Chinese surname confusion

Alan and PennyWhen I asked Alan Hiu from Kuching, Sarawak,  about his unusual surname, he explained that different dialect groups would pronounce it differently. “What about my surname?”, and I wrote the Chinese strokes for Chee in the air. He gave me a lesson on it: the Hockchiew (my father’s dialect) would call it “Hee”; the Cantonese would call it “Hui”; and the Hokkien would call it “Kho”. So how did I end up with Chee. My surname is Chee because it was transliterated according to sound by civil servant, and Hee became Chee. If they had gone by my mother tongue, my name would have been Kenny Kho or Koh.

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  • Chinese names are interesting, they are written depending on which dialect group you are from. E.g my surname “Tan” is in Teochew and Hokkien. In Hakka it is “Chin”, in Hockchew(Foochow) it is “Ting” or “Ding”. Of course this issue applied to people who are most probably from the 50’s, now, I think we do not have this problem. So young people may not understand this problem well.

  • It is our chinese heritage. Every surname had a history,every letter in the name has a meaning, > 5000 yrs.

    My surname is traced to Zhou Dynasty

  • I am Hockchew, but my surname is Tin. When combined with my English name,it become Desmond Tin. Most of my co-workers who had not met me and correspond with me via email thought that I am angmoh. Until they met me, then they realise that I am CHinese.

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