Beautiful Life

Hey child up and go; A big world is out there waiting for us to live in every day. Outside you will find, there is love all around you; Takes you, makes you wanna' say; That it's a beautiful life and it's a beautiful world and it's a beautiful time to be here, to be here, to be here. -Fisher

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Her Name

Our Daughter's Chinese name is Wei Kang Tong and it would most likely have been given to her by the director of the welfare institute she was placed in. In Chinese it is written as three characters with the surname first and then the given name.

Children in orphanages are often given surnames names after the orphanage, region, or the director of the orphanage. The last name “Wei” is part of the official name of Tianjin in Chinese. It means “protect” or “defend” and is the first character is “hygiene”. We have come across other families online that are adopting from Tianjin and have found that their children carry the Wei surname as well, which would be expected. But, Wei has only been used as the last name for all the children since 2005, the year Kang Tong was born. We also found out that Before 2000, the children were named according to their handicap. Their family name (first character) denoted their handicap, and their given name (second character) was unique. Rarely did any of the kids have three characters in their name. The names most commonly used were:
Wang – cleft palate
Wu – cerebral palsy
Guo – spina bifida
Ma – Down's Syndrome
Ma Yang – various deformities of the four extremities
Xia – heart problems
Gong – insignificant handicaps not limiting their intelligence
(Understand that 90% of the children in the Tianjin Children's Welfare Institute are special needs children.)
A new director came in 1999 and so a new naming system was put into place in 2000. With the new naming system the first two names used (the child's family name and generational name) changed every six months until 2005 when they changed only every year. Either the family name (first character) or the given name (second character/generational name) is the same for every child in that six months. The other name is the same for boys, and one for girls. The last character of the child's name is unique to the child (for that six months) and is the main name used in the orphanage to refer to the child (apart from official documents when the whole name is used). The American volunteer that provided this information said that he could not confirm this but he was told the family names are chosen according to a "special book" of Chinese last names, which he assumes is a book of the order of the most common Chinese last names.

There is a tradition in China that is often still used where you give children a generational name. This would be a name given to all the girl or boy children or all children born in the same generation in one family (siblings and cousins). So, when three names are used in Tianjin the second name is the generational name and would be shared by others. However, the names the children get in this orphanage are not according to age, but according to the time they entered the orphanage. Because of this, a generational name might actually be shared by children of different generations.
Kang, the second name and character in our daughter's name is her generational name. This character has been translated for us and means "healthy". We have cyber "met" several families also adopting from Tianjin that have girls with that share the name Kang with her.
Since the year 2000 the naming pattern has gone like this:
Jan-Jun 2000
Boys: Qian
Girls: Zhao
Note: This is the only time since 2000 when most children only had two characters. After this, everyone has had three
Jul-Dec 2000
Boys and Girls: Sun Fu
Note: This is the only time since 2000 that boys and girls were given the same names.
Jan-Jun 2001
Boys: Zhou Fu
Girls: Li Fu
Note: This is the beginning of another minor system that lasted for two years. The official name of the CWI is Tianjin Shi Er Tong Fu Li Yuan (lit: Tianjin City Children's Welfare Institute). The Fu Li Tian Jin characters ("Welfare" and Tianjin") were used as the middle characters of both boys and girls. Confusingly enough, sometimes different characters were used, but with the same pronunciation. For instance, Li in Fu Li means "sharp" or "acute" while the Li in the boys names means "stand" and the Li in the girls names means "Pretty"
Jul-Dec 2001
Boys: Zheng Li
Girls: Chen Li
Jan-Jun 2002
Boys: Wei Tian
Girls: Shen Tian
Jul-Dec 2002
Boys: Han Jin
Girls: Yang Jin
Jan-Dec 2003
Boys: Zhang Han
Girls: Zhang Zhao
Note: Having gone through all the usable characters in the name of the CWI, they switched again to give the children a consistent family name, rather than a middle name. The middle name then changed to identify their gender.
Jul-Dec 2003
Boys: Jiang Zhao
Girls: Jiang Xiao
Jan-Jun 2004
Boys: Xu Qing
Girls: Xu Chun
Jul-Dec 2004
Boys: Lu Wen
Girls: Lu Xin
2005Boys: Wei Jian
Girls: Wei Kang
Note: From 2003-2004, there was no real pattern to the first character of the given names, at least not that I know of. However, the word "Jian Kang" in Chinese means "healthy". Also, it is the same characters as used in the new names.

Boys: Wei Cong
Girls: Wei Ming
Note: Cong Ming means “intelligent” or “smart”

Boys: Wei Ping
Girls: Wei An
Note: Ping An means “safety”

Boys: Wei Jun
Girls: Wei Jia

Note: Jun Jia does not mean anything. However, Jun means “handsome” and Jia means “beautiful” or “excellent”.
I find this "naming system" both bizarre and very interesting. I can not imagine having to name about 100 children every year! We have trouble just picking a name for one child! I am glad that her SWI used a generational name for the girls of 2005. This common name has already linked me with 2 other moms I've "met" online. Maybe one day this link will be special to Claire as well.

Our daughter's other given name is Tong. This is the name that is different from other children in the orphanage. She would either be called Tong or Kang Tong but never just Kang. She is referred to as Tongtong in her growth report at least once. We believe that Tongtong is her nickname because it is customary to double a child's name for their nickname. We were first told that Tong means "the name of a big tree"! Then my husband met a woman at a company function that he could tell was Asian. He told her of our adoption and as Providence would have it, she went to school in Tianjin! She looked at the characters and said that Tong is actually the name of a very popular tree in China. She said that many cities like Tianjin plant this tree because it grows big very fast and that she got the feeling that whoever gave her this name wanted her to grow up fast, strong and healthy!

We have decided to keep Kang Tong in her name because it is part of her culture and therefore part of her. One day she may want to use this name to feel connected to her roots and we want her to have that option.

We are naming her Claire Hope Kangtong Gour. Claire is a name we chose around Christmas 2006. We had been discussing names for months and this was a name we both liked and we liked the meaning of it. Claire means "bright and clear". I was recently contacted by another mother that is using the name Claire and she sent me this.
Meanings of Claire

Inherent meaning: Brilliant
Spiritual connotation: Shining Light
Scripture: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Psalm 36:9"
We have since had adoption Christmas ornaments made in 2006 and 2007 that both say "Waiting for Claire" so I guess we should stick with it! We chose Hope just in the last few days since we found our girl. We find ourselves saying "we hope..." about her all the time and using the name seems like a way to project our hopes on her. It just so happens to be a name she will share with her big sister, Elizabeth Hope. Now both our little girls have been named after her (Isabel is Spanish for Elizabeth) and this time we didn't even plan it!

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