Names of New Gold Mountain Chinese Pioneers
In Chinese Heritage research, trying to decipher Chinese names or to pin point a particular Chinese pioneer being studied can be a real challenge. The purpose of this page is for us to provide to the readers a broad sketch of "Chinese Names", so that they have a better appreciation of the clues in helping them to determine the answer.
It's probably well known to most students of Chinese heritage that a Chinese name usually consists of three words, namely the Surname and two words following. Of the three words, the confusion is usually, "which is the Surname?" This is not helped by official records (e.g. Birth, Death and Marriages, Inquests, Hospital and Asylums Records, Courts, Cemetery burial records) where the recorded Chinese names are further complicated by the fact that they are usually a result of transliteration of a name expressed by the person who spoke little or no English (the Chinese pioneers), and the recorder (a Colonial official, with an English background) who did not hear well a strange sound articulated by the Chinese pioneer (usually in Hoisanwah, the dialect of the Siyi Region).
In death the names of the Chinese pioneers recorded on the headstones or tablets in the Chinese temples are usually closer to the "true" name of the individual. This will be the case if the person's true name was known to his mates who buried him. Regrettably this is not always the case as the individual could be buried with a headstone memorising his "flower name" or nick name, as that was how he was addressed by his mates when he was alive, and his real name was never revealed or known to anyone. Such was the life of a Chinese pioneer.
Even with a "known" Chinese name, note that according to the Gin Clan tradition, a person can have a number of names -- three is not unusual. (The Gin Clan is from the Siyi Region, where a great deal of the Chinese goldfield pioneers came from. An individual possessing a number of names was a common tradition in this Region). As a baby, one is given a "Milk Name" ( 乳名,奶名)or "Small Name"(小名). When a person goes to school, he is given a "Book Name" (書名). And when he marries, he is given a Generation Name (號)which corresponds to his generation(班派) or (班次) in relation to the progenitor. The tradition is: all male issues of the same generation should ideally share the same second or last name, corresponding to the generation name predefined by the founder ancestor, e.g. one's great great great ... grandfather.
A further clue is a person's Surname, as according to the "Book of 100 Surnames" ( 百家姓 ), there is a comprehensive list of recorded Chinese surnames. Given a Chinese name, by inspection in the Book of 100 Surnames or from experience, the researcher can usually determine which of the three characters is the individual's surname.
In the following pages we share with you some Chinese pioneer names that we recovered from our researches. We hope they are useful reference points to other researchers.