Hong Kong Movie World                  


                                                              What's in a Name, Hong Kong Style


                                 Considering the many variations of Chinese names, it's not surprising that there can be 

                                    so much confusion. This is due to the nature of the Chinese language itself, and the 

                                   methods used to convert it into English. Here are some observations on that subject 

                                      coming from an American viewpoint, which should also help to clarify the naming 

                                                               choices I've made for Hong Kong Movie World.


                                          The most obvious difference in naming conventions from Western / European

                                    standards is the order of 'first' name (sometimes informally referred to as a 'Christian 

                               name') and family name. Chinese names, as well as Japanese, are characterized by having 

                                 the family name precede the individual's given name. Represented by written characters,

                               they represent the same thing when written, but are pronounced differently depending on 

                                                            the regional dialect (i.e Cantonese or Mandarin). 


                                  Therefore, Simon Yam is referred to as Yam Tat-Wah in Cantonese and Ren Da-Hua  

                                                    in Mandarin, even though the written characters are the same. 

                                    Though both versions are acceptable, one is often more popular than the other. This

                                 can depend on the individual. A Manchurian native may recognize the name Ren Da-Hua,

                                    but won't know what you're talking about if you throw the name "Simon Yam" at her. 

                               It's safe to say that Chinese people know about Bruce Lee's English name, yet they more

                                commonly refer to him as Lee Siu-Lung. Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia is a household name 

                                  in Asia, but the Taiwanese native is still best known by her Mandarin name rather than

                                   the Cantonese version Lam Ching Ha. Even Jackie Chan is rarely referred to by that 

                                            name in Hong Kong- the media call him by his old stage name, "Sing Lung". 

                                  Chow Yun Fat is almost equally well known in Hong Kong by his childhood nickname

                                                                                 "Sai Gau" (Little Dog).   


                                     It is, of course very widespread for people to adopt anglicized surnames. This is the 

                                    easiest way for non-Chinese speakers to remember someone; that is why the world 

                                  their recognizes the names Jackie Chan and not Chan Kong Sang, Bruce Lee and 

                                                           not Lee Siu Lung, Jet Li and not Li Lian Jie, etc. 

                                    While anglicized names are easier for Westerners to deal with, Chinese names are 

                                   are also tricky simply because they haven't been heard enough. Mao Tze Tung and 

                                    Chiang Kai Shek are not well known names because they're catchy, it's just that 

                                                             they've been repeated enough to become familiar.  


                                   Since Chinese names have to be converted to a completely different set of characters,

                                  (the alphabet), spelling variations are inevitable since there is no true "correct" spelling

                                   for a Chinese name in English. The most commonly accepted spellings derive from a

                                   word's phonetic pronounciation based on it's actual tones, a system known as Pinyin.


                                    It is common, and sometimes necessary, to identify an individual by their full English

                                  name, eg., Simon Yam Tat-Wah. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Tony Leung Kar-Fai

                                           for example, would be easily confused if referred to only as 'Tony Leung'.

                                                       While this is somewhat redundant, it is a normal practice.  


                                  HK actors may also be known for names that they did not even choose for themselves. 

                                   When films are exported to foreign markets, distributors have been known to not only 

                                       retitle a picture but rename the cast to less 'threatening', de-ethnicized names. 

                                    When martial arts movies were hitting U.S. screens in the 1970's, some cast credits

                                   were even altered to completely disguise their Asian identities. American posters for the 

                                 Shaw Brothers horror flick Black Magic named "Ty Young" (Ti Lung) and "Lilly Leigh" 

                                  (Li-Li-Li aka Lily Lee) as the stars. And with a poster design depicting generic gothic 

                                                skull  imagery, a moviegoer would have had no visual cues to go by.

                                       Kung fu star Wong Jang Lee has actually been 'Latinized' as "Juan Jan Lee" in  

                                                                                       some markets. 


                                If a performer's name isn't being confused because of its Mandarin/Cantonese version, or

                                 its spelling, or being renamed by promoters, then there's also the fact that some people 

                                 can't seem to make up their mind about what they want to be called. Shu Qi famously 

                              changed her name from Shu Kei so as to prevent confusing her with the well known director 

                               and film critic. Ekin Cheng, as most fans can tell you, has been credited as Dior Cheng 

                                                                         and Noodle Cheng in his career.

                            Ekin is one of many actors who have flirted with various English names at one point or another.

                                 Chow Yun Fat has been credited as Aman Chow and Donald Chow. David Chiang has

                                    alternated between David and John ChiangBrigitte Lin has been credited in some 

                                   markets as "Venus Lin", while action star Yukari Oshima is known in the Phillipines 

                                      as "Cynthia Luster".  Sometimes even well established actors will suddenly, and 

                               unnecessarily, choose an English name- Lau Ching Wan is "Sean Lau", Leung Kar Yan 

                                 is "Bryan Leung".. Actress Paulyn Sun changed her name to "Alien Sun". Nadia Chan 

                                  changed the spelling of her English name to "Nnadia". The list goes on, but one thing's  

                                for certain- whatever name they go by, umm.. I can't think of a way to finish that sentence.









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