Thursday, September 17, 2009

Steiny Road to China: Step 3

My laoshi (teacher) Xiaoli Zhang said in the second class that she was going to assign us each a Chinese name if we didn't already have one. Over the weekend, the Steiny Road Poet, who has always been good at naming, decided she would look for a Chinese name that appealed to her as a poet. After looking at baby names for Chinese girls, she decided that was like looking for a needle in the haystack.

Shifting gears she thought of the book Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, or is that Chang Jung? (Last names come first in China.) In that memoir, the author and her mother and grandmother have swan in their given names. OK, the Steiny Road Poet decided she wanted a name with a musical instrument and began investigating the translation of flute.

Actually there are many names for different kind of flutes in Chinese: dizi and bangdi are transverse flutes usually made of bamboo. Xiao is an end blown bamboo flute. Gudi is an ancient vertical flute made from bird bones. Paixiao are pan pipes. Koudi is a tiny bamboo flute. Xun is a clay ocarina.

In the Han Dynasty, the dongxiao (currently known as the xiao) was called a chángdí or long flute. During the Song Dynasty, the chángdí was renamed dongxiao. Chángdí is represented by two Chinese symbols. The first symbol looks like a fancy version of the Roman letter K and it means long in space, lasting, deep, profound. The second symbol means bamboo flute.

Ok, so the Poet also needed a Chinese sur name and so she picked Li. Chinese people didn't always have surnames but Li meaning plum is 3000 years old. here is the symbol: 李

Li Changdi

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