Gave Chinese Names for my Friends

In Tongli, in the shop next to our hotel, they have 20 small baskets of badges of Chinese characters – each badge has a character on both side of it. People can pick two or three badge to form the Chinese name for themselves. For example, I can pick 王 and 建 and 硕, and have them on a ring – that is my name.

Chinese Name for Ashish

I happen to be with Ashish at the shop. I think it is a cool idea to give Ashish a Chinese name and send the name tag to him as a gift. I thought very hard about it and picked from the 2000+ characters available in the baskets. Finally, I got one, and I am very happy about it.

Before I tell you the name, let me introduce Ashish a little bit. Ashish is the CEO of Forward Hindsight, a consulting firm to help Fortune 500 companies on risk management. He is very successful with his company. Ashish came from India, and has the best characteristic of an India in him. He speaks very good English with no Indian accent at all, although he can easily switch from Indian-English to American-English. (I tried hard to learn how to say “I am from Mumbai” in Indian-English. That is of a lot of fun). He is the author of Sustainable Disruption. The most significant thing about Ashish is, he devoted his life and his company to solve a big problem – world hunger. He does everything just to help people in hunger through out the world. This is amazing work.

So to think of a name for Ashish, I tried very hard to archive three goals:

1. Pronunciation should be similar

2. I should reflect his vision about attacking the world hunger in the name.

3. It would be idea to have some kinds of India flavor in the name to reflect his origin of India.

So, here is the final name I choose:


阿 = Pronounced as A – just the pronunciation. Put at the from of a person’s name to show intimacy.

施 = Pronounced as Shi (first tone). It means to give, to help.

世 = Pronounced as Shi (forth tone). It means the world.

Put it together, the names pronounces as “Ashishi”, almost exactly the same as the English name. By meaning, it means Help the World, reflecting his vision of helping to cure the world hunger. Finally, when I check around, people said it has some feeling of Buddha. That may help people to connect him with India.

OK. Ashish seems to like that name. I am very happy about my brain work.

Chinese Name for Chris

I gave Chinese name to my other friend in the Young Leaders Forum. His name is Chris. He is an astronaut working in NASA, Huston, TX. He is expected to go to the space station soon.

Obviously, he wants some name that reflects his dream to explore the space, and he wants something like star, or sky in his name. The challenge for me is to find out a Chinese name that reflect this, and at the same time, be as similar as the pronunciation of “Chris”.

So, here is my final name I choose for Chris:


可 = pronounced as Ke (third tone). It means “be able, capable”.

历 = pronounced as Li (forth tone). It means “experience”.

星 = pronounced as Xing (first tone) – the pronunciation is very similar with English word Sing. It means “star”.

Put together, the pronunciation is Kelixing, or Klising – pretty like Chris, although there are some differences. The meaning is “be able to experience stars”. This is exactly what Chris is going to do in the space station. Not many people in this world has the ability to really experience the stars or the space as Chris does.

Chris. Used with permission

I Just Realized I LOVE to Give People Names

I feel accomplished when I choose the best Chinese names to reflect the pronunciation and meaning of my close friend. It does take time to really know a person well before I can give a English name.

Hope Ashish and Chris like the Chinese name I chose.

P.S. June Mei gave me high rating of this name. She is the top interpreter in Chinese/English world. We talked about the translation of 万 (ten thousand) to Million instead of ten thousand to reflect the reality that both are the largest number in daily use, and often, people in Chinese do not mean the number of ten thousand when they say “万岁”.

9 thoughts on “Gave Chinese Names for my Friends

  1. Jian Shuo, I think you mean “interpreter” not “interrupter” right? I think I have seen this mistranslated before. BTW, I really appreciate it when you provide pinyin translation of Chinese characters (as in this post). As a beginning student of Chinese, its a useful tool with characters that I either don’t know or keep forgetting!

  2. You learn something new every day. It will be awhile I think until the characters speak to me. I kind of like bright which is a combination of sun and moon.


  3. Mine was given by my wife as Alei. Not sure what it means. Can’t be worse than what she calls her brother; pangzi. :-)

  4. @Joshua Allen, it is hard even for native Chinese to determine the meaning just from Pinyin – there are so many characters mapping to the same Pinyin, so I have no idea about what Alei means. You may ask your wife. :-) Good luck!

  5. Jianshuo – you are awesome! I love my Chinese name. I told my daughters about it and they just loved it. Isn’t it amazing how small this world is when we can transcend cultures and find life long friendships. Tongli was a great experience on two levels – one the beauty of the place, its serenity, its humbleness and above all the awesome midnight tour you gave us YLFers. I have never experienced anything like that before. Jianshuo you really know and admire your land. Second – the great fun we had bargaining for cool stuff on the streets of Tongli. After 2 hours of intense bargaining (with Jianshuo by my side) I got some amazing things at an amazing price, while helping the local economy!!

    I thought hard as to what Indian name I should give you and I came up with something that you will like a lot – “Dayavan” – means kind, humble giver. I could not have gotten a better name for you my friend.

    For those of you who don’t know Jianshuo – he is beyond cool and I believe one of the youngest and successful CEOs in China.

    You rock bro!

  6. @Ashish, thanks a lot for the good comments. I am also grateful about the Indian name you gave me – how do you write Dayavan in India, and what each one (I assume there are three characters in Indian as well) means?

  7. Dean Jian Shuo, I loved your names for Chris and Ashish — you clearly have a poet’s touch — and I am a bit jealous — if you are enjoying bestowing Chinese names, I hope you will consider thinking of one for me! You could use Liz as the basis, if it’s easier than Elizabeth…

    Also, kudos on a great summation and discussion of our debate on the funding of art and science versus hunger relief. I truly believe that the arts as well as basic research and highly ambitious (if not overtly remunerative) pursuits such as manned space flight do further the well being of humanity. I have a button that reads ART SAVES LIVES, which I wish I had been wearing at the conference! But the truth is, I don’t wear it often, because I have found it too provocative. Whenever I wear it, I spent too much time explaining my theories to random people and can’t get on with my daily life.

    Cheers, Elizabeth

  8. @Elizabeth Gaffney, don’t bee too jealous – Elizabeth has a great Chinese translation already: 伊丽莎白. This is a very beautiful translation. As the English name, the Chinese one also reminds people of the Queen…

    It was so nice to meet you in Nanjing, and hopefully you love the Chinese name you already have.

    It is pronounced as Yi-li-sha-bai in Chinese.

  9. As your wish !

    Elizabeth, aka Liz,

    I hereby confer most honorable chinese name.

    Let it be known henceforth, that you will answer only to the name of Li-chi.

    (same as the fruit… the one we put in our almond jelly dessert)

    heh heh heh…I’m such a meanie…

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