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Thread: Pronunciation of Chinese names in Japanese

  1. #21
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    I appreciate your interesting answer, Flaminius. どうもありがとう。 The situation with Chinese and other foreign names in Japan is quite interesting.

    The reverse is also interesting (Japanese, Korean and other foreign names in China) is also interesting but is less complicated. I might start a thread on this for I still have some questions.

    (Could you also comment on Japanese pronouns, I replied to your post. I know it's controversial but it also seems not a very pleasant topic. ??? )
    Last edited by Anatoli; 5th July 2007 at 4:33 AM.
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Hi, I was reading this thread with particular interest, and a fair few questions (bit of an understatement! ) cropped up in my mind. I was wondering whether Chinese names could still be read with kun'yomi/nanori readings, or would it just sound strange - can all readings be valid for names? If so, it seems there are many kun'yomi readings - would people just guess based on which pronunciation is used more frequently?

    Perhaps the initial problem would be the 2 characters (if there are 2) not merging together in the Japanese reading, which only works with certain kanji - I don't think any 2 Japanese kanji can just be joined together when forming a name? At least, even if the kanji both have nanori readings, you'd end up with 2 given names instead of 1! But could you mix and match on'yomi and kun'yomi readings of the 2 kanji in a way that forms a real name in Japanese, even if it means something different from its components - or maybe it would still have the original meanings, but clouded by the usual meaning of the name? If someone had a name like that, and people knew them to be of Japanese origin, is this what they would do?

    Perhaps Japanese would recognise the kanji as untypical both in order and generally unused in Japanese names, hence would think it Chinese and give it the on'yomi reading... is this so? But if any kanji from jōyō kanji or jinmeiyō kanji can be used, a Japanese person could hypothetically arbitrarily decide to choose untypical kanji for their child in an order which a Chinese person may use... What I'm getting at, is if they did decide to do this, without the intention of giving them a Chinese-sounding name, how would they pronounce it - or would it just not happen?

    Many thanks - hope that's not too long (well, it is all to do with the title), or I have said something a bit naïve. I've only just started learning a bit of Japanese...
    Last edited by Wobby; 3rd May 2008 at 12:47 PM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    I don't think it happens or happens too often with personal or geographical Chinese names in Japanese but native speakers may give a better answer. The trend is not even to use ON-yomi but give a Katakana reading for Chinese names of movie or pop-music stars. There may be coincidences like 高山 (Takayama) - Japanese surname can also be a first name in Chinese - Gaoshan or similar (theoretically, since I don't remember these coincidences). Offiically it shouldn't be pronounced as Takayama, if the person is Chinese, it should be Kousan but someone may misread it, IMHO.
    Last edited by Anatoli; 4th May 2008 at 12:19 PM.
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    The issue of how to pronounce Chinese names in Japanese is certainly a thorny one, but it can also be looked at in a simple way :
    there are phonetic rules (so to speak) that rule the "reading" of Chinese caracters (kanjis) in Japanese. Hence
    Deng Xiao Ping: 鄧小平(とう しょうへい), Mao Ze Dong: 毛 沢東(もう たくとう).
    and many others ...
    It is also true that
    Native pronunciations of Chinese proper names are hardly known by the public except for very popular ones such as 北京, 香港, 上海.
    ,
    a city like 西安 (Xian) will be Sian, 洛陽 (Luoyang) will be Rakuyo etc.
    As a pendant to this question,one could also reverse the proposition and ask "how are pronounced Japanese names in Chinese" ?
    By this same token (each language using its own reading for kanjis) Fukuda (福田) will then be Fudian, Tokyo , Dongjing, Osaka, Daban etc.
    The problem is also found with Korean names, in which case, for "political" or "historical" reasons, the original Korean reading is kept, sometimes adding the original kanjis (in Korean) for more clarity.
    "Les langages, à mon gré, sont comme les gouvernements, les plus parfaits sont ceux où il y a le moins d'arbitraire". (Voltaire)

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    I've read this popular thread with great interest. I just thought I would give my 2 cents since I've found some of the readers here are interested in how native Japanese speakers have to say on this topic.

    First, for a Chinese person we personally know in business, in our neighborhood, etc., the Chinese person generally introduce himself/herself first which is in most cases done in original Chinese pronunciation retained. We just follow the Chinese pronunciation. It is as simple as that.

