It is not uncommon for a Chinese couple to seek the services of an astrologer to select an auspicious baby name for their new born child. It is believe that a suitable name can improve the luck of the child and give the child a more auspicious life path.
The methodologies for selecting a suitable Chinese baby name vary between the different schools but most of them are based on the principles of Yin and Yang as well as the Five Elements.
Chinese characters are made up of strokes. The odd number strokes are Yang while the even number strokes are Yin. For example a character composed on two strokes is Yin while another character composed on 3 or 5 stokes are Yang. The total number of strokes used in the name also matters. Depending on the school, a certain range of strokes are auspicious while certain other ranges are not.
In most schools the date of time of the baby’s birth is also required to compute the Ba Zi or Eight Characters. From the eight characters, the astrologer can determine the useful element. This is usually but not necessary the element is that most lacking in the chart.
Let say that the element that is most lacking in the chart is water. In this case the astrologer will find a name that is associated with water. Obvious names would include water or ocean. Less obvious is winter which is also associated with water. For someone lacking in the wood element, suitable names include wood, forest, spring (a season of wood) or a name of a plant.
Another technique is to find a Chinese name that comes with the required element. Most Chinese characters are composed of basic characters. For example the character for the word stove a made up of the character fire and earth. Therefore if you lack fire or earth you can call yourself stove. Not the best of example but I hope you understand the principle!
Aside from taking an astrological or metaphysics approach to selecting Chinese baby names, other methods include naming according to the parent’s expectation of the child, naming according to the seniority among siblings and naming after historical events. There are yet other methods but I will not cover them in this article.
A parent’s expectation of their child may include:-
Moral Accomplishment e.g. ‘de’ 德 meaning ‘virtue’
Good Health and Looks e.g. ‘ying’ 英 meaning ‘handsome’
Wealth and Position e.g. ‘fu’ 富 meaning ‘rich’
Scholarly Achievement e.g. ‘xue’ 学 meaning ‘learning’
Safe and Smooth Life e.g. ‘ping’ 平 meaning ‘peace’
It can also include particular characteristics such as determination, capabilities and so on.
Naming can also be based on a specific naming method that is handed down by the ancestors. In this method, all its parents have to do is look up the family records and find the name already chosen according to what generation or branch of the family that the new born belongs to.
Naming after a historical event is also common. For example a child that is born during the year of independence of the country may be carry the name ‘guo’ 国 or country. In addition to directly referring to an event, the name can also be after a thing or a scene that symbolizes the event. For example the word Oak can be used to symbolize independence and freedom.
There is another method that is related to the astrological or metaphysics approach but much simpler. The child is given a name that matches the time, day, month, year or season of birth.
For example those born in the year of the rat are expected to display intelligence and creativity but they may also lack a sense of security. Therefore a suitable Chinese baby name for the Rat can be is ‘An’ 安 (meaning peace) or ‘Bao’ 保 (meaning protect).
Similarly a child may be name based on the season of birth. For example a baby girl born in spring may be called 春美 or ‘Spring Beauty’.
These are by no means the end. Let me give you an example. In the old days, where infant mortality rate is quite high, parent resort to giving their child very lowly names like Cow or Pig hoping the evil spirits will ignore them hence allowing them to live to a ripe old age!
Finally whatever method that you use to select a suitable Chinese baby name for your child, here are some tips that you should consider.
First the name should have a good meaning.
Second watch the number of strokes. Too many strokes and your child will have a tough time remembering his name and become disadvantaged when to come to filling forms!
And third, avoid using names that have similar consonants and vowels or sound like tongue twisters! They are difficult to pronounce and to remember!