How I Got My Chinese Name

How I got my Chinese name is an interesting story. Before I tell you about that, let me tell you about my real name. It is not the easiest to pronounce. Mom and Dad named me “Sanrizz.” This name caused a lot of problems for me during my school years. People called me everything from “Sandrine” to “Zanderij,” I’ve heard it all. I don’t know what it means, neither do my parents. Mom’s favorite brother begged her to give me the name. The original idea was to name me “Tiara,” because my Dad loves the name. But when Mom’s brother went to the hospital when I was born and suggested the name, she couldn’t decline.

People still ask me what it means, and each time, it saddens me to say that I don’t know… because I really don’t. It frustrates even me that I can’t explain what my own name means (me included), so I made something up. I tell people it’s derived from the Spanish word “sonrisa.”

Before my arrival in China, I didn’t know that I would be given a Chinese name when I came to China. Everywhere in the world, people use my real name, why would it be any different in China?

 The flight from Amsterdam to China took over eleven hours. Super exhausted and hungry,  my Surinamese friend in China took me to the Student Administration Office to get stuff in order. I knew the Chinese choose their names carefully, but I had no idea just how much thought they put into it. Hungry, tired, and smelling like wild boar, an hour in the office felt like a lifetime. For a moment I thought I was about to snap in that office. I wanted to say to her:

“Woman, I don’t care if you name me “Dog”! I’m hungry, smelly, and I want to go! Just give me a Chinese name, already!

Can you imagine how bored I was? Well, the boredom was worth it. My Chinese name is AWESOME! The name is AMAZING! I am named after the mythological bird that arises out of its predecessor’s ashes. Yes, my name is Phoenix. The Chinese version is 凤凰.

Chinese name
How my Chinese name is written. Have fun practicing! <3

I wanted a sweet name, something like a flower (花儿) or something like that, but it was too difficult for me to pronounce. Tones are very important in Chinese, and my tone was offer than off. I think we went through four or five names before the teacher eventually gave me my current Chinese name. I kid you not, they choose name super duper carefully. Don’t believe me? She wanted to name me something that resembled my name, so she came up with something with “Shan”(山), which means “mountain.” She immediately decided it wasn’t a good idea. A name like that can limit my possibilities, disrupt my life. I need something that indicates “prosperity.”

She told me that, if one wants a good life, one needs to have a good name.

Now I absolutely love my Chinese name. I am so proud. Many Chinese love my name as well. Many compliments and happy smiles are given to me when I tell people my name. According to my teacher, if one wants to have a good life, one needs to have a good name. With a name like 凤凰, I will have a lot of luck in life, doors will open for me and I will go very far. Thanks for the awesome name, Teacher!

Much LOVE to you all!


Tiara Ray

I am grateful & blessed to have the life I live. (Soon to be) Traditionally published & self-published author in her mid-thirties. I unsuccessfully tried changing this picture numerous times, so I just left it. I wish you lots of love & may you get what you need. <3