Author seeking help creating authentic Taiwanese character


I’m embarrassed to admit I’m attempting to message you but I don’t know how to work the forum well enough yet! :worried:


Hello! Thank you very much. Would you prefer I ask them here, or privately? (Feel free to message me if you’d like to keep it private.)


Perhaps you are too new. I think it takes a few posts. One thing I like to say it’s probably more realistic that he doesn’t go by hong Wei if he’s trying to assimilate into American culture. He would have gone by an English name, mine was Andy. I got it from my American hockey coach in Taiwan. He just said random names and let me pick one. Later I changed it to Andrew because I thought Andy sounds too much like a child’s name.


Jer-ming is what his parents and closest confidants called him; in Texas, he was Jeremy. He’d been in Dejou since 10, but he was still a true Taiwanese patriot, and nothing got him harder, faster than the first notes of Sanmin Zhuyi.


Yes–I did have him do that. He has an American name that he uses with everyone but his family.

And I’m smiling because I had a friend in high school named Andy who switched to Andrew in college for the same reason as you.


Remember that siblings often use the same first character.


Ahhh, shoot. I had his sibling as Su-Wei. So I was close but not right.

I had him using 鸿, so if his sister was also Hong-Something, she would be 虹? I’m working with a limited understanding of characters so please forgive my ignorance.

Is the dash appropriate, or not? Also would I capitalize the second name if I use the dash, or leave it lower case? Thank you again for your help.


Regarding romanization (including the hyphen question), it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish: get the spelling the character uses or get the spelling that’s easiest for the average reader to understand. If you want the spelling the character would use, you’re basically free to choose whatever you like.

See below for one of many threads of rants & raves on the topic.


True. Also common In first cousins.


When Billy Bob nervously asked Jeremy to the UT / Texas A&M game, this set his little homo heart aflutter. Not only was football the state religion of Texas, but he knew that Aggie custom required dates to kiss one another after every A&M touchdown, sending the whole Corps of Cadets into a frenzy of tongue-slathering osculation, like a pit of leeches trying to devour one another. And a victory…well, as the saying went, “If the team scores, we score!”

And yet, at the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but imagine a ghostly figure of Confucius scowling in disapproval, much as Jayzus did to Billy Bob. Nor would Confucius, for all his devotion to princes, approve of Jeremy’s MAGA cap. Why do you shame your ancestors? he seemed to say. Wear the Hello Kitty one. But Billy Bob would assume he was wearing it ironically. Not for the first time, Jeremy wondered who he was.




Because, you see, he’s torn between his redneck and tai-ke identities.


Same here. Though I was living in El Paso, so probably not at all similar to living in other parts of Texas.


I picked mine from an electronic dictionary. I picked Rex because it was the second shorted name on the list. Though most people probably got theirs from their English teacher. Although if he moved to the US before Junior high, then he wouldn’t have a English teacher unless he went to some special school or took after school English lessons.


Why do I keep thinking of Buckaroo Banzai?


It depends.

If his family is a well established family (or an aspiring family that wanted to be taken seriously back in the Qing era), then the characters would be the same.

If 鴻 is used for one generation, then everyone would be named 鴻x, including all the cousins from the father’s side. Likewise, the father and all the uncles from the father’s side would use a same character as well.

This is called zibei (字輩), and for Hong-wei, his generation would be known as 鴻字輩 within the family. These characters normally are taken from an antithetical couplet, which serves as the family motto recorded in the family genealogy book.

However, plenty of common Han Taiwanese and Aboriginal Taiwanese families wouldn’t have a genealogy book, and as such wouldn’t have zibei to begin with.
In this case, which would be most Taiwanese families, it’s totally up to the parents.

Having the last character to match, like how you named Hong-wei and Su-wei, is pretty popular. Having one using 鴻 and another using 虹 is acceptable as well.

Many siblings these days simply don’t share a similar sounding syllable as not a lot of people still conform to their family zibei, especially cosmopolitan parents would rather give their children an unique name.


Interesting to know. I always wondered why that is from our genealogy tree.

So is the story going to follow him through his life chronologically to present time. Or like some flashbacks of stuff from the present moment.


Hansioux, that’s so fascinating! Gosh, now you really have me thinking.

Okay, my thought on the family is I wanted them to be basically aspiring. This would be a good place for general help because I don’t know the class structure well enough. The family had enough means to send the father over to the US to study medicine at an prestigious university (and he’d had enough education and the right kind to get him there in the first place), but I wanted it to be just a little bit of a reach to do this. I was thinking maybe they had the means but having him gone for schooling and pulling so much money was a real strain. The daughter would have been in middle school, just starting, at that time, and Hong-Wei in elementary. So in addition to school fees, there are lessons and such. The mother worked to compensate and his parents took care of the family–Hong-Wei talked about how that’s how he always remembers things. Then eventually they all moved to the US and that continued, but now things are even crazier and more of a struggle at first. But I wanted it to be that by the time of the story the whole family is doing very well. The father, Hong-Wei, and his sister are all surgeons, the mother is in hospital administration, and the grandparents want for nothing because they have more than put in their time.

Anyway, so I guess they’d need to be of some means, but I didn’t really want them to be of such means, if that makes sense. So I’m open to what the means to what type of family they are and how they’d name their children. I’m also open to the sister’s name and what character. Interestingly no one will know which character except in promo work because I can’t use the character anywhere with this publisher, (they can’t format Chinese characters or hiragana or anything) but it might come up in conversation what the characters mean, and in any event, I’d like to know for my own gratification. Right now I’ve switched her to Hong-Su, but I could switch her back to Su-Wei or anything, really. She’s a supporting character so what her name is and which characters she uses are not as important.


What year did this fictional family immigrate to the USA? 1987 was the end of martial law, you know, but I doubt you plan to have a 40-year-old protagonist (as he would have to be if he immigrated when he was 10). And…is it established whether they are mainlanders, ethnic Taiwanese, or Hakka? (Or perhaps some mixture.) All of this could have influenced what opportunities were available to them (especially the father), as well as naming conventions.


Like Dawud said, the time setting would impact the settings a lot. In the 70s and 80s, most Taiwanese families would struggle with sending a kid to the States for higher education. The kid probably would have to do part time job to sustain himself.

In the 90s, even an “aspiring family” could probably come up with enough money. So it would still be a strain, but the kid probably wouldn’t have to part time if he didn’t want to.