I grew up in Hong Kong (China), then a British colonial city. It is very common that Hong Kongers have a English name besides their traditional Chinese name because (A) It was trendy; and (B) we believe it has commercial advantages- we make it easy for the ruling foreigners who most of the time have difficulties (or majority I think simply do not care to learn) pronouncing our traditional Chinese name. NY Times summarize it so right: “The practice of taking an English name, which really took root only 15 or 20 years ago, began as a way of identifying with the ruling class, or being identified by it. Now, the English language name is not just a colonial convenience, it is a local Chinese custom.” Therefore, KENNETH is the English name my Dad gave to me at birth.
洪 (Hung) is my surname and 天健 (Tin-Kin) is my given name. 洪 is not a common surname, it ranks 99th in modern day China population. The last name 洪 is originated from my mythical ancestor 共工 Gong Gong– the Chinese water god who is responsible for the great floods, together with his associate, 相繇 Xiang Yao , who has nine heads and the body of a snake. In Chinese mythology, Gong Gong was ashamed that he lost the fight to claim the throne of Heaven and in a fit of rage he smashed his head against 不周山 now Pamir Mountains or Mount Everest, a pillar holding up the sky. The pillar suffered great damage and caused the sky to tilt towards the northwest and the earth to shift to the southeast. This caused great floods and suffering to the people. 女媧 Nüwa, an important and benevolent goddess, cut off the legs of a giant tortoise and used them to supplant the fallen pillar and alleviate the situation, but she was unable to fully correct the tilted sky. This explains the phenomenon that sun, moon, and stars move towards the northwest, and that rivers in China flow southeast into the Pacific Ocean.
My Dad names me after a famous Chinese painter 贺天健. My given name 天健 comes from one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts- 易經 / I Ching (Literally it means “Classic of Changes”) that dated back to the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE – 256 BCE). According to Wikipedia, the book is a symbol system used to identify order in random events. The text describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is intrinsic to ancient Chinese cultural beliefs. The cosmology centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.
The text of the I Ching is a set of oracular statements represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called hexagrams (卦 guà). Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines (爻 yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin (broken, an open line with a gap in the center). With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented. My name comes from Hexagram 1 (see left image), named 乾 (qián), “Force”. Other variations include “the creative”, “strong action”, “the key”, and “god”. Its inner (lower) trigram is ☰ (乾 qián) force = (天) heaven, and its outer (upper) trigram is the same.
My given name 天健 comes from text of the first Hexagram “天行健，君子以自强不息“. The phrase means “The Nature strives itself a constant and strong moving path, Thus Gentlemen should improve themselves perpetually.”
Here’s the Full text in Chinese:
第一卦 乾 乾为天 乾上乾下
象曰：天行健，君子以自强不息。潜龙勿用，阳在下也。 见龙再田，德施普也。 终日乾乾，反复道也。 或跃在渊，进无咎也。飞龙在天，大人造也。 亢龙有悔，盈不可久也。 用九，天德不可为首也。
文言曰：”元者，善之长也，亨者，嘉之会也，利者，义之和也，贞者，事之干也。 君子体仁，足以长人；嘉会，足以合礼；利物，足以和义；贞固，足以干事。 君子行此四者，故曰：乾：元亨利贞。”
子曰：”龙德而正中者也。 庸言之信，庸行之谨，闲邪存其诚，善世而不伐，德博而化。 易曰：”见龙在田，利见大人。” 君德也。”
子曰：”君子进德修业，忠信，所以进德也。修辞立其诚，所以居业也。知至至之，可与几也。 知终终之，可与存义也。 是故，居上位而不骄，在下位而不忧。故乾乾，因其时而惕，虽危而无咎矣。”
子曰：”上下无常，非为邪也。 进退无恒，非离群也。 君子进德修业，欲及时也，故无咎。”
九五曰：”飞龙在天，利见大人。” 何谓也？子曰：”同声相应，同气相求；水流湿，火就燥；云从龙，风从虎。 圣人作，而万物覩，本乎天者亲上，本乎地者亲下，则各从其类也。
乾龙勿用，下也。 见龙在田，时舍也。 终日乾乾，行事也。 或跃在渊，自试也。飞龙在天，上治也。 亢龙有悔，穷之灾也。乾元用九，天下治也。
乾龙勿用，阳气潜藏。见龙在田，天下文明。终日乾乾，与时偕行。 或跃在渊，乾道乃革。飞龙在天，乃位乎天德。亢龙有悔，与时偕极。 乾元用九，乃见天则。
乾元者，始而亨者也。 利贞者，性情也。 乾始能以美利利天下，不言所利。 大矣哉！大哉乾乎？刚健中正，纯粹精也。 六爻发挥，旁通情也。 时乘六龙，以御天也。 云行雨施，天下平也。
九三， 重刚而不中，上不在天，下不在田。 故乾乾，因其时而惕，虽危无咎矣。
九四， 重刚而不中，上不在天， 下不在田，中不在人，故或之。或之者，疑之也，故无咎。
夫大人者，与天地合其德，与日月合其明，与四时合其序，与鬼神合其吉凶。 先天下而天弗违，后天而奉天时。 天且弗违，而况於人乎？ 况於鬼神乎？
Therefore, you can call me Tin-Kin or Kenneth, and please don’t call me Mr. Tin-Kin Hung anymore :-)