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On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM, Adam Walker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I remember hearing about how Hakka Chinese families have a family poem that
> is used for naming purposes. Every child of the first generation will have
> a name including the first character in the first line of the poem. (I
> believe the norm, or perhaps the rule, was to use it as the first character
> of the given name.)  Children of the second generation get names using the
> second character, and so on till the family cycles through the whole poem
> and then it starts over at the beginning.  Memorize the poem and you
> immediately know if some hundred times removed cousin that you meet in the
> market one day is from a generation above you (thus due respect) or from a
> generation succeeding yours (thus owing *you* respect).  I don't know that
> the custom is still in practice, or whether I have correctly represented
> it.  But I remember it being discussed and examples of family poems being
> posted on a Hakka list I used to participate on.
>

This kind of "generation name" list occurs in a lot of places in China,
though with the most recent generations it's dying out.  Of course, there
are a lot of other factors that go into naming conventions in China.  Often
Taoist divination is involved, other times politics (they say that some
children born at the height of Mao's reign had names meaning such things as
"loyalty to the Party" and whatnot), and just the need to make a unique
given name in a large country with very few extant surnames.