BEIJING — “Ma,” a Chinese character for horse, is the 13th most common family name in China, shared by nearly 17 million people. That can cause no end of confusion when Mas get together, especially if those Mas also share the same given name, as many Chinese do.
Ma Cheng’s book-loving grandfather came up with an elegant solution to this common problem. Twenty-six years ago, when his granddaughter was born, he combed through his library of Chinese dictionaries and lighted upon a character pronounced “cheng.” Cheng, which means galloping steeds, looks just like the character for horse, except that it is condensed and written three times in a row.
The character is so rare that once people see it, Miss Ma said, they tend to remember both her and her name. That is one reason she likes it so much.
That is also why the government wants her to change it.
For Ma Cheng and millions of others, Chinese parents’ desire to give their children a spark of individuality is colliding head-on with the Chinese bureaucracy’s desire for order. Seeking to modernize its vast database on China’s 1.3 billion citizens, the government’s Public Security Bureau has been replacing the handwritten identity card that every Chinese must carry with a computer-readable one, complete with color photos and embedded microchips. The new cards are harder to forge and can be scanned at places like airports where security is a priority.
The bureau’s computers, however, are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters, according to a 2006 government report. The result is that Miss Ma and at least some of the 60 million other Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new cards — unless they change their names to something more common.
Moreover, the situation is about to get worse or, in the government’s view, better.
Since at least 2003, China has been working on a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children.
Miss Ma said that while her given name was unusual, bank employees, passport control clerks and ticket agents had always managed to deal with it, usually by writing it by hand.
But when she tried to renew her identity card last August, she said, Beijing public security officials turned her down flat.
"Your name is so troublesome and problematic,” she recalled an official telling her. “Just change it.”
Miss Ma argues that the government’s technology should adapt, not her.
“There were no such regulations when I was born, so I should be entitled to keep my name for my whole life,” she said. If she changes her name to get an identity card, she noted, it will be wrong on all of her other documents, like her passport and university diploma.
I have no extensive comments regarding this article at this time...I think it is ludicrous that we still after 50 years have an embargo against Cuba. I have actively read the paper for almost 40 years and I have never heard of an instance where the Cuban government demanded name changes en masse from its citizens, (perhaps they have and I just don't know,) yet we give most favored nation status to China.
The article continues:
Using the time-honored Chinese method of backdoor connections, Miss Ma was able to get a temporary card in January. She must renew it every three months but considers that a small sacrifice for keeping her name
Zhao C., a 23-year-old college student, gave up the fight for his. His father, a lawyer, chose the letter C from the English alphabet, saying it was simple, memorable and stood for China.
When he could not get a new identity card in 2006, Zhao C. sued. But security officials convinced him that it would cost millions of dollars to alter the database, his father said, so he dropped the suit in February.
China is a totalitarian state just like Cuba, but we kiss China's ass, and now we are massively in debt to them. It will be nice when the politicians in D.C. wake up and stop this useless policy toward Cuba.
Peace-Thanks to NYT and Wikipedia...
BTW jonesboro sun-did your paper run the story that serves as the basis for my April 24 post? Can't find it on the website...