 8th grade, and by then my Chinese name had been loosely “translated” phonetically into English. Now it really doesn’t sound like my name at all, even when I say it. In many cases, I was completely oblivious when someone called me. One day, my grandmother suggested that since I now live in America, it would be easier to have an English name. I thought this was a great idea. The first name she suggested was “Jenny,” and I said okay. Finally, I had a name that is simple, modest, and best of all, doesn’t attract attention.

When I got married, since my husband is not Chinese, I realized that I would lose part of my ethnic identity if I changed my surname, but I decided to change my surname anyway. The logic was simple: I wanted to have the same last name as my future children, so that no one would mistake me for a nanny. I kept my maiden name. I like my birth name. Most of the time a middle name is not required, so, on paper, my name does not suggest that I am Chinese-American.

In real life, I’m a Chinese-American—a proud one, I might add. I am fluent in spoken and written Chinese. My favorite carb is rice, in fact, it’s pretty much the only carb I like. I’m also an avid green tea drinker and rarely miss an opportunity to order stinky bean curd if my dining partner can tolerate me not sharing it. After I had my children, it became even more important to embrace being Chinese. I wanted to pass on the great Chinese heritage and values ​​to my children. They are taught to be respectful and obedient to their teachers at school, and that being smart and getting good grades is a great source of pride, and yes! math and science are more important than the liberal arts.

I also went to great lengths to teach my children to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently in our predominantly English-speaking family. We were lucky enough to afford the right scam of hiring a full-time Chinese nanny for our children for 6 years. I read Chinese children’s books to my children almost every night. Both of my children were given Chinese names (the ones I like) in addition to their English ones and we use their Chinese names at home. We celebrate every major Chinese holiday and for Chinese New Year, I even throw a party that can rival Christmas. They all dress up in their beautiful silk Chinese clothing on New Year’s Day, I put on fun shows at our table for the kids to enjoy, and instead of the more traditional sweets, I disguise mine with chocolate coins wrapped in gold and the foods they like. After all, one must taste the sweets to appreciate the feast. And of course, the red envelope, which they appreciate more and more every year. One day, I think they might like it more than presents at Christmas. I just have to be very generous with their red envelopes. But the most festive part of our Chinese New Year celebration is our canceled pilgrimage to my parents’ house. Where they learn that Chinese New Year is a wonderful family celebration mixed with lots of food, and more red envelopes for the kids. I tell them they are lucky to have more holiday celebrations than most of their friends because they are Chinese.

And I’m lucky to be a Chinese-American as well. Because I fully embrace the benefits of two great cultures. Even without a Chinese name.

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