How to Choose Chinese Baby Names?

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!

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Chinese Names Made Easy

Han Chinese names usually comprise of a one character surname and either a one character or two-character given name. In the example of Mao ZeDong, Mao (毛) is the family name or surname while ZeDong (泽东) is the two-character given name.

While a two-character given name is widely used, one character given names are not uncommon. An example is Yao Ming. Yao (姚) is the one character surname while Ming (明) is the one character given name.

Much less common are two characters or compound surnames with either a one character or two characters given name.

In the example above, the two character given name ZeDong is written as one word in English. This is the convention adopted in China. In others countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, the two-character given name is spelt separately. For example the former Prime Minster of Singapore’s name is written as Lee Kuan Yew. Lee is the surname while Kuan Yew, the two-character given name is written separately.

Another big difference between Chinese names in China and others parts of the world is the Romanization convention. In China, names are Romanize in PinYin. In other parts of the world it is the Wade-Giles convention or other systems. A good example is the surname (林). In China it is spelt Lin, but in other parts of the world it may be Lin, Lim, Lam or some other variation. A popular Chinese name for girls is (美) meaning beautiful. While this is written as ‘Mei’ in China, it can be written as ‘Mei’, ‘Mi’, ‘May’, ‘Mee’, ‘Mae’ or even ‘Bee’ elsewhere depending on the dialect and pronunciation.

Unlike western cultures where the surname is shown last, Chinese names are always written with the surname in front e.g. Mao ZeDong instead of ZeDong Mao. So it is Mr. Mao rather than Mr. Dong and Mr. Lee rather than Mr. Yew!

Chinese given names are selected based on a number of criteria. They should be pleasant to hear, easy to remember and have a good meaning. They should also be easy to write. Some badly constructed Chinese names require over 40 strokes. It can be a pain every time you need to write you name!

Names are selected based on their parent’s expectation it include moral accomplishments, scholarly attainments, good health, wealth, rank etc for boys and feminine morals, beauty, intelligence, grace, elegance etc for girls.

Names may also be selected according to seniority among siblings, after a historical event, based on the time, date, month or year of birth or metaphysically using the Yin Yang and the Five Elements.

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Fate, Luck and Feng Shui

What is Fate, Luck and how does Feng Shui influence them?

The ancient Chinese believe that our life potential (fate) is influenced by the cosmic (coming from out of space) energies and earthly (on earth) energies present at the moment of our birth.

The ancient Chinese express time using a combination of heavenly stems (representing the cosmic energies) and earthly branches (representing the earthly energies). Every year, month, day and time is represented by a stem and branch which is often called a pillar. Therefore any particular time (for example your date and time of birth) can be represented by four sets of stems branches (or pillars). Since each pillar is composed of two characters, our date and time of birth is also known as eight characters (or Ba Zi).

Each of the stems and branches represents a type of energy or ‘qi’ prevailing at that time and they can have the qualities similar to metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The stems denote the cosmic energy (from out of space) present at the time while the branches denote the earthly energy.

To help you understand this better, contrast of the energy of spring with the energy of autumn. You would associate spring with the climate ‘becoming warmth and things ‘growing’ while autumn is ‘becoming cold’ and things ‘dying’.

Thus, it is not too difficult to accept the ‘postulation’ that someone born in spring is affected differently from someone born in autumn or summer or winter and hence have a different fate and life path.

The quality of the cosmic energy is more difficult to explain. We believe that it has something to do with planetary movement. For example Jupiter takes 12 years (out time) to go round the sun. Saturn takes 20 etc. For now, just accept that the type of the energy affecting earth changes every two years and the cycle repeats every 10 years.

For example a person born in 1972 or Ren Zi year is influenced by both the cosmic energy of ‘Ren’ and earthly energy of ‘Zi’. Since both the energies of Ren and Zi are like water, we say that his person’s year of birth contribute a significant percentage of water ‘qi’ to his composition.

When we take the year, month, date and time of birth of a person into consideration we can express it as a proportion of energies or ‘qi’. For example three (3) parts water, two (3) parts metal, one (1) part fire, one (2) part earth and no wood!

The different combination of elements (or energies) in your make up influences your physique, personality traits, your physical and mental health, career and wealth potential as well as your relationship with others.

(In practice, you are also influenced by the atomic structure of both your parents and possible other factors like karma).

