Not for the lack of trying

I have been trying to hunt down the family's elusive generational poem. The kind which has a series of Chinese words that indicate the Chinese character to be used in the naming of each generation of a family with a certain surname.

My husband, his brother and his dad were all named according to the poem. Unfortunately, the hardcopy of it has been misplaced, and no one in the family seems to have it.

I called the Hokkien Huay Kuan only to be told to send an email instead. And after 2 that I did send, I received a reply to say that they don't keep any such generational poems. However, I was given 3 contacts of kinship clan associations that could possibly help me.

I picked up the phone to dial one of the numbers. An old croaking voice was on the other end of the line. He could only speak Mandarin, so I tried the best I could to explain what I wanted. He seemed kindly though, and appeared surprised that I wanted such a poem. He said no one in Singapore follows these poems anymore, and advised me to just pick a name that sounds good and was meaningful. He explained that usually once the characters in a poem has been 'used up' in a family, it is no longer utilised. He also said that the exact poem of any given family depends not only on the surname, but also from the place/village in China from which the family originated. He then proceeded to give a few examples of such places, all of which went way over my head. After ascertaining that he could do no more to help me, I thanked him and proceed to dial the next number.

Funnily, the same old man answered the phone again. Apparently 2 of the associations are linked to the same phoneline. This time, he told me it would be better to call on Sunday, when "the others" (whoever they may be), would be around to take my questions. I said ok, and hung up.

The 3rd number yielded no reply after several tries, so I guess I'll have to call again another time.

I want to get that poem to name Bubbles! (Googling didn't help either)

14 comments:

lilsnooze said...

Hmm...my friend has such a family poem & naming tradition too. (Her surname is Chan).

Is it a generic poem (applies to certain dialect/surname etc?) or a poem just for Roboman's family?

Ruth said...

wow, persistent. we follow the poem too. the family has kept in contact with those in China (?!) and actually has a copy somewhere.

also because we arent the 'first' we didnt have to do the work of hunting down the generational name for J.

corsage said...

lilsnooze:
At first we thought it was a generic one for a certain dialect and surname. But after Googling, we realised that there must be more than one, and I guess from that old man's words it must be true too. So yeah, we have to find that ONE right poem.

ruth:
Oh that's cool :) Well his family is Peranakan, so they have long lost their roots in China. And yeah, you're right - since we're the first, we have got to do this! Well technically we don't coz I'm expecting a girl, not a boy, but we thought it would be nice - and also more convenient! (less one character to think of!)

imp said...

wow. i realize i've no idea of even what you're talking about!! completely culture idiot i am!

Daddy and Mummy said...

I hv the "poem" for naming the generations. But some words are just not suited for names! We can change the characters (same sound) but that will defeat the purpose. So we decided not to adopt.

Anyway, the old man is right.. even some of his cousins dun adopt the poem. So it has been broken anyway. I am not too concerned lah..

poiema said...

my paternal relations follow the clan's middle name for their generation. So all the men my dad's generation are 'chun' or spring - something. And the gals are 'xue' or snow. When i look in the phone book, i can tell which generation that person with my surname is from. :) My generation, the gals are 'cui4' and the boys are 'lie4'. We all followed. My male cousins followed too, using both 'yuan3' for their boys and girls. I don't know whether it was from a poem, though. For what it's worth we are hokkien.

Or you could start your own poem! Privilege of being first. And u can choose one with all nice words instead of being limited by a poem that might be odd.

josiah n faith said...

yep, it's family-specific. otherwise all the Tans and the Lees would have the same middle characters! :) perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that u can't find it - might be a really strange character. if we had followed tradition, Jireh would have had to be named Hsien-something... very difficult to find a word that goes with Hsien except for the ones already used up by our PM and his brother!

corsage said...

imp:
Ah, most people wouldn't know unless it is practised in the family though!

daddy n mummy:
Really? I would have thought the characters would have good meanings and suitable for names! I just thought it would be nice, and saves us the trouble of thinking up both characters! Do you know where the poem came from?

poiema:
Wow it is really cool that your family really kept the tradition. You do have a unique surname too, if I remember correctly! Where did you get your poem from though? Wondering if I could get leads.

josiah n faith:
Haha, I thought the Tans and Lees would have really long poems. Hehe. AnywayI'm still going to try to find it :) Coz if not it will end with our generation - which will be sooo sad.

Daddy and Mummy said...

I'm not too sure where the poem came from. But they do keep a copy to pass down each generation. It's called "jia1-pu3" in Chinese I think, maybe u can explain to the next contact person.

Faith, I think "Hsien" isn't too bad. Imagine lleyton has to give with "zhong" (as in planting).. how to use?

Jacinta said...

Haha, so cool! I didn't evem know of such things. :P

corsage said...

daddy n mummy:
Oh, thanks for naming it for me. I didn't know it is called Jia Pu. I actually think both Hsien and Zhong are nice leh! haha, the former coz it is part of MY name (haha), and the latter coz it seems to connote stability and rootedness :)

jacinta:
We all learn new things with each stage of life! Like I'm discovering all these parenting stuff right now. So much to learn! You'll experience all these next time :)

poiema said...

yah yah it's called jia1 pu3. Not exactly a poem as far as I'm aware... I'll ask my sagely older relatives at the next family gathering... :)

josiah n faith said...

the Hsien is the same as our PM - xian3 - not your xian2 if i recall correctly...

my hubby's generational characters were set by his grandma i think, so easy to track down...

corsage said...

poiema:
Ah, good that you have sagely people to ask :)

josiah n faith:
Oh, so it was set as recently as his grandma's generation! That's amazing.