    Second, the next major context we encounter proper nouns for the names of places, people, historical events is given by the mass media, which is generally based on a agreement made between Chinese and Japanese governments more than more than twenty years ago, way back in the 1980s, as Sasaki-san already described:

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Sasaki View Post
    This was a political matter. When our prime minister Kakuei Tanaka
    visited China many years ago to reestablish diplomatic relations.
    The Japanese government and chinese government agreed on that
    the japanese can say the chinese names in our way, and the chinese
    call the Japanese name in their own phonetic rules.
    If I remember correctly, most Japanese mass media followed this agreement in the 1980s. Probably for the 1984 and 1988 summer and winter Olympic Games, the broadcasters used Japanese On-Yomi for Chinese atheletes, for which I could be wrong.

    But I feel that the mass media has changed since the 1990s. The non-Japanese mass media generally use Chinese pronunciation and the Japanese mass media has started to follow. They seem to do so because they feel "time has changed."

    As a result, pronunciation is in chaos. While more and more Chinese names are pronunced in a Chinese way. Some Chinese proper nouns, historically pronunced in Japanese On-Yomi, are still pronnounced in Japanese On-Yomi (毛沢東 is pronunced モウタクトウ, and 黄河 is pronunced コウガ, etc.).

    As time goes by, more and more Chinese names will be pronunced in Chinese pronunciation, that's probably how many Japanese see this topic.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    for a Chinese person we personally know in business, in our neighborhood, etc., the Chinese person generally introduce himself/herself first which is in most cases done in original Chinese pronunciation retained. We just follow the Chinese pronunciation. It is as simple as that.
    Maybe not so simple.
    In the universities where I teach (in Japan), I sometimes have foreign students, Chinese or Taiwanese, in some cases Koreans as well, some born in Japan, some coming from Korea.
    In the case of "Chinese" (including Taiwanese) students, the name on the list provided by the kyomuka is always written in the "on-yomi" (the so-called sino-japanese reading) of the Chinese caracters of the name. The first reason being probably that it is the way the computer will automatically read them . I always ask my students to write their name in Kanjis, so I can call them "the Chinese way".
    In the case of Korean students (whether born in Japan or not), the name is always written (or transcribed) in the Korean pronounciation ...
    That practice has not always been the case, I'd say it has been in use since around 1985.
    "Les langages, à mon gré, sont comme les gouvernements, les plus parfaits sont ceux où il y a le moins d'arbitraire". (Voltaire)

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Hi Aoyama-san,

    Quote Originally Posted by Aoyama View Post
    Maybe not so simple.

    In the case of "Chinese" (including Taiwanese) students, the name on the list provided by the kyomuka is always written in the "on-yomi" (the so-called sino-japanese reading) of the Chinese caracters of the name. The first reason being probably that it is the way the computer will automatically read them . I always ask my students to write their name in Kanjis, so I can call them "the Chinese way".
    I only thought of life in neighborhood and business, but I couldn't think of cases of written "name lists" of Chinese and Taiwanese students. Yes, I would admit, it's really complex

    Even so, what's simple for us, at least for me and many of my collegues, is that a Chinese person first introduce himself or herself or we exchange business cards where our names are written with pronunciation info. We just call the Chinese person as he or she want himself/herself to be called.

    Korean, and Vietnam cases need to be treated differently. At governmental level, South Korea and Japan have agreed to go with native pronunciation. Videtnam has abandaned Chinese characters in early 1900s, so Japan no longer use Kanji for Vietnamese.

    But in the case of China, the govermental agreement made between China and Japan in 1980s is different. And as so-called internationalization makes progress, many of the Japanese in general and the mass media have started using native Chinese pronunciation, which has brought a little bit of chaotic situation in the 1990s and the 2000s, I guess.
    Last edited by akimura; 4th May 2008 at 5:03 PM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    We just call the Chinese person as he or she want himself/herself to be called.
    Which is the way it should be .
    BUT, take the case of a Chinese person that would be a resident of Japan, that would have to register at the townhall of the city where he/she lives. His/her name will ALWAYS be read (and handled) the Japanese way.
    This means that administratively and officially, a Chinese family name will always be read the Japanese way.
    "Les langages, à mon gré, sont comme les gouvernements, les plus parfaits sont ceux où il y a le moins d'arbitraire". (Voltaire)

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Thanks for the replies! They have been most intriguing!


