what’s in a name

I have really missed blogging over the past several weeks and connecting with others in the blogging community! It’s been a very busy semester in school, but thankfully, the semester is quickly coming to a close – officially May 2nd. Woo hoo!

This morning I was going through my email box and deleting old messages. I came across some correspondence I saved during the search for my birthfamily in Taiwan. The earliest of these emails dates back to March of 2010. Wow, that period seems like a lifetime ago! I also saved communications that I received from other adoptees from Taiwan who were adopted from the same orphanage, ‘Children’s Planning Association of China.’ It’s been so cool to connect with other adult adoptees via this blog who share a similar story of origin. I feel that it’s been an amazing journey full of personal growth and insight. What always strikes me are the similarities, but also the differences among international adoptees. I always feel a unique bond of kinship among other international and transracial adoptees.

Lately, I’ve been considering legally changing my middle name to my first name of origin, Hsiao-ling. Honestly, I’m not even sure if there should be a hyphen between the first and second syllables, but that’s how it’s spelled on my adoption contract. And sadly, I can never remember how to form the Chinese characters. I was told that Hsiao-ling means “grace” or something akin to that. I downloaded the paperwork to begin the legal name change process, but haven’t had time to actually complete it. Then there’s all of the hullabaloo to change personal IDs and other items, etc. once my petition is granted.

My adoptive parents gave me the middle name, “Chaling.” I’m guessing that they based it upon my given birth name, but for some reason, changed the spelling. I don’t know why – maybe to “Americanize” it? I’m so curious to know how they came about it. Anyway, legally changing my name to my birth name would mean so much to me. Why wouldn’t I change my middle name to reflect its original spelling? It seems like a no-brainer. I’ll keep you posted on the process…

7 thoughts on “what’s in a name

  1. Jean

    Of course I have my legal first English name. I do have a unofficial Chinese first name that my parents gave to me. They gave Chinese first names to all their 6 children. But the 5 girls share the same middle name, “Lun”. I didn’t know what it meant until I was in my early 20’s. My parents didn’t think it was important to figure out the translation.

    So my Chinese first name translates as “Precious” or “Highly Treasured”. (Jun). It sounds close to Jean which means something totally different.
    Lun= Orchid. It is beautiful….and I used to feel self-conscious with my middle name when I had to spell it out. A common name for Chinese females…like Lily, Rose.
    I am the eldest and most photographed child as a baby. Guess my parents were too exhausted for the younger ones..later on.

    My youngest sister’s lst Chinese name= Ling-Ling. Which to me sounds like a lovely bell sound. I have no idea what it means. Not sure if she’s asked my parents.


  2. Roxanne

    We have 3 daughters born in Taiwan and we’ve also kept their given names from their birth families as their middle names. I think it is an important connection to their identity and I hope it gives them a sense of closeness with their birth families…(all of whom we have contact with 🙂
    Our eldest daughter dislikes the attention her middle name gives her at school. Kids comment and question her all the time. She has asked us to request the school not use her chinese name so she’s not centered out. I suppose it’s her age and that she just wants to fit in, but it’s heartbreaking for me that she’s not taking pride in her name…As we consider moving back to Taiwan I hope that she will use her given name at her school there! 🙂


    1. Mj Post author

      Hi Roxanne,
      Thank you so much for visiting my blog! Wow, 3 daughters and from Taiwan! I think I understand that your eldest daughter dislikes the attention her middle name gives her at school – I reacted very much the same way. My adoptive parents gave me the middle name, “Chaling,” and I changed it to “Charlie.” Some friends and I all got the same T-shirt and had our names imprinted on the back. I had the name Charlie placed on the back of my shirt! I am much more appreciative of my middle name now as an adult and will eventually change it to reflect the Chinese spelling given to me at birth. As long as she feels your support (even if it’s not what you’d necessarily want) and she isn’t harming herself, she will feel validated 🙂 I would love to live in Taiwan for a spell. Best to you and your family as you consider moving back!


  3. Jeremy Uriz

    Thank you for posting again.

    This is something I often wonder about with our daughter. We changed her first name to her middle name (YaQin). In school it’s sure to garner attention (much like my last name did when I was in school). Will she wish we’d dropped it or be upset we didn’t just keep her first name? Time will tell.

    Her Chinese pre-school teacher calls her YaQin, so hopefully it will feel and sound natural to her as she gets older.

    What tones are the two syllables? It’s a beautiful name.


    1. Mj Post author

      Hi Jeremy, thanks for commenting! It’s hard to tell how P will feel about her middle name, although I think it’s great that you kept her Chinese name. She might have a great appreciation in knowing that you preserved part of her birth heritage. I think the name is beautiful. To answer your question, I believe that my birth name, Hsiao-ling, is pronounced with 2nd tone for the first syllable, and 4th tone for the last syllable (if my memory serves me correctly). The Hsiao is pronounced “Shou,” as in the “ow” sound, so Shou-ling. It’s been awhile since I took Mandarin lessons! I’m meeting with my former Mandarin tutor tomorrow morning for coffee. I’m going to ask her again about my birth name and its meaning. Hope that you and your family are doing well! I will catch up on your blog soon.


      1. Mj Post author

        Hi, thank you for sending. I’ve never heard of the reference to “bamboo,” so that’s interesting. I’m going to definitely ask my former Chinese tutor to translate again for me.


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