What’s in a name? Chinese-Indonesians have many stories

JAKARTA – Almost nobody gets it right on the first try. Since Ailen was in elementary school until university, people often misread her name as Alien. It does not help that she only has one name.

“My parents prepared my name before I was born. They had two or three names, and since my family is a traditional one, they conducted jiaobei [the moon blocks ritual],” Ailen told The Jakarta Post.

The jiaobei ritual is commonly held by Chinese people, either at home or in a temple, as a form of divination over a yes or no question. The ritual is often held after a fortune-telling ritual known as kau cim or ciam si.

The name Ailen is derived from “Ai”, which is the Chinese word for love. There’s also a variation of the name in Scottish, Aileen, which means light. According to Ailen, her mother wished that she would be a love that shone like the sun.

Ailen is not the only name that she has. Like many other Indonesians of Chinese descent, she also has another name: Huang Xiu Hua, which means yellow fragrant flower. It was given by her grandparents, who could speak Mandarin.

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