    What if a Chinese person intentionally wanted their name to be read in a way that sounds like a real Japanese name (as opposed to just the Chinese name with Japanese pronunciation) if the right combinations of readings were used for their given name? Like the 'coincidence' Anatoli describes? Or if that were not possible, could they mix the on'yomi reading of one character of their given name with the kun'yomi reading of the other to make a Japanese sounding name (which is actually not a real name in Japan), and pass it off as an 'unusual' Japanese name? If a Chinese name (whose Chinese-katakana reading of the kanji is not very well known) were presented to a Japanese in kanji without furigana, would it be obvious that it is Chinese, hence they would resort to on'yomi? Or could you get one of those 'coincidental' readings of the name in kun'yomi that makes a valid Japanese name? The thing about the agreement between the governments is that the only way a Chinese person could know the real way a Japanese person pronounces their name and vice-versa is if they were told (in the case of Japanese reading Chinese, furigana would be required)...


    I realise that my given Chinese name (but I live in England, hence I use my English given name), being of Hokkien origin sounds almost exactly the same in on'yomi readings. Hence I was just seeing whether there is a way for a Chinese person to have their name pronounced in Japanese in a way much different from how they normally would pronounce it in Chinese, even if it is not normally what would happen. Apologies for not being able to answer in reverse for the Chinese readings of Japanese kanji. My parents were sent to an English school, hence never learnt to write in Chinese, just English. About all we know is how to write our own names, which is something I guess. But I think Chinese would read Japanese names with Chinese readings, unless the Japanese person introduced themselves with the correct pronunciation, or the name was presented with the Japanese reading in latin letters. That's my current project at the moment, learning how to read and write hanzi/kanji...


    EDIT: Just read some of the further replies... when you talk of a Chinese person registering at the townhall, and their name always being read the 'Japanese' way, would that just be on'yomi or actually kun'yomi? If it is kun'yomi, then what I mentioned earlier could work?
    Last edited by Wobby; 4th May 2008 at 5:15 PM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Wobby, I think, creating a new reading for your name happens but is not recommended. Who will know and remember it? You have to always supply the reading with your name, which will most probably be written in Kana, if given on the phone and is not immediately clear how to write.

    As Aoyama stated, officially the Chinese names in Japan have to be read the Japanese names, that is in ON-yomi. In business and social interaction, Chinese people may give their name in Katakana or supply the Chinese characters and explain the reading. The reading or the pronunciation, of course, will be adjusted to the Japanese way.

    Let me give some random Chinese names:
    1. 杨蕙娴 /楊蕙嫻 Yáng Huìxián (Yang Huxian) becomes ヤン・フイシャン [Yan Fuishan] (socially or in business) or Yō Keikan (officially) and written, perhaps as 楊けい嫻. Character 蕙 is missing in Japanese set, although can be traced as pronounced as Kei.
    2.姚志华 / 姚志華 Yáo Zhìhuá (Yao Zhihua) becomes ヤオ・ジフア (socially or in business) or ヨー・シカ [Yō Shika] (offcially) and written as in traditional Chinese: 姚志華.

    Note Europeans need to have the Japanese names, if they get a permanent residence.

    Since not all foreigners working in Japan are permanent residents, so there is some flexibility but having a Chinese name with Chinese reading is difficult for Japanese people, it's a foreign language! I know many Chinese prefer to use their names written in Katakana. So 王云涛 (Wang Yuntao) will just write his name: ワン・ユンタオ (Wan Yuntao) but I've seen in a textbook one Chinese person learning Japanese preserved the Character 王 and called himself ワン (Wan). That's, of course, making Japanese remember the non-standard reading of your name (it's not official, anyway). Not sure how familiar are Japanese people with standard Mandarin but a person from Hong Kong with the same name (王) will call himself Wong... They both go and register their names and become Ō (on-yomi for 王).

