Wednesday, August 18, 2004

In Search of the Tan Clan

Look, 9 days to go! We're almost there, save for a few last-minute details. One of them is Baby Jesse's Chinese name. Mae's dad has been great help. Being the only one in the family to know the language in its written form, he's compiled a short list of possible last names for Baby. However, the problem is Baby's middle name. We don't have it.

Most Chinese boys take on middle names determined by the forefathers of their clan. It determines their geneology and pinpoints them to their exact level on the family tree. My middle name, for example, is Ngee (it ain't elegant, I know). This means that all guys with the middle name Ngee and the surname Tan, are in fact my cousins!

Problem is, the list of middle names in my clan disappeared when Grandpa passed on. Grandma, who probably has the list stashed away somewhere, is no help since her mind isn't what it used to be.

Pops is trying his best. He's called up all our kin. He's visited the Tan Clan House in town. He's gone to the Hainanese Association. He's even gone to the extent of speaking to total strangers but unfortunately we're nowhere near finding the name! Pops has even offered to take a trip back to Hainan, China if that's what it takes to name his first grandson on the Tan side. Unfortunately, that too is a bit of a problem - he doesn't know exactly where his dad came from!! *sigh*

If anyone of you out there is a Hainanese from the Tan clan, or knows someone who is, please write to me at thatjames[at]gmail[dot]com. My middle name is Ngee, Pops is Lee, Gramps is Ooi and his dad before him is Kia. That's Kia, Ooi, Lee and Ngee. We're looking for the name after Ngee.

If all else fails, we'll simple cook up any old name for Baby. It's not really a matter of life and death. But it would be such a shame to deprive him of his heritage.


  1. aw, cheer up! look on the bright side, this way you can give baby Jesse Tan a cool sounding name..:)
    like i've a friend whose name is Zheng Zhi. cool or wat?
    another friend with the surname Tan, is named Tan She Dee.
    :) many many ways to name.

  2. What about your granduncles? Are any of them still alive? That would help.
    I suppose I'm going to run into the same problem when I have kiddies coz my grandparents are dead and gone and my generation is the last with generation indicators.
    Besides, my grandparents (before they passed on) have lost touch with their home in China - I'm Hokkien and according to grandma, vaguely, I come from the Southern Hokkien speaking province of China - dunno where la.

  3. I bet it is "LAN" or "KAN" or "CHIAU".

  4. I'm hainanese. Unfortunately, not Tan clan.
    Will ask around for you. can't recall any in this spur of the moment!

  5. James, James, James.... can't believe you waited till the last minute to do this! :P
    Anyway, I'll let all my Tan friends know bout this, maybe someone will know.. :)

  6. wow, I didn't know that the middle name is so rich with heritage. Unfortunately I'm not Hainanese - though i like chicken rice. And btw, mom says that Hainanese are a bit "tow fung" (head wind?) That explains a lot. :lol:

  7. Sadly, my middle name "Ee" doesn't mean a thing. Asked Dad about our genealogy, he doesn't know either. Looks like I'm lost from my family tree for good. :(

  8. I m a Hainanese too. U mean Tan, the same as Chan as in Cantonese? Let me check with my dad.
    Headwind, Fly? hmmm...Mami said no. ;)

  9. james , sorry cant help u because i am a hakka or "kek" and even though my mom is a Tan , but her middle name is Ah... :lol:

  10. Oh and on my mom's side, none of the uncles followed this tradition...

  11. None of your kin know??!?! Aiyoyo...
    I think in my family this will die out with my bro too. Nobody seems to know what the next name ought to be.
    Like my dad, most of the uncles on my dad's side didn't bother to distinguish between the girls & boys, so all of us are "sieh" something...

  12. Hey James..
    i somehow kinda know little bit bout chinese middle names...most families i know use 4 letters when put together forms a chinese idiom..for example..Mei Li Ching Chun means pretty and the first person using the name Mei maybe ur mom..then Li ur sister...the Ching ur daughter and Chun ur grandaugter..
    if you can find out what does ur grandad's, dad's and ur dad's chinese word meaning...then maybe u can piece it all together and form a chinese idiom..
    btw...i kinda like names with the word En which means thanks...En Ze means Thank the Lord...should be a nice name for baby Jesse :)

  13. The middle name indicates the generationo the clans member. My Dad did mention it to me but he did not use it for my name. Too bad. I hope you can get the middle name in time before Baby comes. All the best in your quest.

  14. James, since you're a lover of Hainanese Chicken Rice, there's nothing wrong with paying tribute to it. Why not call baby Tan Ngee Kai?

  15. Why lah did you wait until the last minute? Anyway, all the best. Hope you're able to find out Baby Jesse's middle name.

  16. Aiks... no reply?? Mae is in labor???

  17. Well, plucking up a name from thin air is really not a problem, but it just won't be the same.
    If the are, Mei, they're probably in China. Both my grandparents came from China.
    Gina, you asswipe! *piak*
    Thanks Janus. "Suut Kii Naang" eh? :)
    Sashi, what's the fun in doing things too early? :lol: Actually no, it never did occur to me earlier on to find Baby's middle name.
    :lol: Fly! Hence the name for this blog! :)
    Or Yahkid, your dad was just plain shocked when you first came out? "That's my son? Ee!" :lol:
    You too eh, Papi. No wonder you're so clever. I bet you're handsome too! *ahem*
    :lol: Phoenix. "Ah" is the most basic name!
    Nobody thought to write it down, Irene! If I do find the list, I shall tattoo it on my butt and if the future generation should ask, someone can say, "Heeyyy... how bout we dig the old guy up?" :lol:
    *piak* kev!
    Yes, Cherry, "Ern" is one of the names Mae's dad picked. I like it, though it's usually for girls.
    Maybe it didn't sound great and your dad wanted to spare you, Peter? :)
    Mdmafia, "Ngee" is MY name! :P
    It's most fun when there's a little pressure, Jotay! :lol:
    Nah! Been busy like crazy these last couple of weeks, Gina!

  18. Gawd.. Jesse Tan **** Ern. This boy has two female sounding names in one. Tragic.