Pronunciation of Chinese names in Japanese

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by hayabusa, Jun 28, 2007.

  1. hayabusa New Member


    I've heard that Chinese names can be directly pronounced in Japanese through kanji, since kanji is basically Chinese characters. I'd like to know if this Chinese name can be pronounced in Japanese:
    胡 敬 為

    I've done an exhaustive search on the net. Could only get translated meanings but not the pronunciation. Would be glad if someone can help me. Thanks a lot.
  2. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    My Japanese teachers always write my name in katakana according to how my name is pronounced in Chinese. But then, that's just my personal experience.:)
  3. sara mago

    sara mago Member

    spain, spanish
    Chinese and Japanese are completely different languages written with the same characters. So there is no conversion rule, but to read it in one language or another: let's wait for natives' answers!

    Samanthalee: that's very unusual! I think the most common thing is to read the name's characters in Japanese, directly!
  4. sara mago

    sara mago Member

    spain, spanish
    Ok, samanthalee, I see your point ;). But isn't it more usual to pronounce Chinese names as their kanji's sound in Japanese, and vice versa? I think that's the historical way to do it... :confused:
  5. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    They are respectively, ko (こ), kē (けい), i (い). They reflect Middle or older Chinese pronunciation with modifications according to the limit of Japanese phonological palette. For example, in place of /h/ which did not exist in Japanese, 胡 (MC hu) is pronounced with /k/.
    Try this site for future queries. And don't forget to check our resources section! :)
  6. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Judging by textbooks and Chinese personal and geographical names I have across, I noticed that Japanese try to approximate to the Chinese pronunciation even if the readings of characters doesn't match both on- or kun-yomi.

    Giving romanised pronunciation of some Chinese names in Japanese:
    北京 Pekin (Beijing in Mandarin)
    上海 Shanhai
    李 Rii
    馬 Maa
    方 Fan
    It depends on the name, on its history and how much you want to follow the original pronunciation:

    President 胡 錦濤 Hu Jintao can be pronounced in Japanese as "Ko Kintoo" ("on'-reading) or "Fuu (or Huu) Jintao" (Chinese approximation)

    毛沢東 - the Japanese version of 毛泽东 (trad. 毛澤東) - Máo Zédōng is pronounced もう たくとう (Mō Takutō).

    The other way around is not working - Japanese names in Chinese are ALWAYS pronounced the Chinese way, disregarding the original Japanese pronunciation, eg. 大阪 (simpl.: 大坂) Dàbǎn - Osaka. Abe Shinzou (Shinzo Abe) becomes Ānbèi Jìnsān (安倍晋三) in Mandarin.
  7. palomnik Senior Member

    Traditional on readings will usually be used for the name, and although they may be disregarded at times, if you use standard on reading you probably won't go wrong. Examples: 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).

    Based on this, I would assume that the name you cite would be こけいい.
  8. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Yes, that would be 和名表記 but 発音転記 is also used, IMHO (?) so 発音転記 for Deng Xiaoping could also be トン シャオピン.
  9. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    I wonder what natives have to say. Is the general trend to approximate the Mandarin pronunciation where possible or use on-yomi for not so less known or new Chinese names?
  10. hayabusa New Member

    I got this from a website called j-talk. 胡敬為 = ebisu kei tame in romaji. It sounds like a vegetable :). Hiragana goes: えびす けい ため . It seems different from こけいい ko ke i. Now I'm puzzled. It seems like there're many pronounciations to a single kanji.
  11. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Yes, indeed. Other people mentioned this as well.
    Most kanji have 2 readings but many more than 2:
    音読み (おんよみ) on-yomi (Chinese) reading of kanji
    訓読み (くんよみ) kun-yomi (Japanese) reading of kanji

    Here's the kanji info for your characters, including Chinese pronunciation of the same characters:

    [On] U KO GO
    [Kun] nanzo
    [Pinyin] hu2 (modern standard Chinese)

    [On] KEI KYOU
    [Kun] uyama.u
    [Pinyin] jing4 (modern standard Chinese)

    [On] I

    [Kun] tame tari nari
    [Pinyin] wei4 wei2 (modern standard Chinese)

    You'll find this in any Japanese textbook, if you're more than just curious.

    When transcribing modern Chinese names the ON-reading is used and sometimes approximation to the actual Chinese when possible using Japanese phonology.
    Like I mentioned above 胡錦濤 (Hu Jintao) can be pronounced as "Ko Kintoo" or "Fu/Hu Jintao" but the choice for reading is only between ON-yomi (more likely) and Mandarin.
  12. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
    こけいい sounds wierd. こっけい滑稽(meaning:funny) instantly comes to my mind. My name sounds wierd too if pronounced according to ONYOMI, something like 醤油, so I usually just use the Mandarin pronunciation noted with KATAKANA, it's cool!
  13. hayabusa New Member

    Ok, now I get it. As far as names are concerned, Japanese to Chinese sounds ok, but Chinese to Japanese will sound weird.

