I got my inspiration for this blog post from this Chinese post by ZHAI Hua.
This post is about MO Yan’s big hit, the novel Big Breasts & Wide Hips, translated by Howard Goldblatt from Chinese.
In this novel, the youngest and the most precious boy is named 上官金童 shàngguán jīn tóng (Surname: shàngguán. Given name: jīn tóng, literally means golden boy.) has 8 older sisters (including one twin sister.)
shàngguán jīn tóng’s twin sister has a sweet name called 上官玉女 shàngguán yù nǚ (literally means Jade Maiden).
However, his 7 older sisters all carried symbolic names. Their names, in English, according to the translator, are:
These girls’ names are formed in a Verb + Noun construction.
The noun is 弟（di), meaning ‘younger brother’ in Chinese.
The verbs are aspirational: to come, to hail, to usher, to desire, to anticipate, to want, to seek.
These girls’ names were not of fragrance and grace. Their names signify one of the most deeply rooted concepts in the Chinese psyche, the superiority of boys.
If you would like to read more of MO Yan’s novels, the New York Times has published the excerpts of these books for you. Follow this link: MO Yan: Excerpts From His Work from The New York Times. Mo Yan’s books translated by Howard Goldblatt include:
- From the preface to “Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh” (2001)
- From “Red Sorghum” (1993)
- From “Republic of Wine” (2000)
- From “Big Breasts and Wide Hips” (2004)
- From “The Garlic Ballads” (2006)
- From “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out” (2008)