An ideal fate is one where the elements are in balance. Too much or too little of any elements result in an imbalance which manifest as a negative aspect in ones life e.g. poor spouse relationship, bumpy career path, health problems etc.

In the above example, the person is obviously rich in metal and water ‘qi’. Additional metal or water will create imbalance and manifest in a negative fate or imbue him with many favourable characteristics. On the other hand wood and fire helps to restore balance and would influence him positively.

The cosmic and earthly energies continue to influence us after our birth and we are exposed to the five distinct ‘qi’ types as we transverse from cradle to the tomb. The planetary and earthly movement have remains constant for millions of years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. (When the sun no longer rises in the east or sets in the west, then it is the time to devise a new astrology system!)

When the cosmic and/or earth ‘qi’ are favourable (balance) for our composition (based on our date and time of birth), our life path is positive and favourable. However when the ‘qi’ are unfavourable (out of balance), our life path is negative or unfavourable. The ancients call these ups and downs ‘luck cycle’ or simply ‘luck’. They are measured by decade, year, month and day which explain why an astrologer may remark about a good 10 years or decade or a bad year etc.

Since these cosmic and earthly ‘qi’ are pre-determined, it is possible to predict ones ‘fate’ and ones ‘luck’ at different stages of your life if you have his or her date and time of birth. They ancient Chinese have developed many systems for destiny and luck analysis and the more accurate (and popular) ones such as Ba Zi and Zi Wei Dou Shu can surprisingly reveal a lot. In the hands of a competent astrologer, it can tell you about you about your career (power), wealth, health and relationships as you transverse from cradle to grave.

Knowing your strengths and weakness as well as what lies ahead allows you to make the right decisions and maximize your potential.

So where does Feng Shui come in?

Feng Shui systems can tell us the strengths or weaknesses of a dwelling and allow us to select the right dwellings with the right surroundings to compliment our weakness and boost our strengths.

For example if a person has good relationship and health luck but weak at power and money we can select a house with strong ‘wealth’ potential for him.

It can also tell us the prevailing auspicious and inauspicious energies so that we make the right decisions and not unknowingly be affected by inauspicious prevailing energies.

For example renovation the wrong place at the wrong time and activating the inauspicious energies with dire consequence.

At a personal level, we can also tell from our natal chart the effect of the various directions and sectors on our life path. With this information we can further optimize all aspect of dwelling so that it strengthens our weaknesses and give our strengths a boost at the correct time. Or select the right time to do things!

Astrology and Feng Shui are closely inter-related. It is okay to practice Feng Shui without considering the person’s astrology. It is like seeing a part and not the whole picture.  You will achieve more consistent and better results when your consider both.

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The Chinese Calendars

There are two Chinese Calendars, one based on the sun cycle and the other based on the moon cycle. Together they are sometimes called the Lunisolar Calendar! Also since the sun is yang and the moon yin, it is often referred to as the YinYang Calendars.


The Chinese Solar Calendar is also known as the Xia (Hsia) Calendar and has a history that dates back more than 4000 years. Since the Xia (Hsia) calendar is closely related and used to regulate agriculture, it is also called the Farmer’ Calendar.

The earth makes one rotation around the sun every 365 and a quarter day. Four of these quarter days make one extra day and this is why there is a leap year of 366 days every four years in the Western calendar that we use today.

Of the two Chinese Calendars, the Chinese Solar Calendar is most similar to the Western calendar except that instead of starting on the 1st of January, the Chinese solar year begins on the 1st day of Spring that falls on or around the 4th Feb. The exact starting date wobbles a little bit to account for the extra day that is accumulated every four years.

The Chinese Calendars and Seasons

There are four seasons in a year namely Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This is sufficient for most people but for the purpose of agriculture (and Chinese metaphysics study), each season is further divided into 6 sub-seasons giving a total of 24 sub-seasons. These sub-seasons have descriptive names like rain water, insects awaken, corn rain, corn sprouting etc which gives clear hints to the farmers on the right time for planting and harvesting!

The Chinese Lunar Calendar on the other hand is based on the moon’s rotation around the earth which is approximately 29.5 days. Unfortunately the Lunar cycles do not match the Solar cycles. For example 12 lunar cycles (12 x 28.5) do not quite add up to 365 days. To synchronize the Lunar Calendar with the Solar Calendar, the Chinese added an extra month in seven (7) out of every nineteen (19) years. The extra month in certain years are known as leap month.

