An American in Chengdu

By any other name | October 9, 2009

A few weeks ago, at lunch with Cecilia and her cousin, Cecilia said, “Her English name is Rose. Do you think it sounds like a country person’s name?”

I said no, I thought it was a nice name, maybe a little old-fashioned. My grandmother’s name was Rose, I noted. I neglected to mention that she hated “Rose” with a passion and went by her middle name.

“I think Chun Hua is like that. It sounds like a girl from the countryside. Or like a servant girl.” Ah, so the Rose discussion had been a delicate way of leading up to the revelation that my Chinese name made me sound like a hillbilly. I hadn’t seen that coming.

My first Chinese teacher gave me the name Chun Hua (春花) in 2002. It means spring flower, and it always did seem a little, well, sweet and flowery to me, but I didn’t mind. When I introduced myself at Chinese meetups people would sometimes tell me it was a pretty name. Now I knew they meant it was a pretty name… for a bumpkin.

With some help from friends, I’ve now re-christened myself Chang Xi (嫦兮). Chang is part of the name of Chang’e, the mythical woman on the moon honored in last week’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Xi is just a character used to represent a sound–it has no meaning of its own. I liked the idea of becoming a new person at the Mid-Autumn Festival, a person that will, I hope, actually learn Chinese rather than dabble in it. A sophisticated, urban, moon goddess kind of person.



  1. You’ve named yourself after a beer (and an elephant)!

    awesome 🙂

    Comment by Deano — October 10, 2009 @ 1:41 am

  2. Congratulations Chang Xi. I tried dumping Miss Ann for Chemical Annie, but it didn’t catch on.

    Comment by Nanerd — October 10, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  3. Ha ha. Bumpkin.

    Comment by Helen — October 10, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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