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Chinese name: ??? (???)

After a long search, I have finally found a Chinese name I like. It is not flawless, but it is good enough. For those of you who do not know how Chinese names work, they are composed by a family name, followed by a personal name. Contrary to Western culture, there are fairly few family names, but a great plethora of personal names. The family name is of course inherited, whereas the personal name normally consists of two characters chosen particularly for that person. The two characters can be almost anything, often something connected to the person in question. All names in Chinese mean something that is apparent to the native speaker, which is not the case for Western names.

Since Chinese characters are not phonetic, it is impossible to translate a Western name into Chinese. Thus, Westerners who plan to interact with the Chinese world, need new names that can be written with Chinese characters. Many people choose names which sound like their Western names. Often, a Chinese friend can help them choose a name that is suitable and does not sound like something bad (imagine having a name you think means something cool, but sounds almost exactly the same as “rape”). Since I have no close Chinese friends, this name is very much the result of my own thinking, although I am indebted to certain people for useful help (you know who you are).

I decided to choose a family name which resembles my own, i.e. “Linge”. Since the character “凌” in Mandarin Chinese is pronounced “ling” and also happens to be a surname, it seemed a reasonable choice. The characters means “to soar”, which also connects nicely with the two characters of my personal name. They are “云” (traditional “雲”) and “龙” (traditional “龍”), which are pronounce “yun” and “long” (both with rising tones), and means “cloud” and “dragon” respectively.

Let me explain why I like this name. The dragon bit actually comes from a technique in the taijiquan sabre form, called Cloud Dragon Playing in Water. It has long been my favourite name of any technique, and I like the picture of a dragon playing in water, something I also happen to like quite a lot. Also, the family name combines nicely with the personal name, creating “soaring cloud dragon”.

The first two characters of the full name, “凌” and “云”, also forms part of an idiom, which in its entirety runs “壮志凌云”, and can roughly be translated as “goals reaching as high as the clouds”. I spend a decent amount of my energy trying to achieve my goals, which tend to be rather ambitious, making the name even more suitable.

After having checked with three native speakers of Chinese, and having received positive feedback on this name from all of them, I have decided to adopt this name. So, from now on, I do not have to say “Sorry, I have no Chinese name yet”, but can use “凌云龙” instead.


  1. thark’s avatar

    And as pure trivia, in the japanese translation of your biography, you will be known as Ryô Un-ryû. (Had to search a bit to figure out that ? = ?, silly chinese and their simplified-nonsense.)


  2. Snigel’s avatar

    Ah, thanks. I should of course have included the traditional characters as well, especially since I hope to use the name in Taiwan. :)