Before Ava came home, we decided that we wanted to keep part of her Chinese name and give her a name from us. I started paying attention to the names of other people from China and realized that almost all of them had an English first name and their Chinese name was their middle name (or they just had an English nickname).
We’ve been going back and forth with a couple possible spellings for Evan’s middle name, and I’m feeling great relief that we’ve finally decided what it will be. It’s actually been holding up our re-adoption process and his social security card as we have to decide his legal name before we proceed.
For both kids, the first step was deciding that we wanted to keep some part of their Chinese name. It seemed like completely stripping them of that would be taking something away that was given to them before we met. When they grow up, they may or may not find their Chinese names meaningful, but we didn’t want to take that chance. So, for both kids, we combined two of their Chinese names to make one middle name: Ava Huasong and Evan Chunyi.
In the orphanage, Ava was given the name Hua Song Chun (written Chun, Hua Song). We believe Chun came from the city where she was born, Yangchun. Every girl in the orphanage had the same surname, so we felt okay not keeping that part. We’ve been told that Hua means flower/blossom and Song means pine tree. There’s a slight problem with Song, though. The character used for this name is the one that would be used for a boy, not a girl. I cannot figure out why they would have used this character, but I am determined to find out. We combined the two words to form Huasong. We gave her the name Ava because we thought it was a beautiful name and I thought I read in a Buddhist book once that it meant compassion (I have not been able to find that meaning ever again, so maybe I never really saw it.)
Evan’s birthfather (whom we know nothing about except his name and age) is the one who gave Evan his name Yen, Chun I. We wanted to keep Chun I for his middle name, but here in the states, it would be hard for others to figure out how to pronounce it. If we combined the two words like we did with Ava’s middle name, it would read Chuni. We thought about a hyphen, Chun-I, but then someone pointed out that the hyphen would be a problem on official documents when Evan got older. Finally, we met a man from Taiwan who actually had the same pinyin spelling of one of his names “I”. He ran into the same problems here in the United States, so he changed it to Yi. One Chinese syllable like “ma” can have 4 different meanings based on the tone when pronouncing the word, and when one writes it out using letters (pinyin), they’re all the same, ma, ma, ma, and ma. It’s the Chinese character and the pronunciation that determine the meaning. The man we met said the meaning would not change, the character is still the same and I is pronounced very much like Yi, so we are going with Chunyi. The same person who helped us with his name declared it to be a good name, meaning handsome and decent. And, like Ava’s name, we chose Evan because we liked the soothing sound of it, not too harsh, not too common, not too different.
We realize Ava and Evan (or “Eban” and “Biba” as Evan would say) sound a lot alike, but that wasn’t the reason we chose the names. In fact, it is a little hard to get the right name out of our mouths sometimes. Both Nathan and I were attracted to the vowel at the beginning and the flowing sound of the ‘v’ that came next. We also did not choose them so our kids could learn how to spell and write their names at an early age, but Ava was quite proud of herself when she could write her name as soon as she new how to write letters.
Ava Huasong and Evan Chunyi. . . it feels good to finally be able to type these names together.
(Evan is sitting in my lap as I type and I just asked him if he likes his name. He smiled and gave me a little giggle. I probably don’t pronounce it correctly, but I think he understands.)