Post for Mandarin Nerds. If you don’t care for long posts about difficult languages, feel free to skip! :)
So my full English name is Hunter Douglas Klie. My first name comes from my father’s mother’s mother’s surname. Edith Hunter lived to be over 100 years old. Her surname is my first name. My father’s first name is Douglas Klie Jr. and his father is Douglas Klie Sr.
When I came to Qingdao back in 2010, I did not have a Chinese name. When my teachers were testing my Mandarin level, they asked me for my Chinese name and when I replied that I had none, they quickly gave me the following name:
The Hēng character means prosperous, and the tè character means special, unique, distinguished. Unfortunately, when one looks up the first name Hunter in the dictionary one finds that the Chinese name of Hēngtè is anything but unique—it’s a prescribed transliteration.
I had that name for a few years and wanted to come up with a new one the whole time but couldn’t think of a better name to give myself. When I arrived here for the CLS program in Beijing, one of our instructors (a Shandongren like myself) took an interest in me, and she offered to help me change my name when I expressed dissatisfaction with the name I had used for so long. I gave her my first, middle, and last name and she came up with this new Chinese name:
柯厚德 Kē Hòudé
Now let me take a moment to explain. The Kē is the surname despite being the first in the sequence—Chinese put the family surname at the beginning. Notice that it starts with the letter ‘K’. The next two characters, Hòu and dé each start with ‘H’ and ‘D’. This ‘K.H.D.’ and ‘H.D.K.’ similarity is pretty cool, and it incorporates different aspects of my actual name. But that’s not why I prefer this name to the old one. This name has a meaning.
My teacher told me to associate this Kē character with the title of a famous Chinese story called 南柯一梦, (Nánkēyīmèng) or Dreams of Grandeur. I haven’t read it yet, but I certainly plan to.
My first name is actually part of an idiom commonly known by all Chinese people. It refers to this phrase: 自强不息，厚德载物。
Succinctly translated, it can be stated as: “Self-discipline and Social Commitment.”
Below is not a translation, but more of a poetic explanation:
A wise man—a scholar—must work diligently and without resting. His ethical and moral standards much be thick as winter snow, and he must bear the burdens of social responsibility with him always.
厚 Hòu means thick, deep or profound, kind, and generous.
德 dé means virtue, goodness, morality, kindness, and character.
I love my new name.