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Book source: Surinaams-Chinese Familienamen, William Man A Hing, OSO, Jaargang 9, Nummer 1, 1990. ISSN 0167-4099

Subject: [History] Chinese Names


When the first Chinese contract workers arrived in Suriname they had to re-register again because their names were Anglicized on the ships manifest. The registration also showed discrepancies. Some travelled under a different name because there was a no show at the point of embarkation and this person was the replacement. Others just preferred to live under a different name or the person had assumed from another person the contract. This was all possible as no one had identification papers on them. The plantation owner did not care if the person had a different name instead of his real name. All they wanted was a worker. The registration, where each person was required to be registered by a family name (xing) and first name(s) (ming) was not accurate and the use of a comma between names was not used. Researchers of today still believe that the registrar did an excellent job as they had to write down all these Chinese names. The names originated from three dialects: Foekinese, Hakka and Cantonese. Chinese names are written using two, three or four characters. The family name comes first also called xing. This is followed by the personal (first) name called ming. The family name consists of one or two characters. The family name is transferred according to the father's name for biological children and legal adopted children. Children born outside marriage get the mother's name. It is actually against Chinese law when two people with the same family name (xing) marry even if they do not belong to the same clan. However, this prohibition might not be practised today. The word 'a' or 'ah' is not a name. it is used to give the name of the person a kind of affection. The colonial government was very cautious when it came to name changes. Thus in 1724 a regulation was issued that anyone who took a different name had to obtain from the notary public a statement that the person was free of any debts under his/her old name. By 1 July 1828, only the governor-general could approve a family name or first name change. This regulation was for everybody who was a free citizen. In 1946 the Surinamese law took effect where each child from a marriage and child outside marriage but acknowledged by the biological father got the father's name. Outside marriage children and not acknowledged by the father received the mother's name. Researchers found less than 100 single xing (family name). No double family names were found in Suriname. Most names in Suriname are transcribed from Hakka and Cantonese in the Latin alphabet. Examples where names were transcribed from Hakka are: [names in brackets are according to the pinyin system] Chin (Chen) Jap (Ye) Jie (Yu) Jong (Yang) Liauw (Liu) Siem (Shen) Sjauw (Xiao) Tjeeuw (Zou) Tjin (Zhen) Tjoe (Zhou/Zhu) Tjoen (Zhong) Tjon (Zhang) Woei (Wei) Complete names consist of a xing and ming. Such as Chin A Sen, Lie Pauw Sam, Wong Tsang Soi. Incomplete names consist of a ming: examples are: Asin, Cheu Choi, Samsin etc No real names are Sjak Shie which means Mrs Sjak. Sjak is a xing. Make believe names sound only Chinese but are not such as Fa Sie Oen. The origin of the name is not known. --------

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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