Tim and I both have Chinese names that were given to us by his Chinese colleague, Xenia.  (We did not help her with an English name).  This week, we ran into Xenia at NI Austin, where she now works, while Miles and I were having lunch with Tim.  We took the opportunity to ask her to name Miles.

She asked first if we had any ideas.  Tim suggested 公里, Gong Li, which means kilometer.  I suggested 英里, Ying Li, mile.  I knew these were bad ideas; direct translations often are.  In Shanghai, I worked with a Rainy, Phoenix, Phantom, and a Silence.  Its nice to capture the essence of your name, but maybe a bit more subtly.  We described to Xenia how we named him Miles with running and travel in mind; it took her seconds to come up with the winner.

万里, Wan Li, technically means 10,000 li, or measures of distance.  However, it also draws a deeper meaning from the Chinese poem:


Read 10,000 books, travel 10,000 miles.

Kind of like “a picture is worth 1000 words” in meaning, this poem suggests you can read your whole life but never gain real wisdom until you have seen the world.  Bingo!

Miles shares this name with one of the “four master” poets of the Song Dynasty, and one of the Chinese officials instrumental in the foundation of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Miles is still working on answering to his English name, so it will be a while before he understands his Chinese one.