Afterthoughts: Of Beast & Beauty, A Name Itch

For starters, I love Beauty and the Beast. As for Of Beast & Beauty, I enjoyed it even if I didn't love it. It was a good read as I mentioned on my Goodreads review. However, the usage of Chinese surnames/names in the book gave me an itch that I couldn't quite scratch. While they aren't entirely unreasonable as fictional names, I could not reconcile it with what I know of Chinese names.

First, let me list the more memorable characters' names from the book that are tinged/heavily influenced by Chinese culture that are from the domed city of Yuan.

          • Isra Yuejihua
          • Junjie
          • Bo
          • Needle

Clarification: I know it isn't mentioned anywhere that Jay wrote it intentionally with cultural influences, I read a few book tour interviews too just to be sure. However you can't use names like the above (especially the first two) and expect no nerdy Chinese Asian (who loves history) to read the book. (Okay maybe you can, but... always plan for the worst case scenario!)

There are a lot of surnames in the Chinese culture and while I understand as royalty, something special is good even for fiction since even in history, the royal surname was forbidden to be used by anyone outside of the direct bloodline. However, it's awkward to have Isra and Yuejihua together. I don't mean the usage of a 3-word surname, since there are 3-word surnames even if they are super rare. And I do mean super rare because in this century, 2-word surnames are already pretty hard to find. Unless of course, you are of tribal descent or something else. 

The history of Chinese surnames are long and far away, traceable almost all the time except if it's super rare and what is super rare? Yep, 3-word surnames. Even in the Chinese surname dictionary (yes, there is such a dictionary but it's in Chinese and yes, I can read it), those have obscure origins though probably none of which are royalty, from what I have skimmed (it's like 659 pages, nope). 

So never mind, I can get over the awkwardness of Yuejihua since fantasy! fiction! Here comes the but! Yuejihua sounds like a flower, by which I means, I keep visualizing the words to be 月姬花 (literally translates directly/loosely to moon-lady-flower). It's a nice name by itself but then there's Isra. Of course, it could mean other things since there are so many words that can represent a single "yue", let alone Yue-Ji-Hua.

I don't know why Isra has an English name but I will just attribute that to her mother since Yuejihua has to come from her Baba (which is father in Chinese, more commonly translated as Papa). Why do I have to attribute that to her mother? Because look! Junjie and Bo are nobles and they have perfectly fine Chinese names and also, domed city of Yuan. Probably have to make Isra extra special, even with her blindness. :( 

Lastly, why is Needle, Needle? I mean, we could have just called her Zhen (针, Chinese for Needle), just to be consistent with the rest of the Yuan characters. At first I thought she has to be Needle since Zhen has so many representations as well (like it also translates to Jen/Jenn). However, if it is as I thought, then why is Bo, Bo? D: 

Am I nitpicking? Yes, I think I am nitpicking but am I sorry? Maybe a little but come on, I love my Chinese history, they go long and far and can split into many possibilities for fictional adaptations but sometimes, consistency in imagining is good! Combining Western and Eastern elements have always been tricky, just look at Hollywood movies for examples -- The Forbidden Kingdom, Outcast and the upcoming Dragon Blade. I enjoy kungfu and fantasy martial arts stories but when your favourite Chinese warrior starts speaking American-accented English, it's like... what. 

Anyway, if you're just here for the retelling, please go ahead and read the book. It's a good retelling, just don't use the names in there if you are choosing one for your child. I'm just sayin'!


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