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(I'm not actually certain my request fits here, as I'm looking for specific advice rather than answers to an abstract question. I'm sorry if it doesn't.)

I'm going to study in China for two years. In the next weeks, I'll have to fill out the university documents with my Chinese name – already the definitive one, that will also eventually figure in the diploma. Because of that, I'm attaching great importance to finding the right name.

I've already settled on a 姓氏: 孙. Choosing the right 名字, however, has proven to be too challenging for my unseasoned Chinese skills. As a guiding principle, I’m trying to find Chinese names that bear some phonetic resemblance to my name – Paulo – without resorting to transliterations such as 保罗.

Below I've listed some options I've gathered in a book on 'auspicious and elegant Chinese names', along with the reasons why I like them.

The problem is that I really don't have a clue as to which of these names sound good or just plain odd to the native (and the non-native expert) ear. Do any of the names strike you as particularly beautiful or prohibitively strange? Please tell me.

  • 宝禄: Phonetically as close as it can get. I’m afraid, however, that its meaning may come across as too “shallow” or “materialistic”.
  • 百禄: A variation on 宝禄.
  • 宝林: I gravitate towards names with characters that signify, and especially depict, nature. It also sounds like the affectionate name my family calls me.
  • 葩武: Fragility and might - seems beautiful to me. Combined with the family name 孙, however, I think it doesn’t sound so well.
  • 布令: I like this very much, but I’m not sure if its meaning is transparent. It comes from a sentence of the 礼记 that reads as follows: “布得和令,行庆惠施“. In the translation I’ve seen: “Spread the policy of benevolence, holding ceremony, sharing generosity”. I’m also not sure in which tone 令 should be read here.
  • 博良: Or maybe some variation such as 博禄, 博伦 or even–who knows–博柳?
  • 柏伦: I think this may be too offbeat, but, as I said, I’m drawn to nature-related characters.
  • 若水: This one is the exception, as it doesn’t sound at all like my original name. I’ve included it among the contenders because I just like it very much. If I come to abandon the principle of phonetic similarity, I guess that would be my choice.

Thank you all for the invaluable and very timely help!

  • interesting choices :) may i ask, do you have any preferences, like taoism, buddhism, a humble, or an aggressive name? needed to consider yin & yang, five elements? – 水巷孑蠻 Jul 9 '18 at 1:02
  • users note that 保罗 is used not only for Paulo, Pablo, but for Paul as well, e.g. 保罗·埃尔德什(Paul Erdős), also following Hungarian 埃尔德什·帕尔 (Erdős Pál) similarly 约翰 for John, Johan, Johann – user6065 Jul 9 '18 at 1:07
  • Some sound odd to me: 葩武, 布令. Some give me a "before 1990" impression (it's good if you fit the age): 宝禄, 百禄, 宝禄, 宝林. Others sound nice to me, though, 若水 a little bit wuxia. – Stan Jul 9 '18 at 1:52
  • Thank you for your comments. While I don't consider myself knowledgeable enough neither in Taoism or Buddhism (or any of the classical Chinese schools of thought, for that matter) so as to express preferences, my name choices seem to dovetail with the Taoism-influenced ones (as attested by 若水, which comes from the 道德经). I guess I would rather go for understatement as opposite to boastfulness; for contemplation as opposite to aggression. I don't plan on taking yin & yang, the five elements or the zodiac into account; any attempt in that sense would feel too artificial for me. – narnarnarnar Jul 9 '18 at 1:58
  • Thank you too, Stan, for sharing your impressions. That's precisely the kind of feedback I most need. – narnarnarnar Jul 9 '18 at 2:00
3

first, my opinion about your list of names.

in general, your choices are very good, better than most modern chinese name.