    How can I use this katakana pronunciation for my name?
  14. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Back to the topic,
    Chinese proper names are usually pronounced with on-reading of kanjis, whether the name is ancient or modern. Publications in Chinese studies and other technical materials may provide furigana (pronunciation tips for kanji) in katakana that tries to capture the native pronunciation. Also note that the kanjis used for these names are of Japanese variety. 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. If the capability of my Japanese input method software is any indication of popularity, 毛沢東 and 小平 are less known by their native names than the three place names above.
  15. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Thanks for the insight, Flaminius. As other posters said and I found out when I talked to both Japanese and Chinese people, Japanese language is a little bit more flexible and allows Chinese characters to be pronounced different from 'standard' on- or kun-readings. I also found in some textbooks Chinese names transcribed with furigana using the original Mandarin pronunciation. It won't be known by general public but can we say it is an alternative pronunciation for some less known names?

    I don't mean to be an authority on this but just sharing my observation.

    I noticed that character 鄧 (simplified: 邓) is missing in some Japanese IME's and Deng Xiaoping is therefore written as トウ小平.
  16. _forumuser_

    _forumuser_ Senior Member

    New York City
    Brilliant explanation. I wonder, though, if there isn't something more than the limitations of the Japanese phonological palette at work behind this. Pronunciation patterns for foreign words were developed a long time ago, for kanji first, and for all other languages more recently. THese heavily approximated pronunciation patterns may have looked satisfactory to people over a hundred years ago (I am mainly referring to katakana pronunciation of foreign words), when literacy rates were low and foreign words were akin to messages from space, but I think they are hopelessly inadequate today and seriously impair a Japanese speaker's capacity to understand these words when they are pronounced by a native. Unfortunately, while people are technically (anatomically and neurally) capable of better phonetic approximations of the original words, they stick to these anachronistic patterns simply because they are the established norm. I wonder if someone has written on this.

    I should hurry to point out that this phenomenon is by no means exclusive to Japan. In Italy people are still comfortable with italianized spellings coined during the Fascist period (1920-40): Parigi (Paris), Anversa :eek: (Antwerpen), etc.

    Very good point, thanks for making it.
  17. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Moderation Note:
    The discussion about how MC /h/ was adopted into Japanese is now a new thread in EHL.

    Back to Flam the poster. . .
    What you are looking for is the katakana approximation of the native pronunciation of your name. I'd transcribe the pinyin Hú Jìngwéi as フー・チンウェイ.

    True but native Chinese pronunciation tends to be used more in conversational context and on less formal occasions.
  18. Hiro Sasaki Senior Member

    Osaka, Japn
    Japan, Japanese
    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.

    Many Japanese did not know and do not know now how 毛沢東 should
    be pronounced properly in Chinese,

    Hiro Sasaki
  19. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Thanks for clarifying this, Flaminius.

    In what cases Chinese names are rendered in katakana? Is this also colloquial?

    シンリン・ワン - 王心凌 Cyndi Wang (Wáng Xīnlín)
    スー・チー - 舒淇 (Shū Qí)
    ワン・シューチェン 王樹沈 (Wáng Shùchén)

    The katakana is matching the original.
  20. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    By no means are they colloquial, although an article on movie/pop stars are admittedly less formal than an NHK news clip quoting the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo commenting on insert-something-very-serious-here. :)

    Ah, thank you for pointing that out, Anatoli. I now realise that the situation is more complicated as it first seemed to me.

    Figures from entertainment industry are usually referred to with the katakana transcription of their names. It is true that often the kanji representations are to be found somewhere in the same article but not always. I heard of チャン・ツィイー long before knowing the actress is 章子怡 (Zhāng Zǐyí). If I include Chinese actors from outside Mainland, who are better-known by their Anglicised nom de théâtre, I can say that I know far more Chinese actors by their phonetic names than by their kanji names.

    Novelists and journalists are often have their names provided with furigana in their native pronunciations but on-reading is sometimes found. Seeing some furigana appearing in native pronunciations in one publisher and in on-readings in another, I think it depends on editorial policies of medias as well as the author's personal preference.