    I was interested in this topic and that's what I hear and read. I may not be 100% right in my description, please correct me.
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    A few comments on Anatoly's post above :
    -though a Chinese name will "officially" have to be read the Japanese way (on-yomi), virtually any kanjis/hanzis will appear, even if the caracter is not common. The "reading" (furigana) will be indicated. A combination with kanjis and kanas like 楊けい嫻 is impossible
    - pin yin reading, and its equivalent in Japanese , is never used (transcription would be difficult, as an example Flam -in post #17- would
    transcribe the pinyin Hú Jìngwéi as フー・チンウェイ.
    , I would transcribe it as フー・ジンウェイ ..., but then, there are no given rules for transcription of pin yin into kanas)
    -
    Note Europeans need to have the Japanese names, if they get a permanent residence.
    not a must (and not a legal requirement) but that may help. But even for hanko (判子 or more officially inkan 印鑑, one's legal seal , used as an approved signature), a name in romaji is possible
    BUT, a foreigner becoming Japanese (a rare occurrence until recently) will have to adopt a new name (or a transcription of his/her original name) in kanjis, because Japanese 戸籍 (koseki = legal "family register") does not (yet) accept entries in romajis (latin script).
    Last edited by Aoyama; 5th May 2008 at 3:22 AM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    OK, Aoyama, correcting: 楊けい嫻 ->楊ケイ嫻. Using Katakana, not Hiragana

    A good example:

    トウ小平 (Deng Xiaoping) - mixture of Katakana and Kanji in the name. 鄧 (Deng) is missing in Japanese. Of course, the document may supply the original Chinese writing.

    You are contradicting yourself, you gave a pinyin example yourself. I also said, it's not official but used socially.
    Last edited by Anatoli; 5th May 2008 at 5:28 AM.
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wobby View Post
    EDIT: Just read some of the further replies... when you talk of a Chinese person registering at the townhall, and their name always being read the 'Japanese' way, would that just be on'yomi or actually kun'yomi? If it is kun'yomi, then what I mentioned earlier could work?
    The names of Chinese people, documented and intended to be read in Japanese for an official registration purpose, are always, intentionally pronounced in on'yomi.

    The basic approach is that we use kun'yomi when and only when we believe the written character(s) originates purely from Japanese and the usage of Kanji is an adoptation to the Japanese word. It is also the basic rule that we don't mix on'yomi and kun'yomi for a single word written with multiple Kanji characters.

    In general, even if Chinese names are pronounced in kun'yomi for a word play porpose,they don't sound Japanese enough. They generally sound just very unusual. I would think that the fact only some names sound Japanese is purely conincidental; 林, which I believe is a Chinese surname, can be pronounced RIN in on'yomi and HAYASHI in kun'yomi. 林, HAYASHI, happens, only happens, to be a popular Japanese surname.

    Well, actually, I could be wrong; 林 may or may not originate from some Chinese person lived in Japan hundreds or even more than a thousand years ago. Even if it is true, you may realize that it takes years of history to make non-Japanese word or name start to sound Japanese.
    Last edited by akimura; 5th May 2008 at 6:58 AM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anatoli View Post
    So 王云涛 (Wang Yuntao) will just write his name: ワン・ユンタオ (Wan Yuntao) but I've seen in a textbook one Chinese person learning Japanese preserved the Character 王 and called himself ワン (Wan). That's, of course, making Japanese remember the non-standard reading of your name (it's not official, anyway). Not sure how familiar are Japanese people with standard Mandarin but a person from Hong Kong with the same name (王) will call himself Wong... They both go and register their names and become Ō (on-yomi for 王).
    王 is a too popular Chinese surname, thanks to the baseball legend 王貞治 (Sadaharu Oh), a Taiwanese whose father is Taiwanese and whose mother is Japanese. His nickname is known as ワンちゃん, coming both from his surname Wong and his uniform number "One". And indeed, he is the "Home Run King", where 王 means the king.

    He is very very legendary in East Asia, particularly in Taiwan and Japan. American baseball fans may know him as well, even though he never made it to Major League Baseball like a Seatle Mariner Ichiro Suzuki.
    Last edited by akimura; 5th May 2008 at 7:30 AM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Akimura, you confirmed that his name is Japanised to "Oh" (Ō), although his nickname is based on Mandarin Wáng (Wang2) (changed to Wan = ワン in spoken Japanese), oficially he is not recognised as Wang but Oh. "Wong" is the Cantonese version.

    But isn't his name read in KUN-yomi? At least, the 1st character?

    Here is the list of readings for the characters in his name:
    貞治
    [On] tei [Kun] sada
    [On] ji chi [Kun] osa.meru osa.maru nao.ru nao.su

    It seems like an example of a name Wobby was trying to find.
    Last edited by Anatoli; 5th May 2008 at 7:50 AM.
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anatoli View Post
    Akimura, you confirmed that his name is Japanised to "Oh" (Ō), although his nickname is based on Mandarin Wáng (Wang2) (changed to Wan = ワン in spoken Japanese), oficially he is not recognised as Wang but Oh. "Wong" is the Cantonese version
    Yes, he was popular in 1950s-70s when on'yomi was used. 王 (Oh) has been so established that it is no match to any other Chinese name.