寶祿 百祿 寶林

b-, reflecting laymen's desire for wealth

博良 博祿 博倫 博柳 柏倫

b, average

葩武

c, feel "odd" to hear a name like this

布令

c-, very aggressive, sound like "to issue (頒布) orders (命令)", give a "i'm in-charge" feel

若水

a, as a taoist art name (道號), if you're active taoism practitioner, it's an excellent one

c, if you've no, or little knowledge about taoism, it's a bad choice. cause, most people would talk about taoism, when they hear your name; if you cannot give appropriate response, one would immediately have an impression of dishonest, cheating.

think thoroughly before choosing this one.

next, based on your preferences, below are my suggestions:

traditionally, a family with a literary reputation (書香門第) would pick character from verses, from classic books (四書, 五經, then others literatures of yore). here's how:

博敦

博 (u+535a) 敦 (u+6566), origin from 禮記 曲禮上

聞強識而讓.善行而不怠

the only caveat of this one, and your "博良 博祿 博倫 博柳" is, the academic title of doctor in chinese is "博士". so, if you're, or will be, a doctor; you'd be addressed as "孫博敦博士" in chinese. i would like to avoid this situation. next, when you tell other which character used, it's common to say "博士個博". repeatedly mentioning doctor (博士) in academic field, well, is not understatement.

if you've a higher title, e.g., "sir", "duke", . . .you may ignore this caveat.

溥淵

溥 (u+6ea5) 淵 (u+6df5), origin from 中庸

博如天.泉如淵.見而民莫不敬.言而民莫不信.行而民莫不說

樸之

樸 (u+6a38) 之 (u+4e4b), origin from 詩經 大雅 文王之什

芃芃棫.薪之槱.濟濟辟王.左右趣之

last, the only "disadvantage" of these three names is, they're extremely elegance and intellectual, in nowadays. you'd have a better name than most, if not all chinese, in that "area".

at the same time, these names connected with days of yore, are as good as any scholar officials (士大夫) in ancient times.

have fun :)

  • Thank you so much for taking the time not only to consider the names I originally listed, but also offering me your own suggestions. The costume of referencing poetry or the classics in choosing a name is definitely one of the most interesting aspects of Chinese onomastics. My Chinese skills don't yet allow me to fully grasp the excerpts you brought, so I had some googling to do. In the end, however, I'll settle on 博良 -- here as elsewhere (2 other fora) it received the most support. It's a good thing that you called attention to the 博士 question; as the German say, dies nehme ich in Kauf. :) – narnarnarnar Jul 15 '18 at 0:24
  • @narnarnarnar great, you made a decision :) when you're in peking, remember to go to 琉璃廠 ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liulichang ), have someone make a seal / stamp for you :) to be lower profile, you may introduce your name as "博物館個博" (museum), "善良個良" (kind-hearted). wish you a good studying :) – 水巷孑蠻 Jul 15 '18 at 2:54
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Any answer would be very subjective

In my opinion, 孙博良 is the best choice. Not only it sounds similar to Paulo, the characters also are common in native Chinese names and with positive meanings.

「博」 as in 「知識淵博」(widely knowledgeable), 「博學多才」 (knowledgeable and talented)

「良」 as in 「善良」(kind-hearted), 「良好」 (good; fine)

When people ask you how your name is written, you can quote: 「博學的博, 善良的良」

Most importantly, this name has 書生氣 (sounds like a scholar's name)

  • Thank you for your feedback! You even anticipated my next question: which "introductory phrase" to use with my name of choice (BTW, is there a term for this set phrases used to clarify which characters are employed?). 博良 is indeed a good name given the academic milieu I'll be traversing -- I can hope there is something proleptic in a name choice, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. – narnarnarnar Jul 9 '18 at 2:19
  • @narnarnarnar there's no set rule for clarifying what characters are in the name, you just go for the most common terms, 博 for 博學 is like A for Apple, but some people would choose to say 博 for 淵博 or A for Alpha. As long as it clear thing up, both are good examples to use. – Tang Ho Jul 9 '18 at 2:43
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Few points to take note :

  • Most of the names you provided are rarely used in modern days.
  • Some of the character have a lot of strokes, making it difficult to write.
  • Some of the character are not widely used, so be prepare to write your name repeatedly just to explain your name.
  • There is no specific rules demand that your prefer name must be same as your name

At first glance, i'll pick 博良. Reason as stated. But after looking at other option, why not just go for your desired ones : 若水

博 has many strokes, even thou is a common name but if you aren't familiar with the word it might take some time for you to master it.

Plus, i decide by instinct, so i'll just follow my heart.

Or perhaps you can go for Fortune Teller to have they provide few option, just for fun. You might even get a name you really like with.

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