    In fact proper names with more than one pronunciation are not rare in Japanese. Here are two examples of native Japanese. A literary critic named 呉智英 pronounces his name くれともふさ (Kure, Tomofusa) but allows the on-reading ご・ちえい as well. 水上勉, a novelist, was born as みずかみつとむ (Mizukami, Tsutomu) and never changed the pronunciation. Yet he was mistaken for みなかみ (there is a famous hot spring by this pronunciation) by some for a long time. I realised my mistake when the newspaper I read started applying furigana to his name several years before he died.
  21. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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. ??? )
  22. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    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... :D
  23. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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: May 4, 2008
  24. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    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
    and many others ...
    It is also true that
    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.
  25. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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:

    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.
  26. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    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.
  27. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    Hi Aoyama-san,

    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: May 4, 2008
  28. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    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.
  29. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    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... :D

    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: May 4, 2008
  30. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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.
  31. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    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
    , 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)
    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: May 5, 2008
  32. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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: May 5, 2008
  33. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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: May 5, 2008
  34. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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: May 5, 2008
  35. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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:
    [On] tei [Kun] sada
    [On] ji chi [Kun] osa.meru osa.maru

    It seems like an example of a name Wobby was trying to find.
    Last edited: May 5, 2008
  36. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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: May 5, 2008
  37. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    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.
  38. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    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. :D

    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: May 5, 2008
  39. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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.
  40. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    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: May 6, 2008
  41. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Thanks again for you detailed answer, Akimura-san.

    Can I invite all users to the Chinese forum to the "How are Chinese Japanese names pronounced in Japanese Chinese? thread"

    This was discussed in some threads, which I took part in.

    Of interest are the exceptions, as the main rule is straightforward - use the Chinese reading of character.

    Here's the new thread:
    Last edited: May 6, 2008
  42. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    (going back to post #32).
    Nope, this combination would not be possible. Mixing Kanjis and Katakanas in the same name defies common usage, though writing along side furiganas is possible.
    I have never seen the name of the former Chinese statesman written like this.
    It is true that the kanji 鄧 (Deng) is not used in Japanese, but that is not a problem at all. Japanese are used (and not shocked at all by this) to seeing unusual or "strange" kanjis. As long as the reading is provided, no problem.
    This "idiosyncracy" is a remarkable feature with the Japanese. I call it the "tropism towards foreign words (gai rai go/外来語)", accepting foreign words (whether Chinese, English, French etc) with an amazing tolerance and ... appetite.
    As for the problem concerning Wang and Wong, a famous (in Japan) actress from Hong-Kong called Judy Wong keeps her name as ワォン in Japanese ... But then, she is not Japanese.
    In the case of baseball star Sadaharu Oh, a true national hero in Japan, I am suprised at Akimura comment :
    ... But that is a bit off-topic.
    Be it as it may, I agree with Akimura last reflexion :
  43. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
  44. Hiro Sasaki Senior Member

    Osaka, Japn
    Japan, Japanese
    You had better not to look for any rules.

    高山寺 ( こうざんじ ) is a temple in Kyoto.

    高山( たかやま ) is a city in Gifu Prefecture.

    新家 = あらや、 しんけ、 etc.

    荒谷 ( あらたに ) 新谷 ( あらたに )

    It's better to learn one by one.

    Hiro Sasaki
  45. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hello kareno999, Hiro Sasaki

    Kanji pronunciations are admittedly very irregular but they are not without systems. I would say, with knowledge of the systems, pronunciations are unpredictable but not unanalyzable. I am less enthusiastic about issuing an imperative to stop looking for rules at all. (Hint, hint, that should defeat the purpose of this little nice forum. :) )



    I can see three systems with which Modern Chinese words are incorporated into Japanese. First, Chinese words can be pronounced according to the pronunciations that Japanese assign to their characters. This system entails irregularities due to different pronunciations loaned from different Chinese languages/dialects at different times, which are exacerbated by conventions developed in different use domains (most notable are Buddhist, samurai, jurist pronunciations). Changes due to the phonology of Japanese cannot be overlooked either. Take 楽毅 (がっき) for example. The pronunciation Gakki is the result of backward assimilation: gaku + ki --> gakki (The weakened word-final vowel disappears). Modern Chinese names also undergo Japanese phonological changes to produce such pronunciations as Yōkecchi for 楊潔篪 and Rimpyō for 林彪. Also of note is that raku, the other pronunciation of 楽, is irrelevant here. The former pronunciation renders 楽 to mean "strain of music," while the latter "joy." If someone wants to follow this system today, she first has to consider if this 楽 person is from a melodious 楽 family or a joyous 楽 family.

    Second, syncretism. Perhaps this is the most common practise. Chinese names are often pronounced with Chinese pronunciation with a huge influence from the Japanese phonology. 麻婆豆腐 is a good example. The pronunciation varies between mābōdōfu ~ mābodōfu. The latter is closer to the original pronunciation but I don't hear it as often as the former. I think some Japanese phonotactics is at work here. Note also only 麻婆 has a direct link to Modern Chinese pronunciation. 豆腐 has completely established itself as a Japanese word as evidenced from the sequential voicing (tōfu in isolation but dōfu after another morpheme). In fact syncretism between Sino-Japanese and indigenous Japanese vocabularies is rampant today; 東ローマ帝国 (where 東 is ひがし), 防犯係 (where 係 is がかり). I have learnt with surprise from a post by akimura that the Ministry of Education is not fabourable on this syncretism but then I wonder if they understand that Sino-Japanese (漢語/漢字) is already a genuine part of Japanese.

