This blog is an extension to the last blog, but I thought it was appropriate to separate them because I had a lot more to talk about. This event triggered a great deal of my interest on my family history.
At Richard T. Lee’s Fundraising Dinner, my family sat beside someone who, after knowing my last name, started to talk with us. I know this sounds weird but, as it turns out, there is a society in Vancouver where only people with five distinct last names can be executive members, because we have the same ancestor.
This ancestor of mine turned out to be an ancient Chinese emperor with the last name, Ji (姬), from around 4000 years ago. Apparently, in ancient China, not very many people had names, and the emperor, pretty much, just randomly assigned names to people who were important to him. This included his younger siblings, his children, or his “governor generals.”
These five last names, assigned by our particular emperor, are:
So if you happen to have one of these last names listed above, we might actually be really really really really really distant relatives.
Crash Course Chinese History
Chinese people go waaaaaay back to around 6000 years ago, and there were dynasties up until 1911, which means “a line of hereditary rulers of a country.” In each dynasty there was one “house” or “clan of houses” of emperors that ruled the period of time, and the dynasty system was abolished later for Republic of China. Dynasties had names such as the Qing Dynasty or the Tang Dynasty, very much like how in England there was the Victorian Era and the Elizabethan Era.
Crash Course Chinese Language
Now, the main differences between Old English words and ancient Chinese characters are:
- English words sounds like what they are describing. For example, if you say the word “rock” out loud, it makes the sound of smacking two rocks together.
- Chinese characters actually look like what they are describing, but they are much more simplified than the original “artwork” because drawing out masterpieces of art takes a lot of time to convey messages. For example, the character for the number “one” looks like this: 一. I bet you can also guess what “two” is: 二. And then here is “three”: 三. DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THIS PATTERN BECAUSE TAKE A LOOK AT “FOUR”: 四.
Hurrah now you can read four numbers in Chinese!
Chinese characters are made by combining other characters together to form new “shapes.” Hence, the reason why Chinese is difficult to learn is because there aren’t just 26 letters to form words but, rather, millions of “shapes” to form characters.
Crash Course Chinese Names
Modern Chinese names are often made up of 3 characters, sometimes 2, and rarely 4 to 5. Each character can be simply pronounced with a one-syllabic sound, and last names are normally 1 character long (so first names are normally 2 characters long). Last names are pronounced first, and first names are pronounced last, which causes much confusion to all of us, I know. 🙂 Our parents and our family members choose our names, but there are also people who go to fortunetellers that can “predict” names for a price, because the name can bring luck and prosperity to the family.
The first name is basically made up. Parents will spend months searching in the dictionary for characters that look appealing to the eye or sound appealing to the ear.
My name is Cao Jing Jing (in the Chinese order), and no, it is not pronounced “Cow” (haha) but instead pronounced as “Tsao Jzing Jzing.”
OH I almost forgot! My father and I were invited to attend our first council meeting on Saturday, May 3rd to meet up with our distant family, and we are now permanent members on the council! We were very excited to see them, especially because we never thought that Canada would be a place for this type of reunion! On Saturday, May 24th, we will be attending our “family dinner” as a celebration for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Hope you had fun reading about this weird, but cool, history on my family name. Share yours as well because I am naturally fascinated in everyone’s cultural background.
Cao Jing Jing 曹晶晶
~ muah <3 ~
P.S. In case you are wondering how the name Ariel came to be, I chose it from a Disney themed dictionary because I dreamed to be a princess. 😉
P.P.S. Here is my Sina Weibo.