February 19, 2020

Customs of naming | Stephen Jones: a weblog


Element of Li household family tree copied by Li Peisen, displaying Li Xianrong’s technology, and his sons and grandsons.

Lineages in rural north China generally (although not invariably) observe the customized of alternating single and double given-names by technology.

Most of my cases come from family Daoist lineages, which occur to be my most important materials. Whereas most of their fellow villagers had been illiterate, and customary households won’t concentrate on their forebears’ names past their grandfather, family Daoists had been usually a part of a prestigious native gentry, and their slightly steady hereditary transmission has preserved names over many generations.

The family tree of the Li household in Higher Liangyuan village makes a transparent occasion. The tree beneath reveals solely the Daoists within the lineage (Daoist clergymen of the Li household, p.5). Thus Li Qing gave double names to his sons (like Li Manshan), whereas their very own sons obtained single names (like Li Bin):

Li jiapu

Daoists within the Li lineage, from Li Fu, himself the 16th technology within the lineage.

Certainly, Li Bin has continued the custom by naming his son Li Bingchang. You should have seen that it is a firmly patriarchal custom; although wives’ surnames are listed on such genealogies, daughters don’t seem in any respect, and till the 1950s their formal names had been little used anyway. Whereas the rule appears to used extra flexibly for daughters, they too generally comply with the sample, as with Li Bin’s feisty sister Li Min.

Furthermore (Daoist clergymen, p.40), for the double names used each different technology, in a single technology the fixed ingredient within the given names is the primary character, whereas of their grandsons’ given names it’s the second character. Thus the primary character pei [1] is the fixed in Li Peiye 培業, Li Peixing 培興, Li Peilong 培隆, however within the names of Li Peixing’s grandsons it’s the second character shan that’s fixed: Manshan 滿山, Yushan 玉山, Yunshan 雲山. Brothers with single names obtain associated characters, like Tao 淘, Qing 清, and Hai 海, all with the water radical; or in that very same technology, Tong 桐, Xiang 相, Huan 桓, and Hua 樺, all with the wooden radical, like their grandfathers Shi 柘 and Tang 棠.

Amongst many nice artefacts that Li Peisen handed right down to his son Li Hua (see additionally right here) is his 1981 copy of a memorial for a home Thanking the Earth ritual relationship again to round 1930. Li Peisen dated his copy “70th 12 months of the Republic” (which we maybe needn’t think about as an affront to the Communist regime), however he didn’t copy the date of the unique memorial. The latter was written by his father Li Tang (c1879–c1931) together with a nice family tree of his department of the lineage; furthermore, when Li Peisen copied it in 1981 he up to date it with an inventory of more moderen kin.

And at New 12 months 1989 Li Qing edited it for his personal department of the household, additionally as a part of a Thanking the Earth memorial. These paperwork are proof of the slightly affluent standing of the Li lineage. For a begin, solely comparatively well-off households would fee a Thanking the Earth ritual. However additional, such genealogies are much less widespread in north China than within the south; Li Manshan estimates that solely 10 or 20% of lineages within the space would ever compile their very own family tree. A household commissioning a Thanking the Earth ritual would invariably listing the earlier three generations of ancestors, but it surely was much less widespread to make use of the event to repeat such an intensive family tree, so we’re fortunate right here.

And right here’s the Wang lineage of Baideng township (Daoist clergymen, pp.78–9), descended from the stepson of Li Zengrong—and in addition Daoists:

Wang jiapu

This practice is widespread additional afield in north Shanxi, as you may see from many posts below Native ritual. Nonetheless in Yanggao, right here’s one other Daoist lineage in Luowenzao township:

Li Fa 李發
Li Wanxiang 李萬祥
Li Tai 李泰
Li Jincai 李進财
Li Ke 李科
Li Deshan 李德山
Li Yuan 李元
Li Tianyun 李天雲

Li Yuan writing

Li Yuan writing funerary paperwork, 1992.

And the Zhang household Daoists in Jinjiazhuang:

Zhang Lianzhu 張連珠
Zhang Kui 張奎
Zhang Wenbing 張文炳
Zhang Bi 張弼
Zhang Deheng 張德恆
Zhang Mei 張美
Zhang Jincheng 張進成
Zhang Nan 張楠

Zhang Nan and LMS

Li Manshan with Zhang Nan, Jinjiazhuang 2018.

And simply south in Yingxian county, listed here are seven generations of Longmen Daoists within the Zhao lineage:

Zhao Tianyu 赵天玉
Zhao Ming 赵明
Zhao Yongzhen 赵永珍, Zhao Yongbao 赵永宝
Zhao Zhong 赵仲, Zhao Xiu 赵秀, Zhao Cai 赵财, Zhao Rui 赵瑞
Zhao Guowen 赵国文 (son of Zhao Xiu)
Zhao Fu 赵富, Zhao Pu 赵普
Zhao Shiwei 赵世伟

On a sensible fieldwork notice, as quickly as you handle to familiarize yourself with these names, you understand that no-one actually makes use of them. As a substitute they use nicknames like Golden Noble (Jingui) or Zhanbao, their “little names” (xiaoming)—itself a casual time period for “breast identify” (ruming). Li Manshan doesn’t even essentially know the formal names of a few of the Daoists from different lineages that he calls on as ritual deps. Truly, this discrepancy with “normal” names is fully regular in social teams, as I famous on this submit that includes the conductor Charles Mackerras (“Slasher”).