    Third, one can pronounce Chinese names as accurately as possible within a different phonological framework. I admit this will cut down a lot of problems that I have mentioned above. What now matters is what the original pronunciation. Is it the standard pronunciation of one of the major Chinese languages like Mandarin and Cantonese? Or a regional variation of the same prevails? The rule of thumb here may be to follow the pronunciation with which one calls oneself but what to do with someone who cannot be contacted? People may additionally want to use different pronunciations for different social settings. The complexity of this method will reflect the linguistic reality of Chinese speakers today.
  46. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Very true.
    Very true as well.
    The cases of 麻婆豆腐 and 豆腐 are some examples.
    Many words (and names) ending with あん、いん、うん、えん、おん will be easier to pronounce in Japanese and are likely to retain the same or a close prononciation from the original Chinese.
    さん (三、山、参 etc), みん (民、眠 etc), まん (満). As Flam said, there is a system, or some "equivalence", like w in Chinese becoming m/b in Japanese (men 門/mon,wen 問/mon, wan万/man) to take just one example, the list would be very long.
    What is true is that the closest the original pronounciation of a foreign word is to Japanese phonology (that is to say, if a word "sounds" like a Japanese word, like for example petit in French, which will easily become プチ in Japanese, because it "fits" other Japanese words like くち、ふち、むち etc), the more chance this word has to retain its original pronounciation (or something close to it) in Japanese.
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  47. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Flam, in the third method you described, are there any strict conversion rules as to what Chinese sounds should be matching which sounds in Japanese. It's often obvious
    but in some cases, when Chinese r- initial (standard Mandarin) becomes Japanese r-, it doesn't seem right.

    Fore example:the pronunciation for 刘若英 / 劉若英 (Liú Ruòyīng) Liu Ruoying (also: Renee Liu) in Wikipedia is described as リィウ・ルオイン. I can understand that the best match for Chinese L is Japanese R but not for Chinese R! I would spell the name リィウ・ジュオイン instead.

    It's usually a non-issue. Standard Mandarin should be used if unknown. Cantonese only if known to be of Cantonese origin. Speakers of other dialects usually accept to be romanised or pronounced in standard Mandarin. That's the way it's done in English, Russian and other languages. The only two places where spoken standard Mandarin is not accepted as standard are Hong Kong and Macau. Both being ruled by China, many famous residents have both Cantonese and Mandarin versions.

    The gaku/raku question is in modern Chinese as well:
    乐 / 樂 [lè] pleasure,happy
    乐 / 樂 [yuè] music
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  48. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Reviving the old thread:

    In the Japanese Wikipedia, the name of the Chinese official Xi Jinping (simplified Chinese: 习近平, pinyin: Xí Jìnpíng) is written as:

    習 近平(しゅう きんへい、シー・ジンピン) - in Japanese Shū Kinhei or Shī Jinpin or both?

    Can both be used or the first version is preferred and most common? I see that the Katakana spelling for the name is used in the media and often accompanies the Chinese characters or even used on its own.
  49. mikun Senior Member

    Chiba Japan
    We pronounce similar to original tone for foreigners name and write similar to original pronounciation by katakana as a general rule except for china and korea.
    we are accustomed to use kanji letters for chinese and koreans with or without katakana.
    To adopt a original pronounciation is a general rule for china and korea name also. We are using original pronounciation writing for korean name now, for example イーミョンバク、 キムデジュン、---。 
    We have tried to use original pronounciation writing for chinese name about 30 years ago, but now many media use Japanese kanji letters pronounciation writing.
    The reason is not sure but I think korean pronounciation is similar to Japanese and easy for us to write down. Chinese pronounciation is a little bit difficult for us to listen and may be resulted in impossible to write down.
    習近平 is wrote in kanji letters without katakana and pronounced しゅうきんぺい。
  50. Hiro Sasaki Senior Member

    Osaka, Japn
    Japan, Japanese
    Accoding to the diplomatic agreemenrts between Japan and China,
    we can pronounce the chinese names in Japanese officially.
    Chinese people can pronounce the Japanese names in Chinese.

    Accoding to the agreements between Korea an Japan, we must pronounce
    officially the Korean names in Korean. This is very difficult for us. the Korean people have the same problem. They must pronounce the Japanese name in Japanese.

    Hiro Sasaki

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