    At official level, the, outdated some might say, agreement made between the Chinese and Japanese governments in the 1980s, already mentioned above by multiple posters, is still effective.

    From my business experience in 1990s and 2000s, my colleauges and I tend to call Chinese people how they want themselves to be called. As far as I can tell, this trend has increasingly been popular due to, well, again, so-called internationalization, globalization, etc. with the advent of the Internet, the increasing number of Chinese residents in Japan, etc.

    I would rather be interested to know how they feel about western names, Steinberg, in English and German, for example.
    Last edited by akimura; 5th May 2008 at 8:22 AM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    My personal feeling is Steinberg should be pronounced the German way - "Shtine-berg" and Wang Zhenzhi as Wang Zhenzhi, wherever they go.

    The Japanese names are similarly distorted in China but they are also affected by globalisation, knowledge of English, Japanese romanisation is very high.
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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Thanks again for the replies!

    Ah well, it was worth a try. I guess that if I go to China, I'll just have to use the Mandarin reading of my name, and if I go to Japan, it will just be the on'yomi reading, which is actually pretty much identical to the Mandarin, but for the first character of my given name, to which the Hokkien pronunciation is identical (incidentally, I use the Hokkien reading of my name)... Or possibly I would have to introduce myself with just the Mandarin reading of my name and furigana.

    Regarding your question of Steinberg, do you mean how the Chinese would feel, or the English? I think as Anatoli said, providing they introduced themselves, their name would and should be pronounced as accurately as was possible to imitate, wherever they go. There are certain exceptions such as 'Paris' and 'Händel', which are just too ingrained and are pronounced the English way in England, but there now seems to be a trend for names being changed back to their native tongue, e.g. Burma to Myanmar. I think the general case is to find the phonemes as close to the actual pronunciation as possible, then anglicise the stress of the word.
    Last edited by Wobby; 5th May 2008 at 7:31 PM.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Thanks, so the first thing to try is to imitate the orinignal pronunciation of a name as accurately as possible. It seems it's pretty much universally what people would agree in the general, while there remain issues in the particular.

    The approach to pronouncing Chinese names in Japanese is not an exception. It seems we are moving on to a transitional stage from the status quo that has emerged based on political, cultural, and social aspects seen between China and Japan.

    So, native pronunciation and on'yomi for Chinese names in Japanese, both work at the moment. But you don't need to go with on'yomi with no reason. You can just go with native pronunciation. If you face a neccesity to go with on'yomi, e.g., registering Japanese residency, then you may need to follow it. I would say that's a general rule of thumb for today.

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    Re: How are Chinese names pronounced in Japanese?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anatoli View Post
    But isn't his name read in KUN-yomi? At least, the 1st character?

    Here is the list of readings for the characters in his name:
    貞治
    [On] tei [Kun] sada
    [On] ji chi [Kun] osa.meru osa.maru nao.ru nao.su

    It seems like an example of a name Wobby was trying to find.
    It may be necessary to know that Sadaharu Oh was born as a Japanese, which means his nationality was Japan. Presumeably, when he was born, the nationality of his Taiwanese father and Japanese mother was both Japan.

    At the time of the registration of his birth, Sada (貞, kun'yomi) and haru (治, a pronunciation variation allowed to register a Japanese name, neither on'yomi nor kun'yomi) were apparently used.

    Right after World War II, his whole family changed their nationality into Taiwan. Thus, Sadaharu Oh is often described as a Taiwanese now. I would assume that simply because of the change of his nationality, he didn't choose to change his name socially. After all, he was born, brought up, and became the Home Run King, all in Japan.

    So, his example is not a good model in considering how to pronunce Chinese names in Japanese for today in general.

    So I would say, the general guideline is, Chinese names cannot be called in kun'yomi, or a mixture of kun'yomi and on'yomi, unless the purpose of seeking a Japanese name is for fun. It's not just Chinese names. The general guideline (not rule, so there are exceptions, generally accidental in a long history I guess) is that kun'yomi is primarily used only for something Japanese, and a mixture of kun'yomi and on'yomi are not allowed, which is how Japanese kids are instructed at primary school, so apparently it is where the Ministry of Education would like to direct.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited by akimura; 6th May 2008 at 5:39 AM.

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