The Li household additionally used one other naming system. Males of the identical technology got a double identify whose second character was the identical; for Li Qing and his siblings it was shun 順, for Li Manshan’s technology it was heng 衡. Thus Li Qing was generally known as Quanshun, whereas those that know Li Manshan nicely name him Manheng. His son Li Bin appears to be generally known as Li Bin, although even that is sophisticated; Li Manshan gave him the identify Bin 斌 (the characters for “civil” and “martial” mixed), however he usually makes use of the identify Bing 兵 “Soldier”—he’s not fussy. However most frequently they refer to one another by kinship phrases, like “third maternal uncle”—their precision solely helpful in case you occur to have an in depth family tree in your head.

* * *

In the meantime in Hebei province, we are able to see that the customized of alternating single and double names by technology was extensively used within the varied lineages of Gaoluo, stalwarts of the village ritual affiliation (Plucking the winds, genealogies pp.357–61) such because the Cai lineage:


The Fu technology there was essential to the transmission of the ritual affiliation below Maoism, with an entire cohort of distinguished performers. Other than Cai Fuxiang, outdated revolutionary and vocal liturgist (like Cai Yongchun, additionally a part of that technology), Cai Fuquan was the main guanzi participant, and Cai Fulai, Fuzhong, Fulü, Fushun, Fumao, Fulin, Fumin, and Futong had been all eager members. It was their sons who had been our personal mentors via via the 1990s, like Cai An, Cai Ran, and Cai Yurun (the latter, son of Cai Fuzhong, being a curious exception to the naming system). Underneath each the Maoist and reform eras a lot of them served as village cadres even whereas supporting the ritual affiliation.

Cai Fulu

A uncommon picture from Gaoluo on the eve of the 1937 invasion:
left, vocal liturgist Cai Fulü; proper, Catholic Shan Wenyi, brother-in-law of Lady Zhang.

Again in 1930, when Painter Solar visited Gaoluo to depict ritual photos for the affiliation, the Cai lineage had used the event to ask him to make a nice family tree for them on material—and it appears to be the one one which has survived many years of turmoil. In some way it was handed right down to Cai Haizeng, third technology of vocal liturgists in his household after his father Cai Fulü (one other exception to the naming rule). When Haizeng hung it up for me to {photograph} in 1998, he insisted on making ready an altar desk with incense, candles, fruit, tea, liquor, and cigarettes.

Cai 1930

Cai lineage family tree, 1930.

In contrast to the Cais, most branches of the Shan lineage merely used double given-names for each technology, however the case of Shan Zhihe (1919–2002), one in all our most venerable mentors in Gaoluo, is fascinating. His father Shan Futian (1882–1953) gave his two sons their “official names” Zhizhong and Zhihe after their coming of age with the “lesser capping” ceremony. He named them thus as a result of his public baths in Hohhot had been referred to as Zhonghe 忠和 (Loyalty and Peace) baths; their names confirmed that the baths would someday belong to them. The zhi 之 ingredient of their given names was an “empty character”, and they also had been thought-about single names.

However by the 1940s the “outdated guidelines” had been already being diluted right here. The 2 sons of Shan Zhihe, Shan Ming and Shan Ling, who would finally turn out to be ambiguous figures within the village’s ritual affiliation, had been born in Hohhot in 1942 and 1948. Although the customized of alternating single and double names by technology continued within the Cai and He lineages greater than with the Shans, by this time it was changing into extra versatile. So when it got here to the naming of his personal sons, though Shan Zhihe’s personal identify was successfully, and correctly, single, they too got single names; it was really their grandfather Shan Futian who made the choice. From the 1950s some households had been starting to undertake “revolutionary” names (see e.g. the great photograph of the Qiao household in Yulin, right here); however within the Shan household the outdated custom was dropping floor no matter political management.

Right here too, individuals had variant names. Not less than till the 1980s, after reaching the age of 50 sui, males adopted an “outdated” identify (laohao 老號) starting with the character “outdated” (lao). In precept, the brand new identify ought to complement the unique identify, in a captivating parallel with Cockney rhyming slang. Simply as “apples” stands for “stairs” by means of “apples and pears”, so Shan Chang (everlasting) took the “outdated” identify Laole (outdated pleasure) by means of the binome changle (everlasting pleasure). Cai Qing’s given identify Qing (verdant) was related to the phrase “verdant hills and plentiful waters” (shanqing shuixiu) to create his “outdated” identify Laoxiu.

By the way, villagers agree that so long as the characters for his or her given identify replicate its pronunciation, it’s not vital which characters are used—admittedly inside a really slim alternative of two or three. That is evident within the affiliation’s personal donors’ lists, the place totally different written variations of the identical given identify seem. And I have to say it’s one of many few reliefs out there to us in making fieldnotes.

* * *

Whereas the alternation of single and double given-names is way from a common rule in rural north China, I suppose it will need to have been widespread within the cities too—is it nonetheless so? And what of different areas, like south China, the place lineage consciousness is extra deeply embedded? Feedback welcome!


[1] By the best way, the pei character is 培, although they usually use 丕 (formally pi) as a simplified character. In addition they usually write a simplified character for zeng 增 in a number of Daoists’ names, with zhong 中 to the best of the earth radical; I haven’t discovered this in dictionaries.



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