What’s in a name?

Greetings, Fellow Daoists. Do you know the names of various characters in ISSTH?

Madam Deathblade was feeling under the weather this morning, so I was stuck in the hotel room. After finishing some translating, I got around to something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. As you all know, Chinese names are made up of Chinese characters that often carry meaning, or at least a feeling. You can’t get that from the translated version without an explanation. In my past translations, I always explained the meanings of all the names in footnotes. I didn’t really do that in ISSTH, but going forward, I will update the glossary with that information. The glossary also has a pinyin guide on to how to pronounce the names of some of the main and recurring characters. If you are learning Chinese, it wouldn’t hurt to try to pronounce the characters’ names correctly!

Rather than force you go comb through the glossary to look for the updates, I’ll copy and paste them here. I’m leaving out the character bios in this post, and just listing the meaning of the Chinese characters and the pronunciation. If you want the character bios, check out the glossary itself.

Chen Fan – 陈凡 – chén fán – Chen is a common family name. Fan means “mortal” or “ordinary”

Chu Yuyan – 楚玉嫣 – chǔ yù yān – Chu is a family name. Yu means “jade” or “beauty,” and Yan means “captivating”

Li Daoyi – 李道一 – lǐ dào yī – Li is a common family name. Dao is the same character as in The Dao, and means “way” or “path.” Yi means “one”

Li Fugui (Fatty) – 李富贵 – lǐ fùguì – Li is a common family name. Fugui means “rich and influential”

Meng Hao – 孟浩 – mèng hào – Meng is a family name linked to some historical people. Hao means “great” or “many”

Song Jia – 宋佳 – sòng jiā – Song is a family name. Jia means “excellent”

Wang Lihai – 王历海 – wáng lì hǎi – Wang is a common family name. Li means “experience.” Hai means “ocean”

Wang Tengfei – 王腾飞 – wáng téng fēi – Wang is a common family name. Tengfei means “to soar.”

Wang Youcai – 王有才 – wáng yǒu cái – Wang is a common family name. Youcai means “to have talent or ability”

Xu Qing (Elder Sister Xu) – 许清 – xǔ qīng – Xu is a family name, although, it has a variety of other meanings as a common character including “to praise” and “to allow.” Qing means “pure” or “clear”

Please note, some of the characters have more definitions than the ones I listed.

P.S. For those who love to analyze everything, I secretly added a reference link in the glossary that contains some more clues about the mythological basis of the story. If that stuff interests you… well you’ll have to find that link on your own wahaha!

18 thoughts on “What’s in a name?” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

  1. Thanks for the information. It’s interesting to me how it’s sometimes easy to forget the meaning of names in English, but the Chinese characters are there to make it easier for them to remember the thought (or lack thereof) their parents had (or the author) when naming them.

  2. I’m confused about something, DB. The immortal mountain in ISSTH is being called “Mount Tianshan” (which I actually thought was referring to Mount Tai aka Tai Shan up until now) and seems to be a single mountain, rather than an entire mountain range like the Tian Shan you have linked in the glossary.

    From what I’m reading, the Tian Shan mountain range is important in chinese mythology since Xi Wangmu, a great goddess, lives somewhere in the mountains and guards the gods’ peaches of immortality. That seems to be the main connection to ISSTH, especially after I read about Xian in Taoism (basically the inspiration for saints/cultivators in xianxia stories, it seems) and the group of Xian called the Eight Immortals who are also associated with the peaches. But then I read that Xi Wangmu is also thought to reside on a mythological Kunlun Mountain…?

    It was all very interesting(!) to read about, but I’m having trouble telling the differences between Mount Tai, Kunlun Mountain, the Tian Shan mountain range, and the immortal mountain called “Mount Tianshan” in ISSTH. Are they all being conflated into some kind of supreme mountain for the sake of the story, by any chance?

    edit: Oh, and thanks a lot for the name info! I’m getting to read a bunch of interesting stuff today 😀

  3. i like this,
    in English the meanings of names are largely unknown/forgotten or don’t exist, most traditional Christian names have a meaning e.g. Michael “who is like god?” but few people remember these meanings and many other names don’t have a meaning, or have a lost meaning in some obscure language now lost in the mists of time
    i enjoy that the chinese names mean something, like tengfei and youcai are both (to my ear) slightly pretentious sounding ^^ i wouldn’t know without these sort of update, thanks

    1. Yeah, the meanings of names are lot more obvious in Chinese, especially when written. In English, the meaning of our names isn’t usually that important or obvious, but in Chinese its more so.

  4. Deathblade, I have to say that I really like how you dedicate YOUR time for us to know more about what we read (and the other translators on this site of course) but it’s your casual attitude that makes it through the screen that I really appreciate and it was your enthusiasm to give more (your annotations at the end of each chapter if there was something important that we may have missed, your polls, etc.) that made me read ISSTH in the first place since it didn’t really stood out for me at first. This reminds me of articles like the one Ren posted about Chinese comments on xianxia novels and sometimes about the translation process that makes us more like a community and not a bunch of people that are just looking to consume media.

    I hope that you keep doing what you do and your photo about translating at the beach drinking a beer was priceless.


    1. It’s my pleasure and glad you’re liking and benefiting from the translation. The picture I didn’t share was of the horrible sunburn I got on day two because I didn’t put on sunblock while translating. HAHA. (true story)

  5. Could someone give my daoist name in chinese (that also sound cool and profound at the same time)? It’s Daoist Voidwalker in english. Thank you fellow daoists! If I ever change my name to chinese (or make a fake passport XD ) I promise to use it 😀

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