The case for and against weird names in China – Eveline Chao
Nominal Determinism is the notion that your name determines your destiny. The idea dates back to the times of ancient philosophy and adds a whiff of fatalism to, say, meeting a woodworker surnamed Carpenter, or reading about Amy Winehouse’s alcoholism. It also ties in to a debate in the US about whether African-Americans should avoid giving their children stereotypically “black”-sounding names like Dante or Shaneequa – names that are perceived as being typical of someone poor and black – lest they then get treated by teachers as, well, poor and black. The idea is that if children are treated like they aren’t going to do well in school, they’ll fulfill this expectation in reality.
Personally, I think people should feel free to choose any name they like (except maybe those white parents in New Jersey who named their baby “Adolf Hitler”). But I’ve always found it interesting that Asian immigrant parents in the U.S. tend to choose safe, “all-American” names for their kids, like Michael or Stephanie. (An Asian-American named Grace Lee even made a movie that touches on this phenomenon, called “The Grace Lee Project,” after noticing the prevalence of other Grace Lees out there.) Behind these names lies an instinct to help your kid assimilate quickly so they can succeed in American society.
Chinese people believe in the importance of an auspicious name.