Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's in a name?

If you haven't already noticed, this image, which is used in this blog's profile, consists of the stylized Chinese characters: 史明 in the shape of the main island of Taiwan.

史明 is the pen name that Su Beng used for the first version of Taiwan's 400 Year History, which was written in Japanese and published in 1962. A larger, more complete Chinese version was first published in 1980 and an English abridged version was published in 1986.

In choosing his pen name, Su Beng wanted to express his motivation for writing Taiwan’s 400 Year History. Su Beng believes that once the Taiwanese people understand their unique history, they will be able to know where they have come from, who they are, and what they want for themselves and their nation. The two characters which make up his name are 史 (Hoklo Taiwanese language: sú, Pinyin: shĭ), which means history and 明 (Hoklo Taiwanese language: bêng, Pinyin: míng), which means clear. Taken together, these two characters can interpreted to mean, "history clearly", "clear history" or "to know history clearly."

史明 is roughly pronounced as "Su Bing" in Hoklo Taiwanese, which is Su Beng's native language. For this reason, I have chosen to use the Hoklo Taiwanese romanization: Su Beng, which has been used in many English translations of Su Beng's writings, rather than the Mandarin Chinese pinyin: Shi Ming.

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