We can convert between the Chinese Calendars, both Solar and Lunar, and Western dates using a text reference known as The Ten Thousand Years Calendar. Do not be fooled by the name. Most books available in the market contains not more than 150 years of data.

You can also find the Chinese Solar and Lunar equivalent dates of any Western date by using this Chinese Calendars converter.

The Chinese New year festival celebrated by Chinese all over the world marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar year. Unlike the Chinese Solar new year which falls on or around the 4th Feb every year, the Chinese Lunar new year falls on a different date between January and February every year!

This is the Chinese Calendars for you.

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The 12 Animals Zodiac

The 12 Animals Zodiac is the most well known system of Chinese astrology.

The 12 Animal Zodiac attempts to reveal a person’s character, relationship, potential and luck thorough a person’s life by taking only the year of birth into the calculation.

This is unlike Ba Zi (also known as the Four Pillars of destiny) or Zi Wei Dou Shu (also known as Purple Star Astrology) which takes a person’s year, month, date and time of birth into the computation.

Readings done by skilled practitioner shows the systems to be astonishingly accurate and they are the systems of choice used by destiny counsellors to provide advice to their clients.

Why the 12 Animals?


Have you wondered why the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig were selected and in that order? Or why was the cat not included?

There are many versions of the story but here is a version that I like. Of course, this is not a true story but it helps us to remember the characteristics of some of the animals and also explain why the cat was not selected!

An ancient sage wanted to select 12 animals to form the zodiac. He wanted to be fair and he sent a message out to all the animals to gather as a certain spot on a certain date. The first 12 animals to arrive will be selected and the zodiac arranged in their order of arrival.

The rat and the cat made an agreement to wake each other up early the next day to start the journey. The cunning rat however did not do that but started out on the journey much early hoping to be included in the zodiac.

The ox realized that he is slower than many of the other animals, decided to start the journey the night before and walk all night to reach the destination.

On the designated day the animals started arriving. The Ox was the first to reach the vicinity and thought he would be the first animal on the zodiac. However unknown to the ox, the rat was actually riding on the ox’s back the entire journey. And just before the ox reached the designated spot the rat jumped off the ox and took the first spot. And this is why the rat is in first place ahead of the ox followed by the other animals.

This is also the reason why the Rat is described as intelligent and cunning while the Ox is hard working and persistent.

The Cat never forgave the Rat, became mortal enemies and is after it ever since! And this is the story of the 12 Animal Zodiac.

At least this one version.

I believe that the animals were chosen to closely reflect the personality of those born in that year. For example, the Rabbit is friendly, the snake cunning, the goat is stubborn, the monkey mischievous and the dog is loyal.

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History of Feng Shui

The founding history of Feng Shui is lost in time.

The first historical documented reference to Feng Shui was in an ancient Chinese text dating back to around 200 AD. However artefacts bearing Feng Shui symbols go much further back. Such symbols have also been found in a grave excavated in 1988 that dates back to around 4000 BC. So Feng Shui may have a timeline that date back 6000 years!

Great Wall
Great Wall

There are also claims that it is derived from Vastu which is a ancient Indian art of architecture that dates back thousands of years. This is however not proven.

Feng Shui continue to be developed through centuries of research, analysis and experimentation and new findings were recorded and old theories refined.

The Tang dynasty (618 – 906 AD) mark the coming of age of the Form School which place emphasis on environmental features such as mountains and water (e.g. lakes, river).

Later on, saw the development of a system that is more mathematical and largely based on the numerology of the Yi Jing. This system is favoured in areas where the terrain is flat and featureless and saw tremendous developing using the Sung dynasty (960 – 1279 AD).

Feng Shui remained popular during the Ming (1368 – 1644 AD) and Ching (1644 – 1911) dynasty.

However after the fall of the Ching dynasty, China attempted to catch up with the modernization and industrialization of the west and many non-scientific practices like Feng Shui were marginalized.

When the Communist government took power in 1949, more efforts were made to discredit such practices. Despite this, practitioners continue to practice their trade. However the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 took its toll on Feng Shui and many such books and paraphernalia were destroyed.

Many practitioners fled with their knowledge to Hong Kong, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese community. It is today alive and widely practised in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia (which has a significant Chinese minority), Singapore and the other expatriate Chinese communities such as London, San Francisco and Vancouver.

Interestingly, it is experiencing a revival in China with the more open and liberal policies of the current Chinese government.

You may be interested to know Feng Shui was previously known as Kan Yu or the study of Heaven and Earth.

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